Operation Perdigon

I’d intended to fish the brook ever since a friend indicated that his son had looked for trout there years ago. Through my decades of digging into local history, especially with regard to native fish populations, I had never seen a reference to, or heard of, brook trout being found in that stream. More recently, I received a gift of Perdigon trout flies sent from a former resident of this town, and I figured that these neatly-tied creations (new to me) might be the perfect ticket for exploring the little-known waters of the brook.

the Perdigon emergence…

It was a beautiful morning to commence with Operation Perdigon. I wanted a quick, unobtrusive visit to the deep culvert pool found about halfway up the hollow. There were few people living in these woods, but I did know a couple of them, and I preferred not being visited while performing my surgical inspection, even though the fishing operation would be legal in every aspect.

Perdigons are basically an attractor fly designed to sink quickly in fast deep water. These small, tapered, barbless flies are based on an original Spanish pattern (less than a decade old) that my friend, Don Tolhurst, follows, tying the weighted flies with his own creative spin.

an old pattern, farming tool, left behind…

The “Pliva Perdigons” are usually tied with a large bead, a tail of Coq de Leon fibers and a steeply tapered body often covered with a UV resin. They aren’t typically fished in headwater streams, said Don, but work well in rivers like the West Branch Ausable, Genesee, and Farmington, and in smaller waters like Pine and Kettle Creek in Pennsylvania.

an old boat found inside the woods reminds me of my book title, Uplands Haunted by the Sea…

Nonetheless, I was ready to attempt a tricky culvert pool with a pair of Perdigon nymphs, ready to straight-line into deep headwaters situated 20 feet below the steep edge of a gravel road. I heard no vehicles coming or going on the wooded slope. I assembled the two-piece rod, already equipped with tandem Perdigons, and left my fishing vest and other tackle in the car. So far, so good.

things are looking up…

Seeing an overgrown path leading toward the pool, I abandoned my original idea of casting from the road, and stepped toward the path. I wore street shoes and a pair of shorts containing my camera in a back-pocket. The slick soles of my footwear let me down, quite literally… I fell on my back and took a mud ride toward the bottom of the gully. Luckily I broke no bones, rod or camera on this inauspicious debut.

yellow-flowered archangels must’ve been looking over me…

Eye-to-eye with the pool, I saw the flash of something at the Perdigons. I worked out a few technical problems concerning my position here, then hooked and lost a small fish. Damn! Would I get another opportunity? I did…

should have read, “Elated Fisherman Xing”…

A six-inch brookie came to hand, was quickly photographed and released. At last, the stream could be added to the list of local waters still containing “endangered” natives– good news, certainly, though I wasn’t about to publicize exact locations.

Before the Perdigons were broken off and lost, I caught yet a larger brookie, a fish about eight inches long and, like myself, unwilling to be photographed. With that, the operation was successful.

not the larger specimen, but one caught earlier, on a dry fly…

It’s important to have personal experience with the natural world, both close at hand and at the frontiers of our knowledge. It may seem a small thing to have found a remnant population of a struggling native species, but I now have another stream to lend my voice to if and when the stream requires some defense in a court or village office. Also, it just feels good to know that a native fish is there– plain and simple.

the culvert pool…

Thank you, Don, for my intro to the Perdigons, and thank you, readers, as always, for your interest and support. You bring a positive accent to this delving into nature.

the Perdigon emergence…




About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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11 Responses to Operation Perdigon

  1. Bob says:

    I love those little “Blue Line” brook trout streams and search them out often. I’ve also become a fan of Euro-nymphing and have learned a lot from modified straight-line nymphing for those little brookies and occasional wild brown.
    Glad you had a good time.
    All the Best

    • Thanks Bob M.! I’ve loved them, too, for a long while. I was hooked on topo maps as a teen, or younger, and just let imagination pour out from those thin blue lines and thin brown contours of the land.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed this once again, Walt, even though the mysterious arts of fly tying (and use) are still completely outside my understanding and experience. You always convey the allure of fishing, slips, slides, falls and all, and one of these days I’ll get my feet wet. Although, if my feet are wet, it seems likely I’ve still not learned anything…
    Thanks for this, a very welcome change of reading in an awful week. The two green photographs at the end of this piece are quite lovely.

    • Thank you, Adam. You bring up a good point: fly-tying/fishing can be mystifying to one who doesn’t pursue “the gentle sport,” but it’s always meant more to me (and many others) than simply whipping up flies and trying to catch a fish with them. It’s that & a whole lot more when pursued in a manner that we appreciate & love. That’s why the “slips, slides, falls and all” are so often included here. It helps make the sport more than just a solitary business, although solitude can be a splendid aspect of it, too (IMHO). I’m glad it helped bring out a welcome change of reading this week.

  3. UB says:

    I love the picture of the ‘hole in the trees! GREAT picture. The boat abandoned in the woods – great shot! ’Looking Up’ ….the perspective of the shot… simply great! The 6 inch brookie, but the smaller specimen… I must elaborate … a good picture!
    I had an Orvis rod, 7 foot 4 wt. that was a little bit of a ‘noddle’ to cast. Bought it in Slate Run. I caught one fish, ONE FISH on that rod before I broke it ! I returned it to Orvis and they could not replace it with the identical rod so I actually got the rod that I feel in love with that I recently joined the ‘Broken Rod Club’ with – an 8’6” Mid flex! But, the only fish I caught on that rod looked like your smaller specimen! Par marks and all! Just beautiful! I consider it a trophy. I do! Anyone can catch big fish, who can catch a little thing that’s 3” or less? Hahahaa.
    The next to last shot with the timber angling upper left-mid frame to lower right – just greatly framed again! Nailed it Mr. RTR!
    The Perdigon simply look like bookie slayers! Nice fly and thank you for introducing me to them.
    As always, I think your writing prowess is displayed in this and all your posts. Thanks for keeping up this blog! … till we see… UB
    p.s. I only managed to land 2 in between thunder and showers on Pine this late afternoon/evening – a great episode in my book.

    • Thanks for the boss commentary, UB. You’re a lift to this program, that’s for sure. I’m surprised that Orvis replaced your broken 7-footer with a different model, an 8’6″ rod. I’ve had replacements where they pretty much stick to the original. Maybe you requested a different model entirely. As for those little fishies, well, they can be a challenge ’cause they’re wild & you have to sneak up carefully, but I always find them worth the challenge they present to the flyer. Also glad to see you’re having some fun on Pine these days!

  4. loydtruss says:

    A beautiful stream with all its moss-covered rocks which, could require a wading staff for me. I have taken a few falls over the years on areas such as that. Is the Perdigon tied using the tungsten bead-head? What size were you using? Thanks for sharing

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes. Tungsten beads. Depending on water conditions also can add wire under body.
      Black nail polish for wing case. Coc de Leon tail. Uv Resin. Depending on pattern will use size 14 – 20. Fish in tandem. Usually two different sizes and patterns.

      • There you have it, Bill. Straight from the horse’s mouth… er, from Don, the tyer of these fine-looking & useful nymphs. I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks and take care….

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    This is the kind of exploration I can get behind. The perdigons look as though they’d be ideal for a small stream Tenkara setup. Maybe I’ll whip some up and give them a whirl.

    • I’m finding them effective, especially in the faster, deeper water they’re designed for. Brookies eat ’em up even in the slower pools. We need to fish, Bob! Let me know if your schedule opens this way!

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