The History of Fly fishing


The history of fly fishing dates back thousands of years, and it has evolved significantly over time. Fly fishing is a unique angling method that involves using an artificial fly as bait to lure fish. Here is an overview of the key milestones in the history of fly fishing




Ancient Origins

Fly fishing has ancient roots, with evidence suggesting that it was practiced in various forms in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Macedonian angler, Claudius Aelianus, described fly fishing with a “fly” made from a red wool thread in the 2nd century AD.The natives of that land call the fly species Hippouros. The flies look for food over the Astraeus River never going far away from the fish swimming in the river below. This makes it incredibly easy for the fish to jump and catch the flies.

First, Claudius observes the relationship between fish and the flies that the fishermen intend to impersonate:
“ — when the fish observes a fly on the surface, it swims quietly up, afraid to stir the water above lest it should scare away its prey; then coming up by its shadow, it opens its mouth gently and gulps down the fly, like a wolf carrying off a sheep from the fold or an eagle, a goose from the farmyard; having done this, it goes below the rippling water.”
Claudius then goes on to state:
“[Fishermen] fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in color are like wax. The rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it, thinking it would gain a dainty mouthful from the pretty sight.”



Medieval Europe

Fly fishing gained popularity in medieval Europe, particularly in England and Scotland. The “Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle,” written by Dame Juliana Berners in the 15th century, is one of the earliest known English books on fishing and includes information on fly fishing techniques.





The Emergence of Artificial Flies

Early flies were made from natural materials like feathers and fur. These materials imitated insects, which were a primary food source for fish. Over time, artificial flies became more intricate and colorful.

The Birth of Modern Fly Fishing

The 18th and 19th centuries saw significant developments in fly fishing. Izaak Walton’s book “The Compleat Angler,” first published in 1653, played a crucial role in popularizing fly fishing in England. It emphasized the use of flies and promoted the sport as a contemplative and aesthetic pursuit.



Izaak Walton


The Rise of American Fly Fishing

Fly fishing gained traction in North America in the 19th century, with notable figures like Theodore Gordon and George La Branche making important contributions to American fly fishing literature and techniques.

Technological Advancements

The development of modern materials, such as synthetic fly lines and carbon fiber rods, in the 20th century revolutionized fly fishing. These innovations improved casting distance and accuracy.

Fly Fishing Organizations

Various angling clubs and organizations formed over the years, fostering camaraderie among fly fishers and advancing the sport. The Flyfishers’ Club of London, founded in 1884, is one such example.

Environmental Conservation

Fly fishing has also been closely linked to environmental conservation efforts. Anglers played a significant role in advocating for the preservation of rivers and streams and the protection of fish populations.

Fly Fishing in the 21st Century

In the 21st century, fly fishing has continued to evolve, with advancements in gear and a growing interest in catch-and-release practices to preserve fish populations.
Today, fly fishing is a global pastime with enthusiasts pursuing a wide range of fish species in diverse environments, from freshwater rivers and lakes to saltwater flats and oceans. The sport has a rich history and a strong tradition, with anglers continuing to explore new techniques and innovations while respecting the principles of conservation and sustainability.


General The History of Fly Fishing

The American Museum of Fly Fishing

the catskill fly fishing center & museum

Fishing museum