A HISTORY OF
FLY FISHING FORTROla
BY JOHN WALLER HI3 I S
LA PECHB ES r MA FO1 11
: - .. ':
OF FLY FISHING
OF FLY FISHING
JOHN WALLER HILLS
'La Piche est ma folie
Due DK CHOISEUL (1761)
PHILIP ALLAN & CO.
Printed by WHITEHEAD BROTHERS, WOLVERHAMPTON
CHAPTER I. PAGE
SPORTING LITERATURE IN FRANCE AND
ENGLAND - 1
THE TREATISE OF FISHING WITH AN
ANGLE - - - - 16
FROM THE TREATISE TO THE COMPLEAT
ANGLER ... 36
EARLY FLY FISHING IN FRANCE 49
CHARLES COTTON AND HIS CONTEM-
PORARIES .... 56
FROM COTTON TO STEWART 82
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL - 99
CONTENTS (Continued) .
THE DRY FLY 114
THE EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY 141
THE EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY 170
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING - 191
SPORTING LITERATURE IN FRANCE AND
The sport is so royal that there is neither gentle
nor villein, if it knew of it and loved it well, who
would not be more honoured for that reason by all
who understand it.
Good Sir, if all knew it, would it be less
honoured than it is now?
Nay, rather it would be more honoured, fair
gentle friend, know it well.
La Chace dou Serf.
Translation by Sir Henry Dryden.
HE history of fly fishing begins at
the close of the fifteenth century.
It is true that there is one
isolated record long before this;
for the curious can carry its
story back to the second century
of our era and read in a Roman author an
account of fly fishing for a fish, apparently
the trout, in a river in Macedonia.* But, while
*De Animalium Natura, by Claudius Aelianus, Book 15,.
2 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
there is no reason to doubt the truth of this, the
fact is interesting rather than important, and
for this reason. It had no influence on subse-
quent development : it stands by itself, and was
unknown until a modern writer quoted it as a
curiosity. And as such we can leave it. We
will merely give it a glance as we go by, this
river of Macedon, which no doubt existed and
no doubt held trout, for we have the best reason
for knowing that there were salmon in it The
true history of fly fishing starts with the
Treatise of Fishing with an Angle, attributed
to Dame Juliana Berners and printed in 1496
by Wynkyn de Worde, and is continuous to the
present day. But we cannot understand the
book or realise its measure and importance
without regard to the age in which it appeared,
and to the sporting literature out of which it
England, rich though she is in books
describing the pursuit of game, drew almost
all that she knew from French origins. The
sporting literature of Europe during the Middle
Ages was almost exclusively French. If two
easily remembered dates are taken, the signing
of Magna Charta in 1215 and the battle of
Agincourt exactly two centuries later, that
period comprises everything that appeared upon
sport before the earliest book on fishing was
written. Now there were eight books of
importance written during those two centuries.
Of these five are entirely French, one other was
SPORTING LITERATURE. 3
written in Latin for Charles II., the Bourbon
King of Sicily, and only two have any connex-
ion with England. Moreover, of these two,
only one springs from English soil, and that
was written not in English but Norman French,
while the other, the Master of Game, is a
translation of a French work. When therefore
the first book on fly fishing was written, shortly
after the end of the period, for its date is
certainly not later than 1450 and possibly
earlier, it came into the world against a back-
ground which was entirely French. It arose
out of, and is deeply moulded and conditioned
by, French writings; it is their offspring, and
could be that of none other. Neither its form
nor still less its spirit can be understood unless
something is known of the literature of sport
during those two centuries : something of the
books, and of the men who wrote them; who
they were, the part they played in the world's
affairs and above all their attitude towards
sport. It is a fascinating enquiry, for it leads
us among great books and great men ; but apart
from its charm it is a necessary one. Without
it the earliest English fishing book cannot be
understood. But that book has set its seal deep
on subsequent books, and the impress remains
clear and sharp to the present day. When you
read a good modern fishing book such as Lord
Grey's Fly Fishing you, all unknowingly it may
be, are reading something which can trace a
direct descent from the earliest sporting litera-
4 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
ture in Europe. And so, for that reason too,
these old books have a very modern application.
And that is not all. As the year revolves your
thoughts will turn to other pursuits, and you
may possibly take down from your shelves the
great Peter Beckford's Thoughts on Hunting,
or perhaps Peter Hawker's Instructions to
Young Sportsmen : though I admit that it is
more probable that what you read will be the
newest of the new books on either sport. But
whichever be the case, you are reading some-
thing which is rooted in the past and which
would not take the form it does were it not that
old writers centuries ago had written books now
well nigh forgotten. So, in order tha you may
never forget that all sport is one, whatever be
its manifestation, and that in particular the
fishing book which you may buy to-morrow has
an old and reputable ancestry, it is worth
spending a little time even in a period so remote
as the Middle Ages. So let us look at two or
three of these early books.
The earliest book on the chase, in France or
England, and an instructive and delightful
book it is, La Chace dou Serf, dates from the
middle of the thirteenth century. Appearing
at a time when French prose had not long
emerged, it is, as might be expected, written
in verse. It may possibly have influenced a
later work, for these early writers copied freely
from each other, and to understand them it is
often necessary to go back to their predecessors.
SPORTING LITERATURE. 5
The work in question is Le Art de Venerie, par
mestre Guyllame Twici, Venour le Roy
d'Engletere. William Twici, who wrote in
Norman French about 1327, was huntsman to
Edward II., and we can still read in the Close
Rolls and Exchequer Accounts that he received
a wage of 9d. a day, with 3^d. a day for 'Littel
Will' and ^d. for the keep of each greyhound
and staghound. His book is one of instruction
both in practice and in a knowledge of hunting
terms, written for an age which esteemed this
not the least part of a polite education. The
proper way to hunt the hart, the buck, the boar,
the hare and the fox, what names to apply to
them at different ages, what notes to sound on
the horn in order to signify different incidents
in the chase of each, these and other matters
of diverse and curious learning are to be read
in Le Art de Venerie. It is easily accessible in
Miss Alice Dryden's invaluable A rt of Hunting,
issued a few years ago. It was for long a
standard work, was early translated into
English, and formed the basis of the treatise on
Hunting in the Book of St. Allans, of which
The next book also hails from France : the
Livre de la Chasse was written some time
between 1387, when the author tells us he began
it, and 1391, when he died of apoplexy brought
on by a bear hunt on a hot August day. Its
author was Gaston III., Comte de Foix and
Vicomte de Beam, who, as well as his book, is
6 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
generally known as Gaston Phoebus. He was
lord of two principalities on the slopes of the
Pyrenees. He came of a famous house, which
gave to the world both that other Gaston de
Foix, the young, the gallant, and the unfortu-
nate, who commanded the French at Ravenna
when only three and twenty, and was killed at
the moment of victory : and also Catherine de
Foix, the noble wife of the feeble Jean d' Albret,
and the ancestress of Henri IV. Gaston
Phoebus is an amazing figure even for the end
of the Middle Ages, a time when a ruler's
character, good or bad, could develop exactly as
it pleased. His life was devoted to fighting,
hunting, and the administration of what he was
pleased to call justice, bloodthirsty and specta-
cular. He murdered his only son, yet Froissart,
who visited him at his castle of Orthez, picks
him out as the model prince. Accompanied by
two nobles and forty lances, he crossed Europe
from the Pyrenees to Konigsberg, with two
objects : to fight the heathen inhabitants of East
Prussia, and to hunt reindeer in Sweden. And,
be it noted, after fighting the Prussians, he had
to help to put down a Bolshevist rising ; for thus
does history anticipate itself. He hurried back
to France to quell the Jacquerie, the ferocious
peasant revolt led by Jacques Bonhomme. But
there was no end to his adventures, for his
character had no half tones, but was everything
to excess. When angry, which was often, he
SPORTING LITERATURE. 7
was a murderous savage*; and yet his book is
without question the greatest sporting book in
the world. And it is a direct ancestor of
English fishing literature; for it was rendered
into English by Edward, that Duke of York who
fell at Agincourt, and that rendering, the
Master of Game, formed the model (as I think
I can show) on which Dame Juliana's Treatise
This Edward Duke of York was Master of
Game to Henry IV. of England, his first cousin.
His book, the Master of Game, was dedicated
to Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales, after-
wards Henry V. It were out of place in a book
on fishing to follow the stormy career of Edward
Duke of York. Arch-plotter and arch-fighter,
as he is called by his modern editors, t he is
known to the world as the gallant Duke of York
in Shakespeare's King Henry V., and as the
traitor Duke of Aumerle in his King
Richard II. , and it is difficult to say which
character fits him the better. He probably
began the book in 1405, when he was lying a
prisoner in Pevensey Castle for an act of
villainy more atrocious than usual against his
royal cousin, and of treachery more outrageous
than ordinary against his fellow-conspirators,
*See A Gascon Tragedy (in Excursions in Libraria 1895),
by G. H. Powell, for an unflattering portrait of Gaston de
Master of Game. Edited by Wm. A. and F. Baillie-
Grohman (1904). This sumptuous work contains a good
account of Gaston de Foix and Edward Duke of York and
8 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
and completed it in the following year, when
he was most undeservedly restored to favour
and created Master of Game. But he wrote a
great book, the first book on sport written in
English, and, as I hope to show, the model and
archetype of our immense fishing literature.
By the time of the Duke of York, sporting
books had settled into a form which was never
afterwards abandoned. They begin with a
prologue which sets out the merits of sport
compared to other pursuits, treating its subject
from the loftiest standpoint, and, in the Middle
Ages at any rate, not failing to point out its
spiritual as well as its physical advantages.
Next follow detailed accounts of the natural
history and method of hunting the different
animals; then a description of hounds and
instruments required for the chase, and at the
end there may be an epilogue, modestly com-
mending the book to the public, or perhaps
containing rules which all sportsmen should
follow, or perhaps repeating and re-emphasis-
ing the prologue. This, it will be noticed, is
the form of the Compleat Angler, and indeed,
with the changes that two and a half centuries
bring, of the fishing book of to-day. Izaak
Walton did not originate that form, nor indeed
did the Treatise : it comes from the Master of
Game. So it is necessary to give a short account
of the shape and spirit of that great book.
No one leads a happier or more virtuous life
than the huntsman, says the prologue. He has
SPORTING LITERATURE. 9
health of body, and, since he is never idle,
health of soul too. The joy of being on a horse,
the gallant fellowship of hounds, the exultation
of reporting to his lord the harbouring of some
noble stag, and of hearing the company say :
Lo, here is a great hart and a deer of high
meating or pasturing; go we and move him;
these are great joys. Every incident of the
chase is pleasurable, from the getting up of the
hunter early on a clear and bright morning and
hearing the song of birds and seeing the dew
on twigs and grasses; until he comes home in
the evening, weary but triumphant, sups well
on the neck of the hart with good wine or ale,
and before going to bed takes the cool air of the
evening for the great heat that he has.
Occupied continually on work which he loves,
healthy in mind and body, always in close
contact with nature, the hunter lives a joyful
and virtuous life and goes straight to Paradise
when he dies.
Such is the Prologue to the Master of Game.
It holds the very distilled essence of sport, and
in addition is exquisite prose. No one can read
it and then turn to the Treatise of Fishing with
an A ngle without seeing the similarity between
the two. The Treatise differs only because it
deals with a new sport just differentiated. The
Master of Game proves that the life of sport is
best of all : the Treatise that the fisher's life is
best of all lives devoted to sport. That is all.
When we read Dame Juliana's epilogue on the
10 FLY FISHING FOE TEOUT.
joys of fishing it is difficult to believe that she
did not have the Duke of York's prologue before
her, so much do they resemble each other. Both
treat their sport from the loftiest standpoint.
Both aver that its practice does not benefit
man's body alone, but his soul also; for it leads
him nearer his God by keeping him free from
sin; particularly from idleness, foundation of
all evil. Both claim that it brings man into
contact with nature at her loveliest. It is
difficult to read both, cast as they are in the
same mould, imbued with the same spirit and
composed from the same standpoint, without
coming to the conclusion that Dame Juliana,
if she did not consciously copy, at any rate wrote
under the influence of Edward Duke of York.
All through the book the resemblance continues :
in arrangement, in language and in spirit they
are identical. And any angler who reads that
delightful record of skilled and gallant sports-
manship, the Master of Game, must rejoice
that the earliest record of his craft is grounded
on so noble a model.
But there is another piece of evidence,
which, small in itself, points the same way.
The Treatise refers to the Master of Game as
the standard work on hunting. Now the
Treatise formed part, as will be described, of
the Book of St. Albans. This book is a collec-
tion of four treatises, all ostensibly by the same
author, and one of them is actually on hunting.
Now, if the author wanted to quote a work on
SPORTING LITERATURE. 11
hunting, why did she pass over her own work ?
Such self-effacement is rare among authors.
The inference is, of course, obvious; the portion
on fishing is not by the same hand as that on
hunting, and merely published under the same
cover. But the point I want to make is that
the authoress had certainly read the Master of
Game and refers to it as the model work on
hunting. It is highly probable that it served
also as her model for her book on a new craft.
However, I shall have a good deal to say about
the Book of St. Albans later on in this chapter.
From the Book of St. Albans onwards we
part company with French books. There are
no good ones until modern times, and these are
founded on ours. Henceforth the stream runs
on British soil, and it runs deep and full. But
the debt which we owe to French literature
must not be forgotten, a debt all the greater
because it lies in the domain of the spirit. The
small amount of fly fishing literature which
does exist in France before the nineteenth
century is described in Chapter IV.
We now come to the birth of the first book
on fly fishing, and to the England of Henry
VII. In the year 1486, a year after Bosworth
Field, when Henry of Richmond was settling
himself into his still shaky throne, and
Columbus was trying to get some king to help
him to cross the Atlantic, the schoolmaster
printer of St. Albans, whose identity is still
unknown, printed the Book of St. Albans. It
12 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
treats of Hunting, Hawking and Heraldry,
three essentials of a polite education.
Apparently it was successful, for ten years
later Wynkyn de Worde brought out a second
edition, and probably finding that fishing was
a popular sport, he completed the book by
adding the Treatise of Fishing with an Angle.
It thus became a sort of Gentleman's Manual,
the kind of book which two centuries later
would have been called the 'Compleat' some-
thing : the Compleat Gentleman or the
Compleat Sportsman ; while to-day, in this age
of specialisation, it would have been split up
into a series of text-books. The authoress was
stated to be Dame Julyans Barnes, or Bernes,
a mythical lady whose name has now been
changed by devout disciples into Dame Juliana
Berners, and a romantic though mendacious
biography has been compiled for her. But in
a fishing book it is not necessary to discuss her
existence, for though someone called Dame
Julyans Barnes may have been the author of
the portion on Hunting, so far as the word
f author' can be applied to a work which is only
a compilation produced in an age when literary
property did not exist, there is nothing what-
ever to connect her with the Treatise of Fishing,
which was merely added by Wynkyn de Worde
to make his Manual more attractive.* And
*Though Dame Juliana Berners has been deposed, no
successor has been appointed. Accordingly I shall treat her
as author until a better claimant appears : for it is awkward
to have to cite an anonymous book.
SPORTING LITERATURE. 13
assuredly the Treatise became the most attrac-
tive element in that attractive book, for it went
through sixteen editions or reprints in the
hundred years which followed its appearance,
either with the Book of St. Albans or
separately; and for centuries afterwards
angling writers pirated from it, without
acknowledgment it need hardly be said. And
when open robbery ceased, its influence was no
less great and lasting; for it gave the colour
and tone to fishing literature, and not even the
Compleat Angler itself stamped its mark more
deeply on the sport.
Seeing what it is, seeing how mysteriously
it arose, and seeing, as will appear, that it is
good fishing written in good English, it is
worth enquiring whether it is not possible to
fix its date, even though the writer must
remain unknown. It was printed in 1496, but
its date is earlier. There are indications which
point to a date as early as the first quarter of
the fifteenth century. But in any event it is
as early as 1450. Besides the text printed by
Wynkyn de Worde, there is an older manu-
script text, included in the great collection of
fishing books formed by the late Mr. Alfred
Denison, a collection fortunately still intact.
This Denison text was edited in 1883 by
Satchell, joint author of Bibliotheca Pisca-
toria, assisted by Professor Skeat, high
authorities both. They assign it to a date
before 1450. It differs so much from the
14 FLY FISHING FOE TKOUT.
printed text that it cannot be its archetype,
and yet resembles it so much that the two
cannot be independent translations from
another tongue, such as French. Therefore,
since there are two collateral texts, they must
have had a common English parent, which must
at any rate be older than 1450, and may be
much older. Therefore the Treatise is certainly
about fifty years older than the date of its
appearance in 1496, and possibly older still.
Can any more be said? Can its history be
traced still further back? Only by conjecture.
Some writers have sought to find the original
in some French manuscript, arguing that since
all books on sport were born in France, it is
probable that the first book on fishing came
from there also. It is possible. For myself,
however, an English source seems the more
probable. That is all that can be said. But
whatever the source, the book as we know it
must have a long previous history. A work so
complete and detailed, showing fly fishing in
full swing, with each fish and his habits
described, and with flies copied from nature,
can hardly have arisen all at once. Indeed
Dame Juliana herself disclaims originality.
When talking of the carp she says that certain
baits are good, 'as I have herde saye of persones
credyble and also founde wryten in bokes of
credence.' The books of credence are lost or
hidden; as to the persons credible, could all the
information have been collected and recorded
SPORTING LITERATURE. 15
from oral tradition? That is possible, but so
unlikely that the conclusion appears to be that
the Treatise as we know it is drawn from a
series of manuscripts now lost or unknown.
These books of credence, if English, will
probably never be seen : for England has been
searched pretty closely in the last thirty or forty
years. But if they are French, they may still
lie undiscovered in some French abbey. Blakey,
writing in 1846, says in his Historical Sketches
of the Angling Literature of all Nations, a
readable though unreliable work, that a few
years earlier a paper had been read to a society
of antiquaries at Arras on an old manuscript
on fishing, dating from the year 1000, and
found among the remains of the valuable
library of the abbey of St. Bertin at St. Omer.
Since that paper was read much has happened
at Arras in Artois. Many have gone there
who never heard of it before, and who have
gone there for other purposes than to listen to
learned disquisitions on a peaceful sport; who
have, like Chaucer's squire,
ben somtyme in chevauchee
In Flandres, in Artoys, and in Picardie.
Many have made that journey and have not
returned. If such manuscripts still exist in
Arras in Artois, they will be hard to find.
Such is the history, and such are the probable
origins, of the Treatise of Fishing with an
Angle. It now remains to examine the book
THE TREATISE OF FISHING WITH AN ANGLE
The Angler must intice, not command his
reward, and that which is worthy millions to his
contentment, another may buy for a groate in the
A Discourse of the Generall Art of Fishing,
By Gervase Markham. 1614.
HE Treatise begins with an
account of the delights of fish-
ing. Solomon says that a good
spirit makes a fair age and a
long, and a merry spirit is best
gained by good disports and
honest games in which a man rejoices without
any repentance after. Now, there are four
sports of this character, hunting, hawking,
fishing and fowling, and of these the best is
fishing. It enables a man to eschew all
contrarious company and all places of debate
where he might have any occasion of
melancholy. Perhaps this is the reason why
politicians in all ages have found relaxation
in fishing. Dame Juliana then enquires into
THE TREATISE. 17
the reasons why fishing should be accounted the
best sport. She takes hunting first, of which
the right noble and full worthy prince, the
Duke of York, late called Master of Game, had
already described the joys. Hunting she thinks
too laborious. The hunter must always run
and follow his hounds, travailing and sweating
full sore. He blows his horn till his lips
blister, and when he thinks it a hare full oft
it is a hedgehog. Thus he chases he knows not
what. He comes home at even rain-beaten,
pricked, his clothes torn, wet shod and miry,
some hounds lost, some foot sore. Therefore
hunting is not the best sport of the four.
But hawking, too, is laborious and troublous,
for the falconer oft loses his hawks, and then
is his disport gone. He cries and whistles till
he be right evil athirst. His hawks take
flights on their own account, and when asked
to fly sit and bask. If misfed they get the
Frounce, the Rye, the Cray and other sick-
nesses that cause their downfall. Therefore
hawking is not the best sport of the four.
Fowling is a foolish sport, for the fowler
speeds not but in winter, and in the hardest and
coldest weather. He cannot visit his gins for
the cold. Many a gin and many a snare he
makes, and many he loses. In the morning he
walks in the dew, and, wet-shod and sore
a-cold, does not get his dinner till the morrow,
or goes to bed before he has well supped, for
anything he may get by fowling Therefore
18 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
hunting, hawking and fowling are so laborious
and grievous that none of them induces that
merry spirit which causes a long life.
