50 Pheasant Flies: Pheasant Retort

By Nick Simonson

Welcome to our first installment of “50 Pheasant Flies” where we’ll get you some of the greatest patterns made from North Dakota’s favorite upland bird.  Now, we recognize that trout fishing opportunities are limited in the Peace Garden State, and because of that, you’ll find a lot of super patterns in this section that can be used for bluegills, crappies, bass and even pike on the long rod all with a connection to the rooster pheasant.  So bookmark each for reference during the tying season, or get to them as you can to help fill your fly box for whatever species you pursue on the fly. 


Turkey quills always seem to be materials which compete with pheasant feathers in fly patterns, especially nymphs.  Sure, you can use them to make wingcases and wings, and that’s cool, but that mottled gray is soooo dull. The Letort Hopper is one such fly that could use some sprucing up of its standard turkey quill wing, and the ringneck provides just the means to do it.  So in response to this classic fly, I offer up the “Pheasant Retort,” a hopper fly, which is perfect for this time of year as grasshoppers become more abundant. So tie one up and tie one on for panfish and trout wherever you angle.


Hook: Curved Dry Size 12 to 8
Thread: Brown 6/0
Body: Dry Fly Dubbing
Wing: Shoulder Feather
Legs: Knotted PT Fibers
Head: Spun Coastal Deer Hair


Before starting the fly, lacquer up a shoulder feather and tie two knotted legs out of PT fibers (1).  Start your thread near the back of the hook and create a slightly thick dry-fly dubbing body that goes 2/3 of the way up the hook shank (2).

On either side of the body tie in the pheasant tail legs, so that their length is about equal to the hook shank (3). Next, tie in a tented shoulder feather as a wing, so that it extends back to just beyond the hook bend (4).

The next two steps are a bit more advanced, so take the time to practice and learn how to stack, spin and shape deer hair by following any number of tutorials on the web or in various pattern books.  Select a couple small clumps of coastal deer hair, with the tips pointing back, and tie them directly in front of the wing, going through the fibers firmly with your thread wraps so that the hairs spin and flare around the hook shank (5).  Whip finish with a few wraps just in front of the deer hair just behind the hook eye (6). Trim the deer hair evenly around the shank down to a little squarish-shaped head with a flat bottom about even with the dubbing body, while leaving a few deer hair fibers hanging out over the shoulder feather wing (7).

Your answer to the Letort Hopper – with some great pheasant accents – is complete with the Pheasant Retort.

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