Effective trout patterns

Written by John Hayes on .

Pittsburgh has too many good fly tying instructors to include patterns from them all in this posting. If you haven't attended a tying class at a regional fly shop, sports club or other venue, here's a sampler of what you're missing.


Polar Flash Streamer
By Ron Milavec, Upper St. Clair
(Upper St. Clair Fly Fishing Club, Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited) 

I fish this fly for steelhead in the riffles or the tail of a pool when the water is higher and off-color.

Hook: Steelhead, natural bend or streamer hook, No. 8-10 Daiichi 1270, Dai-Riki 270 or any 3x on a long-shank streamer hook.

Thread: 3/0 black or a color to match the chenille or flash.

Material: Medium trilobal antron chenille in various florescent colors: white, red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, pink, green, black, etc. UV or standard polar chenille. Mix or match the color of the antron chenille.

1. Prep the trilobal antron chenille. Cut a 2-inch piece of chenille and put several drops of head cement on one end. Set it aside to dry. This will prevent the chenille from unraveling.

2. Secure the hook in your vise. Starting at the hook eye, wrap a tight thread base to the bend of the hook.

3. Hold the prepared chenille with the cemented end to the rear of the hook bend. The chenille should extend the length of the shaft behind the bend.

4. Keeping the trilobal chenille on top of the hook, wrap the thread forward to just behind the hook eye. Leave a small gap. Trim the excess chenille. Return the thread to the tie-in point at the hook bend.

5. Tie-in the polar chenille at the bend of the hook. Advance the thread to the gap just behind the hook eye.

6. Palmer (make even wraps) the polar chenille up to the gap behind the eye of the hook. Stroke the fibers of the polar chenille towards the rear of the hook as you wrap. You do not want to entrap the chenille fibers under the wraps.

7. Tie off the polar chenille and trim any excess.

8. Whip finish to form a small head. Trim your thread and apply a drop of head cement to the head..


Easy Sculpin
By Bob Heil, Sewickley
(Family Tyes)

Hook: 39890 1/0 salmon hook.

Thread: Black 6/0.

Tail: Zonker Strip 1 1/2 times the length of hook shank (black,
dark olive, dark tan, tan, dark brown).

Body: Pearl Estaz or white dubbing.

Pectoral fins: Hen back feathers or Temple Dog Sculpin brown or olive.

Head: Sculpin wool ( black, brown, olive).

Weight: This is optional Real Eyes 3/16 size and also 0.030 or 0.035 lead
free wire for the underbody.


Light Cahill Variation
by Dan Budday, Pleasant Hills
(AdventureMen Ministries)

My favorite dry fly to fish around here. I tie it kind of small so it looks like a lot of the nuisance mayflies we have. I figure if they're bothering us, they're probably going to end up in the water somewhere. My pattern recipe is a little different than some of the traditional ones.

Hook: No. 12-20 dry fly hook. 

Thread: Cream or white thread 8/0.

Wing: Wood duck feather, tied and separated.

Thorax: Cream dubbing.

Hackle: Cream dry fly.

Abdomen: Stripped hackle quill wrapped up the hook.

Tail: Cream hackle fibers

When I'm done I put a drop of super glue on the head just to hold everything snug.




Sawyer's Pheasant Tail
By Bill Nagle, Bridgeville
(L.L. Bean)

Hook: TMC 3761, size 16-20.

Thread: Uni-thread, 8/0, brown.

Body: Pheasant tail.

Tail: Pheasant tail.

Ribbing: Fine copper wire.

1. Flatten the hook's barb and attach the thread near the mid-point of the hook. Position the thread behind the thorax area.

2. Tie in the copper wire behind the thorax and position the thread at the bend of the hook. Wind the wire up the shank in tight wraps through the thorax area to just behind the hook's eye. Wind the wire back down the shank over the first wraps building a mound to form the foundation of a thorax. Continue wrapping the wire down the shank in even wraps to the bend of the hook.

3. Select four to six fibers from a pheasant tail feather to form the tail. Hold the fibers by their tips and secure them to the hook shank with two tight thread wraps. The tail is fairly short and should extend beyond the bend about half a hook's gap in length.

4. Lift the butt ends of the pheasant tail fibers and wrap the thread forward to just behind the hook's eye. Wrap pheasant tail fibers forward to form the abdomen and thorax. Tie off the fibers. Do not trim the excess

5. Wind copper wire rib forward counter-clockwise in evenly spaced wraps. Tie off and trim the excess wire. Reposition the thread behind the thorax.

6. Pull the pheasant tail fibers back over the thorax and bind down with two firm wraps of thread. Reposition the thread to behind the eye. Pull the fibers forward and tie off with two firm wraps of thread. Trim the excess fibers.

7. Form a neat, tapered head, whip finish and coat the exposed thread wraps with head cement.

Editor's Note: See the difference between Nagle's variation on the original Pheasant Tail pattern (above) and Bruce Cox's Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle variation below (read the story at


The following is used with permission from Nagle's L.L. Bean newsletter.

"The pheasant tail's history is fairly well known and part of its appeal. It was devised in the 1950s by a river keeper in England named Frank Sawyer. His original pheasant tail is strikingly simple: fine copper wire and pheasant tail fibers twisted around one another and wrapped forward to form the thorax and abdomen. The only materials are a few fibers from a pheasant tail feather and very thin copper wire. A few good variations have been developed over the years, but when you strip them away, it's still Sawyer's elegantly simple, devastatingly effective nymph. 

This ... pattern is tied according Sawyer's original recipe. Well, sort of. Although simplistic in design, I often have trouble finishing off the fly. So, I have added thread to help tie off the wire. I will let you be the judge as to whether this small change takes away from the overall design. A No. 16 or 18, one very small split shot and 6X tippet is just the ticket. Give them a try this season. You can thank me later."

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