The sport which does this must be fishing,
and fishing with rod and line, for other
manners of fishing are laborious and grievous,
often making folks full wet and cold, which is
the cause of great infirmities. But the angler
suffers neither cold nor disease nor vexation,
save what he causes himself. The most he can
lose is a line or a hook, of which he may have
plenty of his own making, as this simple
treatise shall teach him. The only grievous
thing that may happen is that a fish break away
after he has taken the hook, or else that he
catch nought, which is not grievous. For at
least he has his wholesome walk at his ease and
a sweet air of the savour of the meadow flowers,
that makes him hungry. He hears the
melodious harmony of birds; he sees swans,
herons, ducks, coots and many other birds with
their broods, which is better than noise of
hounds or blast of horn or cry of wildfowl.
And if the angler take fish, surely then is there
no man merrier than he is in his spirit. Thus
is it proved that the sport of angling induces
a merry spirit, and therefore to all that are
virtuous, gentle and free born Dame Juliana
indites her Treatise, by which they may have
the full craft of angling to disport them at their
pleasure, to the intent that their age may
flourish the more and endure the longer.
THE TREATISE. 19
It will be seen how closely this prologue
follows the traditional sporting model. A
general review of all sports is made, with a
conclusion in favour of the one in which the
writer is interested. In this the book was
followed by other writers, and indeed has set
a stamp on angling literature which has lasted
to our time. Walton, who took his list of flies
from Mascall, who took it from the Treatise,
also followed this introduction ; for his dialogue
is but an expansion of the comparison of the
merits of different pursuits, cast into actual
conversation. In his first chapter* the Hunter
and the Falconer describe the joy of their
crafts, and the Fisherman answers and excels
them. It is very like the Treatise. And in
observations on the joys of nature, and in moral
and religious reflexions, the Treatise both
looked to the past and pointed a hand to the
future : developed by the Compleat Angler, it
determined the form of our angling literature,
and it is itself rooted deep in the Master of
Having established the rank of the craft, the
Treatise describes the angler's tackle. It starts
with the rod, which in that day had to be home-
made. It was in two parts, a 'staffe' or butt,
and a 'croppe 5 or top. The wood for it must
be cut in winter between Michaelmas and
*Of the second and subsequent editions. In the first edition
the Traveller is the principal interlocutor : in the second
edition he disappears, replaced by the Hunter and the
20 FLY FISHING FOB TEOTJT.
Candlemas, heated in an oven, straightened
by being tied to a straight piece of wood, and
thoroughly dried in the smoke. The butt must
be of hazel willow or rowan, six* feet long or
more, as thick as your arm and evenly tapered ;
the pith must be burnt out so as to make the
butt hollow with an even taper inside, a broad
ferrule of iron or brass placed at each end, and
at the bottom a spike made to take out, to
enable you to get at your top, which was carried
inside the hollow butt. The top was in two
portions neatly spliced together, the whole as
long as the butt into which it fitted ; the lower
part of green hazel, and the upper a fair shoot
of blackthorn, crabtree, medlar or juniper.
Bind a double line of six hairs thickness on to
the top at the splice, carry it down to the point
and there make a loop on which to fasten your
line. When you fish you take out your top and
place it in the hole at the top of the butt, into
which it fits ; when you are not fishing put the
top inside the butt, and you will have a rod so
well disguised that you may walk with it and
no one will guess that you are going fishing.
It will be light and full nimble to fish with.
The line is to be of horsehair, white and
round, the longest you can find. Stain it
different colours for different waters, cut off
*Denison Text. An Older Form of the Treatyse of Fyssh-
ynge wyth an Angle. London. Satchell. 1883. It is obviously
the purer text, and I have used it in several places where it
differs from the printed text. Unluckily, it is imperfect, and
does not contain the section on flies.
THE TREATISE. 21
the weak ends (most excellent advice, for it
prevents the weak ends being accidentally
twisted into the line) and twist it on a machine
of which a figure is given. When you have
twisted enough links to make your line, join
them together by a water-knot or a duchess
knot, whatever that may be, and cut off the
waste ends, but not too short, leaving a straw's
breadth. This again is excellent advice, and
as useful now for gut as it was four hundred
years ago for horsehair.
Hooks are the most subtle and hardest part
of your craft. You want a whole armoury of
tools, of which a really admirable figure is
given. For small hooks use the smallest
square-headed steel needles that you can get;
for larger ones embroiderers' needles or
tailors', or shoemakers' awls, which are
specially good for large fish. Heat your needle
red hot in a charcoal fire, cool it, make the barb
with your knife and sharpen the point. Then
heat it again and bend it into the shape of the
very excellent figure which is given; test the
temper of the point, flatten the shank and file
it smooth so that you can lash your line to it,
heat it again and plunge it in water ; thus will
it be hard and strong.
To fasten the hook to the line, take fine red
silk, for small hooks single, for large ones
doubled, but not twisted. Another excellent
piece of advice : the best modern book on
dressing salmon flies, Hale's How to Tie
22 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Salmon Flies, tells you to take the twist out of
your doubled tying silk before using it. Take
a few close turns of the tying silk round the
line; then lay your line on the inside of your
hook, and starting at the end of the hook fasten
on the line two thirds of the way up to the
bend ; then turn back the waste end of your line
and for the last third of the way lash it on
double, and finish off round the shank of the
hook with the well-known whip finish and draw
These directions for making tackle have been
given at length in order to show their excel-
lence. Not only are they excellent; they are
modern. The casual reader, misled by the
archaic English in which the Treatise is
written, and above all by some of the clumsy
plates with which it is embellished, especially
the frontispiece and that of the rod, may think
that the practical part of the book is worthless.
This is quite untrue : the rod, which in the
picture looks like an ungainly pole, is really
light and flexible : a hollow butt, a springy
middle joint of hazel, and a light yet tough
top make up something which would throw a
fly uncommonly well.*
It is necessary to understand this, if we are
to form a picture of the time. The fisherman
cannot practise the refinements of his craft
unless properly equipped, and, save in one
*This was first pointed out by Mr. R. B. Marston in
Walton and the Earlier Fishing Writers. (1894).
THE TREATISE. 23
respect, he was so equipped. True, his rod,
which must have been between twelve and
eighteen feet long, seems large to our thinking.
It must not be forgotten, however, that its
hollow butt and hazel middle joint made it light
for its length. Cotton, too, who fished skilfully
enough to satisfy the most critical, used a rod
fifteen to eighteen feet long, a single-handed
rod too. The fact is that before the reel was
invented the long limber rod was essential if
you were to kill big fish without being broken,
and indeed long rods survived years after the
invention of the reel, for as late as the first half
of last century Ronalds says that a strong man
can use one of fifteen feet. The short rods we
now use are a modern invention.
The one exception to the excellence of Dame
Juliana's tackle is her line. It must be
confessed that she did not fish fine. In fact,
very much the contrary. Lines are to be used of
varying thicknesses for different fish, starting
with a single hair for the minnow, and running
up to fifteen hairs for the salmon. The trout
is to be fished for with a line of nine hairs, and
the great trout with one of twelve. It must
be admitted that these are monstrous thick
lines. Lawson, writing one hundred and
twenty years later, tells you to use a line three
hairs thick : and Barker, thirty years later
still, says that you can kill the greatest trout
that swims on a single hair, if you have sea
room, and that a single hair will kill five trout
24 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
to one taken by a line of three hairs twisted.
Cotton used double hair, except for a very small
fly, when he used it single, and for the mayfly,
when he used it treble. With double hair a
man who could not kill a trout twenty inches
long deserved not the name of angler. Finally,
Franck, a contemporary of Barker and Cotton,
speaks with wonder and awe of a certain Isaac
Owldham, who used to fish salmon with a line
of three hairs only next the hook. All these
authors, be it remembered, are speaking of
fishing with no reel, and to kill a four pound
trout on a single hair without a reel, or a
twenty pound salmon on three hairs,* is a feat
few modern anglers would care to attempt. So
we must remember the disadvantages under
which early fly fishers suffered when we criticise
their clumsy lines. Still, when all allowances
are made, it must be admitted that the lines in
the Treatise are unnecessarily heavy.
But there is another point we must
remember, too, and that is the method of fly
fishing which prevailed then and long after.
Casting downstream with the wind behind you
and using a hair line which though thick was
light, it was possible to keep nearly all the line
off the water. Early writers insist on this,
that your fly must alight before your line, and
*When Duncan Grant killed his big fish in the Aberlour
water of the Spey, after playing it all night, he had thirty
plies of hair next the fly ! And this was at the beginning of
the nineteenth century !
Scrope. Days and Nights of Salmon-Fishing. 1843.
THE TREATISE. 25
as little of it as possible must touch the water.
And also some of them give directions enabling
you to keep your fly near the top after you have
cast, and flies were specially dressed to swim
on or near the surface. Therefore, though the
line was thick, nearly all of it was in the air,
and consequently much less visible to the trout
than if it were in the water. The line, too,
though it was thick, was made of white and
translucent horsehair, and was less conspicuous
than might be imagined.
The hooks, if the plate can be taken as a
guide, and it probably can, were not large.
Measured across the bend they run from about
2 or 3 to 15 on the modern scale, but they are
shorter in the shank and thicker in the wire.
So much for the rod, line and hooks : what
about flies ? The Treatise gives a list of twelve,
a famous list, pirated by Mascall from the
Treatise, by Walton from Mascall, and from
him by numberless lesser writers for hundreds
of years. So interesting are flies that they
want two chapters to themselves, and are
described in Chapters VIII. and IX. It is
only necessary here to deal shortly with Dame
Juliana's list. Out of her twelve flies, eleven
can be identified. That is rather wonderful,
but I believe it to be incontestable. The eleven
are her first Dun Fly, which is the February
Red, dressed with a partridge feather for wing
and a brown body, as it is dressed to-day;
her second Dun Fly, which is the Olive Dun;
26 ELY FISHING FOE TROUT.
the Stone Fly; the Red Spinner, which is her
fly made of roddyd (i.e. ruddy) wool; and her
Yellow Fly, which is the Little Yellow May
Dun. The Dun Cut of Dame Juliana is the
Yellow Dun, the name having survived until
the nineteenth century.* Then her Maure
(mulberry coloured) Fly and Tandy (tan
coloured) Fly, with a body of tan coloured wool
and wings of the lightest mallard, tied back to
back, can be nothing but two dressings of the
Mayfly in different states. The Wasp Fly, with
a black body ribbed with yellow, speaks for
itself. The Drake Fly, with its black body and
dark mallard wing, is uncommonly like the
modern dressing of the Alder. Lastly, the
Shell Fly is the Shell Fly of Ronalds, with a
dressing very similar, in spite of three and a
half centuries. Thus it is possible to identify
clearly eleven out of the twelve. The remaining
fly is the Black Louper, appearing in May,
which seems to have been a hackle fly, and
corresponds to our Black Palmer or Coch-y-
Bonddhu, but cannot be identified exactly.
The important thing, however, is not the
exact identification of these flies more than four
hundred years after they were described,
remarkable though that is, but the recognition
*i.e. the Yellow Dun of Ronalds, not to be confused with the
other Yellow Dun, his Little Yellow May Dun. See also
Practical Fly Fishing by Arundo (John Beever) 1849, p. 18.
He describes a fly he calls the Spring Dun, which is the
summer dressing of the Olive Dun, and gives Dun Cut as one
of its synonyms. Sir Humphry Davy too gives Dun Cut as a
synonym of the Yellow Dun.
THE TEEATISE. 27
that they were copied from nature. That is
clear. The Treatise tells you when you take a
big fish to open his stomach and see what is
therein, and use that; the first mention of
autopsy, usually imagined to be the most
modern of modern devices. This is not said
especially of fly fishing, but it can perfectly well
be applied to that. Not only are the flies copied
from nature, but they are uncommonly good
copies, considering the limited materials then
available. And moreover the time of year at
which the natural fly appeared has been
observed. Altogether, fly fishing has passed
No directions are given either for dressing
or for casting the fly. The general fishing
maxims can be summed up in a few sentences :
keep well off the water and out of sight, keep
your shadow, too, off the water, and cast over
rising fish. Strike neither too slow nor too
quick nor too hard. When you hook a fish do
not be in a hurry to land him, but tire him out
and drown him. Do not let him come to your
line's end straight from you, but keep him
under your rod, so that your line may sustain
and bear his leaps and plunges with the help
of your top and your hand.
This last sentence gives the classic instruc-
tions for playing a fish with no reel. You must
keep your fish under the curve of your rod,
which, being long, light and flexible, takes the
strain and relieves the line. If you do not, if
28 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
you let him run to the end of your line, as
more than one writer puts it, that is, get your
rod and line in one straight line, he will break
you to a certainty. Now it is clear that, if a
fish runs straight away from you, you must,
if you wish to keep a full curve on your rod and
use its flexibility to the utmost, carry it back
over your shoulder more and more the further
the fish is away, so that finally you are in the
attitude so commonly figured in old prints, your
rod thrown right back over your shoulder, and
the butt pointing towards the fish. This
position, 'shewing the fish the butt, 5 as it is
called, was strangely misunderstood in reel-
using days. It was thought that the object of
this ungainly attitude was to put the greatest
possible strain on a fish, and Francis Francis
is at some pains to show that this is not what
it does. Nor has he any difficulty in doing so,
for so far from putting the greatest you are
putting the least strain on the fish, and the
greatest on the rod. You are using the rod to
its utmost pliability, and indeed making a
demand on it which no modern stiff rod could
answer. Ronalds, who advocates a flexible rod
as long as fifteen feet, puts the matter right.
The beginner who has hooked a fish should, he
says, get his rod up over his shoulder, and
present the butt end to the fish, for thus he can
make best use of the rod's pliability. If the
reader will think it out, he will see that no
better rule can be given than to point the butt
THE TREATISE. 29
straight at the fish, for, whatever position he
be in, this makes the best use of the elasticity
of the rod.
The truth is that playing a fish is no longer
the art it was. A heavy fish on fine gut is
difficult with the best of modern reels; imagine
what it must have been without any. In those
days you really had to play your fish, and to
tire him out with hand and rod. Now he
largely plays himself, and yet he often breaks
The trout is in season from March to
Michaelmas, and whenever it or the grayling
are seen rising, they are to be fished for with
an artificial fly, suiting the fly to the month.
Elaborate baits are given for the trout and for
all other fish, but they are not our business.
They were largely copied by Walton, and many
are used to this day. The trout is a right
dainty fish, and also a right fervent biter. He
loves clean gravel and streams.
Fly fishing for salmon was not unknown.
When a salmon rises he may be taken with a
fly as a trout or grayling; but, adds the author,
it is seldom seen.
Directions are given where to fish. In a
pond, which is but a prison for fish and where
fish are hungry as prisoners, there is no need to
be particular, but choose a place of moderate
depth. In a river, the best place is where the
water is deep and the bottom clean, such as
gravel or clay, which is free from mud or weeds.
30 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Especially choose a whirling water, or where
there is good cover for fish, such as a hollow
bank or great tree roots or floating weeds. Deep
water, waterfalls and weir pools are also
recommended ; 'and it is good for to angle where
as the water restyth by the bank and where the
streme rennyth nyghe there by, and is deep and
clear by the ground.' As a fisherman reads
these words, there must come into his mind
many a vision of clear and quiet waters flowing
gently under a bank, with a strong stream
running near thereby, and noble trout rising in
the quiet water.
Advice as to time of day and weather follow.
From May till September the early morning
from four till eight is best, and from four to
eight in the evening next best. A dark lowering
day with a cold whistling wind, or with a soft
wind, are both good. If at any time of the
day the trout or grayling rise, fish for them
with a fly, choosing one appropriate to the
month. This advice is repeated no less than
three times. Weather which is either bright
and hot or sultry is unfavourable, and so is a
wind with any touch of East in it. West and
North winds are good, but the best is the South.
Heavy winds, snow, rain, hail, or a thunder-
storm are all bad.
The Treatise, which started upon general
observations, ends on the same note. It started
by describing the perfect sport and ends with
a picture of the perfect fisherman. His duty
THE TREATISE. 31
towards the sport, towards his neighbour,
towards the poor and towards his God is
depicted from the loftiest standpoint, and set
out in language rarely equalled for dignity and
grace. No base action must mar the angler's
practice and no base motive enter his heart.
He must studiously respect the rights of others,
particularly of the poor. The fish are to be
protected in all ways possible, and vermin are
to be destroyed. The sport is to be followed
for its own sake, not from mercenary motives
or for material gain, and never to excess; but
as a noble recreation, which will bring you
solace and health of body. Nor of body alone,
for your sport, of necessity a solitary one, gives
you an opportunity of serving God devoutly,
repeating earnestly your customary prayer. By
so doing you will avoid many vices, especially
idleness, foundation of all evil. All they who
follow these rules shall have the blessing of God
and Saint Peter; which he them grant that
with his precious blood us bought.
That concludes the Treatise. What impres-
sion does it leave ? How did a fisherman fish,
in this year 1496, when Bosworth Field was a
memory but eleven years old, when John Cabot
was sailing towards Newfoundland, when
Erasmus was about to visit Oxford, when
Luther was still a schoolboy, and when Wynkyn
de Worde had just succeeded to Caxton at
Westminster? How will his equipment, his
knowledge, and his practice compare with ours
32 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
at the present day? It is a long time truly
since that year 1496, and many things have
changed in the interval, sport among them.
Gone are the hawker and the fowler, their
occupation merged in that of the shooter.
Eishing has changed too. Perhaps hunting,
especially hunting the hart, has altered the
least : for were Gaston de Foix or Edward Duke
of York to be present at a meet of the Devon
and Somerset staghounds they would find
essentials unaltered. And when the harbourer
told them of the stag he had harboured, what
signs of venery he had noted, and what
conclusions he drew as to its size and age, why
he and they would talk the same language,
though five hundred years did separate them.
But what about the fly fisher ? How did he fish
at the end of the fifteenth century, when the
Wars of the Roses were over and the Reforma-
tion yet to come ?
Success in fishing depends on three factors :
the angler's equipment, his knowledge of
fish life, and his skill in making use of these
in presenting the fly to the fish. From the
Treatise we know much about the first two
factors, but hardly anything of the third, for
we do not know how a fisherman fished. He
was not handicapped by his equipment, if thick
lines are excepted, and even this handicap could
largely be neutralised by keeping the rod point
high and the line off the water. There is
nothing wrong with his flies, though it must
THE TREATISE. 33
not be forgotten that we do not know what they
actually looked like, nor must it be assumed
that because a modern dresser could make excel-
lent flies out of the old dressings they were made
with equal care over four centuries ago. But
after making all allowances, it is safe to assume
that his flies, though more coarsely dressed,
larger in the wing and thicker in the body than
those used now, still were fairly serviceable.
The rod, from twelve to eighteen feet long,
single-handed, was light and stiff yet springy,
and with a following wind or on a still day
would cast a hair line with delicacy and enable
the fisherman to put his fly accurately and softly
over a rising fish. So much for equipment.
The fisherman's watercraft also was not
wanting. He knew that he must keep out of
sight and keep his shadow off the water. He
knew that his fly must imitate not only a
natural insect but the one which was up at the
moment ; and that if he had any doubt all he had
to do was to open a fish's stomach and see : and
it is therefore not too much to say that he was
told to use an imitation of the actual fly which
fish were taking. He knew where to look for a
rising fish. And he knew that whenever fish
were rising they would take the artificial if the
right one were found; and putting all this
advice together we come amazingly near the
practice of fishing for individual rising fish
with a copy of the fly they were taking. 'From
Apr ill tyll Septembre y e trough lepyth, thenne
34 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
angle to hym wyth a dubbyd hooke, acordynge
to the moneth/ The resemblance, however, must
not be pressed too far. To do so would be to
make the mistake of reading modern ideas into
the loose language of an old writer. And caution
is particularly necessary owing to the fact that
the Treatise does not say how the fisherman
used his fly. We are told nothing of the third
factor, presentation. Casting the fly is not
mentioned until Lawson wrote, a century and
a quarter later. The fly must have been cast,
but how we know not. It can only have been
cast down wind or in a calm, for the rod and
line used could not have cast up wind. The
rest is guess work. Whether the fly was thrown
up or down stream, whether it was allowed to
float with the current or was drawn across or
against it, whether it was kept near the surface
or allowed to sink, we are not told. But it is
not a very extravagant guess to assume that the
usual practice was to fish down stream and to
draw the fly, keeping it near the top of the
water. It is pretty clear, too, that a windy, or
at least a breezy, day was chosen, and a cloudy
day was thought best; a dark day with either
a soft wind or with no wind at all is considered
the best of any. These indications point to an
art in its infancy, but on the other hand it is
not too much to say that the advanced know-
ledge of fishing lore which the Treatise shows
must have carried with it an equal degree of
skill in the application of that knowledge to the
THE TREATISE. 35
business of catching fish. That is all that can
be said. It is dangerous to exaggerate the
resemblance to modern times and to attribute
to the writer refinements of which she was
ignorant. Fly fishing is in its infancy and has
a long road to travel before three pounders are
caught in still and sunny June on 4X gut and
000 flies. But it is as great a mistake to over-
look the high degree of knowledge which every
line of the Treatise shows, and the more it is
studied the more profound grows the conviction
of its excellence and of the high standard of
practice which it presupposes.
