History of Fly Fishing - Origin and Development

Fly fishing is method of angling (fishing with a fish hook, rod and line) that uses artificially made “flies” as baits. Although “fly” may look like a modern invention it is known from ancient times.

Picture Of Fly Fishing

Earliest known mention of fly fishing is from texts of Roman author and teacher of rhetoric Claudius Aelianus. He tells, in his text from year 200, of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River which made lures of red wool tied to a hook and feathers of roosters to make them more alluring to fish. Rod that they used was 2 meters long with a line of same length. There is mention that says that Marcus Valerius Martialis wrote in his poetry about artificial lures but it comes from only one source, namely - William Radcliff from 1921. These texts are older than Claudius Aelianus’ by 200 years. Japan developed two methods of fly fishing: “Ayu fishing” and “Tenkara”. “Ayu fishing” (named after the “ayu” fish or sweetfish) is older, starting in 16th century as a method of training and meditation of samurai which were forbidden to practice martial arts and sword fighting at the time (Edo period). They used long rods which could have 5 to 7 meters in length and made their own hooks from needles and dressed them as flies, because only samurai were allowed to fish. “Tenkara” fishing began in 19th century. It uses simpler equipment like bamboo stick, line and a fly without reel.

Fly fishing started being popular in Europe in 15th century when a “The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle” was published. This text was a part of “The Boke of Saint Albans”, which deals with interests of gentlemen of that time, and talked about angling. It contained instructions about rods (which were 4 meters in length then), lines, how to make hooks and flies and which flies to use at different times of the year. After the English Civil War fly fishing gained in popularity and more books about angling were written (“The Experienced Angler”, “Compleat Angler” and other). Some of them are relevant even today.

In 18th century, running rings were added to the rod to give anglers greater control over the cast line. Rods were made from more parts (jointed rods) and upper part was made of bamboo to be more flexible. At the same time, first modern reels were invented. They could turn freely which allowed for lure to drift along with the current. Lines were made of silk instead of horse hair.

Picture Of Fly Fishing Angling Fishing

In 19th century, middle and lower classes joined the sport and it became even more popular. Railway allowed people to visit places rich with fish more easily and to include fly fishing into their hobbies.

Rods made from fiberglass, invented in mid-20th century, were much cheaper that wooden ones which, again allowed even more people to participate in fly fishing. Today, fly fishing has many techniques like: fishing in cold water, dry fly trout fishing, nymphing for trout, still water trout fishing, playing trout and other.