A fly pattern that has probably caused more controversy and conversation over the few years, more than any other fly pattern is the Perdigon. Well, maybe the squirmy wormy will top it, but it’s a close run for first, in my opinion. The Perdigon Fly pattern, or Perdi as we call it, has been turning heads and catching fish for the last decade or more.
Many a purist would turn their nose up to the pattern, but deep down, they know its effectiveness and must wonder what it’s like to fish. You won’t find this pattern being used on a famous dry fly river like Henry’s Fork or the River Frome but you will hear about it and how good it actually is.
- 1. Lite Brite Perdigon
- 2. Warrior Perdigon
- 3. Baetis Perdigon
- 4. Spanish Perdigon
- 5. Rusty Nail Perdigon
- 5. Matchstick Quill Jig
- 7. Quilldigon
- 8. Two Bit Hooker Jig
- 9. Jig Nation
- 10. Perdigon Nymph Black
- 11. Roza's Black Perdigon
- 12. Hotspot Blowtorch
- 13. CDC Perdi
- Learn more FLY FISHING TACTICS with these articles
Developed by the Spanish and perfected by the French, the Perdigon was designed to be fished in fast, clear waters where the angler needs the fly to get to the feeding zone fast. The Perdigon is generally fished on a nymphing rig whether it’s a Euro or Czech rig. The extra weight and minimal water and air resistance are what really help the pattern to work so well.
I’m a huge fan of the Perdigon and actually have a whole box dedicated to them with various sizes, weights, lights, and colors. I have also tied up a few hybrids that give me the best of both of worlds, really. But more on this later.
What Changed for me?
Up until a few years ago, I was a dry-dropper kind of guy. It was my go-to pattern, and I used to fish it with great confidence. It didn’t matter what the conditions it was what I started the day with and, most of the time ended with it. Look, I had great days in the river and caught a lot of fish. If I only knew what I was missing out on. For some reason, it didn’t even enter my mind that I was only covering a certain depth of the water column. What about that bottom section?
Then a few years ago, I was rather unwillingly introduced to the Perdi and how effective it is in certain conditions.
Competing in a provincial trial competition, I was up against a younger angler who had fished youth world champs on a few occasions and was a very accomplished angler. Friends off the water but archrivals on the day. I drew first, and yip, you guessed it; I fished my go-to dry dropper rig on a stretch of water which I was very comfortable with fishing. It was great pocket water which suited my rig perfectly. I did well and thought I had set myself up for the win.
My competitor started his session and focused on the exact water I had previously fished in my round, and I couldn’t work out why. As the session carried on, I was secretly growing in confidence with each blank drift.
Then it all changed! He started catching fish, and many of them! What was the secret? What had he decided to do differently?
Long story short, he beat me 10-5 while re-fishing the same water I had.
What was his edge? You guessed it. It was the Perdigon.
Fished French style on a 20-foot leader with a single size 16 fly. He was fishing the part of the column I hadn’t fished in my session. I had pulled fish from the mid to top section with the dry–dropper rig, so he worked the bottom, knowing the fish will also hold deep.
From that day on, I promised myself that I would spend more time exploring the Perdigon world and fishing the bottom parts of the run.
Most of the time, many fish will hug the bottom of the drift, not all the time, but there should always be something there. A surface fly needs to be seen from a distance to entice the fish to feed, but with a nymph, a Perdi in this case, the fly drifts past the fish on its level and generally gets eaten.
Guide Pro Tip: Wondering what this perdigon thing is all about? Check out this article 👉 What is a Perdigon Fly? (Are You Ready to Catch Fish)
What does the Perdigon fly imitate?
The Perdigon fly pattern can represent an array of species, from aquatic nymphs and snails to worms or even a sunken terrestrial of sorts.
Looking at the pattern’s design, I think one of the key factors to its effectiveness is that the pattern sinks quickly. You can fish the pattern at short distances, not having to allow the fly to drift down and sink into the feeding zone. It plummets to the bottom. What’s more, you can retain contact with the fly throughout the drift, picking up on those very sensitive bites that you would otherwise miss on any normal day. I like to fish the Perdi as a point fly option on my home waters and change it up to a dropper fly on shallower, slower waters. This allows the point fly to drift mid-column.
The Perdigon is said to epitomize fly design. It is a super simple pattern to tie, very effective for fishing, and looks pretty as well.
The heavily weighted bead is where the fly gets its name.
‘Perdi’ means pellet, referring to a shot pellet, the lead found in shotgun shells. We all know what lead does. It sinks! Add this to a UV-coated hook with minimal dressing, and you basically have a sinker.
The Perdigon was designed to be fished as a single fly on a long leader in very fast water. The fly cuts through the water column very quickly and gets to the feeding zone. The ability to maintain contact with the fly whilst it bounces on the bottom is what makes it so effective. The angler can feel the subtle eats and strike accordingly.
