Fly Tying · Fly Tying Q&A · Material Talk · On The Vise: Q&A · Tips and Tricks

On The Vise Q & A- “How to Wrap a Polish Quill with Troubleshooting Tips”

A photo of quill bodied BWO softhackles from my Instagram page

Polish quills are an excellent way to achieve segmented bodies without the hassle of stripping peacock herl, not to mention they come in a wide variety of different colors.

They can be used on nymphs, dry flies, soft hackles and anything else you can imagine while sitting behind your vise.

yesss!! you can never have too many!

You can never have too many! And as Joe Fox over at Dette trout flies knows, each time he restocks them, hes more than likely going to be graced with my presence as I pass through town, make a bee line for his shop and buy a few more packs.

 Its an addiction i tell you!

Now, Let me put the coffee down and try to be serious for a minute.

With these quills You can tie a variety of sizes, and depending on what you’re tying you can usually go as big as a size 12, but that will vary on your fly tying style (such as; is that size 12 or 10 going to have a hackle in front to take up the slack where the quill ends? Are you using a bead? Ect) 

It’s also is based on the size and thickness of each quill that comes in a package.For the most part they are uniform, but they arent synthetic, which is why there is a tiny variation between them.

Tip: If you are tying different sizes, use the short or thinner ones for the small flies first. This way you dont end up with ones that are too short, since you used all the big ones up on size 18’s first.

Now! Go on and grab a package of Polish quills and take one out!

The first thing you will notice when you take them out of the package is that there is a dark edge/line on one side.

notice the dark line on one side (edge) but not the other

By paying attention to that dark line when you tie in and wrap forward, you will have a clear segmentation or you will have a more of a one colored quill body.

Some flies you tie may require a more solid body with very minimal segmentation. If that’s the case then just tye  in the “wrong” way.

It’s all up to you and what you’re wishing to achieve. But I use the term “wrong” very loosely; since your right- may be someone elses wrong. Which is why I am making this tutorial to help you reach the results that you are looking for, when it comes to tying with polish quill bodies.

The other thing you will notice is the taper of the quill and how there’s a piece of peacock herl at the small end. That will be your tie in point.

The end here with the Peacock herl is what you will tie it in by.

*I get a lot of question about this technique, at shows andonline; and some people are telling me that no matter how they do it it still comes out wrong.

So here’s my advice: if you tie this in as per the first few steps and it still isnt working to your liking/cant figure out why its still wrapping upside down- then scroll down and see my troubleshooting tip. This is why, depending on your style of tying;  it’s not set in stone on how to do this.  (This may seem confusing but It will make more sense when you see this step-by-step.)

Let us begin!!

OK so here we go.

Take the end of the quill with the Peacock herl and place it on the side of the hook that is facing toward you, with the edge that has the black stripe – facing down. Got it?

 Hook side to you.

 Black stripe down.

OK got the black side stripe down? Wrap over once to lock it in before trimming waste end off
Take one wrap to secure it and cut off the excess underneath
trimmed waste ends and ready to wrap

With the excesses trimmed, you’re going to start wrapping and here is where you will see if you are an “over the material tyer or straight around the hook tyer”, and once you see where your end result is headed you can adjusted it to the way that works for you.

All tied in? Black stripe down? get ready to wrap

When you bring the Polish quill around, you want to wrap it away from you…

keep that black stripe down as you wrap away.
and keep the material FLAT on the hook as its wrapped around

Keeping the material flat around the hook will keep that black stripe towards the jaws of your vise, and give you that segmentation.

Keep wrapping until you reach your tie off point

See how simple that was? got it? see how the black line stays towards the vice jaws? And you are overlapping it?


But you DID tie it in with the black straight down right??

Im sure you did,  which is why its probably not a case of “operator error”, its just that everyone has their own way of doing things, and like they say “You cant change the direction of the wind, you can only adjust your sails”

And we will do just that.

If you have reached this point and it still isnt working, take a look below

I will demonstrate this below because this may be your problem, and its something that can be easily corrected if you are unknowingly one of the “over material tyers”

Ok lets try this again. All tied in with the black edge down?
Start wrapping!
Wait… wait! What are you doing!?
Wait! Youre tying over your material!

Stop here. See whats going on? By making that one little overlap, you have now just spun around the entire quill as seen below.

black edge.. forward?
Now, you’ve lost the edge

As you brought it back up you, it has now twisted and you have just lost that edge.It will be hidden underneath.

And when you wrap forward and overlap the edges (I got a little lazy here) you will lose the segmentation.

If you have a tendency to do this, the “tying over your material” move, it isnt the end of the world. You can stop yourself if you want, but I But If its something that you are on auto pilot with and cant seem to stop; then the solution is simple.

Flip the quill at the tie in point. Tie the quill in with the black stripe.. UP and AWAY from you. Because as you overlap and twist you’ll then bring it back to the position thats necessary to show the clear segmentation!

This fly below was tied in that way. And as long as it doesn’t create a bump when overlapping then whats it really hurting? Nothing.

So its not that you’re doing it wrong, its just that we have all reached the level of our tying differently. One way that works for someone else may not work for you.

So adjust your sails.

And continue on!

Tied in “backwards” because I tend to twist my materials and wrap over

As you can see, it still came out the way I wanted.

Now once you have reached the end of your fly where you will begin the next step, just tie that material off..

All done and ready for a laquer
Be sure to add a UV resin or a head cement to the quill

Add your favorite UV resin or head cement to the quill and let it dry before you tie in the next material.

All done!

Thats it!

Now I hope this tutorial will clear up the issues many people have when learning to tie with polish quills.

And stay tuned! Because  there will be a second installment on The importance of a uniformly wrapped thread underbody, when using material such as Polish quills.  

Happy Tying!

Quill body on a jig bead waiting for some dubbing

3 thoughts on “On The Vise Q & A- “How to Wrap a Polish Quill with Troubleshooting Tips”

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