Wet flies as fished by Bergman

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Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby redietz » Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:40 pm

I thought it might be interesting to compare what Ray Bergman considered the "standard" method of fish wet flies. It's not a down and across swing as one might suspect, and contrary to the impression you might get from looking at Dr Burke's plates, the many of the list of wets that are recommended in the text are either wingless: Orange Fishhawk (which he seems to mention more than any other fly), Gray Hackle Peacock, Gray Hackle Yellow, Black Ant or clearly imitative with duck flank wings such as the Light Cahill, Dark Cahill, Quill Gordon, etc.

Anyway, here's what he wrote on method (he also describes other methods, but this is what he lists first)

.
.. the most important methods of fishing the wet fly is the "natural drift." There are several ways to accomplish this, the most generally useful being the up-and-across cast. You take your position directly opposite the water you wish to fish, and make a cast at about a forty-five-degree angle upstream to the opposite side. As soon as the cast is completed, the tip of the rod is lowered a trifle and then kept pointed directly at the flies as they sink in the water and current carries them downstream. The line should be slack, but just on the verge of being taut. The allows the flies to be affected naturally by the current and lets leaves you in perfect command if you get a strike.

If you desire a longer drift than that obtained by the original cast, you may get this by "mending." [description of mending omitted] This also provides extra slack, and you gain some additional natural drift.

If the water below you is not likely to be occupied by fish, then the float of the flies may be terminated at an angle of forty-five below you, or just when they have started to drag across the stream. Watch and be prepared for a rise at this particular position, as it often occurs at this point.


He then goes on to say that if there are fish below, you've basically got nothing to lose by letting it swing, even though it's not the primary purpose of the presentation.

Here's the flies actually recommends. To me, there are the true Bergman wets, the flies in the plates are more correctly Burke wets.

Black Gnat
Black Quill
Black Wooly Worm
Blue Dun and Blue Quill (down to size 20!), with a Dark Hendrickon as a subsitute
Cahill, regular or dark
Cahill, light
Coachman/Leadwing Coachman/Rio Grande King/Royal Coachman
Ginger Quill
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear (he recommends cutting the wing off if it fails to produce)
Gray Hackle Yellow, Gray Hackle Peacock
Grizzly King (for brook trout and grayling)
Irresistible wet
McGinty
March Brown, American
Montreal
Olive Dun and Olive quill
Orange Fish Hawk (as mentioned above, really seemed to have liked this fly)
Pale Sulphur
Parmachene Belle (for brook trout only)
Professor
Queen of the Waters
Quill Gordon
Silver Doctor (only for certain conditions)
Wickham's Fancy/ Campbell's Fancy (he considered the equivalent, but preferred Campbell's. In my own experience he was wrong)

As you can see, there are very few "fancy" flies there, and those he largely recommended for brook trout only.
Bob
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby letumgo » Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:59 pm

Bob,

I enjoyed reading your post, and am reminded of the old flies in my grandfathers fly box from around the 1940's to 1950 time period. He fished several of these style winged wet flies in the Adirondacks. For the most part, the flies in his box were drab fishing flies, rather than the fancy married wings normally associated with Bergman. I was especially fond of Granddad's light and dark cahill winged wets.

When I get a chance, I would like to rephotograph some of his old flies. Would you mind if I share them here, if I can identify the old patterns?
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby redietz » Sat Mar 07, 2015 1:03 pm

letumgo wrote:Bob,

I enjoyed reading your post, and am reminded of the old flies in my grandfathers fly box from around the 1940's to 1950 time period. He fished several of these style winged wet flies in the Adirondacks. For the most part, the flies in his box were drab fishing flies, rather than the fancy married wings normally associated with Bergman. I was especially fond of Granddad's light and dark cahill winged wets.

When I get a chance, I would like to rephotograph some of his old flies. Would you mind if I share them here, if I can identify the old patterns?


I would personally love to see them. This thread is as good a place as any.
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby daringduffer » Sat Mar 07, 2015 2:21 pm

redietz wrote:
I would personally love to see them. This thread is as good a place as any.


I agree.

dd

(And thank you for your post, Bob).
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby tie2fish » Sat Mar 07, 2015 3:20 pm

letumgo wrote:
I was especially fond of Granddad's light and dark cahill winged wets.


