The Pheasant Tail Midge

This fly was first developed as a variant on the Bead Head Pheasant Tail, but since has gone through so many possible variations that it has taken on a life of it's own and deserves a new name. The inspiration for it came originally from the Bead Head Pheasant Tail as well as suggestions from H.B. McCowan and others. It was only after the recent introduction of very fine beads in a variety of colors that tying this fly in the small sizes necessary to imitate midge pupa has become possible. It has proven itself on numerous midge hatches and the variations make it highly versatile. The basic idea is to use a couple of feather barbules such as from a pheasant tail, turkey, dyed turkey, etc. to create the body of the fly. The mini barbules that stick out from the sides of the larger barbules have proven to give a nice combination of movement and lifelike appearance to the body of the fly. The copper or other color wire ribbing provides strength over the top of the feather barbules and the bead head can be varied in color to suit local preferences or needs.


Hook: Tiemco 2487 (scud hook) or equivalent, #16-22
Bead: Black (or other color) Bead in size appropriate to hook size
Thread: Black (or color of feather barbule)
Ribbing: Fine Copper (or other color) Wire
Tail & Body: 2 Ring Neck Pheasant Tail Fibres or Turkey Feather Barbules either natural or dyed


1. Slip bead over end of hook and slide it around to just behind the eye. Position hook in vise so that eye is slightly down. This will hold bead in position just behind the eye and keep it from slipping back on you while you are tying.
2. Start thread just behind the bead and take a couple of wraps. Cut a 2" piece of wire and position one end of it at the thread on the hook with the other end sticking out the back of the fly. Wrap the thread over the wire and the hook working your way towards the back of the fly until you reach a position approx. 2/3 of the way between the back of the bead and the point of the hook.
3. Take 2 Ring Neck Pheasant Tail Fibres or Turkey Barbules and with one turns of thread attach them so that the tips form the tail of the fly (very short). You can now gently pull on the butts of the fibres to get the tail to the desired length. When you have got the tail the length that you desire take another tight turn over the first one. The butts should point towards the head of the fly. Spiral the thread forward to just behind the bead leaving the butts outside these winds of thread.
4. Grasp the butts of the Pheasant Tail Fibres and spiral them forward to just behind the bead. Note: you may find it useful to use hackle pliers to grasp the fibres. Take a couple of wraps of thread to secure the fibres in position behind the bead.
5. Spiral the wire forward in an open spiral to just behind the bead. Five to eight turns is usually about right depending upon the size of the hook. Take a couple of turns of thread to secure the copper wire and cut off the excess.
6. Whip finish behind the bead and cut the thread.


The variations on this fly are almost endless:

1. Use different color beads including glass beads in a variety of colors.
2. Use different kinds and colors of feather barbules: dyed and natural pheasant tail, dyed and natural turkey, etc.
3. Use different kinds and colors of wire: copper, gold, silver, red, green, etc.


This is your basic midge pupa that needs to be fished just in the surface film or under the surface to the depth that the fish are feeding. You can use a strike indicator to vary the depth from just below the surface to all the way to the bottom. It can also be fished effectively on a dropper under a dry or wet fly and sight fished to highly selective fish using short line nymphing technique. The key to the success of the fly is the action of the mini-barbules that stick out from the sides of the feather barbules used to form the body of the fly. Barbules should be selected carefully to utilize this property.