When I first moved to Colorado in 1990 and throughout the 90’s, the beadhead pheasant tail nymph was my number one producing nymph pattern. You can check out the materials list and read more about my early success with the pheasant tail in my 01/11/2012 post. Over time, however, it got displaced by the salvation nymph, as the flashy nymph seems to be as effective during the pale morning dun period, but also produces exceptionally well during other time frames when an attractor nymph is in demand.
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I continue to carry a decent supply of pheasant tails in my fleece wallet, however, since I encounter situations where the smaller and darker nymph is relished by western trout. Although not a western stream, my day on Camp Creek in Wisconsin provides a glimpse of the results that a pheasant tail generates on occasion. Judging from the number of references to the pheasant tail in social media and in magazine articles, I am certain that it maintains a strong following, and this can only be attributed to a high level of effectiveness.
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Historically I never entered a new season without at least eighty of these simple nymphs in inventory; however, my heightened reliance on the salvation enabled me to reduce my beginning inventory. I counted fifty-seven in my various fly bins, and I deemed that quantity to be adequate. Despite this determination I emptied my canisters of damaged and unraveling flies, and uncovered twenty-three pheasant tail nymphs that accumulated over the past seven years. The pheasant tail fibers tend to be somewhat fragile despite counter wrapping with copper wire, and I suspect that most of the crippled flies were victims of trout teeth. I spent a day or two refurbishing all twenty-three flies, and I am now confident that I am more than prepared for 2018 with eighty imitations in my possession.