By Nick Simonson
While we focus a lot on nymphs and big bulky pheasant-tail based patterns for turning trout, panfish and other frequent targets on the fly rod, sometimes more subtle wet flies are the ticket to success. Take for example the Pheasant Cruncher wet fly. It’s thin, versatile, customizable and can go from drab to vivid with a quick swap of materials. Whatever you want this fly to be for whatever the fish are doing, the Cruncher can take care of business. Best of all, it’s tied with pheasant, and most certainly the tail fibers and hackle can be replaced with something else on a pheasant skin, so don’t let today’s tutorial deter you from exploring all of the exciting options this simple pattern can bring together on the vise.
Hook: Dry Fly Size 12 to 16
Thread: 6/0 to match
Tail: Saddle Hackle Fibers
Body: 4 PT Fibers, Wrapped
Rib: Fine Wire
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Collar: Wraps of Saddle Hackle
Head: Glass Bead
Mix up the colors as you see fit, as a simple bag of glass beads will give you multiple hues to work with. Here in our olive version, get started by placing the glass bead on the hookshank prior to putting the hook in the vise, then once secure, start the thread on the shank (1). Peel off a few hackle fibers from the base of a saddle hackle (they can be a bit long) just trim the ends and make sure the tips are fairly even before tying them in to form a tail about 2/3 the length of the hook shank (2). At the same tie-in point, add a strand of fine wire and four PT fibers (here dyed olive) by the tips and advance the thread forward (3). Wrap the PT fibers forward and tie off about 1/3 of the way back from the hook eye, then counter-wrap the fine wire forward in the opposite direction and tie off in the same location (4).
Tie in a strand of peacock herl and advance the thread, leaving a bit of space between it and the bead (5). Make a few wraps of the herl to form the thorax, then tie off and trim (6). From there, select a neck hackle in the same color as the tail and tie it in by the butt, with those fibers stripped off (7). Make a couple wraps with the hackle, tie it off and then whip finish for a completed wet version of the cruncher (8).
Mix up bead color and material or leave it off altogether using dark thread for a more natural presentation or add some bright thread to make the pattern more like an attractor, while riding higher in the column. Like most of the patterns in this series, variations can be easily made to give you something to experiment with, or key in on what the fish are taking. Note that with just a few PT fibers and no bead, the pattern will ride up in the surface or just below it and the tail fibers suggest the shuck of an insect ready to hatch and take to the air – a sure cue for feeding fish to grab it before it’s gone. The Cruncher ties up quickly and it doesn’t take long to fill a fly box and be ready for the next bite.
Featured Photo: The Pheasant Cruncher wet fly can be easily adjusted for all sorts of applications with a variety of materials from a rooster or other feathers. Simonson Photo.