I was sitting here reading through a 1939 Ray Bergman Angling Specialties catalog, which I am very fortunate to have. It is very fascinating and intensely interesting. The prices, merchandise, services he offered in a 4″ x 6″, 16- page booklet is remarkable. Besides being a noted author and angling editor of Outdoor Life Magazine from 1934 to 1959, Bergman also operated a mail-order business selling Dickerson bamboo rods, flies, tying materials, leaders, and his own line, Nyack Brand, of fly tying hooks made for him in Redditch, England. This was basically a mom-and-pop business that Ray and his wife, Grace, operated from their home on Cedar Hill Avenue in Nyack, New York. I could write a long post about the catalog and its contents, but for now I just want to share something. Almost a full page of the catalog is devoted to written tips and advice on nymph fishing. One of them reads:
“For use on rising trout you miss or which refuse your dry or wet fly. Cast the same as you would when using the dry fly. Let the nymph float down naturally with the current, retrieving slack so that you can strike but not enough so that it exerts a pull on the lure. If you have trouble in striking a fish or if you fail to note when you get a strike tie a dry fly on the leader about four feet above the nymph. If this fly stops moving or if it makes any movement not natural to the float strike instantly.”
Bergman’s first book, Just Fishing, 1932, contains an account written eighty years ago, where he introduced his friend, Sparse Gray Hackle, a.k.a. real name, Alfred W. Miller, author of Fishless Days, Angling Nights, 1971, to this method of nymph fishing. The dry-dropper rig got real popular as a “new” method in the 1990’s, written much about by Pennsylvania fly fishing author Charlie Meck. Like lots of fly fishing methods presently being touted as new, the dry-dropper rig is not new. As far as I know Bergman is the first angler to combine a dry with a sunken fly with what he called a “dobber.” If anyone has information contrary to this statement, I’d love to hear about it.
(Edit, July 31st: one of my subscribers wrote in a comment that the British, Irish, and Scots were using an indicator fly or sorts in the 1800’s).