Fly Of The Week
Quill Gordon
Quill Gordon
Text and Photos By George E. Emanuel, NJ, USA


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Quill Gordon

Theodore Gordon, the 'Father of American Dry Fly Fishing,' is generally credited with the pattern which bears his name.

There is however some room to speculate over his having created this fly. Even in the book The Complete Fly Fisherman which is a compilation of Gordons' own notes and letters, he makes no direct mention of creating the fly. But, a 'Blue Quill Gordon' is acknowledged. Is history guilty of a perversion, or did he simply fail to mention his other quill-bodied fly? We will probably never have a true answer to that question.

It is known that while a writer and American Correspondent for Fishing Gazette of London, England he was quite taken with the work of Frederick M. Halford. Halford quite kindly, despite his meager abilities as a tier, sent to Gordon 50 dry flies which were then commonly in use on English waters. These flies then formed the basis of Gordons' further explorations. He also asked if Halford thought these flies would 'kill' in this country.

As the great man did not see fit to share much of his knowledge with the common man, or to set down his thoughts in the form of a book, we may never know exactly what transpired during the infancy of dry fly fishing in America. It is truly a shame that the knowledge of so great an angler went to the grave with him. Such a tremendous gift he had to offer, but vainly refused to share. He was a good student, but could have been a great teacher. Unfortunately he chose a different path.

Only through the work of McDonald in compiling his notes and letters and setting them down in a book do we have any sense of who Theodore Gordon was, or the times in which he lived.

What he has left us is the great legacy of the 'Catskill' fly tier. Many in fact, to this day, would insist on fishing with no other fly. Tradition is a powerful influence, and it has transcended the death of perhaps the greatest fly fisherman in American History.

Accurately or not, the Quill Gordon as a symbol of 'modern' dry-fly fishing in America, is a worthy accolade to lay at the feet of a father.

So, let's tie a Quill Gordon.

For a 3-part series on handling quills for this and other quill-bodied flies, see, Stripping Quills, Stripping Quills 2, The Sequel, and Taking the Frustration Out of Quills!

Materials List:

    Hook:  Standard Dry Fly Hook sz 12 to 18.

    Thread:  Thread in size 6/0 Cream.

    Tail:  Medium Blue Dun.

    Body:  Peacock Eye Quill (stripped).

    Wing:  Wood Duck or Dyed Mallard Flank.

    Hackle:  Medium Blue Dun.

Tying Instructions:

(Note: This fly can be tied to match any mayfly - check out this weeks Not Quite Entomology article for more.)

1. Place the hook in the vise, tie on behind the eye and wrap a thread base back to the bend of the shank.

2. Select and tie in several barbules from a Medium Blue Dun hackle. The tail should be equal in length to the length of the hook shank. Wind forward to hook shank behind the eye and tie in the wing. The wing should equal the length of the hook shank.

3. Select a Peacock Quill from the area of the eye of the feather. Strip using an eraser of all flu. Pre soften the bare quill with hair conditioner, to make it more pliable. (note, this works well with manually stripped quills) (If you have used a chemically stripped quill, soaking in Lestoil prior to use will render the quill pliable) Tie in the quill by the tip end.

4. Wind the quill forward to just behind the wing. Stand the wing upright taking wraps in front to support it.

5. Divide the wing into two equal parts using a bodkin or your scissors. Figure eight the wings, and post them with one turn of thread to further separate and gather them.

6. Tie in two Medium Blue Dun hackles (glossy side forward) between the wings.

7. Wind the first hackle forward, 3 times behind and 2 times in front of the wing.

8. Wind the second hackle 2 times behind, and 3 times in front of the wing, wiggling it to make it lie between the barbules of the first hackle. Tie off and trim the thread, and any abhorrent barbules. Coat the quill and head with Daves Fleximent to enhance durability.

Fishing Suggestions

As with all dry flies a dead drift is the ticket. Check the natural and if it resembles a Quill Gordon, tie one on in the appropriate size, present it properly and get ready to have fun. The fish love these flies and though we no longer fish, they will surely provide you with the memories of seasons past. And just like they did Theodore Gordon, sitting alone in his cabin on his beloved Neversink, those mental images will warm you on cold winter nights. ~ George E. Emanuel (Chat Room Host Muddler)

For more information on the insect this fly imitates, how and when to fish it see: Hendricksons!


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