The various plumages from the oriental golden pheasant undoubtedly feature more frequently in salmon fly tying than those of any other bird.
As well as the famous neck (tippet) and crest (topping) feathers, the golden pheasant provides many other useful feathers, some of which can be put to great effect as substitutes for much rarer plumages. The tippets and topping have been used as tails in numerous iconic patterns both wet and dry.
The topping feathers vary in length and are slender and curved. They are a bright translucent golden yellow in colour. Although for tails and toppings, a whole crest feather is used, is tied in curving upwards, and the topping tied over the wing downwards to meet the tip of the tail and the wing in most instances. There are a few Atlantic salmon patterns that the whole wing is constructed entirely of them.
The orange and black barred tippet feathers are used in small bunches for tails not the whole feather. That being said, the whole tippet feather is used as the wing base in many Atlantic salmon flies. These cannot be ‘married’ with the fibres from other feathers, so tippet feathers are tied in before the rest of the wing. These whole feathers are used ‘back to back’ for the wings as such famous patterns as Durham Ranger and Orange Parson.
These magnificent birds have been domesticated and are eaten in the far east. There are feral populations in Europe. The plumage is thus plentiful and relatively cheap.
The red and yellow Golden pheasant body feathers are used in many shrimp and prawn patterns as in the famous ‘General Practitioner’ while the bright red spear feathers from the base of the tail are used as feelers on some prawn imitations. They can also make a fine substitute for Spey hackle.
Golden pheasant tails
The tail is marked with irregular dark brown barring over a tan background and again is found in the dressings of many mixed wing Atlantic salmon flies. The fibres from the tail ‘marry’ well with the Forbes from other feathers. The tail feathers have to be purchased in ‘pairs’ as there is no true centre tail feather on the tail of the golden pheasant. This means that the fibres on one side of the tail are shorter than those on the other side. It is frequently specified as a substitute for Florican bustard. Full skins, without tail or head, are available cheaply. The crests and tippets are so frequently used, that there is little sense in buying other than a full head and neck.
The head and neck and whole skins are also often dyed into bright reds and orange to give patterns that extra something.