50 Pheasant Flies: Copper Sawyer

By Nick Simonson

The prototype for the Pheasant Tail Nymph was created by British river keeper Frank Sawyer and combines the weight and flash of copper wire and the bugginess of pheasant tail fibers.  While not as famous as the PTN he would go on to create, the Copper Sawyer is still widely used, particularly in spring-fed creeks for fussy trout.  Simple, flashy and effective at getting below the surface, the Copper Sawyer hearkens back to the first days in the history of modern nymph fishing and combined two materials which were more readily available to anglers trying to imitate aquatic insects.

Copper Sawyer (1)
The Copper Sawyer tied by Nick Simonson

Hook: Nymph, Size 12-18
Thread: Brown 6/0
Tail: 8-10 PT Fibers
Body: 8-10 PT Fibers, Wrapped
Wingcase: 8-10 PT Fibers, Folded
Rib & Thorax: Wrapped Copper Wire


Tie in 8-10 PT fibers so the tips hang 1/4 of the hook shank length beyond the bend, serving as the tail; then tie in a 3-inch strip of copper ultra wire – use medium for size 12-14 hooks and small for hooks size 16 and smaller (1). Wrap the remaining fibers forward about 2/3 of the hook shank and tie off, advancing your thread to the hook eye (2).  Then wrap the ultra wire forward, segmenting the body (3). At the tie off point, use the ultra wire to form the thorax by tightly wrapping it forward and then back over the first wraps to the tie off point, trimming the wire neatly (4). Fold the tied-off PT fibers over the wire thorax forming a wing case; tie them off and trim (5). Form a small thread head, whip finish and cement (6).

Mix up wire colors, using brighter hues like red and green to give the fly a different look, or use subdued shades like black for something a little more natural. A similar-toned beadhead adds extra weight and flash to get the fly down in the column for fish holding near the bottom.  It’s possible to tie the Copper Sawyer without even using thread, so for an extra challenge, give that a shot!

Featured Photo: Big trout can be fooled by small, simple flies like the Copper Sawyer. Simonson Photo.

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