Although trout are fooled by a wide variety of Hendrickson imitations, few are in the league of Art Flick’s Classic Red Quill. It’s a spectacular looking dry fly with performance to match. Here, Matt Grobert, author, fly tier and blogger, is going to tie a classic Catskill version.
Matt starts with a TMC 100 hook in a very appropriate size 14. After mashing the barb and securing the hook in his tying vise, Matt loads a bobbin with 6/0 olive Danville.
Get your thread started on the hook shank, leaving an eye-length space behind the eye. Take wraps rearward to secure the thread to the hook shank and then snip or break off the excess tag end.
On a well-marked wood duck flank feather, pull down and strip off all the lower webby fibers. Reach in with just the very points of your tying scissors and snip the feather’s stem to remove the tip. Wet your fingers and fold the feather so the fibers are compressed into a single bundle with all the tips aligned. Measure the wood duck to form a wing about a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement to the tie-in point. With a pinch wrap, secure the fibers to the top of the hook shank and, with firm wraps, work rearward to bind down the butts. Lift the butt ends up and carefully snip them off at an angle. Here, Matt’s using his scissors as calipers to make sure the wing is the correct length.
Pull the wood duck fibers back and take wraps to build a thread dam to prop them up. Separate the fibers into 2 equal clumps and take a cross wrap from front to back between them. Carry your thread around the back side of the far wing and then bring it from front to back between the wings. Then do the same cross wrap a second time and follow this with a complete wrap around the hook shank in front of the wings to save your work. Then, starting with the far wing, corral the wings further with a figure 8 wrap. Once again, do a complete wrap around the hook shank to save your work. Wrap behind the wing and then rearward to cover the butts with a gentle ramp. End with your tying thread at about the hook point.
From the outside edge of a medium or dark dun hackle neck, select a single feather with nice, stiff, straight long fibers. Strip about 1/4 inch of fibers free from the stem. If the tips get out of alignment in the process, you can re-align them by lining up the butts. With the tips all aligned, measure to form a tail a hook shank in length then transfer that measurement rearward to the tie-in point. Secure the fibers to the top of the hook shank and take wraps rearward to bind them down, all the way to the hook bend. If necessary, take a few thread wraps to help even out the underbody of the fly.
Remove 2 long side-by-side feathers from a naturally-colored reddish-brown neck. Dyed feathers don’t work well as you’ll end up stripping most of their color away. Get hold of the feathers and strip most all of the fibers off both sides of the stems. It’s not necessary to strip the fibers from the tip ends, simply cut them off as the stems here are too thin to use. Fasten the bare stems by their tip ends to the near side of the hook and take wraps to secure them. Get hold of both stems and begin making touching wraps up the hook shank. You can use a fingernail to really work them in close. Leaving ample space behind the wing for hackle, secure the stems with 3 or 4 wraps of tying thread. Bend the stems so they’re in line with the hook shank and continue taking thread wraps forward. The idea is to create a smooth, even surface onto which you'll eventually wrap the hackle. Snip the stems off so they end about an eye-length space behind the eye. Then take wraps rearward to just in front of the quill body.
Using the same hackle neck as the tail, select two appropriately sized hackles. It’s a good idea to measure them first before pulling them free from the neck. Snip the webby butt ends off of both feathers. Align them so their back or dull sides are facing each other. With the butt ends aligned, pull down and strip off about 1/8th inch of fibers from both sides of both stems. Lay the stems against the near side of the hook and begin taking wraps to secure them. Their butt ends should also end about an eye-length space behind the eye. Get hold of the hackle that’s dull side faces forward and begin making nice even wraps behind the wing. When you reach the wing, pull it back and take a hackle wrap right in front of it. Take 2 or 3 more wraps of hackle before tying the tip off with 3 or 4 turns of tying thread. Once the hackle is completely secured, you can reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess tip off close. Now, get hold of the 2nd hackle and begin zig-zagging your way through the fibers of the first. Tie it off and cut the tip as before.
Do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snug the knot down really tight. You can then snip or cut your tying thread free. A small drop of very light head cement applied to the quill body, not only increases the fly’s durability, but will also deepen the color and enhance the segmented look. The Red Quill is a classic fly meant to be used during a classic hatch. This fly is one of the greats.