Throughout recorded history men have cast nets and hooks into the sea and rivers in an effort to provide food for themselves and their families. The need to maximize the size of the catch has fuelled the development of fishing methods and equipment.

However, fishing for food is not the only motive man has found for impaling a worm on a hook and dangling it in the water. Man is a competitive creature and to satisfy his competitive instincts and prove himself better than the next guy he devised 'sports-fishing.'

The fascination that large numbers of individuals have for fishing can,in many cases,be ascribed to a desire to outwit the fish. It also provides an escape, as so many hobbies do, from the tribulations we all experience in our everyday lives. Sports-fishing is popular in almost every country of the world and is a pastime practiced by millions.

Fly-fishing-history:Early Fishing Tools

When man first began to fish he used a 'Gorge' rather than a hook (hooks came later). A Gorge consisted of a piece of wood, bone, or stone that had been sharpened at both ends. It was tied to a fishing line of some description, wrapped in bait and the whole thing was tossed into the water. When a fish swallowed the bait the sharpened ends of the Gorge became wedged in its throat allowing the fisherman to haul it in.

A study of fly-fishing-history indicates that the earliest hooks were made from bone about 3000 years ago in southern Europe. They are of a simple design and are not dissimiliar to modern-day hooks.

Early references to fishing with rod and line can be found on ancient egyptian tomb paintings.

Fly-fishing-history:First Flies

The first flies were produced after man discovered, much to his surprise,that covering the hook with feathers fooled the fish into thinking that what was really a piece of sharpened bone was a nice tasty fly. The technique used by these early fishermen was to simply 'lay' the artificial fly on the water's surface. A method similar to 'dapping,' much used on Scottish lochs today.

Fly-fishing-history:Early Rods

To begin with fishermen did not use a rod at all. They used simple hand lines. They found that the most efficient way to use a hand line was from a boat. The line was simply dropped directly into the water.

The next development was to tie the line to a short branch forming a crude but effective rod. And this was how rods remained for many years. It was not until the 4th century that longer jointed rods were used.

Fly-fishing-history:Early Sports Fishing

The first references to fishing with flies originated in England during the 13th century. The fly was described as a hook tied with feathers and was used for fishing trout and grayling. These early flies were used to catch fish for food.

According to the writers of the time, it was not until the end of the 15th century that fly-fishing was practised as a sport by the English upper classes.

An exact date when fishing and fly-fishing were first practised for sport rather than as a means of securing a meal is difficult to pin down. However, an article entitled The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle which was penned by Dame Juliana Berner and published in the Book of St Albans in 1425 is often used to date the birth of sport-fishing.


At some point a wire ring was added to the tip of a fishing rod. We do not know who by, or when, neither do we know what lay behind this innovation. What we do know is that this ring led to the use of running line which in turn led to the introduction of the first reel.

The first reels were simple wooden devices whose sole purpose was to store extra line. Long-casting was impossible with these lines as they were too heavy and the rings that guided the line often became detached from the rod.

So, if the early anglers wanted to take full advantage of the extra line that the reel enabled them to carry than it would be necessary to improve the quality of the fishing-line.

Until this time fishing-lines were simply lengths of uniform-section horsehair and it wasn't until the advent of the first reels that people realised that the lines could be tapered. This discovery led to lines of different tapers being produced which made them easier to use and more accurate.

In England the majority of reels in use at this time were Nottingham reels. They had no gears and they were employed to float baits and lures downstream.

The first reels of quality produced in the United States were manufactured by George Snyder in the early 19th-century.