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Trout, The Trout Fisherman's Bible by Ray Bergman

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton


Judging by the first few sentences of Gary LaFontaine's new foreword to Ray Bergman's book Trout, The Trout Fisherman's Bible, it is the American equivalent - but very different - to Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. LaFontaine writes: 'Trout was the first fly fishing book that I ever read. I was nine years old and it was the biggest book in the fishing section of the Windsor Public Library in Connecticut. . . . . All told I have read this great book six times cover to cover, and each time the wisdom was deep and fresh.'.

Wisdom such as knowing the value of time spent looking and watching what is happening. Also 'Cultivate the habit of working the tough places that the average person passes by.' How true. Ray Bergman rarely killed fish in his later years and did not use a landing net, as is becoming more popular today.

This book was first published in 1938. Ray Bergman was born in Nyack, New York in 1891 and died there in 1967. He wrote for Outdoor Life magazine for 26 years. Bergman revised and expanded his masterwork in 1952. This edition of the book, published by The Derrydale Press, has very attractive and charming plates taken from period water colours of fish, flies, streamers and spinners painted by William J Schaldach.

The book contains the dressings for all the flies illustrated in the colour plates. There is a chapter on fly tying which includes interesting information on hooks and how their length relates to size and the changes in wire diameter for different shank thicknesses.
Gary LaFontaine describes the author as a common man, a teacher to the masses. It is this humble approach - never allowing fly fishing to be the sport of the elite - that allowed him to admit to casting or any other difficulties when fishing. For a time he had a particular problem casting when using long leaders.

I was interested to come across a reference to non-leaded gasoline used to make fly floatant by mixing it with paraffin wax. I thought that un-leaded petrol was a recent invention. I suppose that it confirms the cliche that there is nothing new under the sun.

The book show how much so many aspects of fly fishing have changed and developed and provides an interesting historical perspective on many of today's famous trout streams and rivers. When writing about buying rods, the need to take into account the weight of a rod is an interesting concept today. Yes there are manufacturers who claim to make the world's lightest rods but the weight of the average trout rod is so insignificant as not to be a consideration when buying a rod. A 16 foot salmon rod is, perhaps, another matter but again weight is unlikely to be a major consideration.

I am not sure why there is a chapter on Grayling! It isn't as though Bergman needed to make the book any longer. At 512 pages it is a very chunk tome.

Trout, The Trout Fisherman's Bible by Ray Bergman. With a new foreword by Gary LaFontaine. Published by The Derrydale Press at US$29.95 and £22.95. Paperback 512 pages.






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