Gerald Paul “Gerry”
If you go salmon
fishing anywhere near Hartland or Woodstock, New Brunswick, I guarantee your
going to hear the name, Gerry Perkins. There’s not an angler near that part
of the province that hasn’t heard of this man. Why? Well, it’s very
simple. In order to fish for salmon in New Brunswick rivers you need to use
a salmon fly. When fishermen get together they talk about salmon flies and
who ties them, and this is where Gerald Perkins comes in for he is
considered among the earliest and best fly tier known to fishermen there.
Gerald Paul Perkins was born on September 9, 1919 in the
small community of Bristol, situated just a few miles north of Florenceville,
New Brunswick. He is the son of the late Idella (nee Elkins) and Marshall
In June 1945
Gerald had competed serving twenty-three years in the military. He served
with the 2nd Battalion R.C.E., and the 23rd Field
Company R.C.E. In June 1945.
His first interest in
fly tying began in the early 1940’s while he was serving in the army over
seas. One day he went to a small town and while shopping there saw some fly
tying equipment. He was very intrigued by it.
with his largest salmon in 1950
After the war ended he
returned home where he went to work as a clerk at a local general store. In
1949 he went to work for Canada Customs, and retired in 1978. The office
where he worked was on the riverside of the street, and the windows in the
storage area looked out over the lower part of a salmon pool. Quite often
people would go in and say that someone was playing a fish, so he often saw
some of the action. Before the war, the only type of angling Gerald ever done
was for speckled trout. Seeing the action of the salmon angler is what really
got Gerald interested in salmon fishing.
On his time off he
fished, hunted, guided hunters, and spent a lot of time woodworking. Although
he had many hobbies to occupy his time Gerald could not get fly tying off his
mind. He thought many times about the equipment he had seen in the store so
In 1945, equipment was
difficult to obtain, but he eventually found a second hand, 13-foot rod. It
was a big two-hander. He got to know some of the anglers and they gave him
advice on reels, lines, and flies. He started buying some flies from Jim
Levine, a local barber in Hartland who tied and sold flies commercially. The
flies Jim sold had gut eyes. They were beautifully tied, but weren’t real
durable. Eventually Gerald bought some Hardy flies from James S. Neil in
Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was amazed at their colour, and the perfect
workmanship that went into every one. The more he studied them the more he
thought of how it would be a great hobby to start tying flies. He thought of
the great satisfaction that he would get if he could tie flies that would
Between 1945 and 1946
Gerald started buying magazines. In the magazine he found addresses for
companies who supplied fly tying equipment. He ordered catalogues, then tools
and materials. It didn’t take him long to learned that there were materials
that were good and then there were the materials that were worthless. Pretty
soon he narrowed his list of distributors to several that were reputable. The
majority of his furs, feathers, hooks, tinsels, floss and threads were
purchased from E. Venniard from Croydon, England, who he felt supplied the
There was a lot of
trial and error during the winter of 1946. He tied a lot of patterns he felt
were suitable for fishing, but when he compared them to the flies from Hardy
Brothers he could easily tell the difference in beauty and quality. After all
his years of tying flies he still considers himself an amateur when comparing
his flies with that of Hardy Brothers. Of the thousands of flies Gerald
tied, he has never been able to tie a fully dressed “Jock Scott” in less than
40 minutes. “I loved going to Frasers on St. James Street in Montreal who
were a major agent and distributor for fishing equipment in Eastern Canada.
“I would spend hours examining different fly patterns and looking at their
reels, rods, and lines manufactured by Hardy Brothers. Some of the flies on
display were very large. 5/0 and 6/0, and extremely beautiful”, says Gerald.
In 1946, he bought
some tying equipment along with several books from the Venniard Company and
Hardy Brothers Ltd. He began studying the books, and with the aid of the
photos, he soon figured out how to tie some of the more simplified hair-wing
salmon fly patterns. Gerald remembers the time in 1946 when Dr. Long, a
retired professor who visited and fished the “Hartland Pool” for a six week
periods each year, introduced him to the first “Cosseboom” he’d ever seen.
Gerald immediately tied on with a silver body, and it turned out to be very
With Gerald’s talent
it didn’t take long before he was tying dozens and dozens of these flies. He
was giving most of them away, but soon discovered he could find anglers who
were willing to pay for them. The money earned from selling flies enabled
Gerald to buy more material to tie more flies. It seemed to be a
merry-go-round of buying and tying. Within a couple of years Gerald found fly
tying to be a bit monotonous, but not for long.
