How to Fly Fish with Perdigon Nymphs

What is a Perdigon Fly? (Are You Ready to Catch Fish)

Say the word ‘Perdigon’ or ‘Perdi’ at a place like Henry’s Fork or a local watering hole in Wyoming, and you may just get a few stiff stares or dirty looks.

For the record, I will admittedly say that I was one of those anglers giving that look of horror and disgust.

For an angler to talk about fishing a heavy nymph in an area that’s widely known for its amazing dry fly fishing, is SACRILEGE!

The Perdigon fly is a very effective pattern and one that has received many a varied review. The negative reviews are generally from purist anglers or fly fishers who haven’t fished the pattern before and don’t know how effective it is, especially in fast water.

In the article below, we will go through why the Perdigon Nymph is so effective, how and who designed it and how to fish it correctly.


Fly Fishing with Perdigon Nymphs
Fly Fishing with Perdigon Nymphs – it really WORKS!

What Made Me Obsessed?

Up until a few years ago, I was a dry-dropper kind of guy. It was my go-to pattern and I used it most of the time. Then a few years ago, that all changed when I was rather unwillingly introduced to the Perdigon Nymph.

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 started fishing. The river was a dry dropper-style piece of water with loads of great pockets and eddies. I took five fish in my allotted time which I felt confident about.

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.

It all changed so quickly! He started catching fish and many of them!

Long story short, he beat me 10-5 while re-fishing the same water I had. What was his edge? You guested it, the Perdigon. Fished French style on a 20-foot leader with a single size 16 fly.

Perdigon nymph for catching trout
Perdigon nymph for catching trout

So why was this so effective?

By fishing the dry dropper rig I was only covering the upper water columns and not testing the lower ones. It becomes rather difficult to fish the lower columns with a dry–dropper rig because you can’t feel the eats. The Perdigon got to the bottom of the run where the fish were obviously holding. They would on occasion, rise and feed on my dry or the 10″ dropper, but this was nothing compared to the effectiveness of the Perdigon.

It was then, and there I decided that I would learn this side of fly fishing and try to harness its effectiveness to regularly catch fish.

Needless to say, my Perdigon story began.

I’ve written all kinds of articles about Fly Tying Tools. (Most with Videos) Check out the shortcut links below

The Perdigon History

Originally developed by the Spanish to fish their clear fast flowing rivers and streams, it is said that the French perfected the art of fishing the Perdigon Nymph. To maintain a friendly unbiased article, I will say the Perdigon Nymph was developed and perfected in Europe. Only after many years of fishing this pattern did it make its way to the USA and spread from there.

What Does a Perdigon Nymph Imitate

The Perdigon represents numerous species of aquatic nymphs, snails, and worms. I think the most effective thing about this pattern is the fact that it can get to the feed zone quickly.

Nymph Flies
Nymph Flies

Where most flies need to be cast further upstream to allow time to sink into the zone, the Perdigon can be fished a lot closer, thus giving the angler more control of the fly.

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.

How To Tie the Perdigon Nymph?

Extremely simple to tie, only using a few materials. The UV resin coating makes the pattern almost bombproof, with the only noticeable damage after a few fish being the missing tail. The Coq de Leon fibers tend to break off after a few fish have eaten, but this isn’t a train smash. The fly is still fishable.

A good fix for this issue is to use synthetic fibers they tend to hold up a bit more.

Guide Pro Tip: It is so easy to buy a pile of materials and tools to tie flies. Before you do read 👉 Get the Fly Tying Tools and Materials You Actually Need

The original Perdigon Nymph was tied on a normal nymph or scud hook. Over the years, many anglers have opted for the pattern in a jig form which has proven to be equally as effective.

My opinion is the jig version fishes better with fewer hang-ups on the bottom and is generally easier to set fish with. Due to the way nymph swims with a jig hook (point rides up), the trout are generally hooked in the upper corner of the mouth, where there is less facial bone compared to the bottom jaw, which is much bonier. This is where a normal nymph hook tends to penetrate.

Another great advantage of the jig hook is that you can accommodate a larger size of the bead. A normal hook can only fit 1-2 sizes before the hook gape is compromised, but with the jig hook, the slotted bead is higher, giving more room on the gap side of the hook.

A Simple Perdigon to Tie

Simple SBS

  1. Set #16 jig hook with 3.5mm tungsten bead.
  2. Start a thread base and create a body taper.
  3. Tie in CDL tail, half the length of the body.
  4. Tie in flash strip and body quill.
  5. Wrap flash forward and tie off behind bead.
  6. Wrap quill forward and tie off.
  7. Tie in a Fluro collar and whip finish.
  8. UV resin the entire fly and cure.
  9. Make the classic black mark on the upper head of the fly and cure again.

Below is a great link to how to tie the Perdigon Nymph pattern. As with most things, this is just a guide, and you can amend and alter it as you see fit.

My Most Used Perdigon Patterns

Listed below are my three favorite Perdigon patterns. They are all available through Umpqua Fly Fishing should you not want to tie your own.

Lite Brite Perdigon Pattern
Lite Brite Perdigon Pattern
Quill Bomb
Quill Bomb Fly Pattern
Warrior Perdigon
Warrior Perdigon Fly Pattern
  1. Lite Brite Perdigon
  2. Quill Bomb
  3. Warrior Perdigon

What Setup You Need to Fish the Perdigon Correctly

To fish a Perdigon successfully, you have to use the nymphing technique.

There are two key factors when it comes to the setup needed for a successful nymphing session. The rod and the leader. The rest you can use and work with, but for effective nymph fishing with Perigons’ and other nymphs, the ROD and LEADER are key.

RODThe rod needs to be 10′ plus in length. If you are starting out, then a 10′ is fine. If you need a longer reach, the 11’3 is better, but this can be cumbersome on a smaller river.

The key to the nymphing rod is its tip sensitivity and the speed at which the blank recovers. In this case, a nymphing-specific rod does both of these very well.

LEADER- The leader is specifically designed to transfer the energy generated by the rod through the fly line to the leader and then flies. A nymphing leader is generally longer, 20 plus feet, and it usually has a thinner diameter butt end and taper.

This is for two reasons, firstly, to prevent as little drag as possible on the water, giving us more direct contact with the flies, and secondly, to be able to flick the flies some distance when casting.

How To Fish the Perdigon Nymph?

The Perdigon needs to be fished on a nymph-style rig to be most effective. The Perdigon is designed to sink fast and to be fished on the bottom. For this reason, certain species of fish won’t easily be caught with a Perdigon nymph.

how to catch brook trout
How to catch brook trout

Species like chub and perch that feed at various depths aren’t often hooked.

Nymphing can be as complex as you choose to make it. Like anything in life, professionals make and change for the slightest improvement. The main thing to remember is to always maintain contact with the fly and not to induce any sort of a drag.

As we all know, DRAG KILLS THE DRIFT.

For a more comprehensive cover on euro nymphing, please check out  George Daniel

One Last Drift.

As with many other controversial patterns out in the fly-fishing world, there is no doubt about the effectiveness of the Perdigon pattern. It catches fish and is a relatively easy fly to tie, the most important part of the fly is the tapered body. Get this right in ratio to the bead size and body length and the rest will work out just fine.

I’m of the belief that as passive fly anglers, we should always embrace the new and use it to our advantage. I think it would be silly not to have this pattern in your nymph box, after all it single-handedly kicked me out of competition.

Happy Nymphing!

More Nymph Fishing Articles – WHY because NYMPHS Catch Fish!

Kyle Knight writer Guide Recommended

Kyle Knight

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.


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