AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think abou...

I'm a new subscriber and am curious about what other experience fly fishermen like and/or dislike about the quill bodied flys that A.K. Best "Praises" in his book 'A.K.'s Fly Box'. I'm 19 and have been tying for a year now. My uncle's bro gave me the book and after reading it I got the impression that quill bodied flys are the way to go. What do you think about that? From what I've read, they float like corks, are durable as hell, and look way more like the natural than dubbed bodies. whats your point of view?
Hi Marc,

Welcome to the Forum. To answer your question about quill bodies, it is mostly a matter of convenience. Quills are something that can be store bought readily prepared. If you choose to afford the cost of the quills they will render some really boyant and durable flies just as you stated. AK is in my opinion a great fly tyer. He is one of the few last "production" fly tyers in the country and in my pinion again one of the best rout fishermen of this century. If you ever have a chance, read John Gierach's writings about AK. There are some production numbers that are mind blowing. There is no wonder why he has gone with Quill bodies.

I personally can't justify spending that kind of time or money on quills when dubbed flies have worked so well for me in the past. The old saying goes, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" So over the years the only real changes I have made with dubbing is going from natural rabbit, muskrat and seal to synthetic dubbing. Not only is synthetic more water resistant (from wetting out completely) it is also easier to work with. I have also adopted another method of segmenting bodies by twisting the dubbing into a tight tapered rope and wrapping it on seperately rather that spinning it onto the thread conventionally. The results are very similar to quills except it still has a little more buggy look. The dubbing can also be mixed so the color results are slightly more accurate.

The other thing to remember Marc is that AK lives in Colorado and fishes mostly the Rock Mountains. Applying some of the patterns to Washington Lakes and Streams might result differently. The fact that the most popular dry fly in Washington is still a caddis or stonefly means you will not have to tie very many Quill Bodied Flies.

My 2 cents:professor :beathead :beer1 :beer2
Thanks for the 2 cents. I have a couple of John Gierach's books. So far I have read 'Sex, Death and Fly Fishing' and was inspired by some of the things Gierach said about A.K. and fly fishing in general. Is there a specific book or article that Gierach wrote about AK? or does Gierach just mix AK into his writings like he did in 'Sex, Death and Fly Fishing'? I also have 'Trout Bum' that I have yet to read.

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...


Would you be willing to describe your "method of segmenting bodies by twisting the dubbing into a tight tapered rope and wrapping it on seperately". Is this a thread loop or something else?
Sounds interesting.



AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...

Gierach pipes in with reference to AK and his flies and his mannerisms within the context of his many enlightened writings... AK is very much a traditionalist who would rather incorporate natural materials than anything man-made.

I fish alot of dries and gravitate towards mayfly and midge/chironomid opportunities, and have to say that I have observed more ready responses from trout in some cases to a quill-bodied or biot-bodied imitation, which I can only speculate had something to do with the more distinct segmentation-representation provided by these kinds of patterns (particularly when presenting a spinner pattern). Sometimes, I swear the fish more readily recognize the segmentation as evidenced by their more heightened response frequency - even on small streams (H&L Variant).

While caddis and stonefly patterns may be seasonally important and popular on the Yak and other streams, this angler begs to differ on their overall popularity in Washington State, or any other state, for that matter. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), an angler will run across resplendant mayfly hatches or midge hatches repleat with picky, big trout. They may even gravitate to these opportunities. It is inevitable, and at that point, I will further venture to say that while dubbed patterns will catch every bit of their share of fish, if a person feels a little more confident in a more distinctly segmented pattern, they may well be on to something!

For the record, I aspire for the simplest pattern for the job, but sometimes I thankfully run across an apparently PHD'd rainbow (or a couple, few dozen) who's(ve) sworn off dubbed-bodied dries in certain situations. I love that as soon as I think I know it all, some trout will quickly prove me wrong - I love that!

Hey - whatever works!
Tightest Lines,

AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...


