Having re-rigged my fishing gear over the summer and purchased a new nine-and-a-half-foot No. 6 fly rod by Scott, and a Lamson reel to mount on it, I’ve finally got round to reading a book that’s lain neglected in my sporting library for far too many years.  Ray Bergman’s Trout, first published in 1938, has long been regarded as the trout fisherman’s bible, and justly so.  Bergman, for many years an editor with Outdoor Life who died at the age of 76 in 1966, was a sports writer of the old school and a former time—meaning, first of all, that he could write.  And not only could he write, but he wrote with the ease, competence, grace, and style of the literary artist.  His comprehensive book covers every conceivable aspect of the subject of trout fishing, including how to read and fish various waters with sundry tackle and how to select these, how to approach a creek and make a cast unseen by fish, how piscine vision operates, how to take advantage of light and shadow on the water, how to read a rise, how to tie flies, and a good deal more.

The tackle chapters, of course, are hopelessly outdated, Bergman’s age having been that of gut and silk leaders and bamboo and steel rods.  But while human technology has changed since his heyday, neither the quarry nor the means of taking it has changed in the least.  I still have flies in my fly boxes tied to patterns I fished as a boy in Vermont, which I continue to use with success in Wyoming, both the insects and the fish having apparently not “evolved” over the intervening decades—though of course much of the insect life of the Rocky Mountains differs from that of New England.

Bergman knew how to tell a fishing story, as evocative in its way as some of Hemingway’s.  My copy, from Knopf’s edition of 1976, is a handsome volume, illustrated with fly plates in full color painted by Dr. Edgar Burke.  How I wish I’d studied this book years earlier. It tells a trout fisherman everything he really needs to know to take fish.  I’ll finish reading it before going into the field this month for deer, and plan to reread it during the coming cloistered winter months. 

        —Chilton Williamson, Jr.