50 Pheasant Flies: Red John

By Nick Simonson

As TV shows go, I’m not a fan of many, but The Mentalist was always one I’d watch right off the DVR.  While not every episode focused on the central story arc of the titular Patrick Jane attempting to locate the elusive and sociopathic “Red John” – those that did were always super exciting, and were typically season-ending cliffhangers.  This fly earned the “bad guy” moniker after it spelled trouble for so many trout during a particular span of great spring fishing around the TV series’ end, and is a quicker tie than the more traditional Copper John, with our favorite bird’s tail feather fibers subbed in.

A Red John nymph tied by Nick Simonson

Hook: 2X Nymph, Size 10-14
: Red 6/0
Weight: .02 Lead Wire
Tail: PT Fibers
Abdomen: Med. Red Ultrawire
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Wingcase: Red Tinsel
Legs: PT Fibers
Head: Brass Bead


Start the fly by placing a brass bead at the eye of the hook, and then about 10-wraps of the lead wiring behind it, and ideally inside of the bead’s wider opening which faces the back of the hook.  You can then secure the lead and bead with thread wraps, and advance your thread to the end of the hook shank (1).  Tie in eight PT fibers for the tail and secure them forward and split them in half just behind the bead; over that, tie in a strand of medium red ultrawire which will form the abdomen and advance your thread about 2/3 of the way up the hook shank (2).

Wrap the ultrawire forward forming the abdomen of the fly until you reach your thread; you can secure the wire with a few thread wraps before trimming the excess (3). Tie in a strand of red tinsel and two peacock herls and advance your thread over the lead wrapping to just behind the bead (4).  Wrap the peacock herls forward, forming the thorax of the fly, tie off and trim the excess and then fold the red tinsel over the top of the herl to form the wingcase (5).  From there you can evenly split and space your PT fiber legs on either side of the fly for a uniform look and trim to your desired length (6).  Whip finish behind the bead and add a drop of head cement – or epoxy the thorax and wing case – and your Red John is ready to murder…I mean catch…some trout (7).

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