FROM THE TREATISE TO THE
And in mine opinion I could highly commend
your Orchard, if either through it, or hard by it,
there should runne a pleasant Kiver with silver
streams ; you might sit in your Mount, and angle
a peckled Trout or sleighty Eele, or some other
A New Orchard and Garden,
By William Lawson. 1618.
,LY FISHING made no big
advance for a century and a
half after the publication of
the Treatise. That book, the
standard work, went through
sixteen editions or reprints in
the hundred years that followed its appearance.
The England of Henry VII. had passed into
that of Henry VIII., of Mary and of
Elizabeth : Charles I. had lost his head and
the Lord Protector ruled, before a school of
writers arose who carried the art a long way
forward. However, its history is not wholly
FEOM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 37
barren in this century and a half. The demand
for the Treatise shows that fishing was a
popular sport, and fly fishing in particular
marked some progress. Its story centres in
the names of three writers, Leonard Mascall,
William Lawson and Gervase Markham.
A Booke of fishing with Hooke & Line by
Leonard Mascall appeared in 1590, the year
which saw the publication of the Faerie Queen,
and the year before the production of Love's
Labour's Lost, the first play which can with
certainty be assigned to Shakespeare. It ran
rapidly through four editions. Mascall was a
diversified writer and produced a well known
book on grafting fruit trees; he also wrote on
trapping vermin, on poultry, hygiene, cattle
and horses, and on removing stains from silk
and velvet. The Book of Fishing is a mixture
of odds and ends of information about fishing
and fish preservation collected from many
sources. It falls roughly into two parts. The
more important deals with fish culture, of
which Mascall was a pioneer, and is original
and valuable, and pf itself gives Mascall a
high place. The other part, directly concerned
with fishing, is not original, for it is largely
copied from the Treatise and other sources,
and, moreover, not only is it copied, but there
are numerous silly mistakes in the copying.
But, for all that, to fishing in general and fly
fishing in particular Mascall made a certain
contribution. Flies, he says, are to be used on
38 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
the top of the water ; the Ruddy Fly in particu-
lar, our Red Spinner, is a good fly to angle
with aloft on the water, and all flies are to have
the foundation of their bodies of cork, which
would make them buoyant. This is interesting,
for cork bodies are generally thought quite
modern. In June, July and August the arti-
ficial fly fished at the top of the water is the
best lure and also the one most used, which
shows that fly fishing was widely practised and
that fishing knowledge had advanced. When
you fish with the fly for the trout you must
strike when he is a foot or more from it, he
comes so fast. There speaks the fly fisher,
fishing perhaps for small fish. On the other
hand the Treatise, dealing chiefly with bait
fishing, bids you be not too hasty to smite nor
too late, for you must abide till you suppose that
the bait is fair in the mouth of the fish and then
abide no longer. The true rule was not given
till Cotton said that you should strike a small
fish quick but wait till a big one had turned
his head. All these useful bits of knowledge
are, so far as I know, original. Mascall is also
the first to describe the double hook, of which
he gives a figure.
Mascall is the earliest English writer on fish
preservation. He inveighs against fishermen
who kill all through the year, including the
breeding season, which he puts at from mid
March to mid May; it is that which makes
fresh fish so dear and rivers so badly stocked.
FROM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 39
Many owners too let their waters without
reserving a close time. He gives careful direc-
tions about destruction of vermin : the heron,
otter, water rat, kingfisher, cormorant, dab-
chick, coot and osprey are all condemned, and
very excellent advice is given about protecting
fish spawn. Altogether, the book is a combina-
tion of good and bad. Mascall, in such parts
as he pirated, is so careless that often he does
not trouble to see that what he writes makes
sense, but in what appears to be original he is
good. He clearly was a good sportsman : the
preservation of fish was what chiefly interested
him, and he remarks bitterly that there are
many that kill fish but few that save and pre-
Mascall was the channel through which the
Treatise reached Walton. This is proved by
the names of the flies. Mascall copied the
Treatise's list; but of four flies, either through
misreading or intention, he gives names dif-
ferent from those in the Treatise, and in every
case Walton gives the same. Thus the fly made
of 'roddyd' wool becomes the Ruddy Fly, and
the Dun Cut, Maure Fly and Tandy Fly of the
Treatise become respectively the Sad Yellow
Fly, the More or Moorish Fly and the Tawny
Fly in Mascall. In all four cases Walton fol-
lows Mascall, not the Treatise. Markham also
copied Mascall, not the Treatise, but differs
slightly from him, and where he differs Walton
follows Mascall, not him. None of the three
40 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
books is mentioned in the long list of writers
cited in the Compleat Angler. Walton must
have read Mascall; there is no evidence that
he read the Treatise.
Fly fishing is not mentioned by John Dennys
in his much quoted but still beautiful poem,
the Secrets of A ngling, published in 1613. This
work is some of the best poetry ever written on
sport and is one of the finest didactic poems
on any subject. Indeed I am not sure that it
does not even comply with Swinburne's stern
but indisputable canon, that nothing which
can possibly be as well said in prose ought ever
to be said in verse. However that may be, and
there will be difference of opinion both as to
the rule and its application, there can be no
doubt that the Secrets stands out amongst
angling verse. Perhaps this is not saying
much, for it must be confessed that many fish-
ing poets are in the same case as the Christian
poet Prudentius, of whom it was said that he
was altogether a better Christian than poet.
Dennys stands in a high class, with Gay, with
Sir Henry Wotton, with Doubleday's fine son-
net, with the best of Stoddart, with Andrew
Lang and with a few others. His poem, too, is
a good description of contemporary methods,
and contains the first mention of the whole
cane rod, the landing net, and the wicker creel.
However, it does not mention fly fishing; but
the second edition published about 1620, as well
as some later ones, were edited by William
FROM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 41
Lawson. Beyond the fact that he was certainly
a north countryman, probably a Yorkshire man,
and wrote on agriculture and gardening, noth-
ing is known of Lawson. But he has a marked
place in the history of fly fishing; his notes to
Dennys are so entirely original and written in
so attractive and individual a style that it is
exasperating that he did not write more, or
that more is not known about him, more especi-
ally as his New Orchard and Garden shows that
he possessed a real eye for nature and could
write rather charming English. However, we
must be grateful for what we have. He recom-
mends a pliant rod, not top-heavy, which is a
great fault, and is very particular about his
hooks, which he made himself from Spanish
and Milan needles, though by that time hooks
could be bought and had no longer to be home-
made : The best forme for ready striking and
sure holding and strength, is a strait and
somewhat long shank and strait nibed, with
a little compasse, not round in any wise, for
it neither strikes surly nor readily but is weak
as having to great a compas.' He gives an
admirable figure of three hooks to illustrate
his views. When Dennys expends a stanza in
explaining what wind is best Lawson adds this
laconic note : 'I finde no difference of windes
except too colde or too hot, which is not the
wind but the season.' Altogether a most sensible
man; every note of his is vigorous and terse.
His fame as a fly fisher rests on a long note to
42 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Dennys' description of the trout. This fish,
says Law son, gives the most gentlemanly and
readiest sport of all, if you fish with an arti-
ficial fly, a line twice your rod's length of three
hairs' thickness, in open water free from trees
on a dark windy afternoon, and if you have
learned the cast of the fly. That is the first
mention of fly casting. Your fly must imitate
the Mayfly, which Lawson thought was bred of
a caddis and called the Water Fly, and he gives
a picture, the first ever given of an artificial
fly. It resembles a house fly on a hook more
than anything. The colour of the body must
change every month, starting with a dark
white, and growing to yellow as the season
advances. The body should be of crewel of a
colour appropriate to the month, ribbed with
black hair, the head of black hair or silk, and
the wings of mallard teal or pickled (speckled)
hen's wing. 'You must fish in, or hard by, the
stream, and have a quick hand and a ready eye
and a nimble rod, strike with him or you loose
him. If the winde be rough and trouble the
crust of the water, hee will take it in the plaine
deeps, and then, and there comonly the greatest
will arise. When you have hookt him, give him
leave, keeping your Line stright, and hold him
from rootes and he will tyre himself e. This is
the chief e pleasure of Angling.' It is difficult
to beat that description. He evidently knew a
great deal about the habits of fish. 'The Trout
lies in the deep, but feeds in the streame, under
FHOM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 43
a bush, bray, foame, etc.' He says also that
May, June and July are the best months, which
alone proves him a fly fisher. In the evening a
fly with a short line moved on the crust of the
,water under trees or bushes is deadly, provided
you are well hidden. This, now called dapping
or daping, he calls bushing.
One advantage the fisherman enjoys lies in
the attractive character of those who have
written on the sport. Gervase Markham is an
instance. Bred a soldier, and having served in
the Low Countries and as captain under Essex
in Ireland, he soon abandoned arms for litera-
ture, but he brought into his new profession a
quality which he may have learnt in his old,
an irresistible propensity to loot. He lived by
literature, and lived exceedingly well. Few
who come across him have a good word to say
for him, and truly he is hard to defend, for he
is doubly condemned by his contemporaries.
The London stationers, tired of his habit of
writing or annexing several books on the same
subject and selling them under different titles
to different houses, combined against him and
made him sign an agreement which can still be
seen, promising to write no more books on the
diseases of horses or cattle. And Ben Jonson
called him not of the number of the faithful
but a base fellow. Thus he stands convicted
both as a man of integrity and as a man of
letters. But before Markham is condemned as
a man of letters it must be remembered how
44 FJ.Y FISHING FOR TROUT.
hasty were some of Ben Jonson's judgments,
mighty critic though he was ; for did he not tell
Drummond of Hawthornden that Donne de-
served hanging for his lack of numbers and
that Shakespeare wanted art? And as to
Markham's integrity, let it not be forgotten
that he lived in an age not famed for literary
scrupulosity, in which the law of copyright
was very different from what it is to-day. In
his time authors sold their books outright to
stationers, who printed and published them,
and if Markham robbed at all he robbed them.
Far be it from me to defend robbing publishers,
but robbing authors of the fruit of their brain
as well as of their cash has always been con-
sidered the more shameful crime. However,
the chief thing to be said in his defence is that
he was not, and never pretended to be, a man
of letters. He has been called the earliest
English hackney writer, and that is a true
description, but a truer one would be a writer
of text books. Were he alive now, he would
give us text books on agriculture, text books on
sport, text books on cooking. He started by
writing on horsemanship when he was five and
twenty, and during his life he occupied himself
in turns with poetry both sacred and profane,
agriculture, medicine, romances, plays, gar-
dening, hunting, veterinary science, racing,
fishing, cockfighting, archery, fowling, hawk-
ing, heraldry, household economy and military
drill and tactics. He wrote a poem on Sir
FROM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 45
Richard Grenville and the 'Revenge' which
without doubt served as Tennyson's model. He
is reputed to have imported the first Arab
horses, and to have sold one to James I. for
500. He knew Latin, French, Italian, Span-
ish and probably Dutch. He possessed a prose
style which was fluent, accurate and not dis-
agreeable. If he stole, he stole good matter.
He popularised and preserved books [which but
for him would be unknown or lost, and he un-
doubtedly added to the sum of general know-
ledge of his day. He had a keen eye for the
popular taste, tireless industry and an immense
circulation, and when the account is cast and
the balance struck not only his contemporaries
but posterity also is deeply in his debt.
My copy of Markham is a late edition, when
it had grown to a fat volume. Its pages are
stained and worn, as though thumbed by many
a rushlight : and I imagine it the treasured
possession of some country house, handed
down from father to son, taken out reverently
on winter evenings. For it contains everything
the country dweller or his wife wants to know.
Care of horse and hound ; improvement of bar-
ren soil ; cost in time and labour of every opera-
tion of husbandry; treatment of all kinds of
cattle in health and sickness and the growing
of every kind of crop; how to bake, brew and
cook; household surgery and simple medicine;
fishing, shooting with the long bow, bowling,
tennis, and the baloone; the dieting of fighting
46 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
cocks and the husbandry of bees; planting of
orchards and management of hawks ; the order-
ing of feasts, preserving of wine, and the
secrets of divers distillations and perfumes :
all these and much more can be learnt from
His treatment of fishing is typical. In 1613
he published The English Husbandman, which
does not mention fishing. Now, in this same
year, appeared Dennys' Secrets of Angling.
Markham's quick observation was doubtless
caught by this work, for when in the following
year he produced the Second Book of the Eng-
lish Husbandman, it contained a Discourse of
the Generall Art of Fishing with the Angle or
otherwise : and of all the hidden secrets belong-
ing thereunto, a good deal of which is the
Secrets pirated into prose. Though the Dis-
course was published over and over again as
Markham's, it has been suggested that Lawson
either wrote it or helped to do so. I am con-
fident he did not write it, for his style is very
different from that of the sober text book writer
Markham. But it is quite possible that he
helped. The two men were closely associated
in literary work, and Lawson' s New Orchard
and Garden was repeatedly issued with Mark-
ham's treatises under a collective title. More-
over it is obvious that the dressings of flies in
the Discourse have been revised by a master
hand, and we know that Lawson was a master,
while of Markham's skill we know nothing.
FROM TREATISE TO COMPLEAT ANGLER. 47
But it is impossible to be certain, and we must
take the Discourse as we find it. It is taken
partly from Mascall, partly from Dennys and
part is original. On the whole it is well put
together, and forms a good general treatise. I
have no doubt that its compiler was a fisher-
man, and what is more a fly fisher. Rods,
Markham tells us, are to be bought in great
variety in nearly every haberdasher's shop.
Artificial flies are to be moved upon the waters
the first time the advice to draw your flies
appears and will then be taken greedily. He
repeats Mascall's advice to strike before the
trout takes the fly. Chiefly, however, in his
dressing of trout flies does he show an advance.
He took Mascall's list, but in many cases he
changes the dressing, and in most he amplifies
it and makes it more accurate. Indeed, if you
compare the two lists it is clear what happened :
someone, whether Markham or Lawson or
another, who was himself a practical fly
dresser, used Mascall's list as his basis, went
through it fly by fly and rewrote the dressings
so as to make them complete and unambiguous,
neither of which they originally were. In cer-
tain cases, too, he gives dressings different from
Mascall's, and altogether polishes them up and
gives the finishing touches. Whether that
someone was Markham himself or Lawson I
cannot say. However all this will be treated at
greater length in the chapter on flies. He is
the first writer definitely to recommend you to
48 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
copy natural insects, and he tells you to have
natural flies before you when you dress the
artificial. His Discourse is included in most of
the innumerable republications Markham's
works went through.
This however is the sum of the advance of
one hundred and fifty years, and truly it is not
great. The implements remained much the
same. The fisherman used a long rod and no
reel, and, if he followed Markham, who recom-
mends five hairs and two threads of silk for
trout, a thick line. But under the surface other
forces were moving. Lawson, in advance of
his time, shows that there existed in the north
of England a school of practice higher than
anything previously known, a school which was
to reach its apex first in Cotton, and two cen-
turies later in Stewart, north countrymen both.
But this was below the surface, and its time
was not yet. For the rest, fishing was immensely
popular. Every haberdasher's shop sold rods,
while creels, landing nets, hooks and other
tackle could readily be bought, and any book-
seller could get you a copy of one of Markham's
multitudinous works. The world was ready for
the big movement which the next half century
was to bring.
EARLY FLY FISHING IN FRANCE.
La Peche est un des plus agreables passe-temps
qu'on puisse prendre a la Campagne, & celuy qui
renferme le plus de secrets ; elle est divertissante,
utile & aisee a exercer, pour peu qu'on ait de
Traitte de toute sorte de Chasse
et de Peche. 1714.
HIS chapter is a digression, for it
is necessary to go back, and to
collect what little there is of
early fly fishing in France. It is
very little : I know of no mention
of the fly before the eighteenth
century, and there are not many books before
that which even mention the rod. But do not
let it be thought that French literature is barren
and uninteresting. It is nothing of the sort;
it is rather charming, and would repay more
study than it has received. But the rod is
much less often mentioned than with us. On
the other hand nets and other engines were more
highly developed than in England.
It is difficult to say why this difference
50 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
should have arisen. A modern writer has
started the ingenious theory that it is due to the
fact that in France fresh water fish were treated
entirely as food; while England, with her
extensive coast and plentiful supply of sea fish,
could afford to use her rivers and lakes as
sources of sport. But this theory is untenable.
Before the days of quick transport and cold
storage, fish could not be carried far inland;
and our rivers and ponds were important food
preserves, whilst sporting rights were worth
little. Salmon nets and weirs were extremely
valuable, and are mentioned in numberless legal
documents ; whilst rod fishing for salmon could
be had for the asking. Whatever the reason
be, the fact remains. The earliest book in
England on fly fishing was written during the
Wars of the Eoses, whilst I know of no French
book which mentions the artificial fly earlier
than the reign of Queen Anne. It is true that
there is one extremely early French book, but
unfortunately its connexion with the artificial
fly is too slender to stand examination. How-
ever, the book is one worth describing.
During the thirteenth century there appeared
in France a Latin poem called de Vetula, the
Old Woman. It was fobbed off on the world
as a work of the Latin poet Ovid, and its mani-
fest inconsistencies, anachronisms and absurdi-
ties were bolstered up by a rigmarole of a story
that it had been recently found in the poet's
tomb. Ovid, it should be said, was a favourite
1-ARLY FLY FISHING IX FRANCE. 51
mark for forgers of the Middle Ages. It ap-
pears to have obtained some credence, for it was
printed several times, the last as late as the
second half of the seventeenth century; but
modern scholarship had no difficulty in
demolishing it. Its authorship has now been
traced. It is the work of one Richard de
Fournival, Chancellor of the Cathedral of
Amiens and author of poems which won some
estimation in their day. A French version of
the Vetula was produced in the fourteenth cen-
tury by Jean Lefevre, Procureur au Parlement
in the reign of Charles V. of France. This
work, called La Vieille, written in rhyming
couplets, is a jumble of medieval reflections on
life, medieval manners and medieval amuse-
ments, a symbol of that strange epoch in the
mind of man. But it contains something of
value. Against a background which is half
childish, half superstitious, and wholly porno-
graphic, there are good descriptions of contem-
porary pursuits and customs. Music, chess,
games and sport are described, fishing in-
cluded. There is an excellent account of cur-
rent methods of fishing; spears, nets and eel
baskets are depicted : trout, carp, pike, chub,
barbel, bream and roach are mentioned and so
are lines, floats, plummets and hooks : and there
occur the following lines. The spurious Ovid
is speaking, as he speaks throughout :
D'autres engins assez avoie,
Par lesquelz decevoir povoie
52 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
A litres poissons es eaues douches,
A morceaulx de vers ou de mouches.
It is tempting, but would be wrong, to think
that the last line refers to artificial flies. The
pieces of fly with which Ovid baited his " en-
gines " must I am afraid have been natural
flies, for besides the fact that this is the obvious
meaning, he goes on to say that a fish trap of
osier was one of these engines, whilst the only
equipment mentioned which could possibly be
used for fly fishing is a hand line, and this is
said to be leaded and with a cork float, and
therefore not precisely adapted for throwing a
There is a long gap after Jean Lef evre, a gap
from the reign of Charles V. to that of Louis
XIV., and even then the fly is not mentioned.
It is true that a famous book had appeared in
the interval, for Charles Estienne had produced
his Maison Rustique at the middle of the six-
teenth century, a remarkable work which all
Europe read for hundreds of years, and out of
which William Cobbett nearly three centuries
later taught his children farming and field
sports. But it does not mention the rod. The
first book which does is Les Ruses Innocentes,
which, published in 1660, went through four
editions before the end of the century. Its
author was Frere Frangois Fortin, Religieux,
* The book has been printed : La Vieille, ou les Dernieres
Amours d'Ovide. Edited by M. Cocheris. Paris 1861. M.
