Back in 1990 'Mr Gold-head', or Theo Bakelaar from Holland, covered his hands and face in gold paint and sat and showed the crowds at the Dutch Fly Fair how he tied his Gold Bead-head Nymphs. This publicity started a fly tying revolution; a simple adaptation to the humble nymph has become a standard around the world. Bead-head flies are not new; be they glass, metal or gold, they’ve been around for eighty or ninety years but had only become popular thanks to Mr Gold-head.
Whoever it was that first tied a little bit of flashy stuff to the back of a nymph pattern I guess we will never know but again, that idea has also been around for a very long time.
In today’s world we have so many patterns that now carry the combination of a little flash and a gold bead head that they are almost uncountable. One that does stick out is the Sawyer’s Flashback Pheasant-tail Nymph. This is a radical adaptation of the original and it looks so different, one wonders why it sometimes carries the tag of the great Frank Sawyer, because you can guarantee he had nothing to do with this pattern as he was a long time dead by the time this came on the scene.
Sawyer, originator of the Pheasant Tail Nymph, along with other accomplishments, was the Riverkeeper from 1927on the Officers' Association Water, a six mile stretch of the Wiltshire Avon, UK, a post he retained for over 50 years. He was born in 1906 close to the river and you may say he lived there all of his life as he passed away in 1980.
In his lifetime he wrote two books; the first, “Keeper of the Stream” in 1952 and then in 1958 came “Nymphs and the Trout”. Both are major works on fishing with nymphs, are regarded as classics and have gone through numerous editions and reprints.
In his later years he and his wife supplemented their income by tying his Pheasant-tail Nymphs commercially and for a while they were even available here in Australia. They were unique as they were tied with very fine copper wire instead of using thread. You can watch a video of the great man tying his famous Pheasant-tailed Nymph by Googling "Frank Sawyer Tying a Pheasant-tail Nymph" and you'll get the film courtesy of YouTube.