History Of Fly Fishing

  • Jun 8, 2020

This is a brief history of fly-fishing. A small summary of the glorious history of the sport. Let’s start at the beginning.

What is fly-fishing?

Today, fish are caught by using artificial flies, which are cast out on a fly rod and a fly line. The fly line is heavy enough to send the fly to the target.

Flies can be made to either float or sink, depending on what the anglers preference is. Whatever type of flyer you use, the principle is the same: you lure the fish in with the promise of food.

The first lies are made with all-natural materials but now flies are made of artificial materials. The flies are made to look like local terrestrial and aquatic insects. The more authentic they look the more fish people catch.

In the beginning

Where fly-fishing originated from no one knows precisely. Many people credit the first recorded use of fly-fishing to the Roman Claudius Aelianus, near the end of the second century.

He described the practices of Macedonian anglers. “They have planned a snare for the fish and they get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft.

They fasten red wool, round hook, and fitted onto the wool to feathers, which grow under a Cox Wattles. The rod is 6 feet long and their line is in the same length.

Then they throw their snare and the fish is attracted and maddened by the color and thinking it can gain a mouthful. However, when it opens his jaws it is cut by the hook and enjoys a bitter repast as a captive.”

This is taken from William Radcliffe who wrote a book on the subject of the history of fly-fishing and credits the invention of fly-fishing to Marcus Valerius Martialis, who was born roughly 200 years before Aelianus.

How they did it in Great Britain

British fly-fishing began to develop rapidly in the 19th century with the development of fly-fishing clubs. Many authors dedicated entire books to the topic of fly-fishing.

The fly fishers of the 19th century developed an elitist reputation and soon, fly-fishing became the only acceptable way of catching fish and slow rivers.

Fly Fishing Clubs

Meanwhile in Japan

The traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing is known as “Tenkara”. The first recorded reference to fly-fishing in Japan was in a book called “Diary of climbing Mount Tateyama” which is published in 1878. Tenkara is a fly-fishing method that uses a rod, line, and fly with no reel involved.

It is said to have originated in the mountains of Japan as an easier way for local fishermen to harvest fish. It was developed primarily as a small stream fishing method, which was highly efficient.

What they did in the USA

The fly-fishing of the United States is thought to be the first anglers to use artificial lures for bass fishing. Once they realized how effective the method was at catching trout and salmon they adapted the patters to make specific bass flies.

These flies are still in use today. American anglers like Theodore Gordon began using fly-fishing to tackle trout rich streams such as the Beaverkill.

This increases the popularity of the sport. The popularity of fly-fishing in America peaked in the early 20s especially in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont.

The development of cheap fiberglass rods and synthetic flies and lines help to make fly-fishing even more popular. It wasn’t until the early 50s the fly-fishing popularity really peaked.

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