Below we will go through my top Perdi patterns. You don’t have to have held a large selection like this, but a few colors and varied sizes of them will be fine. As I get older, I am definitely moving towards carrying fewer fly patterns but rather having the same patterns in various colors and weights.
Have a selection of go-to patterns with a few experimental fly patterns that you can try out. Cover the colors, weights, and sizes. Brights for bright, sunny, clear waters and darker patterns for dark days with a hotspot trigger.
Guide Pro Tip: Are you thinking of trying your hand at tying flies? Let me help with a FREE step by step class. Check it out 👉 How to Tie Flies (Step by Step)
My Favorite Perdigon Flies
1. Lite Brite Perdigon
A Luis Esteban pattern, the classic flash tapered body with a hot spot under the thorax, is what I believe make this pattern one of my go patterns. You can change the orange to a pink or chartreuse if you wish, but this pattern in size #16 or #18 in a standard and jig variant is deadly. It is also a great pattern to switch to if the fishing is tough. A light pink in color with a black and flash body works very well.
2. Warrior Perdigon
I love the Warrior Perdi because the flash and hot spot seem to trigger trout. The fly designer Lance Egan has had his hand in the nymph and Euro-nymphing game for many years, and if there is anyone who knows when and what to tie and fish, it is Lance. I use the traditional rainbow color in size #16.
3. Baetis Perdigon
Dark water and darker days call for blacks, blues, and purples. This is a great pattern for these times and whenever there are BWO nymphs on the bottom. The darker flashes in the body help as a trigger and to be seen when the visibility isn’t great, be it weather or water.
4. Spanish Perdigon
One of the original Perdigon patterns that were said to have started the Perdi craze. Often referred to as a hook with lead and some bright colors. This pattern quickly became known for its ability to catch fish.
Originally tied with a bright-colored thread and a brass bead with added lead wire, we have now evolved into a tungsten bead, bright nano silk, and UV resin to form a shell. Size #16 down to size #20 are what I tend to fish.
5. Rusty Nail Perdigon
This pattern was originally designed and tied for the Colorado rivers, where the rusty, spent spinners are the main source of trout food. I have always liked rust, copper, or root beer, as some refer to the color type. This pattern is more about its color than its design.
The patterns tied by Tim Drummond tend to be a little heavier in bead weight. I tie and fish them in sizes #16 and #18 with a 2.5mm and 2mm tungsten bead, respectfully. The smaller versions can be fished as a dropper fly as well in shallower runs.
5. Matchstick Quill Jig
This is a great pattern; it is probably one of the most natural Perdigon patterns around. The use of the peacock herl as the thorax really does make some difference, in my opinion. The subtle drop of the hotspot resin on the thorax gives it that little edge. I like the body in natural darker colors with a hotspot in orange, red, and pink. Size #16 is my go-to.
This is a great little pattern to have that imitates the BWO or the PMD. Both Blue Wing Olive and Pale Morning Dun are western mayflies that the trout hone in on their hatches. The PMD hatch can last for days, and hence it is recommended the carry a few of their nymph imitations. The natural quill body with the tiniest of flash tags on the tail makes it stand out from the rest.
The fact that mayflies are a common food source for trout in streams around the world and the fact that this little pattern stands out and catches loads of fish is enough for it to warrant a few spaces in my fly box. Fished in size #18 or #20.
8. Two Bit Hooker Jig
A Charlie Craven pattern born out of the sheer drive to ‘one up’ the Perdi anglers who were catching good numbers on their sessions in the Wyoming and Idaho areas. Charlie ties a simple black nymph, making use of a second bead for added weight and to form the thorax.
I love this pattern because its natural-looking features of the added leg fibers and collar make it stand out. With the added weight, the sink rate isn’t affected at all, so it can still be fished as a point fly in those deeper runs.
9. Jig Nation
The Jig nation is a necessity in my mind. I tie most of my pattern on jig hooks these days. The hookups are better, I feel, and the snagging rate is less, especially with the rockier bottoms I. the rives that I fish in. A nice little trick in this pattern is the flashabou down the sides of the nymph’s abdomen. This is just enough of a difference in the pattern to stand out to the trout.
10. Perdigon Nymph Black
Nothing fancy here, just a classic style Perdigon nymph. Tied in the correct proportions and weights in 2.5mm and 3mm tungsten beads, this is a great pattern for a dropper fly and the heavier point fly. The flash ribbing is the standout and often just enough to attract a fish to eat.
As I mentioned earlier, there are various ways to fish the heavier patterns on point. Then in shallower, faster waters, it sometimes helps to fish the heavier of the two nymphs as a dropped fly and have the light pint fly swimming through the lower mid part of the water column.
