The Origins of Fly Fishing: 3

In this third instalment of our series on the origins of fly fishing we’re going to take a look at what England has to offer in the rich and varied history of the sport. Back in 1496 at the “Syan of the Sonne in Flete Street,” printer Wynkyn de Word, a former employee of printing press inventor William Caxton, published a pamphlet called The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle. The pamphlet appeared ten years after Prioress Dame Juliana Berners (sometimes spelled Barnes) of Sopwill, St. Albans published her book, The Bokys of Hawking and Hunting and of Coot Armuris. The treatise on fishing was one of the earliest examples of English printing. The treatise was later combined with a subsequent one to create a single volume work. Some scholars believe that the original was actually created around 1850 and that could well have been taken from even earlier manuscripts which were French in origin.

Although it seems unlikely that the prioress had anything to do with the Treatyse, over the centuries this first British work on the subject of fly fishing has become inextricably associated with Dame Juliana Berners. In the absence of proof positive that it was anyone else. The Treatyse gave a list of twelve artificial flies, and the times to fish them. In spite of references to earlier texts, it was this list that influenced fishermen’s choices of flies for many years thereafter. In later years many other writers borrowed freely from this classic work on fly fishing.

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