Similar to these, Ray?
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby Jerry G » Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:13 pm

Bob I find this to be quite an interesting thread. It answers also some of why in the past you had mentioned that you fish the wet fly upstream. I need to do an about face and start pitching them upstream as well. :oops:
Bill those Cahill's look great and thanks for sharing them with us.

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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby letumgo » Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:31 pm

Bill - Yes, very much like them. I have a copy of your Cahill photo stored on my computer. Lovely set of flies.
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby DOUGSDEN » Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:36 pm

Ray,
By all means, re-submit the photo's that you had before! The would be wonderful to see!
Bill, your covey of Cahills is stunning! So well done and so life like! Absolute classics from an absolute classic!
Bob, fascinating thread! Ray is right, it is a pleasure to read. So very interesting!
Thanks fellows X3,
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby hankaye » Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:59 am

Howdy All;

Our friend Doug has said everything that could be said so I'll
just X2 his statement.

hank
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Re: Wet flies as fished by Bergman

Postby William Anderson » Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:16 am

Bob, this is an interesting thread and timely. I might be one of the least knowledgable here regarding the "Bergman" wets, but I've seen enough to believe I had a good idea what they are all about. Apparently my understanding of actual Bergman flies could use an update, which I welcome.

I don't have, but enjoyed seeing recently, Mike Valla's - Founding Flies and was impressed by several images. One thing that caught my attention was the photo of actual Catskill dries compared to their contemporary tight and tidy interpretations. This wasn't news, just seeing the images always reminds me that fetishizing certain fly types puts distance from some flies from their origins. Another excellent photo that made an impression was Vincent Marinaro's Thorax Dun. This is a fly I feel comes from the purest place of observation and innovation. His intent seemed very suggestive compared to the high grade tying associated with current versions of his patterns. The Dette's flies look like they might walk around on their own compared to the museum pieces many try to achieve, a very high compliment in my opinion.

And that brings me to the Bergman flies. I recently purchased a couple fly boxes loaded with winged wets and wingless, as well as nymphs, all from the 30's, 40's and 50's. I'll try to photograph some to share here, which is the reason I bought them, among other reasons (these boxes tell an interesting story of an individual fisherman from an interesting period). It's nice to see them in person from the era, many are the exact patterns listed above as Bergman's recommendations. I especially love the quill bodiesm the March Browns and the Cahill patterns. Very drab and matching parts for parts, imitative to a degree. I'm posting this because I have trouble reconciling the thousands of images I've seen of "Bergman/Burke" flies, all tidy and reduced to a perfect proportion, no matter the pattern. I do have a copy of Trout, gifted to me by a dear friend, and I found the text rather disjointed from those plates of garish patterns. He does seem to be on point with his dry fly presentation, the wet fly presentation and several other topics. Hopefully this thread will help balance Bergman's practice from those plates.

You've listed a number that have actual naturals associated with them, but the majority of everything I see related to these wet flies seems more a tying exercise. Not unlike the thousands of images of Catskill dry flies and flies I've seen, gorgeous and a serious achievement for any tier, but only cousins to their origins. Going through these boxes is cool. Most all are William Mills and Son's or Hardy's flies, not tied by the fisherman, but certainly a representation of what most fly fisherman carried at the time. I have heard John Shaner and others note the reason for the dozens of seemingly pointless patterns, just rearranged combinations of materials to the point of silliness, was simply for the sake of feeding a growing market and a demand for new flies. I would be interested to hear more about that. Based on the catalogues it would seem we haven't changed much.

I'm hoping to learn more about the subject and this thread could be a fantastic place to start. I'm probably not alone in my current impression of the "Bergman/Burke" flies which seem to run counter to my own personal interests in fly design and presentation. Fancy flies and decorative Salmon flies have never been my thing, but I can appreciate the talent it takes. It's nice to hear this subject has more depth and I'm looking forward to hearing from those who have made a few of them part of their current fishing practice. I'll try to get some shots taken this week as I sort through the boxes.

Thanks Bob, for bringing this around in a way that relates to the nature of this forum. This should be very enlightening.

Ray, please get some pics and I'll try to do the same. We should have quite a bit to show. Maybe others will do the same.

Bill...you're the guy. The balance of impeccable tying and the first flies I want to tie to my tippet. Nice covey.

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