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Talking trout and the Quill Gordon

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 4/12/21

We've just completed the first full week in April, and it seems as though each spring day brought a new gift - the cheerful greetings of songbirds each morning; the first buds of the red maple, …

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Talking trout and the Quill Gordon

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We've just completed the first full week in April, and it seems as though each spring day brought a new gift - the cheerful greetings of songbirds each morning; the first buds of the red maple, forsythia, apples, and lilacs; the sturdy daffodils pushing out their bright yellow blossoms; the ‘spring peepers' trilling in the evening; and perhaps best of all, a full week of warm sunny days in which to enjoy the great out-of-doors.

Trout fishers have been out enjoying the weather, some having more success than others, but all enthusiastic to spend time on their favorite rivers and streams.

As of April 11, water levels are low; the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered below the average flow and had been dropping since before April 1, Opening Day of the trout season. On Monday morning, the USGS website showed that the Beaverkill was flowing at just 543 cubic feet per second. This is below the average flow for this date of 990 cfs based on 106 years of record-keeping. The maximum flow recorded on this date was 4950 cfs in 1940, and the minimum flow recorded was 268 cubic feet per second in 2012.

The warm weather and low flows enabled water temperatures on the Willowemoc and Beaverkill to reach that “magic number” of 50 degrees Fahrenheit - warm enough to encourage aquatic insects to hatch. And one of the earliest productive hatches that fly-fishers look forward to in early April is the Quill Gordon. This hatch is eagerly anticipated as it marks the (unofficial) beginning of the dry-fly fishing season, as at this point waters are at a favorable temperature and the whole spate of aquatic insect hatches we enjoy here in the Catskills will begin, in their orderly manner, and continue throughout the spring, summer and into the fall.

The Quill Gordon is a fairly good size (#12 - #14) blue-gray “watery-colored” fly that is tied to imitate the Epeorus pleuralis mayfly. It was named for its originator, Theodore Gordon, (1854-1915) who was an American fly-fisher and fly-tier, and who became known as the Father of American Dry Fly fishing. Gordon used stripped peacock quill for the body, thus the name “Quill Gordon.”

Here is the pattern for the Quill Gordon, as tied by Ed Van Put:

Hook: size #14

Wings: From the flank feather of a drake wood duck

Tail : Medium blue dun hackle fibers

Body: Stripped peacock quill

Hackle: Medium blue dun

Head: Black silk

We headed out to the Beaverkill Covered Bridge on Sunday afternoon to check out the river. The Covered Bridge pool was a favorite fishing destination of Theodore Gordon's, especially in the spring; its cavernous deep green water has given up many a large trout. Today a blue-and-yellow historical marker, placed beside the covered bridge in the picnic area, commemorates the memory of Theodore Gordon and that famous pool.

Our family often frequented the NYS Campgrounds there on the Beaverkill from the time I was born; my father was an avid trout fisher while my mother loved spending time along the river and camping in our tent, and many years of happy vacations were spent at that rustic and beautiful site along the Beaverkill. Today the campground operates 52 tent and trailer sites (20 sites along the river), a day-use picnic area with tables and grills, flush toilets, hot showers, mobility-impaired accessibility and the 140-year-old covered bridge.

The DEC has published its new stocking schedule for the spring of 2021: the Beaverkill will be stocked with trout during the third week of April, and again during the first week of May.

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.

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