Cocheris' Introduction is a model of bibliographical and
EARLY FLY FISHING IN FRANCE. 53
de Grammont, dit le Solitaire Inventif . It is
a most practical manual on fowling and snaring
generally, chiefly remarkable for its really
admirable illustrations, which are both well
drawn and well reproduced. And there is a
section on fishing, which makes it quite certain
that the Inventive Solitary was a born angler ;
for he says that all his elaborate rules are use-
less, unless you know how to time your strike
rightly. It is true that his book shows distinct
traces of the Treatise, or possibly of Mascall,
notably in the description of the rod, but in
spite of that it is a work of high originality.
It deserves more attention that it has received,
and luckily it is still easy to get. It gives the
first illustration I know of an eyed hook and of
the triangular landing net, now so common, of
which the author claims to be the inventor. Of
its sixteen fishing plates, most of them no doubt
of nets, are three of rods, hooks and lines. The
fly is not mentioned. The two fish which
chiefly interested the Inventive Solitary were
the carp and the pike. He made his rod of
two pieces, a hollow butt of holly or hornbeam
and a top of whalebone, and when carp ran
large he used a forerunner of the reel. He
took a slip of wood four inches long, with a
notch at each end, and passed his line, just
below the point of his rod, through one notch.
Then he wound some yards of spare line round
the slip and passed the line through the lower
notch. A big carp when hooked pulled the line
54 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
off the notch, when it unwound itself off the
slip, and thus he played himself. This inven-
tion is not original, for the principle was used
all the world over for a fixed line or hand line,
and I think I have seen it mentioned in pre-reel
days, as a means of holding slack line in your
left hand ; but I know of no one who used it as
did Frere Francois For tin, fixed to the line
itself, and working automatically.
Nearly fifty years more had to pass, and
Louis XIV. was not far from the end of his
long reign, before the artificial fly appeared.
In England the Treatise was two hundred years
old, Lawson, Venables and Cotton had
equipped fly fishing for its long journey, the
reel had been invented and modern times are
near, before there is any French book mention-
ing fly fishing, of which I can find any trace.
The earliest I know is the Traitte de toute sorte
de Chasse et de Peche printed at Amsterdam in
1714. It is I believe a reprint of Louis Liger's
Amusemens de la Campagne, 1709. I have not
seen this edition of this well known book, but I
have seen later ones, and these, as well as the
Traitte, I believe to be identical with the first
The Traitte was largely pirated from the
Ruses Innocent es, whose admirable illustra-
tions were stolen wholesale. But it has some-
thing quite new, for it contains a detailed
description of five artificial flies. The dress-
ings are by no means bad and, as will be seen
1 ABLY FLY FISHING IN FRANCE. 55
in Chapter IX., some can pretty certainly be
attributed to natural insects. But more in-
teresting still is the question where they came
from. The writer cannot have originated
them, for he clearly was writing at second
hand. They were not copied from the list in the
Treatise, or from any other book I know of. I
suspect they came from some French source
which I have missed.
No directions are given either for making or
casting the fly; and the method of its use is
stated only in the vaguest generalities. It is
claimed, says the Traitte, that with these flies
trout can be fished for successfully with hook
and line; and that the fish, attracted by these
different colours according to the different
seasons, is easily beguiled. And it concludes,
'la prove merite qu'on eprouve ces secrets,'
which shows that the writer had no personal
experience of the fly.
That concludes all that I know of fly fishing
in France before modern times. It is a long
way behind England ; for Frere Frangois Fortin
was a contemporary of Walton, while Liger
came half way between Chetham and Bowlker ;
and, in either case, we move into a different
world when we reach England. We must now
go back and return thither, to describe a mar-
CHARLES COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES.
To fish fine and far off is the first and principal
Rule for Trout Angling.
The Compleat Angler,
By Charles Cotton. 1676.
.ERVASE MARKHAM closes the
first epoch in the history of fly
fishing. The second opens with
Barker in 1651 and ends at or
shortly after Cotton's book in
1676. In this period, exactly
a quarter of a century, five writers wrote :
Barker, Walton, Franck, Venables and Cotton.
All five resembled each other in being practical
fishermen, but otherwise were as different as
men could possibly be. They approached their
task from different points of view and with
widely different temperaments and equipments.
Indeed this company of five, who had so deep
an influence on the history of fly fishing, are the
most diversified crew who ever embarked on the
same boat : you could hardly imagine a collec-
tion of such opposites; had they all met
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 57
together, which thank heaven they never did,
there is no subject on which they could have
agreed except fishing, and there would have
been broken heads over that. Let us see who
First of all there is Captain Richard
Franck,* Cromwellian trooper and Indepen-
dent, fisherman and religious mystic, possessor
of the most turgid and pedantic style with
which mortal was ever afflicted. Sir Walter
Scott, who brought out an edition of his book,
says that his only equal in the rage of fine writ-
ing is Sir Thomas Urquhart, but as I have
never read that famous translator of Rabelais,
I give the palm to Franck, who is unsur-
passable. The style of the book may be judged
from its title : Northern Memoirs, Calculated
for the Meridian of Scotland. Wherein most
or all of the Cities, Citadels, Seaports, Castles,
Forts, Fortresses, Rivers and Rivulets are com-
pendiously described. Together with choice
Collections of Various Discoveries, Remark-
able Observations, Theological Notions, Politi-
cal Axioms, National Intrigues, Polemick In-
ferences, Contemplations, Speculations and
several curious and industrious Inspections,
lineally drawn from Antiquaries, and other
noted and intelligible Persons of Honour and
Eminency. To which is added, The Contem-
plative and Practical Angler by way of Diver-
*Franck's book was not actually published till 1694, but it
was written in 1658 to which date it belongs.
58 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
sion. With a Narrative of that dextrous and
mysterious Art experimented in England, and
perfected in more remote and solitary Parts of
Scotland. By way of Dialogue. Writ in the
year 1658, but not till now made publick, by
Richard Franck, Philanthropus. Plures necat
Gula quam Gladius.
After this remarkable title the book starts
with eleven* Prefaces, Dedications, Recommen-
datory Poems and what not; before you reach
the preface proper you must wade through ad-
dresses to my Worthy and Honoured Friend,
Mr. J. W. Merchant in London : to the Vir-
tuosos of the Rod in Great Britain's Metropolis
the famous City of London : to the Academicks
in Cambridg, the place of my Nativity : and to
the Gentlemen Piscatorians inhabiting in or
near the sweet Situations of Nottingham, North
of Trent. After the Preface you must read or
skip six poems, from friends to the author or
from the author to friends, before you finally
reach the book itself. When there, you will
have a good laugh, but you will not, I think,
But in spite of his abominable style, Franck
was a right good fisher. Not a doubt of it.
Through all the obscurities and irritations of
his writing, this fact shines like the sun
*It may be mentioned that The Faerie Queen had no fewer
than four and twenty such Dedications. But as seventeen of
these were sonnets by Spenser himself and six more poems
by his friends, of whom Ealeigh was one, the world has not
found occasion to grumble at their number. Franck sins in
quality rather than quantity.
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 59
through fog. He is chiefly a salmon fisher, for
he is the first who wrote from experience ; and
as he travelled in Scotland from the Border to
Sutherland and back, he naturally had plenty
of that. Unfortunately, words attracted him
more than things, and bombastic reflections
more than observation and description : fishing
is overlaid with a worthless mass of moral dis-
quisition, just as any account of the state of
Scotland in 1658, the year of Cromwell's death,
which might be of great interest and value, is
sacrificed to a turgidity which is often hardly
intelligible. Still, something of fishing value
can be recovered, and it is all to the increase of
Franck is known chiefly for his attack on
Walton, whom he calls a ' scribling putationer,'
a ' mudler,' ' deficient in Practices, and in-
digent in the lineal and plain Tracts of Experi-
ence, who stuffs his Book with Morals from
Dubravius and others, not giving us one Prece-
dent of his own practical Experiments, except
otherwise where he prefers the Trencher before
the Trol ing-Rod : who lays the stress of his
arguments upon other Men's Observations,
wherewith he stuffs the undigested Octavo.' Sir
Walter Scott comments drily that any reader
must wish that Walton, with his eye for nature
and his simple Arcadian style, had made the
journey instead of Franck.
Next to him comes Thomas Barker, a Shrop-
shire man, but living in Henry the Seventh's
60 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
gifts, next door to the Gate-house in Westmin-
ster. A Cromwellian too is Barker, but of a
different stamp, a cook and not a soldier, em-
ployed, at the Lord Protector's charge, in cook-
ing for foreign ambassadors who come to Lon-
don. He asks our pardon for not writing
' Scholler like,' but he can readily be forgiven,
for he produced a wholly excellent book, copied
by Walton for fly fishing and fly dressing, the
first which advises fishing fine for trout, and the
first which mentions the reel. The book is full
of amusing turns and phrases, and as he goes
along Barker pauses from time to time and
sums up his subject in verse : verse which never
fails to dwell on the supreme importance of
cookery. But he is also full of good fishing
knowledge, as we shall see. He tells you, too,
that you can buy the best tackle from Oliver
Fletcher at the West end of St. Paul's at the
sign of tibe Three T routs, the best hooks from
Charles Kirby (first mention of a famous house)
in Shoe Lane, Harp Alley, Mill Yard, and the
best rods from John Hobs at the sign of the
George behind the Mews by Charing Cross.
Every fisherman should read Barker.
The next is another Cromwellian, and a dis-
tinguished one too. Colonel Robert Venables
had a long and honourable military career, and
rose to a high position in the Parliamentary
army. He commanded a regiment in Ireland,
where he found time to fish as well as to fight.
But Cromwell took him away from his fishing
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 61
and gave him command of the expedition
against the Spaniards in the West Indies,
which though unsuccessful resulted in the add-
ing of Jamaica to our growing empire. A
quarrelsome man was Robert Venables, and it
was his quarrels with Admiral Penn which
caused the expedition to miscarry. Cromwell,
who forgave not failure, clapped both general
and admiral into the Tower, but Venables was
pardoned, though deprived of his general's
commission. At the Restoration he followed
Monck, who made him governor of Chester.
But Charles II. passed him over, and it is prob-
ably to this fact that the world owes a first-rate
fishing book. Walton, though a stranger to
Venables, wrote an introductory letter to it, full
of delicate flattery.
So far three of the five are Cromwellians : the
other two are royalists, and they, you will ob-
serve, keep slightly to themselves, not very sure
of the company into which chance has thrown
them. It is superfluous to say much about
Izaak Walton and the Compleat Angler.
Possibly no single volume except the Bible is so
well known by name, and few are more widely
esteemed. True, it contains nothing original
on fly fishing, but it is not as a writer on fly
fishing or even on fishing generally that Walton
is read, for he is an idyllist, a moralist, an ob-
server of nature and a master of a prose style
which lives because it is individual. The book
is of immense importance in a history of fishing,
62 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
both for its qualities and for its influence. A
historian must always regard a work of this
character from two points of view, for he must
assess the value of the book itself and also the
effect it had on subsequent writers, and it may
be that he will reach different conclusions in the
two cases. So it is with Walton. His Compleat
Angler itself it is difficult to praise too highly;
but a critical judgment of its influence is a
much more complex matter. Walton stands high
as a writer, and possibly would stand higher
jwere it not for the laudation to which he has
been subjected. He has suffered sadly at the
hands of his admirers and of his disciples : his
admirers have indulged in unbalanced and
indeed intemperate panegyric, which has de-
tracted from his real merit : whilst his disciples
have either assiduously copied his weaknesses,
or, if they have attempted his excellencies, have
only succeeded in producing a caricature. His
book has been an obsession to subsequent
writers, which has lasted to the present day,
and has been an influence by no means entirely
for good. For this he is not to blame : but no one
who has waded through the many books in dia-
logue form which strew the two hundred years
following him books in which the dialogue,
measured by that in the Compleat Angler, is as
a dull and lifeless canal running between
straight banks compared with the winding
reaches of some shining river but must have
wished irreverently that the master had chosen
COTTOX AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 63
to cast his thoughts in some other mould than
the dialogue. For assuredly dialogue is at once
the most difficult of all literary forms, and also
the most dangerous, for its apparent simplicity
lures the unskilled to his irretrievable disaster.
Charles Lamb was right, as he usually is in
literary judgments, when he said that Walton's
book is the only treatise written in dialogue
which is worth a halfpenny, for in him every-
thing is alive, whereas in others the interlocu-
tors are merely abstract arguments personified.
And no one who has sighed over the manner in
which countless writers have used Walton's
name as a meaningless tag or as a peg on which
to hang dull disquisitions or borrowed reflec-
tions, or have felt it necessary to present their
experiences in a shape which though suitable to
Walton in the seventeenth century is utterly in-
appropriate to another writer in another age,
but must have impiously wished that he had
possessed a style less individual and a point of
view less dangerous to copy. This much, at
any rate, is certain, that many writers on fish-
ing would have produced better books if they
had not tried to copy him, but had written in
their own everyday style. Indeed it is not too
much to say, though it sounds blasphemy, that
the more a book refers to Walton, the worse
book it is. Walton is thereby most unjustly
discredited, and his name gets associated with
sham archaism, tiresome periphrasis, and
irrelevant sentiment. If there are any who
64 FLY FISHING FOB TROUT.
feel this, and I know there are some, will they
take a word of advice from one who has
travelled the same road ? Let them go back to
the Compleat Angler itself, or to one of the
Lives, that of Sir Henry Wotton for choice, and
they will find that they read it with delight and
refreshment. Walton is not one of the great
English prose writers, but he is one of the most
pleasing. The charm of his style lies in the
revelation which it gives of the man. Behind
the printed page there always stands Walton
himself, shrewd and critical, but also tolerant
and kindly. As we read he seems to be watch-
ing us with wise and steady eyes, to fathom
our wishes before we know them ourselves, and
to instil into our minds a harmony for which
we have been searching unconsciously. No one
has better adapted style to matter, or has
known better how to show what is best and
deepest in his subject, even when dealing with
what appears transitory or trivial. For him
love of fishing was woven inextricably with love
of books and love of English country life. Every
fisherman is deeply in his debt, for there are
certain aspects of fishing difficult to express
which no one has shown better than he. He
himself owes a debt, it is true, to the Treatise,
from which or from a source common to both he
took both his presentation of the subject and
his mental attitude towards it. But to admit
this is no disparagement : he assimilated its
spirit and remoulded it, he handed on more
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 65
than he had received, and he tended and kept
alive a flame which otherwise might have
Charles Cotton, a Royalist too, devoted friend
and spiritual son of Izaak Walton, wrote what
is perhaps all round the best book on fly fishing
ever written. The affectionate friendship be-
tween these two men has always surprised those
who do not know the binding force of a common
sport : Walton, the retired tradesman, the
friend and biographer of good and pious men,
and Cotton, the dissolute aristocrat, the spend-
thrift courtier, writer of obscene poetry. But
there was an affectionate intimacy between
them, and Walton visited Cotton and fished his
beautiful Dove. Cotton writes like a man of
the world and a man of letters. His prose is
pleasant and clear, and though he cannot
handle dialogue as Walton and there are traces
of that incipient woodenness of which later
years were to show so many examples, still the
book can be read for itself for the pleasure of
its good English. Cotton, Barker and Ven-
ables between them, Cotton more especially,
place fly fishing on a much higher level than
anything before them. They all contributed,
and none of them can be spared : and it is worth
spending some time on seeing what they did,
and where the sport stood when they had done
There are four great landmarks in fly fishing.
The first is imitation, the copying of the colour
66 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
and shape of the natural insect. The second
is presentation, when action as well as colour
and shape is copied, and the fly is cast in
such a manner as to come over the fish in the
same way as the natural insect does. The third,
the practice of casting over individual rising
fish, is presentation also, to a higher degree.
And the fourth is both imitation and presenta-
tion in their highest forms; the copying of
shape and colour, the copying of motion, and
individual fishing, all combined in the use of
the floating fly.
The first landmark occurs at the beginning
of things. All flies described in the Treatise
are copied from nature. The second and third,
upstream fishing and fishing for individual fish,
appear among Cotton's contemporaries. The
last, the dry fly, was not to come for nearly two
Venables is the first writer to mention up-
stream fishing. He discusses the merits of up
or down in words which might have been writ-
ten yesterday. The upstream fisher maintains
that he is not seen by the fish, and that if you
fish down stream you and your rod and line are
all visible. But the downstream man retorts
that you obviate this by using a long line. Let
it be noted that at this early date the two
schools are differentiated as they are differen-
tiated today : those who use a long line down
stream and those who use a short line up.
Further, says Venables, upstream fishing in-
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 67
volves heavy wading, means covering less water,
and most important of all, tends to make you
line your fish. Indeed, he says, it must; for
either your line falls directly on the fish, or it
comes over him before the fly. Venables,
summing up the argument, decides in favour
of upstream in small brooks, but downstream
in big rivers, chiefly owing to the disagreeables
of wading, in his time practised without
waders. The point to notice however is not
his actual decision, but the fact that in the
seventeenth century, nearly two centuries
before Stewart, upstream fishing is fully
So much for the second landmark, upstream
fishing. The third, fishing for individual fish,
is implicit in fly fishing from the beginning,
and must have been practised, but is first men-
tioned in Chetham's Anglers Vade Mecum
1681, a good treatise, though largely pirated.
He says that when you see a trout rise, you
should cast the fly behind him and draw it
gently over him, and then if your fly is of the
right colour and you scare him not, he's your
own. Not very scientific, but still individual
In Cotton's day trout were fished for with
either a single or doublehanded rod. Both
were long, the single rod running up to eigh-
teen feet and the double to twenty-one. Rods
were spliced, not jointed. Cotton praises
specially Yorkshire rods, with butts of fir,
68 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
made of six, eight, ten or twelve pieces spliced
together, tapering like a switch and playing
with a true bent down to the hand. Hazel
was however the favourite material, though
some used cane with a hazel top; whalebone
was generally used for the actual point.*
Venables' favourite top was four feet of hazel,
two feet of blackthorn or crabtree, finished off
with whalebone. The rod tapered evenly from
butt to point. The common phrase to express
this is the curious one rush grown,' that is
tapered like a rush, or as Dennys says, 'In shape
and beautie like the Belgicke reed;' nearly
every author of Cotton's date uses the expres-
sion. Home-made rods had largely gone out.
The line, of twisted horsehair or of hair and
silk mixed, was tapered from as many as twelve
or even twenty hairs down to a casting line
which was one, two or at most three hairs thick.
Lines were made specially heavy for fly fishing,
as they were easy to cast. Plain horsehair was
commoner for the line than hair and silk mixed.
Venables dislikes the mixture and subsequent
experience proves him right. Hair and silk
mix badly, for wetting affects them differently,
and the strain comes all on one or all on the
other. For the Mayfly Cotton used a casting
line of three hairs twisted, for ordinary fishing
double hair twisted, and single hair for very
small flies. Double hair untwisted he thinks
stronger than twisted, but it has the disadvan-
*Spey salmon rods are still made with a tip of whalebone.
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 69
tage that unless the lengths are evenly matched
all the play is on one hair, and also the open
hairs are apt to entangle your hook, especially
in rough water. Single hair is generally too
fine, but never use more than double, for he who
cannot kill a trout twenty inches long with it
deserves not the name of angler. Barker, on
the other hand, says that you can kill the great-
est trout that swims on single hair, if you have
sea-room, and that single hair will kill five for
one killed by three hairs twisted. Venables
liked a casting line of Lute or Viol string, but
it must be changed often as it quickly rots.
Perhaps it was he who taught this secret to a
great man. On 18 March 1667 Mr. Samuel
Pepys writes in his diary : This day Mr.
Caesar told me a pretty experiment of his ang-
ling with a minikin, a gutt-string varnished
over, which keeps it from swelling, and is
beyond any hair for strength and smallness.
The secret I like mightily.' Pepys' enthusiasm
opens vision. What a fishing book he might
have written; did he ever fish with Walton, or
buy flies from Barker, at Henry the Seventh's
gifts next door to the Gatehouse at Westmin-
ster? Did he ever spend a rollicking night
with Cotton, drinking and singing and talking
of fishing and women? Wonderful man, wrote
Byron of Scott, how I should like to get drunk
with him ! A night with Pepys and Cotton
would have been well worth a headache.
