Those who’ve shared a canoe with me know the delight I take in catching panfish, and especially the white and yellow perch. I have a firm devotion to the “Ol’ Black Pan”, and the furs and feathers that litter the floor of my den are rivaled only by the bread crumbs underfoot in my kitchen. I hunt for the pot and fish for the pan, but I am fly fisherman to the core. If the culinary delights I take from the woods and waters are to be challenged for preeminence in my heart, it is my love of classic flies that will gain the throne. If per chance I can combine the two, I reach the very heights of enjoyment and can ask for no more.
I know of two nineteenth century flies developed and tied especially for perch. Both were born right here in New England. One in Massachusetts, and this pattern, Keene’s Bronze Coachman, in New Hampshire. John Harrington Keene, an Englishman by birth but New Englander by choice, is best known for his 1887 book “Fly-Fishing and Fly Making for Trout, Etc.”. It is a fairly scarce book that has some interesting plates that have tipped in actual furs and feathers used in fly-tying; a wonderful book for the collector. But being the panfisherman that I am, it is his 1894 title “The Boys Own Guide To Fishing, Tackle-Making And Fish-Breeding” that really delights. In his chapter entitled “Fly Fishing For Bass, Perch, Sunfish, Etc.” he shares with the reader a simply fly developed for the perch of his New Hampshire home waters. I quote:
“It is a modification of the ever-useful “Coachman”, I call it the “Bronze Coachman” : -
Body, of the bronze tinsel cord one gets at the dry-goods store at five cents or so a ball. It is used by ladies for embroidering on velvet, etc. Legs, plenty of brown hackle; wings, white”
Keene recounts catching three perch at a time on a three fly cast, all of which are tied on a size 6 hook.
I have used bronze Bills Bodi-Braid for the body and a Mustad 3389H gold sproat hook, size 6, for my version of this wonderful New Hampshire perch fly. I can’t wait to fish it, my “priest” at the ready!