most difficult to fish spring creeks in the state. It has the same clear water that's common to an English caulk stream.
That's where he got his fly patterns for the Neversink, only to discover the English dry fly version not only imitated
different species of mayflies than existed in the Neversink, it didn't work well at all in the fast water. That's why Theodore
changed the English dry flies to what's now called the Catskill style of flies that use vertical wound hackle. That makes
the low, floating English flies stay on top of the water in the fast water streams of the Catskills. In my book, Theodore
Gordon was responsible for far more than a fly pattern. He is one of the first to realize that the down and across English
wet-fly swing didn't work well in fast pocket water. He was one of the first to be recognized for fishing in an upstream
direction, but in doing so, he discovered the English dry flies didn't float very well in the fast water of the Catskill streams.
The "Quill" in the name "Quill Gordon" came from the fact quills were used for the body of the fly. The fly is a beautiful fly
but a terrible imitation of a Quill Gordon mayfly. It works to some extent, simply because Quill Gordons are clinger
nymphs that when hatching, get caught up in the fast water of pocket water streams they live in. In other words, it works
to some degree because the trout often don't have time to get a good look at the fly. They only get a quick glimpse of it.
It's unbelievable that this fly is still commonly sold by fly shops. It's tail is a clump of hair that's a poor imitation of the real
mayfly's two spit tails. The body is segmented by the quill but too skinny, and not even the color of the body of the Quill
Gordon mayfly. It's far too light in color. There's not any yellow in the wings of the real mayfly. They are brownish gray,
very dark when they first emerge, but change to a lighter shade later in the their one day as a fly. The vertically wound
hackle that's suppose to imitate the mayfly's legs, makes it appear the legs are in one place directly under the head of
the fly and they aren't. The legs of the real mayfly are spread out from just behind the head to almost the end of the
body. If you use the old pattern, you will have to watch the trout that happen to get a good look at the fly turn away from
it, rather than eat it. The standard Quill Gordon dry fly is a very poor imitation of the real deal as you can easily see. It will
fool some trout, but because the fish only get a quick glimpse of it in fast water.
As you can gather, Quill part of the common name of the insect came from the "quill" of the Peacock feather used for the
body of the fly, and "Gordon" came from Mr. Gordon's last name. That works just great as the common name for this fly.
It's easy to remember and commonly used by most anglers. The real name, or scientific name of the mayfly it imitates is
the Eperous pleuralis. Theodore would probably really be impressed if he knew his fly hadn't been improved in a
hundred years, that is, until Perfect Fly came along. The "Perfect Fly" Quill Gordon Dun is far more imitative of the real
mayfly than any of the fly shop versions. We use the parachute style of hackle because it does a much better job of
mitating the legs of a mayfly than vertically wound hackle that extends in the water unnaturally, in only one area in
relationship to the fly's body. The parachute style also drifts in the water in a more realistic manner with a lower, more
natural profile that's far more imitative of the naturals than other styles of hackle.
The thorax is made from dubbing and the body of the fly is made from a turkey biot. The biot not only closely imitates the
segmentation of the mayfly's body, it also helps the fly float well. There are two tails that are split like that of the real Quill
Gordons, not a clump of hair that's used for the tails of fly shop versions. The Perfect fly has two wings that are split and
slanted back like the real mayfly wings, not a vertical clump of hair, or other material found on the generic imitations sold
by fly shops.
The amount of time required for a good fly tier to turn out a Perfect Fly dun is about three times that required to tie the
typical fly shop versions. Flies sold by most fly shops are imported from foreign countries, marked up by the importing fly
company, and marked up again by the retailer or fly shop. Perfect fly has it's own fly tiers that tie our own fly patterns and
are sold directly to anglers. We eliminate the middle men. If the flies were sold through the normal distribution channels
of the mom and pop fly shops, they would cost at least $5.00 each.
Unlike most mayflies, Quill Gordons don't emerge from their nymphal shuck in the surface skim. They emerge anywhere
from the bottom to the surface, and usually near the bottom. For that reason, we often recommended using the
"Perfect Fly" Emerging Adult, a wet fly, instead of the "Perfect Fly" Dun, a dry fly. If it is near the normal time they hatch,
Quill Gordons emerge when the water temperature gets around 50 degrees and remains there for two or three days.
That is also about the same temperature trout become active enough to feed on the surface. Frequently, when the water
temperature is marginal for surface action and the trout are eating the emerging duns between the bottom (where they
emerge into duns) and the surface of the water, the dry fly imitation of the dun fails to work. In fact, in my opinion, it's
most often the case that more of the naturals are eaten below the surface than on the surface. However, when the water
temperature falls back down after the hatch begins and is cooler than 50 degrees, the trout can become even more
prone to eat the emerging duns. For this reason, we developed a Perfect Fly, wet fly pattern for the emerging dun a few
years ago. I first called it a Wet Dun and then changed the name to an Emerging Adult. It has become a very popular fly
to use when the Quill Gordons are hatching, yet a little reluctant to take an imitation of the dun from the surface.
Again, I'll mentioned that when the Quill Gordons emerge from an nymph into a dun (a fly that once their wings are dry
can fly off of the water) they do so on the bottom. The Perfect Fly Quill Gordon Emerging Adult, the wet fly shown below,
was designed to imitated those emerging duns before they reach the surface. The fly has a strap of deer hair on its back
secured by fine gold wire that helps add some buoyancy to the fly. When you add a split-shot weight a few inches above
the fly, the added buoyancy helps it rise a little above the level of the split-shot. To imitate the natural emerging nymphs,
the drift should allow the fly to rise from the bottom of the stream to the surface like the real ones.
