The Historic Quill Gordon

by David Klausmeyer

The Quill Gordon is one of the most important patterns in the history of fly fishing, and it maintains a spot in the fly boxes of many anglers.

Created in the late 1800s by Theodore Gordon to match the hatches of Ephemerella mayflies in the Catskills, he tied his pattern using an economy of materials. In addition to thread and a hook, a Quill Gordon requires only dun hackle for the tail and collar, a matched pair of lemon wood duck flank feathers for the wings, and the stripped stem of a piece of peacock herl for the body.

Check out the wings on this example of the classic Quill Gordon: they stand at a 90-degree angle from the hook shank. This method is part of the Catskill School of fly design. But do they look natural? In his article titled “A Better Way to Tie Mayfly Wings,” which appears in the May 2021 issue of Fly Tyer, author Theodore Rogowski argues that wings made using hen hackle tips tied at a 45-degree angle create a more realistic appearance.

So, the choice is yours: to tie at an angle, or not? I prefer Theodore’s method for tying mayflies. I’ll let you guess which one!

Hook: 2X-long dry fly hook, sizes 14 to 10.
Thread: Black or gray 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Dun hackle fibers.
Body: Stripped peacock herl stem. Some tiers prefer using a piece of stripped herl from the eye of the feather.
Wings: Lemon wood duck flank feathers.
Hackle: Dun.