Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Monday, February 8, 2010

Quill Bodies And a Word On Wings

I almost went to the Swift this past Sunday morning but decided that it would be more fun to drink coffee and tie flies instead. It also gave me a chance to work up some quill bodies. These were in my arsenal 30 years ago but were gradually replaced by dubbed bodies and not because fur bodies were any better. They were just easier to deal with. Quills, on the other hand, had to be prepared and conditioned. This was something that I never liked to do and when it was time to tie some up I usually just grabbed a hackle feather, stripped the fibers off it and then broke it in two when I tried to wind it on the hook. But when things went right you had a beautiful fly body!!! I realize now that getting that result was worth the prep work.

Good, old, cheap, Chinese and Indian necks are the best source for quills. Rip a couple of dozen hackle feathers off the neck and begin to strip off the fibers. DON'T SOAK THEM IN A BLEACH SOLUTION to remove the fibers Bleach will weaken the stem. Take a dozen stripped stems of one color and fasten them together with a paper clip and dump the bundle into a glass of warm water for a few hours. After soaking take out the quill bundle and put it in a zip lock bag. They'll stay soft and pliable for a long time.

The above photos show (poorly) some dun variants with their signature bodies. In the group are a couple of quill bodied comparaduns with CDC instead of deer hair. Can't wait to use them!!

Wings - I'm reading a 100 year old classic, The Dry Fly And Fast Water by George LaBranche where the author examines the value of wings on hackled flies. This is an age old question. My feelings are: 1. Wings on hackled dry flies are for the fisherman, not the trout. 2. Hackle imitates the silky, gossamer quality of a mayflies wings much better than woodduck, mallard, hackle tips, etc. In fact, hackle is perfect for imitating spinner wings and is much better than those dreadful, water absorbing, leader twisting hackle tips!!!

If there is one feather that matches the qualities and likeness of mayfly wings it's CDC. They're light, come in all the right colors and float like a cork. All my BWO's are tied with it.

There's a big storm coming tomorrow night. There's only a month of this winter left (hopefully).

Maybe I'll hit the Swift Saturday morning (maybe).



Anonymous said...

I'm going to try to tie some of these. How do they hold up after a fish is caught?

Millers River Flyfisher said...


As long as you use a damp quill the body of the fly should hold up when in use. Don't grip the body with forceps when removing the hook. that will snap the quill for sure.


Cluster said...

nice looking flies Ken. I'd have to agree with you with the wing. Maybe more important on the bigger flies. What size are the ones pictures tied in? 16's? I love the look of the quill bodied flies. Have you ever tried the synthetic quill body?

Millers River Flyfisher said...


You're right on the size 16. I've seen the synthetic quills. they look nice but I've passed up on buying them. I have so much of the natural stuff!!


藍心湄Blue said...
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