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The Victorians and Fly Fishing

Saturday, 11 April 2015  |  Simon

The latter half of the 19th century was a time of great change in the fly fishing world. Between 1851 and 1900, conventions that had lasted hundreds of years would be swept away. This was the period in which the false cast was discovered. The dry fly technique came into being as well, split cane rods were perfected, and the template for the modern reel appeared. In ’51, some people fished the fly and bait using the same rod. But by 1900, specialised rods for dry fly fishing were on the market and, as a result, no-one would have dreamed of using a fly rod for anything other than its intended purpose.

In the 1850s, the majority of trout rods were still double handers (typically 12 to 13 feet), but salmon rod lengths were much the same as ever. Spey salmon rods around 18 feet, and Shannon rods longer still. The disadvantage of long rods was that they were very heavy, although they did allow the angler to cover more water. Few anglers had the gear or the technical expertise to shoot line, so twenty-five yards was considered a good cast. But with an an fly fishing expert could manage thirty or even thirty five yards using an eighteen foot rod.

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