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Tying the Shop Vac | a Pheasant Tail Variation

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

The Shop Vac is a pheasant tail variation used to imitate an emerging mayfly, caddisfly, or midge. Pheasant tail is a fantastic material for creating a general imitation patters that imitates a variety of aquatic life which is why I believe the Shop Vac is so effective is so many situations. This is one of those patterns that I can't keep enough of in my box!

The Beer

With every Bugs n' Brews video I like to feature a different beer that I have while tying. There are few things more relaxing than enjoying a good brew on a Friday night while whipping up a couple of bugs! In this video I cracked open a Helles Lager from Tucher Brau in Germany. I absolutely love German imports and this beer was no exception. Helles means "light" in German, however this isn't the same as our "light" lagers in America but rather refers to the light color of the malt used in the brewing process. This beer was everything you would expect from a Helles lager; crisp and herbal with a touch of sweetness that is rounded out by the German hop flavor and light bitterness.

Material List

Scud Hook - I like Lively Legz No. 135 in size 18

Bead - Tungsten or brass bead (2mm)

Thread - UTC 70D in Rusty Brown

Ribbing - x-small UTC Ultra wire (gold)

Wing - Hareline Ice Dub (pearl or grey)

Collar - Arizona Synthetic Peacock dubbing (or other peacock dubbing)

Step-By-Step Tying Instructions

Step 1

Place a scud hook in the vise with a small bead. I like using Lively Legz No. 135 in size 18 or smaller. For the bead I use a size 5/32 (2mm) in either tungsten, brass, or glass. Because I typically like to fish this as a dry-dropper nymph, I avoid adding too much weight.

Step 2

Using a rusty brown thread (to match the pheasant tail), begin wrapping down the shank of the hook and cut off your tag end.

Step 3

A tail is not necessary, especially for a smaller nymph such as this, however I like to use coq-de-leon as a tail for anything on a size 18. For anything smaller, I typically omit the tail.

Step 4

I combine the next step and tie in both the wire and pheasant tail at the same time. I use x-small gold wire and about 3-5 Pheasant Tail fibers.

Step 5

Wrap the pheasant tail up the shank of the hook using touching wraps and tie off with your thread to lock it in place.

Step 6

Counter wrap (wrap the opposite direction of the pheasant tail) back up the shank of the hook using open-spiral wraps and tie off with your thread to lock it in place.


Tie in your wing. I like to use a fine ice dub for my wing. I think the finer fibers help to give this fly a more realistic look. Alternatively, you can also use crystal flash, flashabou, or even a bit of antron yarn. When I pick out the amount of dubbing I want to use, I pull it apart and align the fibers as best I can; repeating the process till I have most of the fibers pointing the same direction. I then tie in this clump at the center.

Step 8

At this point, bring the front portion rearward and give a few wraps of thread to lock in the wing.

Step 9

Trim the wing to about 2 bead lengths. Because this is imitating an emerging insect, keep the wing relatively short.

Step 10

Tie in your thorax/collar using either peacock dubbing or by wrapping in peacock herl.

Step 11

Whip finish and that is that!

If you prefer video tutorials, check out our YouTube video on how to tie the Shop Vac.

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