History of Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is an ancient sport, with records of Romans in 200 AD using flies to catch trout and the more complete history of fishing in England and Scotland beginning in the 17th century. The Japanese form of line casting, Tenkara, is traced to the 19th century, but Japanese anglers have been tying flies for hundreds of years. American fishing tackle production in the 19th century evolved from primitive rods with horsehair line made by hand through early line.

Many credit the first recorded use of an artificial fly to the Roman Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century. He described the practice of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River:…they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft. They fasten red wool round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in color are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.

The first book concerning fly fishing was written by Dame Juliana Berners. The Treatise on Fysshynge with an Angle is found in The Boke of St. Albans which was published in 1496. It included tips for making flies, rods and lines. Fly fishing gradually became more popular throughout the eighteen hundreds in Great Britain.

In 1653, Isaac Walton wrote “The Complete Angler” is a book which contained many chapters on fly fishing. All information contained in this book show that fly fishing is well known in England and Scotland. Many clubs in fly fishing came in the 1800s England and this has enabled this popular sport to expand to the way it is today.

In Scotland, many anglers also favoured wet-fly fishing, where the technique was more popular and widely practised than in England. One of Scotland’s leading proponents of the wet fly in the early-to-mid 19th century was WC Stewart, who published “The Practical Angler” in 1857. In Scandinavia and the United States, attitudes toward methods of fly fishing were not nearly as rigidly defined, and both dry and wet fly fishing were soon adapted.

Scotland is world famous for its loch-style tradition of using at least three flies per line which, until now, has always been permitted in the championships. Scotland is also the home of competitive fly fishing, with the oldest fly fishing contest in the world held on Loch Leven on July 1, 1880 when most anglers used four flies. In September, anglers will be awarded 100 points per fish.

A study of fly-fishing-history indicates that the earliest hooks were made from bone about 3000 years ago in southern Europe. They are of a simple design and are not dissimilar to modern day hooks.

Early references to fishing with rod and line can be found on ancient Egyptian tomb paintings.

The first flies were produced after man discovered, much to his surprise, that covering the hook with feathers fooled the fish into thinking that what was really a piece of sharpened bone was a nice tasty fly. The first references to fishing with flies originated in England during the 13th century. The fly was described as a hook tied with feathers and was used for fishing trout and grayling. These early flies were used to catch fish for food.

The technique used by these early fishermen was to simply ‘lay’ the artificial fly on the water’s surface, similar to dappling the fly as used in Scottish loch style fishing today.

Early fishing-lines were simply lengths of uniform-section horsehair and it wasn’t until the advent of the first reels that people realised that the lines could be tapered. This discovery led to lines of different tapers being produced which made them easier to use and more accurate.

According to the writers of the time, it was not until the end of the 15th century that fly fishing was practised as a sport by the English upper classes.

Some anglers say fly fishing is more than a past time and hobby, it is a sport and an art, requiring a lot of concentration and patients from the angler. It’s different to other fishing in that the angler uses fly’s which they can tie themselves or buy ready made from their local tackle shops.

Modern fly fishing is normally said to have originated on the fast, rocky rivers of Scotland and Northern England.

British fly-fishing continued to develop in the 19th Century, with the emergence of fly fishing clubs, along with the appearance of several books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques. In southern England, dry-fly fishing acquired an elitist reputation as the only acceptable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the south.

In fly fishing, fish are caught by using artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line. Todays fly lines are mostly coated with plastic and is heavy enough to cast in order to send the fly to the target. Artificial flies can vary dramatically in all morphological characteristics (size, weight, colour, etc.).

Artificial flies are created by tying hair, fur, feathers, or other materials, both natural and synthetic, onto a hook with thread. The first flies were tied with natural materials, but synthetic materials are now extremely popular and prevalent. The flies are tied in sizes, colours and patterns to match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, or other prey attractive to the target fish species.

Fly fishing is a distinct and ancient angling method, most renowned as a method for catching trout and salmon, but employed today for a wide variety of species including pike, bass, panfish, and carp, as well as marine species, such as redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish and striped bass. There are many reports of fly anglers taking species such as chub, bream and rudd while fishing for trout.

From the ancient methods of catching fish on a pole, horses hair line and bone hooks with feathers tied to them up to today’s method, the production and technology has been astronomical with newer, finer and stronger materials being used.

There is a growing population of anglers whose aim is to catch as many different species as possible with the fly, but a true angler will say it is for the enjoyment and the thrill of piting your wits against the fish (who normally come of the best).

When taking up fly fishing for the first time it can be a daunting experience not knowing what to purchase. Hopefully the information within this website about the various tackle manufacturers around the world at your disposal will be helpful in some way and suitable to the money you have to spend on your sport.

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