Art Flick's Red Quill might just be my
favorite fishing fly. It's shown above.
I'll differentiate favorite fishing fly
from non-fishing flies
that would include the beautiful old full
dress salmon and lake flies that I don't
fish much, but are favorites anyway. Flick's
fly just simply produces for me at Hendrickson
time, year after year. I did have one notable
refusal a couple of years ago, by a very big
fish that came up for it, inspected it, and
laughed in its face, but other than that, the
fish just take it unquestionably. Flick says
that it represents the male, but I'm finding
it hard to believe that we have only male
Hendricksons on the Mad, for me it seems to
work for both. In any event, it out-fishes the
traditional Hendrickson patterns hands down.
So what's this fly doing in the "Just Old Flies"
section? Well, there is an "old" Red Quill too,
(shown below) one that predates Flick's by more
than a hundred years. The fly appears in
Frederic M. Halford's book Floating Flies,
and How to Dress Them in 1886. While
Flick's is dun colored save for the body,
Halford's version is reddish-brown, a very
different fly altogether. On a side note, I
think Halford's definition of dry fly fishing
found in Hints on Dry-Fly Fishing is as cogent
today as it was then:
"To define dry-fly fishing, I should describe it
as presenting to the rising fish the best
possible imitation of the insect on which
he is feeding, in its natural position. To
analyze this further, it is necessary,
firstly, to find a fish feeding on the
winged insect; secondly, to present to
him a good imitation of this insect, both
as to size and color; thirdly, to present
it to him in its natural position, of
floating on the surface of the water with
its wings up, or what we technically term
'cocked;' fourthly, to put the fly lightly
on the water, so that it floats accurately
over him without drag; and fifthly, to take
care that all these condition have been
fulfilled before the fish has seen the
angler or the refection of his rod."
The old pattern had body of stripped peacock
herl dyed red, with brownish overtones. There
is some reference to a hackle quill body as
well in J. Edson Leonard's book Flies,
in a second version of the old fly. He has
a third version in there as well that is
clearly Art Flick's, with wood duck wings
and dun tail and hackle. Art Flick claims
to have invented the hackle quill body fly,
with his creation of the Red Quill in 1933.
Though Edson shows an old Red Quill tied with
a hackle quill body, I would imagine that came
later, after Art Flick's fly was invented. I
can only find reference to the stripped peacock
quill in the early books, so I will agree with
Art when he says:
"The name Red Quill is an old one, having
been given to an English fly many years ago.
I took the liberty of borrowing it a few
years ago when I started tying a fly to
represent the male E. subvaria. The fly is
like Mr. Steenrod's [Hendrickson], except
for the body.
The dressing of the Red Quill follows:
Wings: Flank feather of mandarin or
Times have changed, and a #14 hook works best
for me, but other than that, Art Flick's dressing
serves us beautifully today. So what fly did the
old Red Quill imitate? Certainly not the Hendrickson.
J. Edson Leonard lists a hatch he calls the Red
Quill hatch, appearing in late April, with a
smoky brown body and cinnamon wings. He goes on
to give the Irish name for this hatch, the Brown
Caughlan. It's a small reddish fly, and one with
which I am unfamiliar. Perhaps it's not native to
the states, or perhaps it appears elsewhere, and
I just haven't been there to see it. Here's the
recipe for the old Red Quill, from J. Edson Leonard:
Body: Quill of large hackle feather
from Rhode Island Red cock, stripped and
Hackle: Natural blue dun.
Tail: Few wisps of dun spade or
Hook: No. 12.
As you might have gathered, I'm a big fan of Art
Flick's Red Quill. When it's Hendrickson time,
and the fish are on the duns, it's unbeatable.
Body: Red peacock quill (dyed).
Hackle: Natural dark red.
Tail: Natural dark red.
Credits: Favorite Flies and their Histories,
By Mary Orvis Marbury; Flies by J. Edson Leonard;
Art Flick's New Streamside Guide by Art Flick,
"Floating Flies, and How to Dress Them by Frederick M. Halford;
Hints on Dry-Fly Fishing by Frederick M. Halford. ~ Eric Austin