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Fly Fishing 15th Century 2

Friday, 17 April 2015  |  Simon

A 15th century treatise on fly fishing differs very little from modern books, in that the angler is advised to stay out of the sight of the fish as far as is possible. They are cautioned to avoid even casting a shadow falling on the water.

The popular view of fly fishing in past times is that it was a very clumsy business. But that’s simply not so.  Fifteenth century anglers were skilled men and women. Not only did they use equipment that today we would regard as totally inadequate, but they caught good trout in numbers large enough to create the environment for truly professional fishing.

Where the fifteenth century fisherman differed from his modern counterpart was in his dependency on weather conditions — the day a fly line could be cast into the wind was hundreds of years away.

The first mention of fly casting was in 1620, by a man called Lawson. Most of Lawson’s fly fishing wisdom, however, is in the form of footnotes to a poem by John Dennys. But the tone of Lawson's writing suggests that he was expert at fly fishing and recommends fishing with “a line twice your rod's length of three hairs' thickness, in open water free from trees on a dark windy afternoon, and if you have learned the cast of the fly”.

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