Soon there came from Gordon's fingers hatch upon hatch of American dry flies, led by the great Quill Gordon, and the Light Cahill (sometimes attributed to Gordon), the two dominant imitation-species flies in the U.S. today. Thus did he make the revolution and made it stick. He tied the flies, fished and wrote, and from a minority of one he grew to sweep the waters of this land. Twenty years later, Emlyn M. Gill wrote Practical Dry-Fly Fishing and George LaBranche The Dry Fly in Fast Water and made it official.
HIS YOUTH IS A MYSTERY
We know much about Gordon the. fisherman from his writings, and something about his life on the Neversink in New York from his Sullivan County fishing friends, Herman Christian and Roy Steenrod (the originator of the Hendrickson fly), but we know almost nothing about his personal life before about 1900. There are many evidences—for example, his elegant tastes and a life of hunting and fishing—that he grew up in wealthy circumstances. He never speaks of his father, who may have died in Lee's army when Gordon was a boy. His mother visited him often when he was on the Neversink.
In a letter to the great British wet-fly angler, G. E. M. Skues, he once mentioned "The midnight receivership of the Georgia Central Railroad, which practically ruined your humble servant...." At any rate, we know that in his last years he tied flies for a living at $1.25 to $1.50 a dozen, and died penniless. Waters of the new dam in Neversink Valley wash his grave.
Though Gordon was rather silent about his private life, he was outspoken on his philosophy of fishing. He lived out the brotherhood of the angler and he wrote solidly and accurately with a sense of truth. He recognized that for people other than himself fishing was not everything.
Gordon wrote, not for certain with tongue in cheek, "The first desideratum is to find time to go fishing. There is the rub in the case of most of us. We are so tied down to the pursuit of the essential dollar that we lose the best and most innocent pleasures that this old earth affords. Time flies so fast after youth is past that we cannot accomplish one-half the many things we have in mind, or indeed one-half our duties. The only safe and sensible plan is to make other things give way to the essentials, and the first of these is flyfishing."