Anglers choose fly fishing for different reasons, but most commonly, it is the challenge, effectiveness, or the breathtaking locations that draw people into the sport. Pursuing fish on the fly fuels passion for anglers who live, breathe, and bleed for the technique. Over time some of these passionate anglers became household names within the fly fishing community by developing the tactics & products we use today. Rods, lines, flies, and casting methods have passed through years of innovation & technology but evolved from crude examples.
One of the first recordings of fly fishing derived from the 2nd-century Roman angler Claudius Aelianus. The mention of wool, feathers, and a hook cataloged in his writings are essential elements of fly creation today. On account of the angler, he spoke “They have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft . . . They fasten red wool . . . round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in color are like wax. Their 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 from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.” While this may be true that Aelianus was first to mention fly fishing, on the other hand, it is contradicted by William Radcliff. In his book Fishing from the Earliest Times (1921), he gave credit to Marcus Valerius Martialis, born some two hundred years before Aelianus, who wrote: “Who has not seen the scarus rise, decoyed and killed by fraudful flies.”
With attention to later years and further development, what we use today, originated in the 18th century. In this period, rods became jointed, some constructed with bamboo and equipped with rings which assisted distance when casting. A noteworthy angler to mention is Charles F. Orvis, who set the American Fly Fishing Reel design benchmark by developing the first modern fly fishing reel. Given these points, a more in-depth look into the history of fly fishing is available at the American Museum of Fly Fishing and is an excellent resource for learning more about the sport.