Gerald turned his
attention to the fully dressed, or classic fly patterns. He attacked the
challenge with vigour, and before long found himself hooked on trying to
perfect all aspects of dressing salmon flies. He enjoyed tying the “Silver
Grey”, “Blue Charm”, “Dusty Miller”, and the “Black Dose”. He originated a
variation of the “Brown Fairy.” It was so successful that he dubbed it the
“Silver Fairy.” At the time he didn’t know there was a fly already by that
name until he found it listed in a book of 2200 patterns by J. Edison
Leonard. The only real similarity is the Bronze Mallard wing. Gerald also
designed another fly called the “Yellow Fairy.” It turned out to be a real
killer for his friend, Angus Fraser.
Before the dam was
built on the Saint John River there was never a need for Gerald to go far a
field as the salmon pools in the Harland area were exceptional. He recalls
three years running when Angus Fraser from Hartland caught 72 Atlantic salmon
the first year, 71 the second, and 75 the third. With the installation of the
Mactaquac Dam, it reduced the salmon fishing on the Saint John River in
Hartland to nothing more than a wasted effort for the angler. Pools that once
boiling with grilse and salmon are nothing but ghost-holes now. In 1957 these
were the pools where Gerald and his fishing friends hooked and landed 23-pound
plus salmon. In 1998 it is rare to see a fish break the rivers surface, even
after days spent at most active salmon pools along the Saint John River. A
sad ending to a river that was once a fantastic salmon producer. Gerald
Perkins is not happy about what has become of his river.
This photo Gerald Perkin’s friend, Jim MacPherson, was
taken on August 14, 1948 at the Hartland Salmon Pool. A total of 347 salmon
were caught there that season.
During the 70’s,
Gerald and his fishing buddy, Paul Morrison were successful in drawing water
on the beautiful Upsalquitch River. Paul caught an 18-pound salmon at the “Big
Bogan Pool”, while Gerald hooked and landed a 20-pounder on a #4 “Blue Charm”
at the “Crooked Rapid Pool.
On August 21st,
1950, while fishing the Hartland Pool, Gerald caught his largest salmon, which
weighed 22½ pounds, on his own variation of a “Silver Fairy”. Gerald’s
favourite fly however, is the “Cosseboom” or any one of the many variations
that he’s tied.
For a number of years Gerald operated a good mail order
business, selling rods, flies and fly tying material, but he had to do this in
his spare time, which cut down his time for fishing. One year he remembers
tying 57 dozen flies for one firm. That order was in addition to the orders
he already had for his many other customers. One major commercial customer
who bought Gerald’s salmon flies was Aitken Drug Store, a wholesale business
in Hartland. In the late 80’s Gerald stopped selling flies. The ones he ties
now are for his own use, or as a favour for a friend.
his mail-order business he was able to impor Hardy fishing rods. One of his
orders included six rods that were patterned after the Hardy Rogue River.
They were 9, 9 ½, and 10-foot lengths. They had a steel centre and ranged in
weights of 5 to 6½ ounces. Five of the rods were for special fishermen who he
knew, but he kept one of the rods for himself. Gerald has an old 3-ounce
Leonard trout rod too. Of all the reels he handled his favourite is the
4-inch J.W. Young. It is of simple construction, sturdy, reliable, and will
hold a lot of line. On two occasions he’s hooked salmon that hauled off all
his casting line and 600 feet of backing that was wrapped on the reel.
Gerald Perkin’s friend, Angus Fraser of Hartland, plays a
salmon from the Hartland Salmon Pool. This photo was taken prior to the
construction of the Mactaquac Dam in 1960s.
Over the years Gerald
has taught many people how to tie flies. He has shared many tying secrets
with James Levine and Isaah Hovey, other well known fly tiers from the
Hartland area also.
Research into the fly
tiers in the area of Hartland, identifies Gerald Perkins as one of the
earliest, and one of the most distinguished. He has tied more salmon for the
anglers there than any other. We are proud to honour Gerald Paul Perkins
among the Fly Tiers of New Brunswick.
and tied by Gerald P. Perkins)
Flat silver tinsel & yellow floss
Black Ostrich herl
Golden Pheasant crest
Flat silver tinsel
Oval gold tinsel
Lemon yellow neck hackle wrapped as a collar and tied down
Blue & yellow Macaw
Golden Pheasant Crest
Gerald uses narrow silver tinsel for the tag on
single hooks. On double hooks he uses oval tinsel. Tinsel size depends on
the hook size. Can be tied with, or without horns and topping.
the flies in this presentation, accept for the “Silver Fairy” were tied in the
1980s by Gerald Perkins
The “Silver Fairy”
was tied in the Mid 1990s.