Among the first flies a fly tier should concentrate on are egg patterns. They are quick, cheap, and easy to tie.
Golden pheasant feathers are as versatile as they are beautiful. They can be used as tails, legs, or wing fibers on nymphs and emergers or in the intricate cheeks of classic steelhead and Atlantic salmon flies.
The wings on a dry fly are often made from wing feathers and are the primary characteristic distinguishing it from other flies. Wood duck flank feathers are a staple for the wings of Catskill-style dry flies like the Hendrickson and the drake, but mallard or teal flank feathers can be substituted with much cheaper results. Quills can also be used for wings in nymph patterns like the Kauffman Stone and Dave’s Hopper.
Many tyers also use golden pheasant feathers for tailing material. The rounded tips of these feathers are perfect for giving the illusion of movement that trout find irresistible. Peacock herl is another popular choice for this purpose, as the speckling in the barbs gives it that buggy look that trout love to eat. The hem is also an excellent option for adding color to the body of a fly.
The crest feathers on this beautiful game bird are very useful as hackles on wet flies, as tail fibers, or even as the entire wings of classic salmon and seatrout flies and steelhead flies. The orange neck feathers can also be varnished and stroked to create an excellent caddis wing on many dark, dry flies, including the Gartside Pheasant Hopper and Sparrow. The wing quill feathers from the pheasant have much more patterning than the goose or duck quills and are excellent as wing cases on upright dry fly wings.
A whole pheasant’s skin contains various sizes of feathers and colors. Still, it is most valuable for the tyer who wants to tie the general practitioner and other classic shrimp and prawn patterns. A female pheasant’s skin holds less useable feathers but still contains many valuable materials.
It is often hard to keep track of all the feathers used in fly patterns, and it can be frustrating to purchase packages of feathers and find that they differ from what the pattern calls for. This guide will answer common questions about feathers and ease purchasing frustrations.
Whether you are using cock or hen pheasant tail feathers, the body and tail feathers from these versatile birds can be extremely useful for imitating legs on caddis and other nymphs, wings on wet flies, or wing cases on Matuka-style streamers. Even the neck feathers, which can be dyed as a hackle, help add a natural-colored element to many dry and wet flies. In addition, whole skins of cock and hen ring-neck pheasants are now available for the fly dresser to make bird-based patterns.
The body feathers of a pheasant are soft and webby, able to soak up water, which helps to keep your fly weighted. They also have a broad spectrum of earth-tone colors and natural mottling that is highly valued in many Catskill-style dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. The most popular pattern that uses grouse body feathers is Frank Sawyer’s pheasant tail nymph. Other grouse feather patterns include a Dave’s Hopper and Kauffman’s Stone nymph. Hen or CDL hen capes and saddles are excellent substitutes without grouse feathers.
Hen and CDL hen quills are also used in the body and leggings of wet flies like the ever-popular pheasant tail nymph. They have a long fiber length that can be manipulated to create pulsating movement in the water. These feathers are available in various colors to match most trout prey. Without a quality hen feather, a dyed mallard quill can be used.
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