On the Fly: Could you only fish one fly all year? As long as you have the variations | AspenTimes.com

On the Fly: Could you only fish one fly all year? As long as you have the variations

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Many variations of Frank Sawyer’s pheasant tail nymph are available to anglers today.
Photo courtesy of Scott Spooner

Many anglers would argue that you could catch a fish on any trout stream in the world with Frank Sawyer’s pheasant tail nymph. Frank was a river keeper on the Hampshire Avon and created this fly we still rely upon today, 65 years later. I would agree this is a universal and year-round fly, although you’d have to fish a few different sizes and variations. It’s hard to say that one fly could rule them all, but this one could — as long as there is some leeway in sizes and styles.

For the Fryingpan, we special order hundreds of dozens every season tied small, especially skinny, and devoid of flash and beads. For local freestones like the Roaring Fork, Crystal, and Colorado rivers, we tend to use larger ones which can employ beads, some flash, and even rubber legs, cul de canard or soft hackles added in. Generally, the bigger the river, the less choosy the fish tend to be. Slimmer, smaller flies are best for low-flow times of year, and larger, flashier flies can be relied upon during runoff.

We fish small and “quiet” pheasant tail nymphs in sizes 20 and 22 on the Fryingpan River to imitate the multitudes of blue-winged olives that hatch in spring and fall. This may irk some local guides, but you can also fish the unweighted pheasant tail on the surface like a dry fly! The secret is out now, I guess.

Frank’s original versions were not tied with thread, instead only employing fine wire and pheasant tail fibers wrapped together to make the nymph heavy and “attractive.” Nowadays, we use thread, peacock herl, copper wire, beads, flash, jigged-style hooks, CDC or partridge feathers, in addition to the required ingredient — pheasant tail fibers, of course. Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

By the way, pheasant tail fibers are now available dyed in any color you’d like (black, olive, and red fibers are especially effective around here). If you boil it down, yes, you could fish a pheasant tail every day of the year. As long as you have all the variations, you could brag to all of your friends that there’s only one fly pattern you need to slay all day!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.