Tying with Quills

There are numerous options for tying fishing flies with quill bodies. Quills are more durable than ever and the results are lights out.

by Chris NMay 09, 2023 in Fly Tying Videos

We used to spend hours striping peacock quills with an eraser.  As we've mentioned in the past, we poured over Roger Hill's book "Fly Fishing the South Platte River" when we were learning to fish and tie flies.  One of the patterns in the final chapter is the No Name Midge (page 86), which calls for a stripped peacock quill body.  Mr Hill suggests preparing these quills as follows: 

  • Rub the quill with a pencil eraser to remove all herl fibers
  • Soak the quill in water for at least 15 minutes
  • Once tied in and wrapped forward, cover with superglue and let dry completely before finishing the fly. 

The result was a beautifully segmented fly that typically lasted several fish.  While the look of these quill body flies was unbeatable, durability and patience in tying were issues that we accepted.

Today, however, there are numerous options for tying with quills that provide the best of both worlds: stellar looks and near indestructible durability.  

Natural Quill Bodies for Fly Fishing Flies

Typically from Poland, the market has several options for natural, stripped peacock quills that are died in every color imaginable.  Our experience is that these quills do not need to be soaked in water prior to using them.  The key to durability is adding a layer of ultra thin UV resin.  This step, which takes 10-15 seconds, gives these natural quills all-day durability.  The advantage of natural quills is that they typically produce a more slender body compared to synthetic quills, especially on smaller flies.

We have numerous color options available here, including Brown for a PMD version.

Synthetic Colored Quill Bodies for Fly Fishing Flies

SemperFli is on the leading edge of the fly tying material industry.  They have introduced numerous new and innovative products.  Their synthetic quills, which they call Perfect Quills, are printed with a dark edge that mimics that of natural quills.  They also have a slightly sticky side (think sticky note type of stick) that makes tying quite easy.

The disadvantage can be bulk, but this is only an issue on hook sizes smaller that 18.

Synthetic Clear Quill Bodies for Fly Fishing Flies

Also produced by SemperFli, the advantage of clear synthetic quills is that the underbody thread color shows through.  In other words, the potential body colors are only limited by thread colors. That said, our experience is that light-to-medium shades work best. Here's an example:

Options for Quill Body Fly Fishing Flies

Quills create beautifully segmented bodies.  They are similar to biots, but we think they are easier to work with.  We are fortunate to have numerous options from which to choose.  Whether you prefer natural or synthetic materials, there is an option for you.  

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