The Quill Gordon nymphs move from their normal fast water habitat in the bottom of the runs to the nearest moderate to
slow flowing water before they hatch. That's where you want to cast the Emerging Dun fly. Add enough weight and give
the fly enough time to sink all the way to the bottom just outside the fast water/slow water current seam in the slower
moving water. Mending your fly line a time or two will help get it down without adding a lot of weight.
When the fly gets on the bottom, raise your rod tip slightly to very slowly bring the fly up to the surface as it drifts
downstream towards your position. You want to maneuver the fly from the slower water into the current seam between
the fast and slower moving water. Most of the time the fast water will catch the fly and this will be almost automatic. If not,
bring the tip of your fly rod sideways in the direction of the fast water to help it. You want the fly to slowly come from the
bottom and arrive at the surface near the ends of the fast water runs. Of course, this will always depend on the water
speed, length of the drift and other things. Try to imagine the real emerging duns changing to a dun on the bottom and
rising to the surface and imitate what you think would happen to the real mayfly.
Lets use this situation for an example. Lets suppose you want to fish the slower water behind a large boulder that's in the
middle of the stream that has current flowing around each side of the boulder. That would be a very common area for the
Quill Gordons to hatch. Make sure the water behind the boulder is at least a couple of feet deep. Lets assume you want
to fish the current seam where the water flows around the side of the boulder and into the run that's on your right.
Cast the fly into the miniature pool behind the boulder about a foot from the current seam to your right and mend your
line to help get the fly on the bottom. Bring the rod tip up very slowly and slightly to your right in such a manner that the
fly will get caught up in the water coming around the boulder. You will notice the fly line, leader and eventually the fly will
almost always get caught by the faster water with little help from you. Keep raising the rod tip until the fly reaches the
surface. On longer cast, you may need to strip in a little line during the drift. Again, this all depends on the water and the
length of your upstream cast, but usually the drift will take place (fly rise from the bottom to the surface) between five to
ten feet and rarely over twenty feet.
The trout will sometimes take the fly when it's in the pocket and sometimes when it first gets to the current seam, but most
often, when it is between mid depth and the surface near the end of the fast water run. Keep in mind, you don't want to
wade into the area of water near the ends of the runs. That would spook the trout feeding on the emerging Quill
Gordons. The presentation should be made slightly up and across the stream, so that when the fly reaches near the end
of the run it's across from your position, not right in front of your legs.
For those that may not know, when the nymph emerges from the water as an adult mayfly (and can fly off the water to
the trees and bushes along the stream), anglers call this stage of the mayfly a "dun". Scientist call this stage the
subimago. The mayfly will later change into what the scientist call the imago and anglers call the spinner. We will get into
the spinner stage of the Quill Gordon later. This article is about the Quill Gordon dun.
When the Quill Gordon emerge, the duns normally reach the surface of the water and are caught in the fast water of the
runs; however, there are other places the duns emerge. Sometimes they will get caught up in the slower water of the
pockets and sometimes they will emerge in the deeper riffles. Depending on the length of the run and the speed of the
water, they normally are on the surface drying their wings near the end of the runs.
Just how quick the duns fly off the water to nearby bushes and trees depends on the temperature and weather
conditions. Normally, it only takes a few seconds from the time they reach the surface until they can fly but under adverse
conditions, it can take up to a minute or two. In real adverse conditions, the duns cannot open and dry their wings
enough to fly. These mayflies are called "cripples".
One good thing about the Quill Gordon Duns is that they are large enough to see fairly easy. It's also fairly easy to tell
when the trout are taking them from the surface. You can often see and hear the trout taking the duns from the surface.
A good way to know your placing your fly in the right areas of the runs is to present it in such as way as it is drifting
downstream with the little bubbles on the surface of the water. The current tends to congregate the bubbles in the path
of least resistance and usually, that's where you will find the duns drifting downstream.
If you can see the Quill Gordons hatching and they are not taking your dry fly imitation of the dun, chances are good you
will catch more trout using a wet fly imitation of the emerging dun. You just have to weigh the odds against your
preference of fishing methods. It is exciting to see a good size trout clobber your dun imitation on the surface.
The same slightly up and across method of presentation as outlined for the Emerging Dun fly works for the dry fly
imitation of the dun with this exception. You don't need to cast the fly in the pockets, or the slow to moderate water they
begin to emerge from. Cast it at the heads of the runs and deep riffles where you see the duns emerging on the surface.
It's best to use a reach cast to put a little slack in your line but make sure you cast far enough above the rising trout to
have time to mend your line if it's needed to get a good drag free drift. You want to make sure your fly is drifting naturally
with the current like the real mayflies, not dragging across the current leaving a wake.
Fly Fishing Techniques For Trout
The Quill Gordon Dun
by James Marsh
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
January, 2015 Issue
he Quill Gordon dry fly pattern was created by Mr.Theodore Gordon. He was the first American born fly fisherman
to be given credit for coming up with a fly pattern that worked for trout in the fast pocket water of the Neversink
River in New York. He regularly fished the clear spring water of Letort Spring Run in Pennsylvania, one of the
Which of the above two imitations of the Quill Gordon Dun do you think best imitates the Quill Gordon dun - the one at the
top, or the standard Quill Gordon fly sold by most fly shops on the bottom right.
Perfect Fly Quill Gordon Emerging Adult