Perley “Perl” Wilson

1920 – 1977

 Perley Wilson was born in near the banks of the Southwest Miramichi in Upper Blackville, New Brunswick on January 12, 1920.  He was the son of the late Jennie (nee Arbeau) and Stanley Wilson.             Perley lived all his life in the Miramichi area.  By the late 1930’s he was already an experienced fly fisherman.  He served a couple of years in the military until 1940.  When he returned from the army he began guiding on a regular bases in the springtime and would guide on weekends during the summer and fall.  Most of his guiding was for Herman Campbell on the Southwest Miramichi River.  He also guided for Chip Stover from Pennsylvania.  Some of the more regular people he guided included Ralph Urquart from Boston, Jamie King and Johnny Judge from Florida.  When “Perl” wasn’t guiding he was lumbering, cutting pulp and logs.  In 1960 he had a heart attack and couldn’t return to the strenuous work of the woods.


Perley in his Fly Tying Room (circa 1970)                       



Guide, Perley Wilson


In 1960 he began tying flies.  It started out as a hobby, as something to keep him busy,  but within a few years he began selling his flies to supplement his income. Perley was best known for the durability of his flies.  They could withstand the abuse, which some of  the worst anglers could dish out.  He crafted his flies from materials he obtained from local domestic and wild animals.  He dyed a lot of his own materials, but when he had to purchase materials he would usually order them from Angling Specialities Company in Ancaster, Ontario.


Perley Wilson at the Upper Blackville Bridge Pool in the late 1960’s


People from all over Canada and the United States bought flies from Perley Wilson.  Henever kept a list of his customers, but his children remember seeing vehicles, with their license plates identifying them from foreign places, arrive at their home. The people who came bought many flies and talked fly fishing and fly tying by the hour. Perley seemed to know what they were looking for, and if he didn’t have it on hand he would tie it while the customer waited.  Baseball legend, Ted Williams, was a regular customer. It is impossible to say just how many flies Perley Wilson tied in the seventeen years he was  at it.  Perley took those numbers with him when he died so unexpectedly of a heart attack on December 3, 1977.  His family recalls how each fall their father would frantically began tying flies, and by the time the spring salmon season opened in April, Perley's fly tying room would be littered with tray after tray, each containing dozens of flies.  There were trays of large streamers for high water, the “Squirrel Tails” and “Black Bears” for mid summer, and low water fishing, and there would always be plenty of the ““Perl” Wilson Butterfly’s.”

Perley Wilson and his prize late 1950’s


Arnold “Bunny” Muck, a very experienced fly fisherman in Blackville would always tell other fishermen that, if you fish a “Butterfly” and the fish won’t take, just tie on a “Perl Wilson Butterfly,” and “bang” you’ll hook one.

 “Perl’s” favourite fly tyer was Wallace Doak, Doaktown, New Brunswick and his favourite fly was a “Cains River Special, or Rutledge”. Perley Wilson fished a lot with Maurice Ingals, who originated the Ingal’s Butterfly.  According to a reliable source the Ingal’s Butterfly came to be as a result of the following. Maurice Ingals was fishing with a group of fishermen near the swinging bridge pool in McNamee, New Brunswick.  There were three large salmon lying in the pool near the bridge, but they wouldn’t touch a fly.  Ingals, who was more of a trout fisherman, had a white, double wing dry fly in his box.  The fly was very successful for trout, but he had never tried it on salmon.  Ingals decided to trim the wings of the fly down and fish it wet.  Before the day ended Ingals new fly, now known as the “Butterfly” had hooked two of the salmon.  The rest is history.         The largest fish he ever caught weighed twenty three pounds three ounces, caught in 1968, on a #6 red and orange butt “Bear Hair” at the Swinging Bridge Pool on the Main Southwest Miramichi River in Upper Blackville, N.B.

Perley Wilson loved the river.  He instilled in his children that the river, like them, was a wonderful gift from God.  His very gentle manner served well when dealing with the sportsmen he guided.  He was fun to be around, and was very successful as a fisherman.  It was never a problem for him to hook fish even when the fishing was at its poorest.  He believed that fishermen got too excited and took fishing to serious.  He always told other anglers that fly-fishing was a time to relax. If you couldn’t relax when fishing, then it was time to get off the river.


“Buttlerfly” tied by Perley “Perl” Wilson (Early 1970’s)