Evolution of Fly Fishing: 7

Fly fishing as we know it in the West today is  said to have originated on the fast, rocky rivers of Scotland and northern England. But precious little except a few fragmentary references were written on  the subject until the publication in 1496 of The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle within The Boke of St. Albans. It is believed to have been written by Dame Juliana Berners and contains, along with instructions on rod, line and hook making, dressings for different flies to use at different times of the year. But the first detailed text appears in two chapters of Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler, which were actually written by his friend Charles Cotton, and described the fishing in the Wye, Derbyshire. In Britain the sport continued to develop in the 19th Century with the emergence of fly fishing clubs, as well as with several books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques. In southern England, dry-fly fishing had the elitist reputation as the only acceptable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the south such as the River Test and the other chalk streams in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire. The weeds in these rivers tend to grow very close to the surface, so it was deemed necessary to develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line on the surface of the stream. It was these techniques that became the foundation dry fly fishing of all kinds. However, there was actually no reason not to employ wet flies on chalk streams, as George E.M. Skues proved with his nymph and wet fly techniques. To the horror of the purists Skues’s books, Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, and The Way of a Trout with the Fly, greatly influenced the development of wet fly fishing. Wet fly fishing was also greatly favoured in northern England and Scotland. One of the leading proponents of wet fly fishing around the early part of the 19th century was W.C. Stewart, who published The Practical Angler in 1857.

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