Gerald Paul “Gerry” Perkins

 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 Joel Perkins.


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.

 

Gerald Perkins 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 far overseas.

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 catch fish.

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 highest quality.

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 successful. 

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.

            Through 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.

 

 

Silver Fairy

(Pattern originated and tied by Gerald P. Perkins)

 

Head:               Black

Tag:                  Flat silver tinsel & yellow floss

Butt:                 Black Ostrich herl

Tail:                  Golden Pheasant crest

Body:               Flat silver tinsel

Rib:                  Oval gold tinsel

Throat:             Lemon yellow neck hackle wrapped as a collar and tied down

Wing:               Bronze Mallard

Horns:              Blue & yellow Macaw

Topping:           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.

  

 All 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.