11. Roza’s Black Perdigon
Another jig version of a classic Perdi. The jig is a great hook to use in these patterns. The colors are to be used that will best suit your waters. The black and red combos are always winners in my local waters, especially early season when the fish aren’t as picky as they would be in the late summer.
In the later part of the season, I tend to use much more natural-looking color combos. If you think about what the fish has been thrown over the season, the more natural-looking flies will trigger an eat better in my mind.
12. Hotspot Blowtorch
The hotspot Perdi is one of my own flies. Nothing new to the Perdigon, really, just a classic Perdigon pattern with a blueish flashabou body and an orange hot spot tag tail. I specifically fish this pattern early season as the point fly. I tie it in size #16 with a 4mm tungsten bead. This is the normal hook size to the weight of the bead that I fish with my heavier point patterns. The hot spot tag has a lovely glow under the UV and in the deeper waters.
13. CDC Perdi
This is a great little pattern to have in the fly box. What’s great is it uses CDC fibers as the tail instead of CDL or Yarn. The interesting thing to note with CDC as the tail is that the fibers hold tiny bubbles which get trapped on the way down. This creates a very natural-looking nymph, especially when the nymph is emerging.
This is a great fly to fish the ‘Induced Take’ method with. In short, the ‘induced take’ method is when you gently lift the fly out of the water towards the end of the drift. The fly moves upwards through the water, imitating an emerging nymph, and often triggers an eat. I like to fish this pattern in size #16 with a 4mm bead or #18 with a 2.5mm or similar.
Learn more FLY FISHING TACTICS with these articles
- Learn about reading moving water in – Reading Moving Water for More Trout
- You can pick the perfect fly and make a great cast BUT presenting is everything learn more in – The Art of Presentation While Fly Fishing
- You see the dimple caused by a trout, what does it mean? Read more in Understanding Trout Rise Forms
- Are you sneaking up on fish? This is a MUST learn how with this article – Learning How to Approach Fish
- Fish-On! Okay now what? – Learn how to Land and Release Fish
Are you read to learn even more? I offer a FREE video dry fly fishing workshop that includes downloads, casting and fly selection it’s easy signup with this link – How 2 Fly Fish
Best Colors for Perdigon Flies
When it comes to colors of the fly pattern and when to use what? There are many theories that may prove to work on some days and, on others, leave you completely blank. Before I run through the Perdi colors, I would like to explain what I consider when choosing a fly to fish or when at the vice and deciding on color schemes, etc.
The first rule to think of is what the colors of the nymphs and adult flies are that you are trying to imitate. This sounds simple and even stupid, maybe, but many a time, a tier just jumps on the vice and ties something they have seen in a book or on the last Instagram post.
This is great, and all but is the fly effectively tied for their waters? A special trip to the river or a buddy’s insight always helps here. Once you have ‘MATCHED THE HATCH,’ things get easier. Always cover the natural colors tans, greys, greens, browns, and blacks. From this, I like to have a few hotspots in my nymphs or a little fluorescent purple or blue.
It was so important to remember that fish see color differently than us. They see things in the polarized form as well as in the ultraviolet form, and this is where those triggers come into play. You may not see it with the naked eye, but through a polarized lens, things look a whole lot different. With the knowledge of the polarized view, I Like to add a little fluorescent blend to my dubbing on my nymphs and on the bodies of certain dries.
The second rule is simple, keep the lighter, brighter colors for the days when the sun is high brightness and the water is clearer. The flies tend to bounce the light and help them fly get noticed or seem different from all the other food, on the opposite for the darker days and murkier waters. Use barker browns, greens, and blacks. The silhouette is important here, more so than the actual color. The pattern tends to be made out more than a brighter color in these darker waters. Simply put, it boils down to color absorption. Darker colors get absorbed last, and thus the blacks have a better contrast in the darker surroundings.
This is a fascinating topic, and should you wish to read a more in-depth article, then please check this link out. The guys at Mid Current explain it really well. Does Color Matter?
Lastly, on the color topic it is a proven fact that we catch fish more fish when we are fishing the colors we are confident in. We tend to fish more effectively, presenting the fly better and ensuring the drift is at its best. These small things all make us think that color is the main contributing factor when actually, we are just paying more attention to the drift, well more than we usually do.
With the above considered, the best Perdi colors and combos that I fish are blacks and purple, blues in plain blends, with a few tied with the hotspot thorax. I like to tie all my bodies in black and vary the collar and beads. A nice little change-up is to tie a hybrid blowtorch or tag tail with the Perdi body. This works wonders. Blow torch or Tag nymph
Some Favorite Perdigon’s for Trout
My go-to colors for trout on my local water would have to be black and brown bodies with gold and silver ribbing. The hotspot colors I have the most faith in are red and pink. Orange, I tend to use when I target yellow fish on the Vaal and Orange rivers in South Africa.
