Theodore Gordon

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For the doctor, see Theodore Gordon (surgeon).
Theodore Gordon
Theodore Gordon: The father of American dry-fly fishing
Born 1854
Died 1915
Occupation fisherman, writer

Theodore Gordon, a consumptive hermit, was a writer who fished the Catskill region of New York State in the late 19th century through the early 20th century. He wrote articles for the Fishing Gazette from 1890 on and published works in Forest and Stream from 1903, sometimes under the pseudonym Badger Hackle.[1] Though he never published a book he is often called the father of the American school of dry fly fishing after he imported English fly-fishing tackle and flies and began to alter the English flies to precisely match the insects hatching in the Neversink, Beaverkill rivers, and Willowemoc Creek.[2] He learned to tie flies from reading The Anmerican Angler's Book (1864) by Thaddeus Norris, but he also read British fly fishing literature of the time and corresponded with notable British fly anglers Frederic M. Halford and G.E.M. Skues to perfect his fly tying skills.[3]

Gordon lived his final years and died in 1915 in the Anson Knight house, now deep below the surface of the Neversink reservoir.[4] In 1949, the author, Sparse Grey Hackle (alias for Alfred W. Miller), wrote in "The Quest for Theodore Gordon",[4] that Gordon, "was in fact, the father of dry-fly angling in America."

In the late 1800s Theodore Gordon began fishing the Neversink River in New York State. He represents the major figure in the transition from wet to dry-fly fishing in the United States. Although fishing with the dry fly had been mentioned by Thaddeus Norris in his The American Angler's Book (1865) and in several articles by other authors, Gordon became the great practitioner of the technique after he had received a number of dry flies from the Englishman Frederic Halford in 1890. Based on British insects, Halford's flies poorly imitated American hatches, but Gordon embraced the innovative technique and began the arduous study of native entomology that resulted in many indigenous patterns, including his most famous, the Quill Gordon.

— John McDonald, Quill Gordon, 1972 [5]

John McDonald is responsible for compiling Gordon's writing into a book The Complete Fly Fisherman: The Notes and Letters of Theodore Gordon.[6]


  1. ^ Kohrman, Robert (Summer 1987). "Checklist of Angling Pseudonyms". The American Fly Fisher. Manchester, VT: American Museum of Fly Fishing. 13 (4): 22–26. 
  2. ^ Forest and Stream, April 3, 1909
  3. ^ Valla, Mike (2013). "Theodore Gordon (1854-1915)". The Founding Flies-43 American Masters Their Patterns and Influences. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 11–17. ISBN 9780811708333. 
  4. ^ a b "The Quest for Theodore Gordon." Fishless Days, Angling Nights published by The Globe Peqot Press
  5. ^ Justin Askins The Legendary Neversink page xv
  6. ^ John McDonald (ed) The Complete Fly Fisherman New York: Scribners, 1947