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Fishing and Tying the Frenchie

frenchie fly

The Frenchie is the first Euro nymphing-specific pattern that I ever encountered. As a matter of fact, the Frenchie is so similar to Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Nymph that only the addition of a hotspot and heavy weight really separates it from the original.

From what I’ve read, Lance Egan developed, or introduced this pattern, to North America. Egan is among the most renowned and accomplished American competitive fly fishermen and is a multi-time national champion and world championship medalist with Team USA. He is credited as the developer of the Frenchie, and inspiration for creating this fly came from observing the patterns that European competitors were fishing that included hotspots.

There are several qualities Egan took into account that cause the Frenchie to be so effective. First, the super slim profile coupled with a heavy tungsten bead helps this smallish fly reach the stream bottom quickly. Second, as discussed earlier, flies tied with pheasant tail flat out catch trout, period. Finally, the customizable hotspot provides that small, flashy element that grabs the attention of wild trout causing them to take it readily.

Fishing the Frenchie

My Frenchies of preference call for natural pheasant tail bodies with either the original salmon pink or caddis green hotspot. My friend Ralph finds great success using Frenchies tied with hot pink and light olive collars, and he has written about the Frenchie on this website in the past. He also ties Frenchies with a white hotspot and uses these from mid-May to mid-June when the Cahills are active in northcentral Pennsylvania.

This past March, I nymphed a small Cameron County Class A tributary that is exclusively a native brookie fishery. In two and a half hours, I landed nearly twenty fish on a #16 Frenchie, missing many more. Later that same spring, in early June, I was on a northwestern PA tailwater that is known for being a real “sumbitch” that does not give up trout easily. I ended up landing ten trout that day including a bruiser stocked rainbow and a number of small wild browns. All but one of the fish I caught ate a #16 Frenchie tied in the original style that was being fished as a tag fly.

Incidentally, the Frenchie might be the only pattern that I fish regularly as both a point and tag fly in a tandem rig. I also regularly fish a Frenchie by itself on a single fly setup. Versatility is what makes this fly pattern truly shine.

Another advantage of the Frenchie is that it is unequivocally customizable. The hotspot collar can be tied in a nearly unlimited host of colors, and the pheasant tail body can be customized to match the local insects on favorite waterways. For example, using dyed yellow or orange pheasant tail for the body might be a good choice to imitate sulphur nymphs. Deep olive or black dyed pheasant tail are likely choices for BWO nymphs. The choices and combinations are seemingly endless.

brown trout and frenchie fly
The Frenchie has produced some very nice fish for us over the years. It's definitely a confidence pattern!

Tying the Frenchie

frenchie flies
We tie and fish Frenchies in two variations, on a standard jig-style hook (left) and on a caddis/scud hook (right). Both are very effective. Even though both patterns in this photo are tied on size 14 hooks with 1/8 tungsten beads, they each present different profiles that trout find appealing.

To spin up a Frenchie, place a slotted tungsten bead of color choice on the hook. If tying a large, #14 Frenchie, I add a few wraps of lead wire behind the bead so that I can use it as a heavier, anchor fly. However, for #16 and #18 flies, I omit the lead underbody because I want to keep the profile very slim and not create increased bulk. 

Build a thread base on the hook shank and begin by tying in 5 or 6 fibers of CDL for the tail. I have used pheasant tail fibers for the tail, too, with equal success. Next, tie in 3-8 pheasant fibers, depending on hook size, for the body and the XS wire rib. Tie in the pheasant tail by the tips, and if need be, clip off the brittle ends of the tips so that they don’t break while wrapping the body.

Using hackle pliers, wrap the pheasant tail two-thirds up the hook shank, carefully twisting as you go to create a segmented look and increased durability. Counter wrap the wire, trap with thread, and trim. Build a narrow hotspot of bright-colored UV dubbing in the color and brand of your choice and create a thread collar by whip finishing

It’s easy to make the Frenchie bulky, so be aware of how many pheasant tail fibers you use for the body. Try to keep the body slim.

This pattern can be tied on a jig nymph hook or it can be tied on a curved caddis hook in the same sizes. Both variations are equally effective.

Tie in a variety of sizes with different sized beads to cover any situation you might encounter. The Frenchie is a true confidence pattern that works everywhere!

Did You Find This Fly Tying Guide Helpful?

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