Effective Flies – Quill Body Up-wing

Craig ties the Quill Body Up-wing.

Fly design in Australia was initially influenced by flies and tying methods from the UK, and this influence continued through until the mid 1940s. Thereafter, North American fly design had a greater impact on Australian patterns; particularly the heavily-dressed, high-riding ‘Western’-style flies. It’s only recently that continental European flies have begun to make their presence felt within the Australian flyfishing scene. Initially, European-style bead-head nymphs and CDC caddis patterns made the greatest impact; there would be few stream fishers who do not carry an F Fly in their vest. (If you don’t have this fly, you should!)

With the exception of Kosciuszko duns and some of the mayfly of the rivers of Tasmania’s Midlands, Australian rivers are not blessed with the impressive hatches of North America: notable both for the size of the bugs in some cases, and for the reliability of the hatches and sheer number of insects.

On the contrary, on many of our Australian streams, the mayfly are quite small, drab in colour; and often the hatch is likely to dribble off over the course of the day rather than being compressed into a shorter time frame. Whilst this denies anglers the intense action of Northern Hemisphere mayfly hatches, our ‘trickle’ hatches do have the advantage of making mayfly available to the trout over many hours, so searching with a mayfly pattern can be very productive.

Meanwhile, developments in fly rod design are enabling anglers to use lighter, finer tippets, which are contributing to improved presentation of small flies and at the same time protecting lighter tippets. Most of my river dry fly fishing these days is using 2 to 3 weight, 9’6” rods. With many of our common river mayfly being size 14 to 18, imitations are best presented on .10 to .12mm tippets, using long 16ft leaders to enhance presentation and drift.

We’re now in autumn, my favourite time of the year for river fishing. I really enjoy the challenge of low, clear stream conditions which call for precise, careful presentations. Though easy to spook, the trout are active at this time of year, they rise well, and they’re keen to eat well-presented mayfly patterns. Of these, my favourite smaller imitation is the Quill Body Up-wing. This is a very popular fly in Europe, being tied in a range of sizes and colours to match local hatches. However, many Australian flyfishers are reluctant to try this fly, possibly believing it’s too small and delicate. Surprisingly, the Quill Body Up-wing is very visible even in quite rough water, and providing it is looked after and fished well, it’s also durable. Trout take the Up-wing confidently and due to the softness of the CDC wing, it has a good hook-up rate.


Hook – Hanak H130BL* size16

Thread – Grey 8/0

Tail – Cock de Leon

Body – Striped peacock quill

Thorax – Soft grey dubbing

Wing – Natural CDC

*Being a sparsely-tied dry fly, this pattern requires a fine wire hook. Thicker gauge hooks are better suited to more heavily dressed flies such as hoppers and Stimulators.


Tying instructions

– First tie in a tail of approximately 6 to 8 Cock De Leon fibres the same length as the hook, fanning them out slightly.

– Tie in the quill by the butt end, apply a fine coat of Superglue to the hook shank, and wind the quill forward, making the body.

– Tie in a CDC wing, facing the tips to the eye of the hook with the butts to the rear.

– Tying around and in front of the CDC, stand the wing up at a 90-degree angle from the hook shank.

– Dub in a small amount of fine grey dubbing to create a thorax, which also helps the wing to stand up, and whip finish.

– Finally, with the tips of your scissors, cut off the butts of CDC on a sharp angle, creating an acute triangle shape for the wing.

Care of CDC flies

CDC is a great material for dry flies, but it does require different care and treatment to many other dry fly materials. Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

  1. Don’t apply liquid floatants to CDC.
  2. Don’t drag your CDC fly around in the water as you move about in the river.
  3. After landing a fish, do wash any residual slime off the fly by shaking it in the water.
  4. Do squeeze any water out of the fly using a Fly Kerchief, Amado, or by gently rubbing the CDC wing on a cotton shirt.
  5. After steps 3 and 4, do give your CDC fly a shake in a dry fly shake before fishing it again.