Link to Ancient history history from 1000 to 1900AD 1900 to Present

Learner Description: The information below has been formulated for groups of adult learners - engaged in online graduate-level recreational courses. They are also appropriate for undergraduate courses in an online environment.

Ancient History of Fly-Fishing

Concept Map - for more info: Ancient, 1000 to 1900 AD, Modern

No one really knows how far back the sport of Fly-fishing began. Chances are, we'll never know - as the origination date is most likely pre-historic. Fishing, of course, has occurred since the dawn of man. Just when someone figured out the concept of a hook is unknown. Archeologists divide prehistoric times into Stone age, Bronze age, and Iron age periods. Hooks were no doubt created in the bronze age, but thorn, shell and bone hooks are also evident amongst prehistoric societies. At some point man began to tie feathers or other materials onto the hooks to resemble baitfish or insects. The Roman rhetorician Claudius Aelian wrote, in about 200A.D. that "…between Borœa and Thessalonica runs a river called the Astræus, and in it there are fish with speckled skins; what the natives of the country call them you had better ask the Macedonians. These fish feed upon a fly peculiar to the country, which hovers on the river. …Now though the fishermen know this, they do not use these flies at all for bait… They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's wattles, and which in colour 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 colour, 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." These Aelian fishermen were probably not the first to practice this method of fishing - and they would undoubtedly be more-than-amazed to observe our modern world of fly-fishing.

 

Fly-Fishing in Medieval Times

Fly Fishing was practiced in medieval Europe as early as the thirteenth century. German writings mention catching trout and grayling using a "feathered hook" around the year 1210. One can find with relative ease manuscripts documenting fly-fishing in the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the most famous works of the period is the Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle from 1496. And then we reach the seventeenth century, which brought about the famous writings of Isaac Walton and his book The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653. Walton had several contemporaries who also wrote about fly fishing including Charles Cotton, Thomas Barker, Richard Franck, and Colonel Robert Venables. These are the first writings that would indicate a "nobility" to the sport of Fly Fishing.

 

Fly Fishing in Modern Times

Fly fishing practices, personality, and equipment continued to evolve and improve throughout the centuries that followed, until the twentieth century, when the Sport took on a new personality through the likes of famous fishermen such as Theodore Gordon and Lee Wulff. Since that time, the innovations and technology have increased at break-neck speed. Fishermen of today often catch fish with fly-rods of space-age materials, using flies combining natural and synthetic materials. The flyfishing of today may include air travel half-way around the world, exotic accommodations and exquisite lodges with fine cuisine, but much more often is the simple group of white and blue collar buddies, in a campground on the water, tying flies and swapping stories about the one that "got away", or a father, son, and friends, in a drift-boat on a western river or wading a limestone bouldered stream in New England.

Fly Fishing is rich in it's history, and it continues to be rich in it's experiences and will always be so - for there is nothing like the feeling of standing knee-deep in a stream, enjoying the beautiful natural world around us, seeing a trout ever-so-gently sipping one's fly from the water's surface, and feeling that sudden tug - that literal connection, between man and nature.

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