By Bruce Schneck
The largest of the early grays and one of the first May flies we see each year is the Quill Gordon. Credit for this pattern is often given to Theodore Gordon who certainly came up with a pattern the Gordon Quill which is a close match.
Sometimes as early as April 1st more often mid-April we start seeing this fly. It is certainly not a real common fly as it requires the most pure waters that flow at a rapid pace through forested lands. They are not at all tolerant of pollution. Good underwater structure is a requirement for the Quill Gordons.
Early in April through mid-May when the Forsythia blooms are struggling to break through their husk just showing small streaks of yellow and maple buds are starting to have a red tinge of color we can look for Quill Gordons on some streams. They will generally start hatching a bit after noon and will continue for about two hours each day. Water temperature must be at least 52 degrees to be to liking of these flies. Lively water carrying plenty of oxygen is required for this hatch. Sometimes on cool flowing streams we might experience these flies as late as mid-June. Once the hatch has started you can expect it to last for a bit more than a week.
Here in Schuylkill County it is not a predominate hatch. Streams I have experienced it are the upper reaches of Pine Creek in the Hegins Valley, Lower Little Swatara Creek upstream of the covered bridges, Bear Creek from artificial only section upstream to the quarry and again in the Hegins Valley upper end of Deep Creek.
Some other streams with good hatches of Quill Gordons normally fished by local anglers would be the Pohopoco,Larry’s Creek, White Deer Creek ( very good hatches) Cedar Run, Slate Run, Cross Fork, Kettle Creek and one of the best places to fish the Quill Gordon would be Little Pine Creek from artificial only section upstream to English Center. Plenty of other streams offer this hatch but rely on the coolest and purest waters available to show these guys.
Pattern for the Quill Gordon is not too varied so we can stick to one imitation. Thread should be dark gray or olive. Tail will be either dark gray hackle fibers or micro-fibbets. Body will be some form of eyed peacock quill to match the articulated abdomen, we will look more at this in a bit. Wings will be upright and divided either wood duck or mallard dyed to match wood duck. Hackle will be dark gray or as usually referred to dark dun. Most likely you will be fishing these flies in lively water so use some of your best hackles and put plenty of hackle on the fly. Usually two extra wraps of hackle will serve you well. Segmentation
Mustad 94840 hooks or something similar in size 14 will do the job here. You might even want to use a light wire hook to match these flies that usually ride the current for long distances especially on cool rainy days.
The segmented body is very important and is best shown with herl from a peacock eye. Barbs must be removed to show a smooth variegated quill. Getting the barbs off of the quill can be a chore but a few tricks make it a bit easier. One common method is to use a pencil eraser to rub over the quill to take off the barbs. Another way is to dip a bunch of quills in a mixture of bleach (Clorox) until barbs dissolve. As soon as barbs dissolve dip the quills in clear cool water to stop chemical reaction. A third method is to take a bunch of peacock quills and dip them in a container of melted wax. Let wax harden and whenever you need a few quills remove them from stem them peel wax which will give a very nice quill. Before wrapping quill it pays to soften it. Personally I put a quill in my mouth when I start each fly. By time I get to body the quill has softened enough so it does not break (too often) Some tiers put quills in a container of water to which a few drops of hair conditioner have been added. No matter what method you employ it is advised to put a drop of head cement or finger nail polish over the body after it is wrapped. Some tiers even use a fine wire ribbing over the body to strengthen it.
To get the body just right can be a chore but it pays off on cool rainy days when the duns are floating long distances struggling to get airborne. Some days watching good water with plenty of flies hatching it seems none of them escape hungry early season trout.