Ray Bergman’s Advice – 1939

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).

4 comments on “Ray Bergman’s Advice – 1939

  1. Bob Dietz says:

    Of course, the Scots and Irish loch/lough fisherman have been using a “damp” fly (a big fluffy wet that doesn’t sink) as the “bob” (aka “hand fly” or top dropper) for centuries. I suspect the same technique was used in English rivers before the dry fly, but “gentlemen” don’t admit to using wets.

    Bergman gives the same advice in Trout. I’ll bring that fact up when someone complains too loudly about strike indicator not being real fly fishing. Of course, he also wrote about spin fishing.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks for sharing that info Bob! That is not surprising, but why not? The use of some type of indicator is of great aid, especially when fishing in slow-moving or lake water, since the trout in that type of water generally take sunken flies more delicately than with aggression. Thanks for your comment!

  2. […] fly. Cast the same as you would when using the dry fly…See the original post: Ray Bergman’s Advice – 1939.

  3. […] are familiar with nymph and dry-and-dropper rigging, but contrary to what most anglers think, neither are new techniques. Don Bastian recently gave an interesting look back on some of their history via an anecdote from […]

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