Bead Head Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle, a tasty little fly

Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph

Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph


I use two nymph more than all the rest combined. The bead head soft hackle hare’s ear and the bead head soft hackle pheasant tail (BHSHPT). And the reason I use these is that they work day in and day out. They both look buggy and like something a trout would eat. So they take them readily. I rarely fish a nymphing rig, so I am usually fishing these as a dropper. The hare’s ear works best for larger nymphs and caddis. The BHSHPT is more of a May Fly pattern.

On the Clark Fork River near St Regis, the BHSHPT will out fish any nymph I’ve tried. I’m sure there are times like around stone fly emergence that other patterns may work better, but for a dropper fly, I’ll take this pattern over any other fly.

It helps that this is a simple pattern to tie. You can crank out a season’s supply during one ball game (unless there are too many great plays to divert your attention). That there are no hard to find materials and no gadgets needed is another big plus. I only tie it in two sizes, 14 and 16. You could go larger or smaller, but I haven’t found the need. That also simplifies the tying.

recipe for bead head soft hackle pheasant tail nymph

Recipe for Bead head soft hackle pheasant tail nymph


For the hackle, you could use partridge or any other soft hackle material you have around. I usually use either quail or starling – which is the feather in the pictures and the instruction pages. Although they aren’t as tough as partridge, I love the softness of the feathers and the life they mimic. When you watch them in the water, they look great.

beadhead soft hackle pheasant tail nymph when wet

When wet, this just looks buggy!

Speaking of in the water, look at the picture on the right to see what this looks like when wet. Doesn’t that look like trout chow? That could be a midge, mayfly or any little bug in the water. There is nothing about it to spook wary fish.

For the fine copper wire, look here to see where I get mine.

In this picture and the in the step by step photos, I am using bronzed peacock herl. I won this it a raffle years ago and still have years of feathers left. I love the sheen and the coloring of it. But regular peacock will work just as well.

As always, feel free to change it up any way you choose. You are the one tying it.

Copper Wire for Fly Tying

Well used Christmas lights

A source for a lifetime of copper wire


You are thinking that these look like Christmas lights, right? You are correct. If you are like me, every couple years a strand or two get tossed out. Doesn’t work, wrong colors, Wife’s tastes have moved on- – whatever the reason. Well, I love this wire for copper ribbing. It is free, easier to use than a spool, nice and small for ribbing those tiny nymphs, and copper is a great color on flies. You can use it instead of gold wire on Hare’s Ears or other patterns.

So this is what I do. When I need copper wire, I dig out this jumble of lights that I have stashed in a bottom drawer of my tying boxes. Then I trim off about 6 pieces of wire around 6 inches long. I grab a pair of electrical pliers and strip both ends. I throw one on top of my bench and the others in a drawer. I’m good for a few months. Couldn’t be easier. And I love the wire. Fine diameter that wraps super. Below you can see the trimmed and stripped sections. Try this next Christmas!


Trimmed Wire

A length of wire trimmed from the string of lights


Stripped wire

Wire ready to use

Return to Kelly Creek

blues and golds at Kelley Creek

Fall colors on Kelley Creek, Idaho

It’s the middle of July with temperatures in the mid 90’s and I am dreaming of October. I’ve set aside a week to go back to Kelly Creek again this fall. Is there anything better than cool nights, warm days, brilliant colors and solitary trout streams? The crowds are gone and the fish are hungry. Flies and mosquitoes have burned away or been frosted for the year.

Snow covered Lolo pass in September

You never know what the weather will bring in the fall

This is a picture of Hoodoo Pass taken September 27th, 2001. I was a bit concerned, driving through 6 inches of snow. Not certain what I would find on the river I worried that at the end of the trip I would be driving the long way back through Lewiston. Fortunately the weather held and although chilly, the pass stayed clear. It dropped down into the 20’s, but the days got up into the high 60’s.

Foggy fall morning on Moose CreekWith the frosty mornings, I never start fishing too early in the day. The edges of the stream has a little shelf of ice. And with the steep valley walls, it takes the low lying sun a long time to get down to the river. So I usually linger over a warm breakfast. Boy does that first cup of coffee taste good!

Larch changing in the fall

Larch needles show great color in autumn

You can see the frost from my campsite along Moose Creek that by 9 am, the sun still has a ways to go to reach the water. Often there is some fog to burn off before things start to warm up. Usually I make my way to the river by 11 am and fish till 4 or 5 pm. It gets dark early, so it’s nice to get a campfire going before full dark. Then time to start on dinner.

Compared to summer fishing, that is a pretty short day. But I don’t need a huge number of fish to make me happy. On a good day, I’ll catch over 30. On a poor day, maybe only 15. But when you consider the short day and the time spent hopping from hole to hole, the fishing is great.

I’ve been slipping down to my vise in the last few weeks, tying up a few new flies and topping off my box of favorites. Fall fishing at Kelley is not match-the-hatch for the most part. Last fall, on one day I only used three flies all day. My Rusty Stim on fast water; Harrops thorax dun on quiet water; and a bead head, soft hackle pheasant tail as a dropper when the others weren’t drawing any attention.


Kelley Creek in September

September 21st at Kelley Creek in Idaho


I think this is enough to keep me happy for a while. I have more pictures, so I may make another post before I my trip. We’ll see how the time goes….