About this time a substitute called Indian
70 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Grass or Indian Weed began to be used instead
of hair for the casting line proper. The first
mention I know is in an advertisement at the
beginning of the second edition of Chetham
(1700) : At the Sign of the Fish in Black Horse
A lley near Fleet Bridge liveth Will Brown who
maketh all sorts of Fishing-Rods and selleth
all sorts of Fishing Tackle : also Charles
Kirby's Hooks, with Worms Gentles and Flys :
and also the East India Weed, which is the
only thing for Trout Carp and Bottom Fishing.
It must then have been comparatively new, for
the advertisement goes on to say that it is
brittle and must be soaked in water for half
an hour before use; it then proves strong and
fine and more invisible than hair or silk. It is
frequently mentioned through the eighteenth
century until superseded by gut. I have never
been able to find out what it was.* One fly only
was used. The reel was not used in trout fish-
ing. It is first mentioned by Barker in 1651
for trolling, and by Walton in 1655 for salmon.
Barker gives a figure of it, incomprehensible
except that it fastened with a spring clip, but
luckily there is a picture of it in Venables 5
frontispiece. It appears to have been an ordin-
ary barrel winder, without check. Barker used
to have twenty-six yards of line on his reel for
salmon fishing and he carried a gaff and he had
a parchment fly book also. The trout fisher's
basket was exactly like ours.
The greatest attention imaginable was paid
*See note on page 81.
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 71
to the fly, which was invariably copied from
nature. Markham tells the fisherman to have
natural flies in front of him, and to copy their
shape and colour. In fact, actual imitation of
the living insect was just as much a common-
place in the seventeenth century as it is now in
the twentieth, for it is recommended not only
in the great books, but even in trivial treatises.
Peacham's Compleat Gentleman (1634), for ex-
ample, which contains a few pages of unenter-
prising generalities on fishing, yet has this :
'For the making of these flyes the best way is
to take the naturall flye, and make one so like
it that you may have sport : for you must
observe what flyes haunt the water for seasons
of the yeare, and to make their like with Cot-
tons, Woole, Silke, or feathers to resemble the
like.' Cotton gives the dressings of sixty-five,
all original dressings, and Barker and Ven-
ables, though they describe general flies, base
their case on imitation. Chetham gives twenty,
nearly all modern names. The fly on the water
was always used when it could be ascertained.
You are recommended to look on the bushes, or
to examine a trout's stomach. Chetham tells
you to use a microscope to examine the flies
you find in it, which is wonderfully like to-day.
Particular flies were recognised as suitable for
particular districts. South country flies then
as now were larger and fatter than those of the
north, which were dressed slim, with little
hackle and the body not carried far down the
72 FLY FISHIXG FOE TEOUT.
hook, and each were recognised as useless out-
side their own area. Cotton hung a fat-bodied
London fly in his parlour window to laugh at,
and on the other hand admits that his slender
north country flies proved little use to a Lon-
don friend. Different flies were used too for
night and day. Barker tells a matchless story
of fishing from sundown till six in the morning
to provide trout for a dinner his patron, Ad-
miral Lord Montague, was giving, and how
he caught a mighty dish on three flies, helped,
it must be admitted, by lobworms, a white fly,
a red fly and a black one, 'the white flye for
darkness, the red flye in medio and the black
flye for lightnese.' Barker, by the way, calls
them palmers, but they had wings, as the dress-
ing shows. When told that the fish were wanted,
Barker 'went to the door to see how the wanes
of the aire were like to prove, 5 and returned
answer that he doubted not, God willing, but
to be provided at the time appointed. Having
caught his trout, he tells with gusto how he
cooked them : trouts in broth, four dishes of
calvored trouts, whatever they may be, marion-
ated trouts, broiled fried stewed and roast
trouts, trout pies hot and cold and so on, over
a dozen dishes. One would like to have been
at that dinner, and one would like to have seen
the packed basket which Barker brought home
that summer morning. Venables says that flies
dressed on double hooks set at an angle of a
quarter of a circle were used for tender
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 73
mouthed fish such as grilse or grayling. There
is nothing new in the world, for double hooked
flies are usually supposed to have come in at
the end of the nineteenth century. Venables
expressly says that he means hooks with points
at 90 and not opposite each other, such as had
recently come in for trolling. This double hook
is very old, for it is figured in Mascall.
The two, or rather three, schools of practice
which have always divided fly dressers were
already distinguished. Granted that you
should copy nature, you can copy her in vary-
ing degrees. You may have special artificials,
such as the Grannom, the Alder, the Iron Blue,
the Mayfly and many others, which imitate one
species only and nothing else. Or you may
have general flies, imitating a group of species,
such as the Ginger Quill, which imitates a
Light Olive or a Pale Watery; or such as the
Hares Ear Sedge, which is a fair copy of
several sorts of sedges; or the Partridge and
Orange, which imitates both the February Red
and the nymph of the Blue Winged Olive.
Lastly, there are fancy flies, which imitate not
a species nor a genus nor a group, but fly life
generally; such as the Wickham, the Red Tag,
or Stewart's three Spiders. It is rather
remarkable that specific imitation, the most
highly developed, comes first in history. All
flies in the Treatise seem to be exact copies, and
it is not till Cotton's time that general and
fancy flies appear. Cotton himself, however,
74 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
believed chiefly in exact imitation. His flies
are copied from nature, though he did not
reach the point of fashioning the wings of
duns, which are upright, different from those
of sedges or the stonefly, which are flat. But
he had general flies, too, such as the hackle and
silver twist, which he got up early on the
second morning to dress. Chiefly, however, he
relied on exact imitation: he dressed them
larger or smaller, lighter or darker, according
to weather and water, but always they repre-
sent a natural insect. His contemporaries,
however, used general or fancy flies more than
he did. A light coloured fly for a clear day, a
red or orange fly for a thick water, a dark fly
for dark weather, a black or brown fly for a
whitish water, says Venables. Barker goes
further, and gives five general flies for use all
the year, besides individual flies, such as the
Mayfly and Hawthorn fly, which he copied. So
here for the first time appears the real division,
between those who copy the fly and those who
attune themselves to weather and water.
All Cotton's sixty-five flies have names,
some of which have survived, but the most
interesting list is that given by Chetham in an
appendix. In the body of his work he merely
pirates Cotton, but in the appendix he gives
a quite different list, stated to be used by a good
angler. The dressings are wonderfully modern,
and so are the names also; starling wing
appears for the first time. Cotton gives the
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPOEARIES. 75
ever useful hint that when you cannot see what
the fish are taking, you should try a small
hackle. Venables noticed for the first time that
trout usually do not come 'on' a fly until it is
fairly plentiful, and that they take it best when
it is just going off, when they will often refuse
other flies even if on the water. He also
noticed that occasionally they changed from
one fly to another two or three times a day.
Cotton's dressings are good. It is difficult to
know what his flies looked like, for the same
dressings produce different results in different
hands, and it is easy to exaggerate his excel-
lence. But he insists on a slender body carried
not too far down the hook, and of this he makes
a great point. The thick bodied London
fly he condemns utterly. Chetham's dressings,
however, are far the best of any of his
Concealment was got not by kneeling or
crawling, as we do, but by standing well off
the bank, and throwing a long line, fishing,
as Cotton said, fine and far off; and they
certainly did throw much longer lines than the
absence of a reel might make one suppose.
With their long whippy rods and light horse-
hair lines, casting against the wind was next
to impossible. It was not practised till long
after the seventeenth century. The fisherman
manoeuvred to get the wind behind him. The
thickness of the cast, and even double hair was
thick for clear Derbyshire streams and cunning
76 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Derbyshire trout, was got over by keeping the
line off the water. Every writer treats this as
the one essential to correct casting. Be sure
that your fly fall first on the water, if the line
fall first it scareth the fish, therefore draw it
back and cast again, says Venables. All say
the same. Now to do this a light wind behind
you was necessary : in a calm it is possible, but
harder : in a head wind the line hits the water
first or it is blown back : with a gale behind,
the line must be drowned or it is blown off the
We can now figure their fishing, and in
expert hands it was skilful and effective. In
upstream fishing where practised the fisherman
cast straight above him with a short line. But
downstream fishing was more common, a good
deal of it, no doubt, of the crude type which
still survives, a methodical and unimaginative
searching of the water such as still obtains in
salmon fishing. Probably this would have
filled a basket on most waters. But on shy
rivers or in skilled hands the system permitted
of a more delicate and deadly practice : the cast
was made with the rod point well up, the fly
with a link or two of the finest part of the cast
alone fell on the water, then the hand was
lowered and the fly was floated lightly and with
little drag over the fish; with a long slender
rod, a delicate hand and a line light and at the
same time with a bulk on which the wind could
act, the fisherman, standing right back in the
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 77
meadow and fishing across and down, could
drift his fly over a rising trout in a way that
formed the nearest approach to the floating fly
before the nineteenth century. This is the way
in which, two centuries later, Stewart says that
Tweedside adepts killed heavy baskets. They
cast frequently and allowed their flies to float
only a few yards, and then cast again before
they began to drag. Thus do the great masters
talk to each other across the centuries. Other
methods, however, more crude and primitive
were in use. The fly was cast across or down,
and drawn over the fish as in loch fishing. You
are told to keep the fly in perpetual motion.
As a general rule, the fly was fished on the top
of the water. Barker specially dressed his
flies so that they floated near the top, as he tells
us in one of his engaging rhymes :
Once more, my good brother, He speak in thy
Hogs, red Cows, & Bears wooll, to float best
And so doth your fur, if rightly it fall,
But alwayes remember, make two and make
The meaning of the cryptic last line is that
Barker considered that if you knew how to
dress two flies you knew all, what he calls a
Palmer (though it had wings) and a Mayfly.
Venables tells the fisherman to try the trout
first on the top, and if they will not take there,
to trv below the surface : there is no certain
78 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
rule to guide you : but when fishing slow water
to cast across, let it sink, and draw it slowly
round, but do not make circles on the water.
But the general practice was to keep the fly on
the top of the water.
The fisherman waded, but only sparingly.
He did not possess the hardihood of Scrope,
who tells you never to go into water deeper than
the fifth button of your waistcoat, and even
this is inadvisable for tender constitutions in
frosty weather. He advises those who are
delicate and wade in February when it freezes
very hard, to pull down their stockings and
examine their legs. Should they be black or
even purple it might perhaps be as well to get
on dry land, but if they are only rubicund you
need not worry. The seventeenth century was
not so stalwart. Wading, not deep, must have
been practised in large rivers, for in Tweed or
Eden or Wye you would not get many trout in
low water unless you waded. But it is rarely
mentioned at this time, nor can I recall any
print that depicts it. Wading boots were not
in general use till later, and wading trousers
or stockings not till later still.
There were two schools of striking as there
always are, according as the writer is talking
of large fish or small. Large fish should not be
struck before they turn, for small ones you
cannot be too quick. The fish when hooked was
played with the rod, as in the time of the
Treatise, and if of any size was landed in a net,
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 79
usually by an attendant. Landing nets are
first mentioned by Dennys in 1613 5 and were in
general use in Walton's time. The triangular
net now so common is first shewn in a French
book, the Ruses Innocent -es of Frere Francois
Fort in, concerning whom I have already
written in Chapter IV. Venables tells you that
the screw handle of your landing net should be
able to take a gaff as well as a net, and that
you are to carry two other hooks to fit the same
socket, one to cut weeds and the other to pull
Catches were big, but not excessively so :
bigger perhaps than now, but certainly no
bigger than in the nineteenth century. Cotton
mentions thirty-five to forty trout as an excep-
tional take, and indeed this number from the
Dove, where I suppose the average would not
be much under a pound, is a good day. It
seems to have been exceptional, for when his
pupil catches six trout and three grayling,
Cotton calls it a pretty good morning's work.
Barker does not give the number of his mighty
draught. Cotton, inventor of the clear water
worm, says that if you will wade and fish the
worm upstream you can catch as many fish as
you like. Records are scarce; but altogether
the impression left on the mind is not one of
big bags. Walton and his pupil in the only
day's fly fishing recorded caught no more than
ten, and his brother Peter and Coridon five
between them. Compare these with more
80 . FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
modern records. Stewart considered that a
good fisherman should average fifteen pounds
a day and a first-class one twenty pounds all
through the season. Twenty pounds means at
least forty fish in the waters Stewart fished,
and as everyone has many blank and bad days
an average of that number means formidable
baskets on the good ones. Stoddart says that
a good rod could take from twelve to thirty
dozen in a day and that a friend of his caught
two hundred and eighty fish in six or seven
hours. He adds that thirty pounds weight was
a good day on Tweed and few anglers attained
it. I can quite believe it. Henderson relates
how three rods on Coquet at Easter killed five
hundred and seventy-five trout in six days.
Younger's grandfather was reputed to have
killed thirty-six dozen in Kail water in one day
with the worm, and a nephew of Younger's
killed eighteen dozen in the same water with
fly. To come to more recent times, Hamilton
writing in 1884 says that he and another rod
took with the fly in one July day before two
o'clock in the Eamsbury water of the Kennet
forty fish, none under one pound, some between
two and three and three over three pounds.
Within my own day one hundred fish have been
taken with the dry fly on the Gade at Cassio-
bury. When I started fishing the Cumberland
Eden thirty years ago, a stone weight, say forty
fish, was a good day for a good rod, but not at
all uncommon. The doings of the redoubtable
COTTON AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES. 81
Dickie Routledge had perhaps by that time
acquired some of the glamour that belongs to
the legendary, but he was reputed to have been
able regularly to take one hundred trout on an
average day, and I quite believe it. These
records, as far as they go, show that bags were
not exceptionally heavy in Cotton's time.
Possibly poaching accounts for this : he makes
bitter complaint of it.
Before the time of Stewart fly fishing was
not much practised in summer or calm hot
weather and in low clear water. Consequently
in Cotton's day, either a cloudy day or a water
clearing after rain was preferred at any time,
and in clear water in summer either wind or
cloud was essential. In the spring, on a rough
day, fish the still deeps : in a calm or light
breeze the fast streams. The artificial mayfly
is little use except on a rough windy day.
March, April, May and June are the chosen
months, and of course July and August always
have been notoriously bad for the sunk fly. The
floating fly has changed all our weather lore,
for it succeeds best on days when the sunk is
hopeless and will kill in a wider range of
weather than any other lure, natural or
artificial. The directions as to weather and
water in the seventeenth century are the same
as in the nineteenth before Stewart wrote.
* (page 70) Sir David Train, the distinguished Director of
the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, has thrown himself whole-
heartedly into the quest, in which all the resources of Kew,
helped by the India Office, have been engaged. But he cannot
yet say with certainty what the substance was.
FROM COTTON TO STEWART.
The quiet pastime of their choice
On Beauly rocks, in Derwent glades,
Still seems to move to Walton's voice,
Singing of dace and dairymaids :
His water meadows still are wet,
His brawling trout streams leap and glance,
And on their sunlit ripples yet
The flies of his disciples dance.
Alfred Cochrane. 1903.
HE one hundred and eighty years
which separate Stewart from
Cotton are years of advance
which, though great, proceeded
by hardly perceptible stages. At
the beginning men fished with no
reel, twisted hair lines, long rods, and a single
fly. At the end they used short rods, some-
times of split cane, reels, silk lines, and drawn
gut, and, except those bold adventurers who
used the dry fly or on very shy waters, two or
three flies. These great changes were evolved
so slowly that the period cannot be divided
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 83
into epochs. Advance followed advance by
measured and orderly procession ; we are hardly
aware that we are travelling, and it is only
when we have reached the end and look back
that we are conscious of the distance which we
But from another point of view the period
shows a marked division. Up to the end of
the eighteenth century it was one of technical
rather than intellectual progress : a progress
wrought by the tackle maker rather than by the
writer or thinker. No great names stand out.
There are neither great masters of the rod nor
great masters of the pen. I know of only one
eighteenth century prose writer, and he an
unimportant one, included in the very catholic
ambit of the Dictionary of National Biography,
whilst in the seventeenth and nineteenth
centuries there are many. Indeed I am not
sure that the best writing is not to be found in
poetry. Of Gay's Rural Sports, excellent
though unequal, the most excellent are the
passages describing fishing. He was clearly a
good performer. A Barnstaple man, he had
at his door an unrivalled territory, and it was
probably there that he learnt his devotion to
Around the steel no tortured worm shall twine,
No blood of living insect stain my line :
Let me, less cruel, cast the feathered hook,
With pliant rod across the pebbled brook.
84 FLY FISHING FOE TKOUT.
The classical style is a bad medium for field
sports : Gay's merit is that his love of the
country and knowledge of its pursuits triumphs
over the conventions of his age. At first sight
it is not a little surprising that the eighteenth
century, with its amazing literary and artistic
fertility, produced no great angling prose
writer. It cannot have been a matter of chance,
for neither did it contain many great works on
hunting; indeed, I can recall none, save that
of the admirable Peter Beckford. On the
other hand, the first half of the nineteenth
century is wonderfully rich. Sir Humphry
Davy and Fitzgibbon, Bainbridge and Ronalds,
Pulman and Penn, Stoddart and Colquhoun
were all fishing and writing : Christopher
North was living as well as describing his
Ambrosial Nights : whilst one greater than
them all was content to subscribe himself as
But a well-wisher
To the game.
and to do so in the words of a seventeenth
century writer. It is difficult to imagine Scott
quoting an eighteenth century poet, even one
so good as Gay, and it is impossible to imagine
him quoting Pope, though he did write on
The patient fisher takes his silent stand
Intent, his angle trembling in his hand.
We have got a very long way indeed from the
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 85
river, and the open sky, and the wind blowing
over the reeds. The eighteenth century was
barren of fishing writers : in the nineteenth
they sprang into being on all sides. The
classical school offered an unfruitful soil, and
it was the romantic revival which brought them
into lusty life. Scott was no fisher, yet but for
him Stoddart and Colquhoun might not have
written. Waverley influenced more than the
novel and Marmion more than the epic.
In the eighteenth century, therefore, we have
no great prose writers. We have manuals,
some bad, some good, one at least excellent, and
we have many rather unimaginative compila-
tions. But more important than the writers is
the advance in mechanical appliances.
The rod comes first. At the end of the
period under review, Stewart considered a ten
foot rod, if stiff, big enough for any water, and
adds that he generally used one from eight to
nine feet long. This is a big drop from Cotton's
fifteen or eighteen footer. The drop occurred
after the reel came into general use, which
revolutionised rod making, for it enabled men
to fish fine with a short rod, impossible before.
Still, rods remained long for years after the
reel appeared, and Stewart is somewhat excep-
tional. Indeed, Francis, writing ten years
after Stewart, gives the lengths of four typical
single-handed fly rods, and they vary from
eleven feet seven inches to twelve feet eight
inches. As late as 1886 Halford says that a
86 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
strong man can use a twelve foot rod for dry
fly fishing, though he changed his views in later
years. I started by using a twelve foot split
cane on the Test, Itchen and Kennet, and I do
not think I broke of tener than I do now with a
nine or ten footer. During the eighteenth
century, after the reel, twelve to fourteen feet
was not uncommon. The jointed rod is first
mentioned by Lawson in 1620, but was not much
used till the eighteenth century. Lawson's
rod, and the eighteenth century rod, was
spliced. He says : 'I use a rod of two parts to
joyne in the middle when I come to the river,
with two pins, and a little hempe waxed, thus
the pins joyne it, the hempe fastens it firmly. 5
As late as Stewart's time many people, himself
included, preferred spliced rods to ferruled.
Indeed, spliced rods survived much later, and
have by no means disappeared to-day. They
disappeared in proportion as the workmanship
of the ferrule improved. In the older rods it
had many weaknesses : the joint either worked
loose or jammed : the rod was amazingly apt to
break either in the socket, or just below the
joints, disasters impossible to repair : and the
heavy metal work then necessary hindered the
play. Modern rod-making, to which intense
technical skill has been applied, gradually
remedied all these defects; but it was not till
the eighties that the balance swung definitely
over to the ferrule. Wells' American Salmon
Fisherman in 1886 and Halford's Dry-Fly
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 87
Fishing in 1889 gave the splice its quietus. The
great evil of the splice (beyond its troublesome-
ness to adjust) is that nothing ever invented
prevents it working slightly loose after a long
period of fishing : nothing, that is, except the
glueing together of the tapered ends, when the
rod becomes one of a single piece.
All this is anticipating slightly. To go back
to the time I am describing, the ferrules then
used were of the simple kind, and to prevent
them slipping round every well-made rod had
a flat wire loop fixed immediately above and
below each ferrule, under which a bit of string
was easily run for two or three turns of a
figure-of-eight after the rod was put up. This
prevented the joint slipping round. The lock-
fast and suction joints now so common came
It is a curious fact that ferruled rods are
actually older than spliced, for the rod
described in the Treatise is a jointed rod in two
pieces, ferruled with iron or tin : but the
jointed rod did not long survive, and the rod
in one piece was the usual thing in the
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; next
came the spliced rod and lastly the ferruled.
