The beginning of the very honorable and ancient art of fishing is somewhat lost in the hazy legends of the past before men made a pictured or written record of events. Nearly all ancient peoples had their quaint fables on the origin of angling and many of these legends tell us that the art was handed down to men from the Gods, and that would be a reasonable assumption.
The earliest authentic record of angling we find in the Book of Job, written about 1500 B.c. The Lord asks Job: “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook?” Fish hooks are also mentioned by Amos 4:2 written 787 BC, and the prophecies of Isaiah 19:8, written 760 BC, sounding a warning to unrighteous fishermen: “The fishers shall mourn and all they that cast angles into the brooks shall lament and they that spread nets on the waters shall languish.“
In Egypt, the civilization contemporary with the Hebrews, fishing was definitely practiced in early days. Lake Moeris was constructed as a fishing pond about 1500 B. c. and in later days, Plutarch tells of the prank played by Cleopatra on Mark Antony. They were fishing together, and Mark had divers go down and fasten big fish to his hook, which he pulled up in a matter of fact way, like it was an everyday thing with him. However Cleopatra detected the fraud, and invited a number of her friends to come the next day and see what a great fisherman Mark was. Then she had her divers go down and fasten a salted fish to his hook that ended his deception.
The Greeks also loved fishing. Homer mentions the art several times concerning the Romans who understood fly fishing. It really was a passion of theirs and at least one prominent citizen of Athens was ruined financially for spending too much money on elaborate fish ponds. The poet Oppian saved his father from the wrath of the Emperor Severus by writing a book on angling and many other classical writers were interested in the subject.
Although fly fishing was probably practiced much earlier than first mentioned, we have writing by an early author named JElian in his ” History of Animals,” written about 230 AD. In his writings, he describes a fly with a purple body and red hackles that was cast with a rod about eight feet long on a line of the same length and trout fishermen get pleasure when they find out that this pioneer fly was used to catch “speckled fishes.” The fly itself is still in use, being the pattern known as the red hackle. It’s an almost fool proof trout fly and fairly good for bass too. Every true fly fisherman should carry one if only for its association to the original mentioned in history.
Remember the British Isle folk called Anglo Saxons? It’s been said that our Saxon forefathers earned the tribal designation “Anglo ” because of their great skill in hook and line fishing. It’s actually more probable that fly fishing was introduced into the British Isles by the Romans.
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