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This Month in Fly Fisherman:

Mastering the Short Game

by Landon Mayer, Feb-Mar 2019 issue of Fly Fisherman

I will never forget a trip to Patagonia with Andes Drifters and filmmaker Jay Nichols. We were looking to capture footage of large, wild trout hungry for dry flies. I knew we would find them, but I had no idea just how close these encounters would be. On our third day we visited a small creek where Jay and I found numerous big browns posted up at the head of a run where the water was dropping from a shallow riffle into a deep pocket. This required an army crawl to get into position, and I knew I’d only get only one delivery.

Space was so cramped, I planned for the fly line to land on the gravel bar, with my tippet and dry fly a few feet above the fish. With my hands shaking hand from excitement, I crawled to a position downstream of the largest trout and punched a 20-foot tip cast that was a little short of the mark. To our surprise, the fish turned and raced with its whole head out of the water to crush the # 10 Royal Adams. 

I’ve found that the most effective way to consistently land larger trout is by using this type of short game. I estimate that 80 percent of the big trout I catch are inside a 20-foot cast. Visualizing and imagining the drift of your fly before you cast is similar to a golfer reading the green and planning the direction of the putt. This creativity forces you to evaluate and plan these opportunities and help you master the short game.”

Fly Tier’s Bench: Perdigon Nymph

I’m not gonna lie. The hardest part of writing these magazine articles is coming up with a compelling subject. Just like when my wife asks me every morning what I want for dinner, I never know what to say when editor Ross Purnell asks what I’ve got on tap for the next issue. In both cases I generally answer with something like, “Uhhh...what sounds good to you?”

In this case, Ross came to my rescue and suggested I look into “that French fly—tied on a jig hook—that everyone is talking about.” It only took me a minute to figure out that he was talking about the Perdigon Nymph. I still don’t know what we’re having for dinner, though.

Perdigons were first developed by the Spanish competitive fly-fishing team but were really popularized by the French. These simple nymphs epitomize what I look for in good fly design. They’re simple, they sink like rocks due to their inherent weight and slim design, and when you put in a bit of effort, they can even be pretty.

There. I said it. I like my flies to be pretty. I also like them to be a bit more complicated just so I feel like I earned my catch, but the Perdigon is of no help in that regard. They’re simple, bordering on artless, and quick to tie even when dressed up, but they catch fish. They have an important niche in places where trout are looking for small flies in fast water, and you don’t want to lose contact with your flies by adding a lot of split-shot to the tippet.

While Ross specifically mentioned a jig hook, my research showed that the original Perdigons were tied on conventional competition-style hooks and have been modified in recent years to include a jig hook. While the jig versions are effective, they look like an apple on a stick to me and thus, I have opted to display here the more beautiful twin, tied on a curved Firehole 317 hook. The iron you use is up to you; all are appropriate.

It seems most of the other parts of the Perdigon are interchangeable, save for the tail, which is consistently made out of the stiff, glassy fibers from the saddle of a coq de León rooster. These fibers are fine and tough and lend themselves well to a sparse pattern like this, although I often find myself questioning their stiffness in relation to sink rate. I’ve often wondered if softer fibers might cause less resistance to sinking . . . one day I’ll have to do a little experiment on that, but in the meantime I’ll stick with the original plan.

Perusing the Internet, I found Perdigons crafted with bodies made of everything from plain thread, to Krystal Flash to “special” Perdigon tinsels and even dyed and stripped peacock quills. These quills really caught my eye and remind me of fine goose biots with their dark-edged segmentation.

I opted to show the full-dress Perdigon here and wrap the quill with some spacing over an underbody of Holographic Tinsel to create an inverse rib just to show off a bit. The resulting body is beautiful and requires just a bit of forethought and skill, and just might make you a better tier when you concentrate on these aspects.

One of the trickier parts of tying this pattern is maintaining an ultra-smooth thread underbody. The taper and texture must be extremely even to allow for a smooth tinsel body, and it takes a bit of time and attention to detail to get it right.

The UV resin coatings should be the thinnest resins available to keep the flies slim. I like Solarez Ultra-Thin Bone Dry for this application, but many good tiers choose Loon’s Flow formula.

Perhaps the most innovative part of these flies are the wingcases. Rather than use a slip of feather, some genius figured out that he could just paint a wingcase onto the finished fly. It works!

The original patterns show wingcases of black fingernail polish dabbed onto the top, but I opted for a smudge of black marker topped with an extra drop of UV resin to achieve the same effect. I categorize this into the “crafty” portion of our sport, and love when I see new techniques like this.

*Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of two books: Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011) and Tying Nymphs: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books/Headwater Books, 2016).

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