Fly Patterns - Beadhead Flashback Swimming PT

            Beadhead Flashback Swimming PT


Last month we featured a baetis cripple pattern. This month we’ll tie a very popular baetis nymph.


Anyone who has experienced a baetis (or, blue winged olive mayfly) hatch knows that nymph patterns representing baetis larvae can be phenomenally successful at times. I recently had such an experience on the Upper Sacramento River on a cold overcast afternoon. At around 1:00 p.m. I began seeing tiny baetis adults on the surface, but no surface fish activity. I had been fishing two stonefly nymphs on a short line rig; the baetis hatch inspired me to add a tiny PT (pheasant tail) nymph as a “stinger” trailing behind the bottom stonefly. I selected a #18 “swimming” version of the PT, which also included a bead and a piece of mylar tinsel added over the wing case. The reaction was immediate—a series of large fish, all on the PT, taken from pocket water on one of my favorite Upper Sac stretches, including a lunker that I lost as he disappeared over the lip of the pool and threw the hook after straightening the hook. At around 3:00 p.m., the action stopped as if someone had dropped a curtain. Noticing that my hands and feet were nearly frozen, I headed for the truck with a smile and a loud “yes-s-s-s-s-s.”


I talked to Bob Grace the next morning at the Ted Fay shop. When I told him about the tiny fly, he showed me his “two-minute PT”—but that’s another story. I did watch him tie one and yes, it’s done in two minutes. I promise to feature this fly in a future column, after I get Bob’s permission. For the time being, let’s build a Beadhead Flashback Swimming PT.


If you’d like to read more on baetis mayflies and their behavior, go to for good, plain English angler-oriented information; once you are on that site, use their search tool to find baetis info.


Tying Instructions

1. Smash the hook barb unless you are using a barbless hook. Slip the bead onto the hook and wrap 3 or 4 turns of fine (.010) lead wire behind the bead. Apply a thin layer of Flexament on the hook shank and cover the shank with thread, including about half of the hook bend.

2. Tie in three pheasant tail fibers as tails, splaying them out. They should be short—no longer than half the shank length. Don’t cut the butts.    

3.  At the same point, tie in a piece of small copper wire. Pull it back and out of the way.


4. Using your hackle pliers, grab the butts of all three PT fibers and wrap them forward, leaving room for the wing case behind the bead. Tie off the fibers and trim the butts.

5. Grab the copper wire with your hackle pliers,  wrap it forward in even turns, and tie it off at the same place as the PT fibers were tied off. This strengthens the PT abdomen.


6. At the same point tie in a small strip of mylar ribbing material and let it lie back over the abdomen. Tie in four PT fibers at the same point. The mylar and PT fibers should be pointing to the rear and should be out of the way.

7. Tie in 4 peacock herls. Twist them together and wrap them into the thorax space, right up to the back of the bead, where they should be tied off.


8. Bring the PT butts over the top of the peacock herl, tie them down behind the bead, and don’t cut the remaining butts, as t hey will become the legs.

9. Bring the mylar over the top of the PT Wing case and tie it down behind the bead. Pull the PT fibers back and  tie them down in that position. Tie everything down firmly behind the bead and apply a tiny drop of super glue at that point.

10. Whip finish.




Tying Tips

1. Bob Grace substitutes black midge-size sparkle braid (made by UTC, and in spools) for the peacock herl. It looks nearly identical to peacock and is much more durable.

2. Substitute copper or black beads for the gold bead called for in the pattern to change the appearance of the fly slightly. I like to carry such different versions in case the fish start rejecting the “standard” tie.


Fish this little gem in pocket water during an afternoon baetis hatch and hold on.  Go rip a few lips, and….




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