Bamboo Bonzai

Dry-Fly Fundamentals and Tackle, Part 2

Excerpt from Chapter 7 Trout
By Ray Bergman
Published by Alfred A. Knopf (1938)

This is possible you know. One salesman I knew well who rarely fished for trout instinctively knew a good dry-fly rod the instant he felt one and it was seldom that his judgment was at fault. This skill had come from many years of experience in catering to customers who knew rods and who know what they wanted.

On the other hand, when you find a salesman who had the angling as well as the merchandising experience, you will find a certain sympathy that is hard to beat, as well as someone who really knows what it is all about.

Remeber this. The fellow who really knows things will not try to impress you with his knowledge. Only those who have limited experience are likely to do that. The experience of years and the knowledge gained from it are ingrained in the personality of the possessor. You don't need to be told if a fellow really knows anything about fishing. You sense it after talking to him only a few moments. We who have fished for a good many years can tell the moment he takes a rod in his hand if a man is a fly fisherman. The way he handles it immediately tells the story far better than any words.

Many years ago I bought a seven-and-a-half-footer that proved perfect as far as I was concerned. In the hands of the average caster it would cast forty to fifty feet without undue strain and yet was ideal for close work. It was accurate and delicate - good for either a large or small stream. Since then I have purchased three more - had them made to imitate the action of this original. One was the unsuitable stiff rod previously mentioned, but the others were positive duplicates. Every angler I have ever let try one has become enthusiastic over their feel and performance, even though not one of these anglers believed in a rod as short as seven and a half feet. By actual test I have found that they will do everything that is possible with an eight-foot rod and at the same time give you that additional advantage of less length when on a brushy stream.


SHOWING A SHORT AND LONG ROD IN ACTION under identical conditions and in hand of fair caster. With the short rod the fly will catch on bush. With the long rod it will probably miss it. Of course if you learn to keep your back-cast high, which is most important anyway, you can get by with the shorter rod.

I have several objections to short rods for dry-fly fishing. They are not satisfactory when it is necessary to wade deep - that is in any water that reaches six inches or more above the knees. Most of us when fishing are inclined to drop our backcast, and the deeper the water the more this tendency causes trouble. A long rod aids in overcoming this fault, which, even though it is correctable by casting, won't be corrected by the average individual except by mechanical means. (See figure A above) Natuarally, the longer the cast attempted, the greater the possibility of the line's dropping because of the extra line weight in the air on the back-cast. In addition, when the angler has a high background, (figure B) the longer rod helps in lifting the line high enough to avoid snagging. But even more important than these two things is the advantage you get from using a long rod when standing in deep water when it comes to lifting the fly from the water at any considerable distance for the next cast. ~ Ray Bergman

Publishers note: We excerpt the previous, first published in 1938, as a bit of a comparison to where rod building and fly fishing is today. And to note, some things never change! Concluded next time.


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