Silk lines are first mentioned in Nobbes'
Compleat Trailer 1682, and came gradually
into use. But hair lines long survived, for I
can recollect their still being used by the old-
fashioned at the end of last century, and no
doubt some could be found even now. The silk
88 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
lines used were like those of my boyhood, light
and thin, mighty difficult to cast compared to
the heavy tapered article now in use.
Now as to reels. Here again the practice
varied greatly. David Webster in his enter-
taining and practical book, The Angler and the
Loop-Rod, was still using no reel as late as
1885; but he is a bit of an eccentric, in that as
in other matters. He was a century behind his
time, for reels for salmon fishing were in
general use by the beginning of the eighteenth
century, and for trout fishing during its last
half. They were plain barrel winders of brass.
The multiplying reel also appeared. The first
mention I know is an advertisement of the
tackle maker Onesimus Ustonson, which is at
the end of my copy of Smith's True Art of
Angling, 1770 edition. Best in his Concise
Treatise 1787 recommends its use in fly fishing,
and putting these two notices together, it must
have been not uncommon at that time. Two,
three, or four flies are recommended by Robert
Howlett in the Anglers' Sure Guide 1706, and
this number was common throughout the
period ; but in this matter also Webster was an
eccentric, for he never used less than the
terrific number of nine, though he allows the
novice to begin with six. The single fly was by
no means discarded ; many skilful fishers recom-
mend it, and of course for the dry fly, just
beginning to emerge, it was essential.
Modern fly dressing starts with Bowlker's
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 89
Art of Angling 1747.* When he wrote he
found most authors, overlooking the highly
original work of Chetham, engaged in slavishly
copying either the Treatise or Cotton. Bowlker
gives a list of twenty-nine flies, all easily
recognisable; and what is more important he
definitely rejects 'many other Flyes taken
Notice of in Treatises of Angling,' among them
most of our old friends which date from Dame
Juliana. And it was high time they went;
for their original derivation had long been
forgotten, their very names were corrupted and
had become meaningless counters, unrelated to
the natural insects from which they were
copied. Bowlker pillories them by name, and
from his time the Ruddy Fly, the Sandy Yellow
Fly, the Moorish Fly and the Twine Fly
disappear from fishing literature. Cotton, it
is true, had preceded Bowlker in rejecting
them, and so had Chetham; but Cotton did not
renounce them by name, and indeed could
not because of filial piety, for Walton had
swallowed them whole. Besides, Cotton's list
is too long and the attribution of his names to
natural flies is often impossible ; added to which
the list of the Treatise was repeated by many
writers long after Cotton. After Bowlker it
disappears, and instead his list survives with
little change till to-day.
*The first edition of Bowlker is undated, but Mr. Turrell in
Ancient Angling Authors says that it is dated 1747 in the
catalogue of the Bodleian Library. Bibliotheca Piscatoria
gives 1753, with a query.
90 FLY FISHING FOE TEOUT.
Perhaps this is the place to say something
about Bowlker's Art of Angling. There were
two Bowlkers, Richard and Charles, father and
son, of Ludlow in Shropshire. The first edition
in 1747 is by Richard; but in the third edition
of 1780 (the second edition of 1774 I have never
seen) and all subsequent ones Charles Bowlker
is given as author. He died in 1779, and was
accounted the best fly fisher of his day. After
his death the book continued to be issued under
his name till 1854, some sixteen editions or
more, a record surpassed by no fishing book
except the Treatise and the Compleat Angler.
It is the best book by far of the period and an
excellent manual. Its excellence lies in three
features : the directions for fly fishing,
including one of the early recommendations of
upstream fishing, the directions for fly dress-
ing, and the knowledge shewn of the life of
the natural fly, which is much in advance of
anything that had appeared before.
Woods used for rod making underwent a
revolution; for, owing to the increasing
facilities for importing the superior trans-
atlantic products, native woods largely dis-
appeared. No more is heard of hazel, the
universal favourite of early fishers, and still
less of eccentric materials such as crab tree,
juniper, medlar, blackthorn and yew. Ash and
deal alone survived, and they were only used
for butts. Four imported materials took their
place, hickory, lancewood, bamboo and green-
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 91
heart. Hickory, an American wood, was
extensively used for many purposes from the
seventeenth century onwards, but it is not
mentioned as a rod material till Snart's
Practical Observations on Angling in the River
Trent, published anonymously in 1801. It
became the common material for trout rods.
Lancewood, from the West Indies, began to be
used during the period. Greenheart, a native
of the West Indies and South America, but
coming chiefly from British Guiana, now so
universal and invaluable, was not used for rods
until nearly the end of the period, though its
fine qualities for other purposes, such as ship-
building, were known long before. In 1841
occurs the first fishing mention I know of :
Edward Chitty, who wrote the Fly-Fisher' s
Text Book under the pseudonym of Theophilus
South, says that Liverpool rod makers use a
wood imported from Essequibo River, British
Guiana. This wood can be none other than
greenheart, which comes from there. He
considers it a good material, but too stiff for
tops. A few years later Mr. George Kelson,
as he tells us in his Salmon Fly, made with the
help of a friend a greenheart trout rod, with
which he could cover more water than with the
hickory rods then in common use. In 1857
Stewart mentions greenheart, but only as
material for tops, for which he rejects it as
too brittle, and also because its weight strains
the middle joints and makes the rod too pliant.
92 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Ten years later still Francis, though he refers
to the noble qualities of greenheart for salmon
rods and had his four salmon rods made almost
entirely of it, yet had not a single joint of
greenheart in the four single-handed trout rods
he portrays : one was a hollow cane with an
ash butt, two all of hickory, and one of
triangular glued cane. He thought the Castle
Connell salmon rod all of greenheart then
coming into fashion so topheavy and small in
the butt as to be entirely detestable.
Like most fishing inventions the split cane
rod, composed of sections split lengthways and
glued together, is far older than generally
imagined. But here it is necessary to
distinguish between the rod composed of two,
three, or four sections, which is old, and the
rod composed of six similar sections, which is
more modern. The four-sectioned rod is first
mentioned by Snart in 1801. Bamboo, briar,
and elder were divided lengthways into four
pieces, thick enough to form the joint. Bamboo
was preferred for fine tops, but briar was
cheaper and little inferior, and could be
found plentifully in old hedges. It must be
thoroughly seasoned before it is split, or the
sections will warp in drying. Elder is rather
brittle, and was never used when cane or briar
could be procured. The split cane rod came
steadily into fashion, and is mentioned by
nearly all writers from 1840 onwards. Three
London tackle makers, Aldred, Bernard and
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 93
Farlow, exhibited rods of this description in
the Royal Exhibition of 1851, and Little was
at the same time making salmon rods whose
middle and top joints were of three-sectioned
bamboo. Stewart, also, mentions the two or
three-sectioned trout rod, but rejects it as too
expensive, though he likes a split cane top with
a whole cane butt and middle joint. Francis
had a triangular split cane rod made by Aldred,
a beautiful piece of workmanship, but top
heavy and tiring to the arm and lacking in free
The three or four-section split cane was,
unlike the six-section one, an English inven-
tion. I think its originator was almost
certainly Higginbotham, who in the early
nineteenth century carried on business at 91
Strand, London. Two pieces of evidence point
in this direction and, though neither of them
is conclusive, together they make a strong case.
Snart, the first to mention split cane, particu-
larly praises the workmanship of London rods,
and, on the page before he mentions split cane,
specially recommends Higginbotham. And
Wright, author of Fishes and Fishing, pub-
lished in 1858, gives a circumstantial account
of getting Clark 'the unrivalled maker of
glued-up cane fly-rods' to make him one in
the year 1805. Clark was Higginbotham' s
successor at 91 Strand : and these two facts
taken together afford fairly conclusive proof.
At any rate I know of no earlier maker. Green-
94 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
heart, when it came in, superseded the three or
four-sectioned split cane, for it was much
easier to work, cheaper, and for all practical
purposes as good. Greenheart in turn was
ousted by the six-sectioned split cane, which
has now spread all over the world, and is used
by everyone who can afford it. It was invented
in America, but the actual inventor and exact
date are still under dispute. The originator
was probably Samuel Phillipe, a gumnaker, of
Easton, Pennsylvania. He was experimenting
with three and four-sectioned rods in the
forties of last century, but failed to make a
success of them, and invented the six-section
rod. He taught the secret to Charles F.
Murphy, who in the sixties was making them
for Andrew Clerk and Company, of New York.
Therefore probably Phillipe invented it in
about the year 1850, and Murphy made it a
commercial possibility in 1860 or thereabouts.*
Silkworm gut is first mentioned by James
Saunders in 1724 in the Compleat Fisherman.
After saying that the Swiss and North Italians
are the best trout fishers in the world, owing
to the many fine streams they possess, he says
that they make a fine and exceedingly strong
line, drawn from the bowels of silk worms ; like
catgut from which viol strings are made, it is
so strong that nothing of so small a size can
*I am indebted to Mr. R. L. Montagu, of Oroville. Cali-
fornia, for much of this information about the history of split
cane. He has made a study of the subject, and has been
good enough to allow me to make use of his knowledge
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 95
equal it. It is smaller than the single hair
ordinarily used. He adds : 'I have seen an
imitation of these Worm Gut Lines in England,
and indifferent strong too, but not like that I
have mentioned in Italy, yet these will hold a
fish of good Size too, if she is not too violent,
and does not nimbly harness herself among
Weeds, and Roots of Trees.' Gut came into
use only gradually ; and was hardly known until
the second half of the eighteenth century. In
1770 Onesimus Ustonson the tackle maker
advertised 'a fresh Parcel of superfine Silk
Worm Gut, no better ever seen in England, as
fine as Hair, and as strong as Six, the only
thing for Trout Carp and Salmon,' and
Bibliotheca Piscatoria quotes an advertisement
of George Bowness of Bell Yard, another
London tackle maker, where silk worm gut is
advertised as a new article in 1760. It is
seldom mentioned in the eighteenth century;
but it became universal soon after its close.
Sir Humphry Davy mentions it in a passage
headed May 1810, and Penn in his Maxims
(1833), which is a description of the Houghton
water on the Test, does not think it necessary
even to allude to hair as an alternative.
Rings are first described by Howlett in 1706.
They were upright, those on the butt being
loops of stiff iron wire driven into the rod, and
for the top loops of brass were lashed on length-
ways and then turned up at right angles so as
to stand out. They are therefore more like the
96 FLY FISHING FOE TBOTJT.
modern upright rings than are those which
superseded them, which were rings so lashed
on as to lie flat when the rod was not in use,
a great convenience for packing, but not nearly
so free running as the upright or snake rings
which have taken their place.
These details are dull, I know, but it is
necessary to understand them in order to appre-
ciate the technical advance which fly fishing
made during the eighteenth century. At its
beginning, men fished much as they did in the
fifteenth : at its close, everything that we have
now was in use except the American split cane
rod. Reels, lines, gut, flies, net, basket : all
In the first half of the nineteenth century,
fishing, which had fallen somewhat into
literary eclipse, burst suddenly into light
again. Famous men once more wrote about
it, most of the world practised it, and those
who did not read about it. This was due in
great measure to the immense popularity of
everything Scotch which the Waverley novels
induced, and under this influence a band of
writers arose who were read not only on their
own merits, which in any case would have
brought them to the fore, but also because they
described a newly-discovered country. Stoddart
and Colquhoun, Scrope and Professor John
Wilson as well as lesser lights, were writing
copiously, and their output shows that the
world's power of absorbing fishing literature
FROM COTTON TO STEWART. 97
was enormous. At the same time in England
Sir Humphry Davy, as a bye product during
ill-health, gave the world a book whose merits
are often disregarded, largely I believe because
it is written in dialogue, a literary form which
that great man was lamentably incompetent to
handle. He wrote it, Scott reviewed it in the
Edinburgh Review, and the world read it.
Penn, too, wrote a good book, invaluable for
its description of contemporary fishing on the
Test ; Charles Kingsley made fishing an element
in muscular Christianity : while Pulman, with-
drawn from view in the West Country and
musing on problems of fishing where the clear
Axe winds through level meadows, suddenly,
and all unnoticed till long after, produced the
theory and practice of the dry fly full grown
from the brain of its parent. It was a great
age, the union of fishing and letters, long
divorced. Fishing was fashionable. The
names of writers on the sport were household
words ; for who had not heard of Thomas Tod
Stoddart, equally famous as fisherman, writer
and poet? We are still living under the
influence of those great anglers, and my own
generation certainly was deeply moulded by
them. I suppose that for those now starting
to fish Halford and Lord Grey take their
places, and they are worthy to fill them. But I
for one would not exchange my privilege of
having been brought up under an earlier age.
Stewart was the first fishing book I owned ; and
98 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Stoddart, Colquhoun and Scrope led me to that
land of enchantment whose magic does not fade
as I grow older. I have never fished the Tweed
and do not know it, but I hardly feel I need to,
so clearly is it pictured in their writings. They
and their fellows threw a glamour round it, and
made it to the fisherman what Leicestershire is
to the fox-hunter or Hampshire to the dry fly
This age of literary achievement was barren
of technical advance. It was as though pro-
gress proceeded by alternate paths. The
eighteenth century saw the perfecting of
implements : when this was done, the way was
clear for the movement of the nineteenth, which
was in the mind of man. When both had taken
place, when mental and technical equipment
were equal, then some great movement was sure
to come. And come it did. During the period
under review Stewart was fishing and thinking,
and it was not long before he took the world
into his confidence.
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL.
Fish take all sorts of baits most eagerly and
freely, and with the least suspicion or bogling,
when you present the same unto them in such
order and manner, as Nature affords them, or as
themselves ordinarily gather them.
The Experienced Angler,
Robert Venables. 1662.
HEN the shape and colour of flies
had been copied, men turned
their minds to copying their
movements and behaviour. This
is the second of the four great
landmarks of fly fishing. The
fisherman is no longer content with imitating
nature only in the construction of his fly,
imitating her correctly, it may be, but then
casting it on the water anyhow, trusting that
its resemblance alone will suffice. No : he
carries observation a step further, and he
notices and copies the behaviour and action of
natural insects as well as their shape and
colour. This is a profound change, and opens
100 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
a new field for observation and experiment.
Upstream fishing is much older than is
generally imagined. It is first mentioned by
Venables, in the Experienced Angler, published
in 1662, a year after the third edition of the
Compleat Angler. The quality of the book is
proved by the fact that it ran rapidly through
five editions, and that Walton, who wrote a
preface, thought it worthy of forming the third
part of the Universal Angler, published in
1676, of which the first and second parts
were his and Cotton's books. Venables is so
important that he must be quoted :
'And here I meet with two different opinions
and practices, some always cast their flie and
bait up the water, and so they say nothing
occurreth to the Fishes sight but the Line :
others fish down the River, and so suppose (the
Rod and Line being long) the quantity of water
takes away, or at least lesseneth the Fishes
sight; but the others affirm, that Rod and Line,
and perhaps your self, are seen also. In this
difference of opinions I shall only say, in small
Brooks you may angle upwards, or else in great
Rivers you must wade, as I have known some,
who thereby got Sciatica, and I would not wish
you to purchase pleasure at so dear a rate;
besides casting up the River you cannot keep
your Line out of the water, which we noted for
a fault before; and they that use this way
confess that if in casting your flie, the line fall
into the water before it, the flie were better
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 101
uncast, because it frights the fish; then
certainly it must do it this way, whether the
flie fall first or not, the line must first come to
the fish or fall on him which undoubtedly will
fright him : Therefore my opinion is, that you
angle down the River, for the other way you
traverse twice so much, and beat not so much
ground as downwards.'
Several points call for particular notice.
First of all Venables meets with two different
opinions and practices, and therefore even in
the seventeenth century the two systems existed
side by side. Then he gives the argument.
The upstream man claims to keep out of sight.
But the downstream fisher effects the same
object by throwing a long line. That he must
throw a long line is true then and always.
There are still, and always have been, two
schools, those who use a long line down stream
and those who use a shorter line up. And
Venables also is emphatic on the danger of
lining your fish, a point often overlooked, but
one of great importance. It is instructive, by
the way, to see that it was as fatal to line a
fish two hundred and fifty years ago as it is
to-day. And he says, which is also true and
said for the first time, that in fishing straight
up his hair and our gut must go over the fish.
He also makes the point so often made since,
that upstream fishing means laborious wading
and covers less water than downstream. It is
interesting to find the argument put so com-
102 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
pletely at this early stage : it shows surely that
the question was no new one : it must have been
discussed by anglers and argued long and often
at the waterside when fish were not rising.
Venables sums up in favour of downstream fish-
ing, except in small brooks, but the point to
notice is not the actual decision he comes to but
the evidence he affords that upstream fishing
was understood and practised.
So profound is the influence of upstream
fishing that it is worth while spending time in
tracing its continuous history from Venables
who starts it in 1662 to Stewart's Practical
Angler in 1857, after which it was never
seriously questioned. This is all the more
necessary, as its history has been misunder-
stood, for the ordinary fisherman if asked who
started upstream fishing would probably answer
Stewart, whereas as a matter of fact it was
both developed and described two centuries
earlier. In order to trace its course I propose
to select eighteen of the best writers on fly
fishing between 1662 and 1857 and to see what
they said, choosing six who wrote in the seven-
teenth century, six in the eighteenth, and six
during the first half of the nineteenth, or rather
before 1857, when Stewart wrote. They are
chosen impartially, as the best authorities, not
because they favour one school or the other.
Who shall be chosen ? For the seventeenth
century the choice is not difficult. Franck,
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 103
Barker, Venables and Cotton should all be
included : not Walton, who was not really a fly
fisher. Next certainly should come Chetham,
who wrote a good manual, though largely
pirated, and for the last place either Smith,
author of the True Art of Angling, a book
which went through twelve editions and was a
standard work for three quarters of a century,
or Cox's Gentleman's Recreation, a summary
of the current practice of the time. Possibly
the True Art is the best, for Cox is really not
much more than a copyist. The eighteenth
century is more difficult, for though there are
many books there are few good ones. The most
famous was that of the two Bowlkers, father
and son, whose Art of Angling, published
inconspicuously in 1747,* was republished every
few years for over a century. The next in merit
is probably Best. For the other four we will
take Howlett, Brookes, Shirley and Scotcher.
In the first half of the nineteenth century there
are many names to choose from and famous
ones too. Sir Humphry Davy, Stoddart,
Colquhoun, Fitzgibbon, Pulman, Penn,
Younger, Bainbridge, Jackson, Theakston and
Ronalds; what a list of mighty hunters. Choice
is difficult. Stoddart and Ronalds cannot be
left out, nor Fitzgibbon either. Then Penn
should come, for he is representative, recording
as he does the practice of the Houghton Club
on the Test, and for the last two we will take
*See note on page 89 as to the date of Bowlker.
104 FLY FISHING FOR TEOUT.
Sir Humphry Davy, and possibly Younger.
So much for the names : now to collect the
votes. Franck tells you to start at the head of
the stream, at least I think he means that,
though Franck never talks plain English. But
he shall be counted downstream. Barker is the
same. Venables, as has been seen, is neutral,
inclining to down. What of Cotton? He is
generally classed as a downstream man, and
certainly his phrase 'fine and far off' seems to
put him in that category. This, however, is
not the whole truth. He tells his pupil to have
the wind always at his back, and to fish up or
down the river as the wind serves. He there-
fore fished not downstream, but down wind,
and indeed he could do little else, using as he
did a whippy single-handed rod fifteen to
eighteen feet long. But he knew the advantage
of fishing still water upstream. Thus on the
second day of the Dialogue, when 'the wind
curies the water and blows the right way'
Cotton sets his pupil to 'angle up the still deep,'
and therefore chooses a day of upstream wind
in which to fish still water. And let it
be noted that Cotton is the inventor of
upstream worm fishing. Cotton is there-
fore not the downstream man he is gener-
ally supposed to be, and he also must be
classed as neutral. Chetham (1681) is on the
whole a downstream man, for both he and also
the True Art of Angling (1696) tell you to fish
upstream in clear water with the natural fly,
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 105
but downstream in a thick water or with the
artificial. Therefore the verdict is four in
favour of downstream, Franck, Barker,
Chetham and Smith; and two, Cotton and
Venables neutral, inclining rather to down than
to up, but showing that an upstream school
In the eighteenth century Bowlker (1747)
says that 'when you see a Fish rise at the
natural Fly, the best way is to throw a Yard
above him, rather than directly over his Head,
and let your Fly move gently towards him, by
which means you will show it to him more
naturally. ' Wise and admirable man ! It is
not clear whether he means you to fish up, or
across, or across and up : but the point to bear
in mind is that you are to cast above and let the
fly float down, and he belongs to the upstream
school. Best, in the Art of Angling (1787) is
not clear, but he is probably a downstream
fisher. Hewlett's Angler's Sure Guide (1706)
and Brookes' Art of Angling (1740) both recom-
mend downstream. Shirley in the Angler's
Museum (1784) copies Bowlker, and is therefore
upstream. Scotcher, in his quite excellent
manual (I wish it were not so scarce) the Fly-
Fisher's Legacy (about 1800), bids you some-
times to throw up a stream and sometimes
down, as you can best be hidden, treating
concealment as the more important factor.
