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Red Quill Spinner
By Dave Hughes

Spinner typically ride the water with their wings upright at first, then semi-spent, or held at half mast, after which their energy is exhausted and they collapse onto the water in the spent position, with their wings flat in the film. Trout might take them in any of the three positions, but most are taken spent, which is the position that is most difficult for an angler to detect.

It's not uncommon to fish over rises, some of them vigorous and even splashy, though most merely sipping, without ever being able to tell what the trout are taking. This is specially common in the low light of dusk or dawn. If it happens to you, look into the air for dancing spinners. If you see none, pin your nose to the water and look for insects stuck there. Spent spinners can be almost impossible to see. At times you'll have to suspend a net in the current and examine its meshes before you'll notice the presence of mayfly spinners.

Mayfly duns come in a narrow spectrum of colors that can be condensed to a few repeated themes, with some important variations. Spinner can be condensed even further. Most duns, when they cast that final skin, become either reddish brown or some shade of bluish-gray. It's no accident that two of the most effective spinner dressings are the old Red Quill Spinner and Blue Quill Spinner. If you arm yourself with those two, each in a narrow range of sizes, you'll have nearly all spinner falls covered.

Materials: Red Quill Spinner

    *Hook:  Standard dry fly, 1x fine, size 12 to 18

    Thread:  Brown 6/0 or 8/0.

    Tails:   Brown hackle fibers, split.

    Body:   Reddish-brown dyed hackle stem.

    Wings:  Light blue dun hen hackle tips, tied spent or semi-spent.

    Hackle:   Brown, trimmed from top and bottom.

*NOTE: You'll most often find these delicate and low-floating spinner styles listed to be tied on 4X fine-wire hooks, for increased flotation. I have had far too many of those fragile hooks straighten out and release trout, especially the large ones that I'd most like to catch. I never tie with them, and never recommend them. 1X is the finest hook on which I tie trout flies. They float well enough, and they hold trout.

Tying Steps:

1. Fix hook in vise and layer the shank with thread. Form a small bump of thread at the bend. Select six to ten long and stiff spade feather fibers, and remove them from the feathers so their tips are even. Measure them just a bit longer than the entire hook length. Tie them in against the thread bump so they are splayed, or split.

2. Remove a pre-soaked quill from a dish. Determine a tie-in point on the stem that will give you a well-segmented body without running short of hackle stem. Tie the stem in at the base of the tail, and wind it forward to a point one-third the shank length behind the hook eye. Tie it off and clip the excess.

3. Select two hen hackle feathers, each approximately a hook gap wide. Pair them with their concave sides together, and measure them the length of the entire hook. Clip all fibers below that point away with your scissors. Cutting the excess fibers, rather than peeling them, will make it easier to tie them in flat, without twisting.

4. Tie the feathers in on top of the shank at the end of the body. Clip the stems and use the fingers of your off hand to position each feather to one side. Take thread wraps behind and in front of them, and cris-crossed between them, to lock the wings into the semi-spent or spent position, as you desire.

5. Select a hackle with fibers about two hook gaps long. Strip the webby part from the lower part of the stem, and tie the hackle in just behind the wings. Take two to four turns of hackle behind the wings, and two to four in front, stopping just behind the hook eye. Tie it off, clip the excess tip, form a neat thread head, and whip-finish.

6. Clip most of the hackle from the top and bottom, leaving just enough sticking out to each side to support the fly in the surface film. This same fly style is often tied without the hackle, though I prefer it for the appearance of wing venation, and also for the flotation it offers.

Fishing Tip:

Your first cast is still the most precious, the most likely to draw a feeding response, if it's placed accurately. But the world does not always become perfect on that first cast. You might miss the feeding lane. The trout might be down and not ready to rise again. The trout might rise and take a natural ahead of or behind your fly. You might have micro-drag invisible to you but visible to the trout. When you're using the reach cast or any other presentation cast over feeding trout, be prepared to repeat your attempt ten to twenty or more times. Give yourself as many chances as you can to get everything right out there. ~ DH

Credits: Photos and tying steps and photos from Matching Mayflies by Dave Hughes, Published by Frank Amato Publications Inc. we appreciate use permission.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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