Quill Body Dry Flies

Quill Body Dry Flies simulate mayfly duns.

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Mayflies have very thin, segmented, delicate bodies. Most freshly hatched duns have bodies that are fairly opaque. Many species have subtle, but distinctive banded coloration in the abdominal area. The anterior abdominal area often rests on the water surface as the insect dries its wings. It may be the single most visible target for the trout.

Very early fly tiers found that stripped hackle stem was the perfect material for many patterns. It is tapered at about the same rate as many mayfly bodies. Because of this taper, the quill will fit many sizes, depending on which diameter is tied to the hook. Many quills are in the #12 to #20 sizes.

This material is very realistic and comes in just the right colors.

For many patterns the right color can be obtained only if quill is dyed after the barbuals have been stripped from the feather. In the past this has been a messy, laborious task that appealed only to a few dedicated tiers.

Now you can tie quill body dry flies without all the hassle of manufacturing the quills. Simply remove a quill from the bundle by pulling on the big end. Place it in a bowl of warm water. Let it soak until it becomes pliable. Place enough quills in the bowl to supply a whole tying session. Do not replace unused quills back into the plastic bag while they are still wet.

Tie the quill to the hook where it will best implement the right body diameter for the size of fly that you are tying. Use each quill to tie your little flies first, then your medium, and then your large flies last. This strategy results in the least waste and the most flies for the dollar spent. The tip of the quill should be tied to the hook so that it provides a very smooth foundation for the exterior wraps or your body will be lumpy. The diameter of this wrapped down quill must be subtracted from the over all diameter of the finished body. Remember to think…thin.


idealized front view


idealized bottom view

Ideal proportions for the hair wing dun patterns are: tails = 2/3 to 3/4 body length, abdomen = 2/3 body length, three wraps hackle evenly spaced over the length of the thorax, overall width of hackle = 5/6 body length, the hackle is clipped flush with the bottom of the thorax so that the fly rides flat on the water, the wing is dressed to stand up as a thin fan, one body length in height.

Twilight Hairwing Dun
Winter Baetis #1021

HOOK: TMC 100, #18

THREAD: gray 8/0

TAILS: dk. dun Micro Fibetts

ABDOMEN: blue quill color
Quill Body

HACKLE: #18 Whiting saddle, 
dyed dun

THORAX: natural muskrat belly fur dubbing

WING: dyed gray deer body hair with strip of Fluo. orange Antron over the top for visibility

Twilight Hairwing Dun
March Brown #3051

HOOK: TMC 100 or 900BL, #14

THREAD: brown 8/0

TAILS: brown Micro Fibetts

ABDOMEN: red quill color
Quill Body

HACKLE: #14 Whiting saddle, grizzly dyed coachman brown

THORAX: rust Scintilla

WING: dyed brown deer body hair with strip of Fluo. red Antron over the top for visibility

Hairwing Dun
Pink Albert #4012

HOOK: TMC 100 or 900BL, #16 - #18

THREAD: orange 8/0

TAILS: light dun Micro Fibetts

ABDOMEN: Pink PMD color
Quill Body

HACKLE: #16  Whiting saddle natural grizzly

THORAX: shrimp pink Scintilla

WING: bleached deer body hair


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