Therefore the verdict is three, Best, Howlett
and Brookes in favour of downstream; one,
106 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Scotcher, neutral, and two, Bowlker, most
famous of all, whose sales probably exceeded
the rest put together, and Shirley who copied
him, in favour of up.
Coming to the nineteenth century, Sir
Humphry Davy* put his mayfly a foot above a
rising four pounder, and advises the novice to
throw half a yard above another monster. This
also might be either up or across, but we can
reckon Sir Humphry an upstream man. Penn,
whose amusing Maxims (1833) are taken from
the Common Place Book of the Houghton Fish-
ing Club, tells you that you will rise more fish
by fishing down but hook more by fishing up,
and that you will not disturb unfished water by
killing them. Stoddart apparently began
angling life by fishing down, but tells you not
to lead your hooks [draw your flies], a necessary
feature in downstream fishing, and as he is one
of the first writers to mention the dry fly he
must have fished up, though he does not say so.
Ronalds in that glorious book the Fly fisher's
Entomology (1836) advises throwing across and
down. Younger (1840), one of the best fisher-
men that ever lived, tells you to throw aslant
upwards or straight across rather than down-
wards, and to allow the fly to float down the
current of its own accord. One writer, by the
way, Blakey, quite a competent authority, in
his Hints on Angling (1846) inveighs against
*Salmonia was published in 1828, but the chapter in ques-
tion is headed 'May 1810.'
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 107
the many crotchety and fanciful rules laid down
by angling writers. Of these the most pre-
posterous is that of upstream fishing. It is
almost impossible for a trout to seize a fly in
this position, and if he does you can neither
hook nor hold him. Fitzgibbon who wrote his
Handbook of Angling in 1847 under the
pseudonym Ephemera tells you to use both
methods, but to fish upstream first. Therefore
four, Davy, Penn, Younger and Fitzgibbon are
upstream, and two, Stoddart and Ronalds, not
counting Blakey, are downstream. The whole
result of an enquiry over two and a half
centuries shows a numerical majority for fish-
ing downstream, but also a steady increase in
the upstream witnesses : none in the first
period, two in the second and four in the third,
when the balance swings finally over to up-
stream before Stewart appears on the scene.
Also the habit of fishing upstream began earlier
and was more generally used than is commonly
supposed, and it is unlikely that there was any
period from Walton's time to now when it was
not practised. I believe, though it cannot be
proved, that it depended on locality, and that
Scotland and the south of England fished down,
the north of England up.
Stewart sets out to prove that fly fishermen
can get almost if not quite as good sport in
clear water as in coloured, if only they will
consent to fish upstream. Ninety-nine out of
a hundred, he says, fish down, and most books
108 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
recommend it. The advantages of upstream
fishing are that you are unseen by the trout,
whom you approach from behind : you are more
likely to hook your fish, for when you strike you
pull the hook into him instead of out of his
mouth : you do not spoil unfished water in play-
ing a heavy fish : and you imitate the motion of
the natural insect. With these advantages you
can kill trout in the lowest and clearest water.
His case is not difficult to prove, but he does it
clearly and finally. He was not the discoverer
of upstream fishing any more than Darwin was
the discoverer of natural selection : but he was
the first for nearly two hundred years to take
the trouble to make the case and the first of
any age to do it completely. He probably
exaggerates the novelty of his creed, for it is
difficult to believe that in 1857 only one in a
hundred fished up, and the statement that most
books recommended downstream is only true
numerically, if at all, for as has been shewn the
best books did not. Still all credit be given to
Stewart, for he converted the world as Darwin
did. His case was so convincing that no one
has felt bold enough to dispute it. One or two
tried to cross swords with him, as Cholmondeley
Pennell did, but he found few to follow him,
and speaking generally from Stewart's time to
now the argument has been all one way and the
written word has been unanimous in favour of
upstream. Why the practice of mankind does
not universally follow so obvious a theory and
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 109
why many fishermen, who want to catch fish and
are not fools, continue to fish down, is worth
understanding. It is not for want of being
All logic favours upstream fishing, at least in
clear water, and nothing else is worth talking
about. There are not two sides to the argu-
ment. And the immense majority of fishing
books say the same. But a history of fly fishing
would not be complete if it left the matter
there. Future students, reading the printed
word, would imagine that from Stewart to now
everyone fished upstream except some obscure
individuals fishing untried waters. But that
is historically untrue. Good fishermen, on the
shyest of waters, fish downstream and kill fish.
Their practice differs from theory, as it often
does. Downstream fishing, here and now, in
this twentieth century, is better for certain
persons and certain occasions. You avoid many
difficulties. Wading is easier, and casting less
incessant. Your line is always taut and you
are more likely to hook your fish. Also, as it is
always taut you know where your fly is and
know where to look for rises. This is a great
difficulty of upstream fishing, especially in
quick or broken water. You lose touch with
your flies, as Lord Grey says; a rise comes, you
see it too late and miss the fish. Or else you see
nothing and do not even know a fish has risen.
It is a far greater difficulty than the inexperi-
enced imagine : the power of knowing when a
110 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
fish has risen is the hall mark of proficiency.
Many never attain it : and I fancy none do
unless they are bred to it. And nothing is so
fatal to its acquisition as a training on a chalk
stream. If you have not got it, you must
replace it at any price, and fishing downstream
is not too high a price to pay.
Watch a good man at work and you will see
what I mean. Let us suppose that it is a day
in the first half of April. It has been a dry
March and the river, a large one, is low and
stainlessly clear. The trout are in the fast
streams, but not in the thin water : they will
not be there for a fortnight yet. Finally let us
imagine that it is 11 o'clock in the morning :
that the March Brown is on but not up; that
the sky is blue with fleecy clouds and the wind
light, and that you and I are seated on the
bank watching a famous fisherman fishing up
a famous river.
Though not a fish breaks the water, he at
once begins catching trout. He moves quickly.
He seems to fish with no regularity : a cast here
straight up, then no more for several yards,
though the stream looks to you just the same :
then three or four casts across, slightly up : and
then one right across, allowed to come round
below him. So he goes on and soon wades out
at the head of the stream ; you have counted up
and he has caught eight. Now, ask him how he
managed to know that a fish had risen when
nothing broke the water. Can he tell you?
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. Ill
Very likely not. So minute and various are the
indications, that it is often hard for him to say
why he struck. Very seldom did he see any
sign on the surface. Sometimes a movement
under water made a slight, hardly visible boil.
Or he may have seen a flash as the fish turned
at the fly, or a dim shadow, scarce perceptible
in the ripple. Or the line may have stopped for
a fraction of a second, or behaved in some
peculiar way. Our fisherman, wading out at
the head of the stream, could not tell you if you
asked why he struck in each case. All he could
say was that he knew that a fish had risen.
All this is difficult, and if you cannot attain
the art, fish downstream. It is also hard work,
and if I feel tired and lazy I fish downstream.
It also demands great concentration, which I
for one cannot give unless trout are rising
freely. So if they are not, fish downstream
until they start again.
Now, all this is a concession to fallible human
nature. It does not affect the superiority of
upstream. But there are occasions when, even
in clear low water, downstream beats upstream
on its merits.
It has been pointed out, I think by Lord
Grey, that when you are fishing up a stream
you will not uncommonly come across fish who,
lying in midstream and apparently rising well,
refuse your fly when cast over them from below
and yet take it when cast from above, when it is
swinging round and across the current. It
112 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
happens frequently in north country streams
and I have known it occur on the Kennet, when
fishing a sunk fly. In a long day's fishing you
may get several such, and these are fish that you
cannot catch fishing upstream. And there is
no doubt too that occasionally you can get big
fish in the clearest and shyest streams by fishing
downstream with a long line. Sometimes too
when the fish are sunning themselves in a sharp
run you can kill fish by working downstream
where you will not get a rise fishing up. In
fast glides too, where the water runs at a great
pace with a surface like glass, you often do
better by fishing straight across or across and
down than by fishing up. What the reason is
I do not know. Again, in a stream which,
shallow on one side, deepens and steadies
towards the other, until close to the deeper bank
there is slack water or an eddy, you will find,
if you are fishing from the deep side, that it
pays to cast across and let your flies swing round
into the eddy. On these occasions, and others,
you do best by fishing downstream.
The truth is that a sunk fly is often taken,
not for a fly that has hatched out, but for a
nymph or even for a shrimp or other aquatic
animal, and as these swim vigorously a fly
that moves against the stream imitates them
correctly. We do not know always why trout
take our fly, when they condescend to do so; in
fact there is a good deal still to be learnt. All
I can do is to suggest, as I have tried to do,
STEWART AND THE UPSTREAM SCHOOL. 113
certain occasions when the fly fished down-
stream pays best, without attempting to give
This is really a digression, undertaken in the
interest of historical truth. Upstream fishing
is firmly enthroned and will not be unseated.
But the downstream method is used to-day to
a much greater extent than books or newspaper
articles might lead you to suppose. The wheel
has turned, and whereas in the two centuries
before Stewart men fished upstream but did not
talk about it, so they practise a similar reticence
to-day about downstream fishing.
THE DRY FLY.
And lightly on the dimpling eddy fling
The hypocritic fly's unruffled wing.
The Anglers: Eight Dialogues in Verse.
Thomas Scott. 1758.
OMEWHERE during the first
half of the nineteenth century,
in the fulness of time, heralded
by many precursors who just
failed to reach completeness, the
dry fly was first cast upon the
waters. It forms the last and most notable
of the four landmarks in the history of fishing,
for without it the other three, imitation of the
natural insect, upstream fishing and fishing for
individual fish are imperfect and incomplete.
What is the dry fly and what is the secret of
its hold over the imagination ? The explana-
tion of what it is presents no difficulty, but its
imaginative appeal is a different matter.
Certain flies, such as mayflies, duns, alders,
sedges, stoneflies and smuts at certain periods
of their lives sit on the surface and are carried
THE DRY FLY. 115
down by the stream. In this position they are
taken by fish, and in this position the fisherman
imitates them. For success he depends, apart
from general fishing skill, on two things. His
fly must imitate accurately a living insect. This
alone does not distingush him from the wet fly
man, for with the wet fly accuracy of represen-
tation is even more necessary. But besides
imitating the appearance, he must also copy the
behaviour, of the natural fly. Herein lies the
difference : his fly must act as well as look like
the real article. To effect this he must con-
struct it so that it looks like a fly with wings
unwetted and then cast it so that it floats over
the fish with the current as the natural fly does.
Why is the dry fly used and who discovered
The reason of its use is easy to tell; it was
the increased shyness of the fish. The actual
inventor, unfortunately, is not known, that first
explorer into a new world. But there is little
doubt as to the process and method of his
discovery. Stoddart says that every fisherman
must have met with cases where the first cast of
the day proved successful, because a dry fly is
more likely than a soaked one to attract a crafty
trout. A recent writer* quotes an old Wyke-
hamist whose memory went back to 1844 when
the systematic use of the dry fly was unknown
on the Itchen. The boys used to look for a rise
and made a point of putting their fly while still
Challcstream and Moorland, by Harold Russell (1911).
116 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
dry over the trout. On changing flies they gave
the new fly a similar chance, and occasionally
would change flies merely to get a dry one. That
is plain. They discovered that a dry fly is
more attractive than a wet one : but what is
the dry fly and what are we to call its invention ?
The test I suggest is the intentional drying of
the fly, for until that is done invention is not
complete. Using that test, the first mention
of the superiority of a fly that floats over one
that sinks occurs in the year 1800, and the first
mention of drying the fly in 1851. From this
latter date the dry fly has a continuous history,
but its use did not become common till 1860, nor
was it till after the publication of Halford's
books in the eighties that it spread to more than
a few rivers. There are, however, passages in
writers much earlier than 1800 which at first
sight seem to hint at it, though I think it can
be shewn that they refer to something quite
different. These must be cleared out of the
way before dealing with the dry fly proper.
Old writers, and new ones too for that
matter, often discuss whether your fly should
sink deep or swim near the surface. You are
told that on occasions you will get better sport
by sinking your fly, as for instance in still pools,
in lakes on a calm hot day, or generally in cold
weather. On other occasions your fly should
be at or near the top. Early writers especially,
fishing downstream with long rod and thick
line, liked to keep their flies on the top of the
THE DRY FLY. 117
water and liked flies which kept there and did
not sink. And they advise you what materials
you should use for flies, and how you should
cast if you wish to fish near the surface. Now,
in giving this advice they use words which in
the light of our after knowledge make them
appear to describe the dry fly. They are really
doing nothing of the kind. They are contrasting
not a floating with a wet fly, but one which
swims at or near the surface with one which
sinks deep below it. Still less are they advo-
cating what is the essence of the dry fly, that
it should float over the fish like the natural
insect. Still perhaps the passages are interest-
ing enough to be worth quoting.
The first goes right back to the beginning of
things. Leonard Mascall in 1590 gives a list
of twelve trout flies. They are taken from the
Treatise, without acknowledgment it is needless
to say. But there are two important additions.
In describing the Ruddy Fly, which is clearly
our Red Spinner, he says, what the Treatise
does not, that it is 'a good Fly to angle with
aloft on the water.' And Izaak Walton follows
Mascall. And Mascall again at the end of the
list adds something not in the Treatise, for he
says, speaking of all the flies that he has
described, 'thus are they made upon the hooke,
lapt about with corke, like each fly afore
mentioned/ Apparently, therefore, he intended
each fly's body to have a cork foundation,
which would tend to make it float, and one fly
118 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
in particular is to be used aloft on the water.
The passage looks uncommonly like prevision of
the dry fly. Still I do not think this is the right
interpretation. Mascall wanted a fly that
floated aloft. Success in fishing in these early
days of thick lines depended largely on keeping
your line off the water and out of the trout's
sight. You wanted therefore a fly that kept
on the top, or near it. But this is not the dry
fly. Barker's Delight (1657) has a not dis-
similar passage. He says that hog's wool, red
heifer's wool and various furs make good
bodies : 'and now I work much of hog's wooll,
for I finde it float eth best and procure th the
best sport.' In this case it is certain that a
floating fly is not intended, for he tells you to
fish downstream and to let your fly fall on the
water before the line, which are clearly direc-
tions which apply only to the sunk fly. Barker,
in talking of a fly that floats well, means as
Mascall means one that keeps on the top. It
would be straining language to read anything
else into the passages from Mascall and Barker.
But they are of great importance in enabling
us to understand their method.
The next reference, only a few years later,
is much the same, and the only excuse for
quoting it is the remarkable character of the
author, Robert Boyle. Natural philosopher,
chemist and theologian, a Founder of the Royal
Society, the correspondent of Newton, Locke
and Evelyn, he was not only one of the best
THE DRY FLY. 119
known men of his time, but his services to
science were great and lasting, not so much for
what he did, which of course has been super-
seded, but because he practised and taught the
experimental method, as opposed to the
dogmatism which held the field in his day. He
wrote on a wide range of subjects : on the air
pump, which he perfected; on the elasticity of
gases, on which 'Boyle's Law' is still recog-
nised, on the temperature of the blood, on the
properties of hydrogen and of white phos-
phorus, on seraphic love, on the iridescence
of soap bubbles, on the weight of light, and
among others, on fishing. Occasional Reflec-
tions Upon Several Subjects appeared in 1665.
It is a book of moral disquisitions and
allegorical analogies, displaying perhaps a
wide knowledge and some observation, but
chiefly remarkable for its amazing lack of
humour. No circumstance is too trivial to
point the weightiest moral, or too ridiculous
to be dragged into the loftiest metaphor. It
afforded too easy a mark to escape satire in an
age of satire, and it was parodied not only by
the author of Hudibras in Occasional Reflec-
tions on Dr. Charlton's feeling a Dog's Pulse
at Gresham College, but also by Swift in
Meditations on a Broom Stick : a parody which,
written to relieve the intolerable boredom of
having to read the book daily to Lady
Berkeley, he gravely palmed off on his patroness
as an original. But perhaps its chief distinc-
120 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
tion is that the Reflection entitled Upon the
Eating of Oysters is said to have suggested to
Swift the first idea of Gulliver's Travels.
The Discourses on fishing are similar to the
rest. In Discourse IV. Eugenius went fishing.
As he found the fish inclined to bite, he
discarded his natural flies, and put on one of
those counterfeit flies, 'which being made of
the Feathers of Wild-fowl, are not suK ;:* to
be drench'd by the water, whereon those ^>irds
are wont to swim.' He has such good sport
that his companion, after the inevitable
moralising, starts fishing too. 'A large Fish,
espying the Fly that kept my Hook swimming,
rose swiftly at it/ whereupon the angler strikes
and hooks him, only to be broken ignominiously.
It has been suggested that these passages refer
to a floating fly, and the allusion to a fly 'which
kept my Hook swimming' and was 'not subject
to be drench'd by the water' is relied on in
support. This seems plausible at first sight;
but such a construction would be reading into
the words more than they mean. As in the
passages quoted from Mascall and Barker, I
have no doubt that Boyle is describing a man
fishing downstream, keeping his line off the
water and his fly on the top. But perhaps he
does go a step beyond Barker, for his fly is not
drenched and therefore was actually dry. It
is nearer, but the complete attainment was not
to come for a century and three quarters.
It should, however, be said that Robert
THE DRY FLY. 121
Boyle, though not a dry fly man, was a good
fisherman. He describes himself as a great
lover of angling, and says that his discourses
are based on actual experience. It is to be
regretted that so learned and so observant a
man did not write on fishing for its own sake.
The desirability of keeping your fly on the
top runs through angling history. As late
as 1847, when the dry fly was appearing,
Wallwork in the Modern Angler, an interesting
and scarce book, says that in running water
your fly must always swim on the top, under
the continual inspection of your eye. But this
also is not the floating fly.
The fly that floats, and kills fish because it
floats, is first mentioned in a little book,
Scotcher's Fly-Fisher's Legacy, published
locally at Chepstow in 1800, and now excessively
rare. It is known chiefly as the first to give
coloured pictures of natural flies. Scotcher
says that when trout are rising at black gnats
in still water on hot evenings, you can catch
them if you have a long rod, light line, fine
point, small hook and neat fly, and keep off the
water and throw with nicety into the ripple
caused by the fish's rising, placing your fly in
the direction in which he is swimming. He
tied his fly, he says, on fine round glass-coloured
hair, and used a casting line of single hair,
which falls lightly and lies on the water, and
the fly is frequently so taken. Unless you are
careful, however, you will snap your fly off in
122 FLY FISHING FOR TEOUT.
casting. There is no doubt about that, for it
is the taking of fish with a fly that floats, which
takes them because it floats. But it still lacks
the drying of the fly.
The next passages must be quoted at length.
They are from Pulman's Vade Mecum of Fly
Fishing for Trout. There are three editions of
it, 1841, 1846 and 1851. This is what he wrote
in 1841. He notices that the ephemeridse sit
upon the water, and that the trout station
themselves just below the surface, and gently
lift their noses as the flies sail over. Now a
soaked artificial fly sinks, and thus escapes the
notice of the fish who are looking upwards ; but
'if the wet and heavy fly be exchanged for a dry
and light one, and passed in artist-like style
over the feeding fish, it will, partly from the
simple circumstance of its buoyancy, be taken,
in nine cases out of ten, as greedily as the living
insect itself.' To insure this, however, it must
be a good imitation both as to colour and size,
for otherwise it will startle rather than attract.
The whole passage is an admirable piece of
original observation. But it still lacks the
finishing touch, which was not supplied until
the appearance of the third edition in 1851.
The edition of 1846 only copies that of 1841.
That of 1851 takes the matter much further.
