Effective flies – Orange Quill Spinner

Craig ties an important dry for summer and autumn, the Orange Quill Spinner.

Generally, the flies I feature in this column are robust and quick to tie. The Orange Quill Spinner is a departure from this formula, and for good reasons. Trout feeding on spinners are often very particular about the fly and its presentation. This is further complicated by the bright, calm conditions that often accompany some of the best spinner activity; meaning spinner feeders tend to have plenty of time to inspect a well-lit, motionless fly.

Mayfly spinners are very delicate insects which float high on the water, leaving only a small impression in the meniscus. As a result, I believe the best imitations are lightly dressed. For this reason, I leave wings off my spinner flies. Wings add little to the appearance of the fly but add unwanted bulk.

Also in the interests of minimising weight, I tie spinners on light gauge hooks. While this helps keep the fly as light as possible, it does compromise the strength of the hook when targeting larger trout. Finally, using a quill body helps keep the fly light and sparse.

How to fish it

Whilst I have a lot of confidence in this fly, quick accurate presentation is critical for consistent success. Spinner feeders are often fast moving, and casting where the trout has just been will not work. It’s important to accurately predict the trout’s speed and direction so you can present your fly where it’s about to be.

For bank fishing on lakes, I use a 5 weight 9ft rod combined with a 6 weight weight-forward long belly line. This is teamed with a 9ft leader tapered to 6lb, with 4ft of 4lb fluorocarbon tippet attached. I treat the main leader with floatant, but treat the tippet with leader mud to help it sink. A floating tippet in calm condition is highly visible and a real turn-off to the trout. Prior to fishing the Orange Quill, I dust it with a small amount of floatant, teasing the hackles up at the same time.

Often when trout are feeding on spinners, the smaller fish will leap clear of the water, taking the insects on the wing. These fish can have a negative impact on your mental health! Instead, try to target the more subtle, methodical rises. Look for these along banks and reeds beds. These rises often belong to larger trout which are targeting spinners on the surface or spent. Once hooked, such trout need to be played carefully in order to protect the light tippet and light gauge hook.



Hook – Size 12 Hanak H130BL

Thread – Black 8/0

Tail – Ginger Microfibbets

Body – Striped peacock quill, dyed orange or red.

Thorax – Peacock herl

Hackle – Ginger furnace cock hackle

Tying Instructions

  1. Tie in the thread with touching turns. It’s very important to keep a smooth, uniform shape as any lumps or bumps will impact negatively on the fine quill body.
  2. Tie in four Microfibers, making the tail length the same as the hook length.
  3. Split the fibers into pairs with your dubbing needle.
  4. Force the two tail segments apart with your fingers and secure in place with a figure-8 through the tail segments, creating a V in the tail. Then run a turn between the tail and hook shank to help hold the tail up. (View the video to see how this is done).
  5. Tie the quill in by the tip down the full length of the hook shank, with the curved side facing the hook.
  6. Apply a small amount of superglue; this will protect the delicate quill and help to secure the placement of the tail, making the fly more robust.
  7. Carefully wind the quill towards the hook eye with touching turns. This will give a slim, segmented body.
  8. Tie in the hackle with the cupped face pointing to the front of the fly.
  9. Tie in peacock herl to cover the front third of the fly, creating a thorax. Leave the thread at the rear of the herl, then wind the thread forward through the herl, reinforcing it.
  10. Wind the hackle forward through the thorax with 4 to 5 turns. With your fingers, pull the hackle up and back, forcing the hackle to spread out around the top 180 degrees of the hook.
  11. Whip finish using wax to secure the thread.
  12. Finally, with your scissor tips, trim off any hackles that continue to point down.