It is interesting that you use the House and Lot Variant as an example of a fly that triggers a response to segments. Considering the only difference between that fly and a Royal Wulff is the fact that there is no red center and the green iridescence is stripped from the peacock says something. I used to fish with that fly all of the time because it was a fly that worked well on the middle fork to imitate the green drakes that hatch there occasionally. The boyancy of the fly and white wings helped me locate it in fast choppy conditions found in the yaker waters (newly named since the river is overrun with kayakers now a days)

In the 15 years of fishing rivers in Wahington, the largest fish have never been caught on mayflies. The biggest ever on the Yakima was on a sunken hopper/stone pattern and streamers. The biggest in the state was on a streamer. Mayfly fishing is productive however at times. I have caught Green Drake hatches many times and landed nice fish. March Browns in the spring have also given me a large amount of good fishing. Blue Wing Olives have been productive only when all other options are out of the question.

I still think Stoneflies, Hoppers, Caddis and Streamers are the best flies to catch big fish. Maybe one of the local trout fishing guides could chime in since everything is numbers with them.

I do agree in certain situations segmented flies have made the day where anything else would have broken the day but it has never been a case in Washington. On the Missouri River a few years back I tried the hot fly from the flyshop at Wolf Creek and caught nothing but after tying my own PMD variation using a segmented dubbed body and golden yellow wings as a sunken emerger I caught more fish that any of the guides that week. My biggest fish was 25" and the very biggest I broke off after a 15 minute fight.

On the Bitterroot I used to fish the American March Brown until I met Mike one day on the Fork and he showed me a nifty way to make a deer haired body mayfly by extending the body past the bend of the hook and making segments by wrapping thread around the deer hair. This fly is probably the most popular Green Drake fly that existsts now so I made a march brown version tied on a size 14 hook. The very first day I tried the fly it proved that segmented bodies are very, very productive.

To quote you here-->"dubbed patterns will catch every bit of their share of fish, if a person feels a little more confident in a more distinctly segmented pattern, they may well be on to something!"

Considering 90 percent of a fly I think is how confident you are that it is going to catch fish you are right.

To make a segmented dubbed body, take the dubbing and start by twisting it into a rope that matches the diameter you want when it is twisted tight. At the fine point where you want to start the wrapping just snip off the end and tie it in. Keeping the dubbing twisted tight, wrap forward and twist and pull at the same time. The result should be a tightly wrapped, segmented body with a perfect taper. This of course is after a few tries.
Take a look at Chuck's Caddis Variant sometime to see a segmented dubbed body.

Good Luck!

I fish therefore I lie.


AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...

My biggest fly caught trout: 31", 10-lb rainbow, #16 tan cdc hatching midge (thread to suggest segmentation), 5x.

In a stream: 24" Henry's Fork Rainbow, #18 greased pheasant tail (wire rib+fiber orientation = segmentation?), 6x.

I've caught more 18" and larger trout on #18 - #20 bwo's, tricos and midges in Washington State than I can even begin to recount... way, way more than any other fly patterns, sizes. Then again, the only time I am fishing something big is when I can't fish something small.

For instance, just Saturday I was at Pass, probing, stripping... big stuff. Seems everybody has their depth probing, shore probing operations going, too, and I didn't see a bent rod the first couple hours. Fortunately, there were chironomids popping in good numbers in prevailingly calm, moist conditions, and soon the 18-24inchers joined in on the easy pickings. I had no misunderstandings about the word "switch", as in, "switch to the floater", at the mere initial hint of an impending event.

Then again, the only time I am fishing something big is when I can't fish something small.

Oh yeah.... biggest Rocky Ford (have a hard time classifying it as a "stream") fish: 28", #18 tan palomino midge (not segmented at all) at the feet of an approaching Encroacher (at Rocky Ford, of course)!

Maybe the best fly is the one you can actually make a meaningful presentation with because somebody hasn't just put all your fish down (for you).

No Matter Where You Present Your Fly, There You Are

AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...

I'll :beer1 to that!

Sounds like you've put in you time to catch fish that size. I still haven't got the 30+" fish without cheating. (i.e.-paylake, paypond, paycreek, bait, spoons, etc)


AK Best's Quill Bodied Dry Flys..What do you think ...

All I'm saying is that sometimes segmentation seems to ellicit enough of an increase in attention to prove seemingly influential, and sometimes apparently you can get by without it just fine (probably has more to do with quality of presentation, size, shape, sillhoette as anything). And I'm also saying that huge trout do key on tiny flies if numbers of naturals warrant, and it does happen in Washington (with fairly predictable regularity).
And pay lakes don't count.

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