A Pheasant Tail soft Hackle #16, or #14 is a perhaps the best multi purpose trout Soft Hackle, or Nymph for Michigan wild trout. For trout, I use a muskrat gray dubbing ball for the thorax and to support the very soft grouse hackle. You could tailor the dubbing color to match a particular insect. This Steelhead version has a peacock thorax and is usually on a #8 heavy wet fly hook. Small natural soft hackle patterns are a good finesse presentation to steelhead in low clear water that may have been harassed with all manner of more garish offerings.
- Hook: Allen S201 #7 steelhead hook
- Thread 140 denier FlyMater+ here
- Rib Fine Copper Wire
- Tail & Body Cock Pheasant Tail fibers, long ones here
- Thorax Peacock Herl
- Hackle Ruff Grouse, large one here
Save the fluffy after shaft feathers, they are great for gills on Hex nymphs.
It can be a bit hard to get this feather tied on in this approximate orientation, but it also can be not so hard. Start with the prepared hackle with excess fluff cut off and at least 1/8 inch of bare stem behind the good part of the feather. Tie this on top of the hook with the feather pointing forward with the curvature (concave side) away from you. Before you put the second turn of thread over it, push the little butt of the stem downward on the near side of the hook, this can lever the long end of the feather back away from you.
Tying the feather butt under the thorax, then wrapping the feather forward (actually wrap it almost perfectly vertically) helps the fibers stand out slightly, more facing forward. There needs to be a bit of shank (1/16 inch, about 1 eye width) between the feather and the eye of the hook.
The Peacock Herl can be tied in more simply than I am doing. I am setting this up to twist the herls up with the thread which requires that they be tied in with no extra stiffness at one end as would be the case if we tied all the butt ends at the bottom. This twisting herl up with the tread is quickest & easiest with a Nor Vise.
However you do the Peacock Herl, finish with the excess tied down on a different side of the hook from the feather. Trim the excess herl and wrap the hackle in a vertical plane.
The amount of Pheasant tail was chosen to be right for the body, It is more fibers than are best for the tail, cut off some of the tail fibers.