Before and After
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
Frank Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph
The story goes that Frank Sawyer invented the famous Pheasant Tail Nymph back in 1958, while serving as a river keeper in Wiltshire, England. It’s one of the most famous patterns in the world for good reason: it consistently catches fish . . . even in South Central, Texas!
There’s a video on YouTube that shows Sawyer tying his version of the fly, and I’ve studied the old film closely. Sawyer used only two materials besides the hook: some fine copper wire and a few pheasant tail fibers. He also did something interesting that we normally don’t do: he twisted the copper wire around the tail fibers before wrapping the body forward on the hook. The copper wire serves as both thread and extra weight. I also noticed that he tied his tail longer than most of us do.
The result is a scruffier-looking, thicker-bodied Pheasant Tail. Hey, Sawyer was focused on catching fish, not winning fly-tying contests. Watch the video, and you’ll see that he whips out one of these nymphs in no time flat.
I decided to try his version recently, and you can see my feeble effort in the first photo above. Then, I took a handful of these Pheasant Tails to a local stream and tried them out. I ended up fishing the same fly all morning long, and you can see the results in the second photo. That tattered Pheasant Tail was still catching fish when I left.
If it looks buggy, and is presented right, the fly works.
You know what? I think Frank Sawyer was on to something.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Study to be quiet." - Izaak Walton 1653
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma