Turkey Flat Quills

Turkey Flat Quills

  • By: A. K. Best
  • Photography by: A. K. Best
Olive Quill Dun Fmt    

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If i have a signature fly it would be constructed with a quill body, mainly because that material best represents the bodies of adult aquatic insects—a shiny, waxy appearance that dubbed-body flies can’t recreate. In addition, when wound around a hook the quill presents the segmentation of a natural. Not only that, quill-body flies float like little corks because the inside of the quill is filled with a pith-like substance. For those reasons, a quill-body fly is my choice when fishing dries on all types of water.

I have written often about using stripped and dyed Chinese rooster neck hackle to tie these flies. But now I have discovered a much better material called white turkey flats. Chinese rooster hackle limits us to tying small flies, say from size 22 through size 18. And that’s fine if that’s all you fish. However, stripped and dyed white turkey flats allow us to tie quill-body flies as large as size 14 and 12 with just one quill. You will still be able to tie the tiny flies with the quill tip and use the remainder of the quill for the larger flies. The stripping and dying process is the same as with Chinese rooster neck hackles.

When buying turkey flats for quill-body flies, make sure you don’t get white turkey T-base feathers by mistake. Many fly shops and their suppliers label the 2- to 4-inch feathers as turkey flats, when in fact they are really T-base feathers; these are very good for Wulff-style wings or for parachute posts, but not for creating quill bodies. Turkey flats are 5 to 7 inches long and sold in hang bags containing strung feathers. Turkey flats are from the saddle portion of a bird, while T-base feathers are from the neck and breast. Here’s how to prepare turkey flats for the hook.

  1. Turkey T-base on the left; turkey flat on the right. Get the turkey flats so you can also tie larger flies.
  2. Trim off the stitching at the turkey flat’s butt ends.
  3. Mix a 50/50 solution of two cups bleach and two cups hot tap water. Swirl until butts disintegrate and the butts are cleaned about halfway up the quill. Add another cup of bleach, move the rubber band to the butts, and repeat the process to clean the tips.
  4. Armed with turkey flat quills, dyed in an array of colors, you’re set to match a variety of seasonal mayflies, ranging from size 12 drakes to size 22 Tricos.