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The Origins of Fly Fishing: 2

Monday, 17 August 2015  |  Simon

Fly fishing has a long and honourable history, some of it apocryphal, though key historical starting points are known to us. Like other sports, such as football, cricket and even hunting the true origins are almost impossible to ascertain with any certainty. However, an early reference to what may have been artificial flies were made by Homer around 1000 years after the birth of Christ. In 300 BC Theocritus referred to “the bait fallacious,” a phrase which reverberates with the air of deceit. But the first accredited reference to the artificial fly appears in the work of Roman writer, Claudius Aelian, around 250 AD. Aelian wrote about the Macedonians in a region near the river Astracus. He describes how on that river the natives caught fish by means of an artificial fly. He says, “They have planned a snare for the fish and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft. They fasten red wool around the hook, and fit onto the wool feathers that grow beneath a cock’s wattle and which in colour are like wax.”

Early fly fishers wound the cock’s feathers “palmerwise” around the hook, which is a direct link to a fly still popular today, the Soldier Palmer. However, it is completely possible that this primitive form of fly fishing had been going on hundreds of years before it was first recorded by Aelian.

You might want to seek out some of the huge amount of literature that is available on the subject of fly fishing – and take a book with you on your next fishing trip, just in case that trout isn’t biting one day.

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