Blacks and browns are the color schemes of most of the nymphs in my local streams. This, combined with red and pink hotspots, work really well. Red is a great trout attractor throughout the season, and I find pink to be a great early-season color as well. I also tend to have a few lighter shades of pink for the mid-season fish when they prove to be very tricky.
How to Setup a Fly Rod to Fish Perdigon Flies
With the Perdi being a heavy-style nymph, the best way to fish it is with a nymphing rig. Now, how you choose to fish your nymphs is entirely up to you.
Guide Pro Tip: It is important to fish what you are comfortable with and confident in. I remember when I started Euro nymphing, it was very tricky to master immediately, but over time and with plenty of practice, I’m at a stage where I am happy to drift a run with confidence.
The setup for a Perdigon rig is a classic Euro rig or Czech rig. The difference being Euro usually uses two nymphs, a point, and a dropper fly, while the Czech method uses a single fly. The Czech style is similar to the Spanish setup. The long 17’ leaders onto a single point fly with 7x or 8x tippet is what is generally used. Don’t be intimidated by the super thin tippet 6X will be fine to start out with.
Regarding fly lines, I like to fish a euro fly line, but a lot of the competitive anglers just use a leader to back on their fly reel without a fly line at all. Remember, you aren’t casting the fly like you usually would. It’s more of shooting the heavy fly into the run, and the zones which you are fishing aren’t more than 30 feet away. There isn’t a classic fly cast with the fly line, so this is why the thinner lines are suited for this purpose, less resistance in the air.
Rods these days are so specific in what they are designed to do you can really get lost in the world of searching for what it is that you actually need. My advice is always to think of what you need in the simplest form, make sure you test the rod first or a sample rod at least, and don’t rush into buying one, they are pricy, and the right decision needs to be made.
I have recently upgraded my entry-level nymphing rod to the Vision HERO 10’ 3wt fly rod, and man, am I impressed. It’s got a very similar feel to the Nymphomaniac at a lesser price. It fishes a nymph with extreme precision and throws a dry fly on the euro rig just as well.
This is how I like to fish my local waters, one rod that I can use both ways. When it comes to competition fishing, then we might carry a second dry fly rod specifically to avoid wasting time in the changing of flies, etc.
Any Easy Perdigon Fly to Tie
This is a great little Perdigon jig pattern to have for all conditions. It works great as a dropper flies in smaller sizes. The bead color can be changed to what works in your waters. I like to have a few varieties of these patterns on hand.
- A simple thread-tapered body.
- Colored with a sharpie of your choice to form a quill appearance.
- Coq de lion tail.
- Collar finished with a hotspot thread
- Resin applied, and you are all set!
The guys over at Fly Fish Food tie a great example of a simple Perdi that will catch fish. Simple Perdi
More Nymph Fishing Articles – WHY because NYMPHS Catch Fish!
- Best Rod, Reel and Line for Nymph Fishing – All about the equipment to nymph fish.
- How to Tie and Fish a Traditional Nymph Setup – An introduction to rigging up for nymph fishing.
- Nymph Fishing Styles Explained Traditional, Euro and Indicator – An overview of nymph fishing techniques and when to use them.
- Reading the Water for Nymph Fishing – Learn how to recognize the right conditions to fly fish with nymphs.
- A Complete Guide to Stillwater Nymphing – The title says it all, learn how to nymph fish lakes.
One More Cast
I think it is important to remember that in the early days, when Frank Sawyer first tied a pheasant tail nymph, he was frowned upon in many social groups and banished from others. All because he was said to be breaking the tradition of fly fishing. Of which at that time was only strictly dry fly fishing.
If we take a moment to think about what Mr. Sawyer actually did for fly fishing as a sport, it was vital to the progression and advancement of fly fishing. The introduction of fishing in the middle to the bottom column of the run changed the game completely, and without this, the Perdigon would have never been seen or ever come to light.
Who knows what else is installed for us as we see the sport progress? Our passion evolves step by step. Yes, sure, it can become overwhelming trying to keep up with the trends and what is new, but my advice to this is to find what you enjoy and dive as deep as you feel comfortable. You never want a passion for becoming an effort or extra stress of life, as we all know we have too many of those.
Tight Lines and Happy Nymphing!
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.
- So thankful to the folks at Fulling Mill. Amazing flies and fly tying materials. Check them out at 👉 Fulling Mill
- A big thanks to the folks at Umqua Flies for picture use. Umpqua “Worlds Best Flies”
- Kyle Knight supplied pictures – Thanks Kyle
- Big thanks to About Trout with picture use of the Hot Spot Blue Perdigon 👈 YouTube Link
- A Huge Thanks to the folks at Fly Fish Food for picture use. Check them out 👉 Fly Fish Food