It is not enough to have a good imitation. The
fisherman must learn that something more than
a good copy of the fly is necessary and that
under certain circumstances not the form only
THE DRY FLY. 123
but the action also of the natural fly must be
imitated. 'Let a dry fly be substituted for the
wet one, the line switched a few times through
the air to throw off its superabundant moisture,
a judicious cast made just above the rising fish,
and the fly allowed to float towards and over
them, and the chances are ten to one that it
will be seized as readily as the living insect.'
This is the earliest mention I know of the
intentional drying of the fly.
The remarkable thing about this description
is its completeness. The dry fly springs to view
full grown : there are no tentative fumblings :
we are given a full and reasoned argument, as
good now as when it was written seventy years
ago. All the attributes of the dry fly are
present : a fish must be found taking natural
flies ; and the artificial must be a good imitation
in colour and size : it must float on the surface ;
it must be cast lightly and float naturally. The
fisherman must, says, Pulman, imitate action.
Pulman was a well-known tackle maker at
Axminster. He fished much on the Axe, on the
eastern side of Devonshire. He wrote several
good fishing books. The fact that he is the first
to describe the floating fly is puzzling, for this
reason. It was practised on the Itchen, pro-
bably in the forties, certainly in the fifties of
last century. It has a continuous history on
that river. On the other hand, I know no other
reference to it on the Axe. Nor can I find any
mention in Pulman's books of fishing on the
124 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Itchen. And yet Pulman must either have
introduced it from the Itchen, or have dis-
covered, or invented, it on the Axe. The last
contingency is possible, but unlikely, for it
would mean its invention at approximately the
same time on two rivers widely separated in
distance and character. And it is also unlikely
for the reason that it does not appear to have
survived on the Axe, where, however, it has
been reintroduced. On the whole, while
admitting that it is guess work, I incline to
think it more probable that his knowledge came
from Hampshire, directly or indirectly. He
does not claim to be the inventor, nor does he
write as such.
There appeared in 1879 a book entitled
Ogden on Fly Tying. It attracted less notice
than it deserved and is now somewhat hard to
get. Its author, James Ogden, was a member
of the famous house of fly dressers at Chelten-
ham, whose flies are as admirable now as ever.
He says that his book is the result of seventy
years' experience, and that he introduced
floating flies some forty years previously, which
brings us to 1839, or about the date of Pulman's
first edition. He claims to be their originator.
He gives a clear account of the first use of
floating mayflies on the Derbyshire Wye at
Bakewell on 5 June, 1865, where mayfly fishing
was then done entirely with the live fly.
Ogden' s success caused the owner of the water
to forbid the use of the natural, whereupon the
THE DRY FLY. 125
other fishermen were so angry that he was
mobbed and had to leave.
The book bears every mark of truth and
accuracy. The account of floating mayflies on
the Wye can be accepted confidently, for by
1865 the dry fly was in full swing on south
country streams. But the case is not so strong
with regard to the statement which he makes
more than once, that he introduced floating flies
forty years previously. Not that there is any
improbability in it, but because of the general
principle that statements in round numbers
made long after the event should be accepted
with caution. Still I believe it to be sub-
stantially true. I believe him to have been one
of the first dealers to put floating flies on the
market, his patterns are frequently mentioned
by contemporary writers, and he is the first
writer to give definite directions for dressing
floating duns. If the reader wishes to see what
Ogden's Mayflies were like he can, if he is so
lucky as to own that book which the hackneyed
word 'unique' alone describes, Aldam's Quaint
Treatise On Flies and Fly making, find at the
end of it two original Mayflies, tied by him.
These I believe to be the oldest representations
of floating flies now extant, and lovely flies they
In the Field for 17 December, 1853, an article
signed The Hampshire Fly Fisher says that fish-
ing upstream is very awkward 'unless you are
trying the Carshalton dodge and fishing with a
126 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
dry fly.'* Carshalton is on the Wandle, where
the floating fly was practised early.
Mr. W. H. Foster of Ashbourne tells me that
his firm made duns for dry fly fishing with
upright split wings in 1854.
Hitherto all information has come from the
South, but for the next mention of the dry fly
we must go to one of the most famous of Scots
fishermen. Thomas Tod Stoddart wrote a book
called The Angler's Companion to the Rivers
and Lochs of Scotland, of which the second
edition appeared in 1853. After saying that
fishermen often find the first cast the most
successful, because the fly is dry, he says that
where the fisher has to deal with subtle trout
in clear streams, it is not an unusual practice to
describe a figure of eight twice or thrice in the
air before casting, in order to dry your flies.
This practice, or dodge, is much used by the
fishers of clear, glassy streams both in England
and Wales. Who would have expected to find
an account of the dry fly in a writer so typical
of Scotland? Yet he is one of the first to
describe it. Whether he himself ever used the
dry fly I do not know. One would like to think
he did. I can find no reference to it in his other
books ; but the really interesting thing is that as
early as 1853 the knowledge of it should have
travelled north of the Tweed. And there is
another point worth noticing : the first edition
of the Angler's Companion came out in 1847,
*See the Fishing Gazette, 1 March, 1919.
THE DRY FLY. 127
and in that the passage quoted above does not
appear, while it does appear in the second
edition in 1853. Therefore it is possible to fix
with some accuracy the date when Stoddart first
knew of the dry fly. This induces the suggestion
that Stoddart, well read in angling literature,
had got it from Pulman published in 1851.
Francis, a celebrated writer, published an
article on 12 December, 1857, in the Field, of
which he had just become angling editor, on the
Hampshire streams. Describing the Itchen,
he says that however fine you fish, the motion
of your line will at times startle the trout.
'Accordingly I recommend the angler frequently
to try a dry fly e.g. suppose the angler sees a
rising fish, let him allow his casting-line and
fly to dry for a minute previous to making a
cast, 5 and then throw over the fish and let it
float down without motion. This is a killing
plan when fishing with duns. On rough windy
days they get drowned, and trout will take a
wet fly as well as a dry one, or perhaps better,
but on a fine day they sit on the water with
wings upright, and then scarcely a fish will
refuse a fly that floats, if its belly, legs and
whisks be of the same colour as the natural and
the wings not too heavy. Francis says that he
had long had these thoughts in his mind, and
had had abundant opportunities of proving the
advantages of the dry fly, which shows that he
knew and used it long before 1857. You must
throw your fly like 'thistle-down; do not let it
128 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
dwell on the water too long, for many a fish will
take it the second time, if you do not give him
too long to look at it the first time.' And you
must float it right over his head.
During the fifties, therefore, the dry fly slowly
won its way : but by 1860 it had extended its
range only over a limited area. Throughout the
voluminous letters and writings of Charles
Kingsley, who fished the Test and other chalk
streams, it is not so much as mentioned. When
he wrote Chalk Stream Studies in 1858 he
clearly had never heard of it, for he insists not
only on two flies, but on sunk flies too. He tells
his pupil that a trout is more likely to take
under water than on the top. His eager and
enquiring mind was interested in the deeper
problems of fishing : his letters are full of
references : he fished until near his death in
1875, and knew the south country rivers well;
his knowledge of natural insects was far in
advance of his time, and he is the first fisherman
to mention the work of the famous Swiss
entomologist Pictet. Yet, though of all men he
would appear to be the one most open to the
new idea, he never mentions the dry fly. It is
difficult to avoid the conclusion that he never
saw it. Nor is this intrinsically unlikely.
Froude writing as late as 1879 evidently knew
little of it, and what is even more odd, Sir
Herbert Maxwell states that the Chronicles of
the Houghton Fishing Club on the Test from
1822 to 1908 make no mention of it. Which is
THE DRY FLY. 129
really amazing. True, it appears to have
reached the Test some time after the Itchen, but
of course it was the only method from the
eighties onwards. When I first fished it in
1890 no one dreamed of using anything else,
except on still water in a wind.
In spite of these isolated exceptions, by the
middle of the sixties the dry fly had established
its long reign on south country streams.
Hal ford found it in full swing on the Wandle
in 1868. Francis writing in 1867 (A Book of
A ngling) ten years after the article in The Field
is able to say that by then it had become a
systematic art, and was greatly used on southern
streams. You should dry your fly with two or
three false casts. In calm, bright and still
weather, when a wet fly was useless, the dry fly
was taken most confidingly. In rough windy
weather, however, the wet fly was preferable.
He never contemplated using only the dry fly,
even on the Test or Itchen, and he writes a
sentence which, often as it has been quoted,
shall be quoted again, 'the judicious and perfect
application of dry, wet and mid water fly fish-
ing stamps the finished fly fisher with the hall
mark of efficiency/ But already there were
those who thought otherwise, for anglers pinned
their faith to the entire practice of either the
one or the other plan, and argued dry versus
wet. The battle had already begun.
Halford is the historian of the dry fly. He
did for it what Stewart did for upstream fish-
130 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
ing. Neither were pioneers, for both described
what they did not invent ; but both, by practice
and writing, made an unanswerable case for
the system they advocated. With Halford was
associated a band of enthusiasts who devoted
themselves to perfecting the art and spreading
the creed. Among them they systematised the
practice; they dealt with and solved technical
difficulties; they developed rod, line, hooks and
flies to their present excellence; and all that
they acquired or invented was told to the world
in sober and convincing English. Never was a
reform worked out with greater ability or
presented with greater lucidity.
Halford's first book, Floating Flies and How
To Dress Them, was published in 1886, followed
three years later by Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory
and Practice. He wrote five others, the last in
1913, shortly before his death. Two of the
seven deal with special subjects, fishery manage-
ment and entomology, and of the five that deal
generally with fishing and fly dressing the first
two are by far the best. His later books are
Halford's place in the history of fishing is
well marked. He is the historian of a far-
reaching change, and as such it is probable that
he will always be read. He was well-fitted for
the task. He possessed a balanced tempera-
ment and a reasonable mind. He took nothing
for granted, and proceeded by observation and
experiment. He is the master too of a style
THE DRY FLY. 131
suited to his theme, for while he never rises to
great heights, he commands, in his earlier
books, a prose which is apt and direct, and
essentially his own. He established the dry fly
as we know it. There have not been many
changes since he wrote. Tackle has been
refined still further, rod, reels and lines are if
possible more excellent, flies are more closely
copied and in particular the nymph and spent
spinner are novelties. But the method of fish-
ing is unchanged. You still have to find your
trout rising or willing to rise, and to cast
accurately and delicately. Halford's directions
are as good and as useful as on the day when
they were written.
If he is to be criticised it is because like most
reformers he overstated his case. He considered
that the dry fly had superseded for all time and
in all places all other methods of fly fishing, and
that those who thought otherwise were either
ignorant or incompetent. He did not realise,
and perhaps it is impossible that he should have
realised, that the coming of the floating fly did
not mean that previous experience and previous
knowledge were as worthless as though they had
never been; but that it meant that from then
onwards fly fishing was divided into two
streams. These streams are separate, but they
run parallel, and there are many cross channels
between them. Looking back more than a
generation to Halford's first book, and taking
note of what has happened, two tendencies are
132 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
apparent. The floating fly has spread far
beyond its original territory. When he first
wrote it was the common but not yet the
universal practice in a limited area; the chalk
streams of Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire
and Kent, the Wandle, the Hertfordshire and
Buckinghamshire streams, and the limestone
streams of Derbyshire. Speaking generally,
and without reckoning outlying areas such as
Driffield Beck, Derbyshire was its northerly and
Dorsetshire its westerly boundary. At his
death, it had spread over all England, over
Scotland, Ireland, and parts of France,
Germany, Scandinavia, America and New
Zealand; in fact, it was practised by some
fishermen in most places where trout are to be
found. It must not be imagined that wherever
it went it conquered, for such was far from the
case. But it won its way on rivers in which
trout sometimes run large, such as Tweed or
Don, and particularly in Irish rivers, of which
the Suir is one. It has also come to be used
more and more on lakes which hold big fish,
such as Blagdon or Lough Arrow. And the
new sport of fishing it for sea trout has been
invented. Altogether Halford in the time
between his first book and his death saw its
empire spread over a large part of the earth.
That is one tendency to be noted, and very
marked it is. But there is another, and that
is the revival of the sunk fly, even on ground
from which it was believed to have been
THE PRY FLY. 133
banished for ever. This revival is due largely
to the writings of Mr. G. E. M. Skues, whose
Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream was
published in 1910. In this book he proves
conclusively that the sunk fly has its use on the
shyest chalk stream, that it will kill when the
dry fly will not, and that it is a form of fishing
as difficult and as entrancing as the other. It
is an original book, and it is no disparagement
to its originality to say that it is founded on
the wisdom of our ancestors. Mr. Skues is
indebted to Stewart both for his method of fish-
ing and of tying flies, a debt which he amply
acknowledges. His great merit is that he has
revived and brought up to date for use on
chalk streams what was a lost art. He has
rediscovered and restated it in terms suited to
to-day. His book gives fishing a new starting
point, and opens a new chapter in its history.
Since Minor Tactics appeared, there has been
another noticeable movement, the use of imita-
tion nymphs. The under water life of flies is
much better known than it used to be, thanks
largely to Halford, and the nymphs of the olive
dun, the blue winged olive, the iron blue and the
pale watery dun have been identified and are
being copied. And these copies are not taking
the form traditional to sunk flies, with head
and tail, wing and hackle, but are being built
on new lines, copying more closely the original.
These are now being used extensively and with
success on the shyest chalk streams. Whether
134 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
ultimately they will prove more successful than
the old and familiar sunk patterns is a point
not yet cleared up. Many fishermen are con-
vinced that they will : Mr. Skues, a most
weighty opinion, thinks that they will not.
Only a long trial can decide, and possibly
the patterns of the future may be something
different from either.
I do not want it to be supposed that these
reactions detract from the dry fly's pre-
eminence. They do nothing of the kind. In
all the long history of fly fishing there has been
no change so great as its introduction. Until
it came we fished much as our ancestors did
in the seventeenth century. Rods had been
improved, certainly, but were in principle
unaltered; the use of gut instead of hair had
added a convenience : the invention of the reel
modified the method of playing a fish; but the
dry fly was more than all put together. It
altered both the practice and the temperament
of the angler. It called different qualities into
request. It has a charm and an allurement
which the older sport did not possess.
In what does its charm lie? Partly in the
fact that all the moves in the game are visible.
Just as a stalk is much more interesting when
you can see your stag and watch his slightest
movement, so with a fish. If you see him your
eyes never leave him : if not, you watch for his
rise. If it does not occur with its accustomed
regularity, you have put him down. If you can
THE DRY FLY. 135
see him, you watch every motion. Then you
see your fly too. Nothing is hid. When the
fly conies over him, you see him prepare to take
it or treat it with stolid indifference. You
see him rise and take. The whole drama is
played out before your eyes.
Then again you attack him when the odds are
most in his favour. On a hot still day in June
he is far more alert than on a blowing April
morning. He has lost the exuberance of spring.
The water is low and clear, and the surface
unruffled. Weeds are thick and handy. Your
gut must be the finest, your fly the smallest.
He is hungry, it is true, but particular. Not
only must your fly not fright him, it must please
his lazy senses. When he pokes his nose at it
and refuses, it may be that the reason is dainti-
ness, not distrust.
His size too is an added attraction. No dry
fly fishing is good where fish do not run large,
and a big fish is a prize. Shooting gives no
such trophy. You do not find one grouse three
times the size of another, and if you did he
would be easier, not harder, to hit. But the
trout gets craftier as he gets bigger : his
cunning grows with his girth.
The casting too has its fascination. On your
day and such days come to all of us, to make
up for the many when we are either maddened
or drugged and stupefied by our incurable
ineptitude how delicately and how surely you
throw. You mean your fly to fall four inches
136 FLY FISHING FOR TBOUT.
above the fish, and sure enough it does, not an
inch more or less. Nothing is too difficult :
drag has no terrors : head wind is a f riend 5 not
an enemy, for does it not enable you to put a
curve on your gut, which brings your fly over
the fish first? You know exactly what to do,
and you do it. Wherever the fish may be
rising, your fly sails over him, hardly touching
the water, wings up, floating like a cork, follow-
ing every crinkle of the slow current. You gain
an extraordinary sense of power. Your rod and
line, right down to the fly, are part of yourself,
moved by your nerves and answering to your
So much has been written about the scenery
and surroundings of fishing, that a late comer
in the field is reluctant to embark on it : so much
good there is to which he cannot hope to attain,
so much bad into which he may easily fall. But,
after all, scenery and surroundings can hardly
be omitted, for I doubt whether anyone thinks
of his great days without at the same time
recalling not only the weather, which must
always be a permanent part of the picture in a
fisherman's mind, but also the scenery. You
remember the look of the river, the green of the
reeds, the wind blowing over the thick bed of
sedges, the long line of rustling poplars. And
while most rivers are beautiful, especially to
him who follows the river and not the road,
there is a quite particular charm about those
of Hampshire and Wiltshire. It is hard to
THE DRY FLY. 137
describe, but we all feel it, deep down in our
beings. We may belong to the north, and would
not belong elsewhere if we could ; but when May
and June come we are caught and swept by a
longing for those gracious and lovely valleys,
which is not satisfied till we go there.
In these happy valleys each season has a
charm of its own. If you are so lucky as to be
there in early April you have the added attrac-
tion that spring and summer are in front of
you, five solid months of fishing. What matter
if there be no rise ? There will come days in
May when the olives will sail down in fleets.
What matter that you know that your total days
in the year will be few ? Never mind, you will
have some : the glories of the summer are still
to come, and you feel the same deep inflowing
happiness which you experience when you are
on the river early on a June morning and know
that the whole long day is before you.
The valley early in April is quite different
from its aspect in June. The willows are only
just green, the oak and the poplar still bare.
The dead rushes and sedges, washed by the
winter rains, give the landscape a peculiar
bleached look, and the water by contrast looks
dark and rather forbidding. Not many flowers
are out, but the kingcup is everywhere : in waste
places where last year's reeds lie thick and
yellow it glows beneath them like flame beneath
firewood. The grass too in the water-meadows
is the dark glossy grass of early spring, unlike
138 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
any other colour in the world and quite different
from the grass of summer. Ever since January
the water has been let in to trickle among the
roots of the herbage, and now when ordinary
fields have not begun growing the water-
meadows have a thick crop. The sheep will
soon be penned on it and their busy teeth will
eat every scrap down to the roots, until the field
looks a faded yellow. Then the water will be
run in again, and in June the haymakers will
be at work.
As April runs into May, the valley changes
greatly. It becomes green everywhere; so of
course do other landscapes, but its special
character is that it shews so many different
shades of green, and shews them all together.
The yellow green of the young willows, the
bright green of the reeds, the blue green of the
iris, the vivid green of some water weeds
these are seen simultaneously. But perhaps
the chief cause of the valley's beauty is reflected
light. Light is reflected at all angles off the
glancing water, and gives the leaves an airy and
translucent appearance, which you do not get
elsewhere. May too is the month of the haw-
thorn, and thorn trees flourish particularly well
on the chalk. Then also the birds come, and
sedge and reed warblers make the banks
musical. Opinions will differ as to whether
May or June is the best month. May has the
charm of novelty not yet worn off, but June has
that of perfect fulfilment. And to the chalk-
THE DRY FLY. 139
stream fisherman June is the best month of all,
for who would not if he could choose a windless
day in June? It is the month of the meadow
flowers, and though the different shades of green
are less marked and are merging into their
summer sameness, the yellow iris makes the
banks a garden, the wild rose stars the hedges,
and the guelder rose hangs its cream-coloured
lamps over the carriers.
As summer goes on and the rest of the world
grows dry and dusty, the valley remains green
and cool. Running water is everywhere :
racing in a miniature trout stream by the road
side; filling deep brimming carriers, rivers in
themselves; trickling and percolating over the
fields. The valley is a delight all the year, but
perhaps it is never quite the same after the
summer grass has been mown, for it loses some-
thing never regained, and you see signs that
the best of the year is passing. Still, July and
August have their attractions. A new set of
flowers appears. The comfrey and the thick
clusters of purple loosestrife and the golden
mimulus may not equal the June flowers. They
may not compare with the wild rose, the
guelder rose, and the yellow iris, perhaps the
loveliest of British flowers. But they are suit-
able to the time, and their solid colours fit in
with hot days. July and August too are fish-
ing months whose excellence is often overlooked.
On late rivers such as the Kennet you get good
fishing right into September. By August
140 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
another feature of the valley appears, the Great
Sedge is in flower. Until June the sedge forest
is composed of the tall yellow stalks of last
year's growth. The green shoots as they grow
slowly push them off, but they remain late in the
summer and it is not till August that the new
growth is complete. Then they are a glaucous
green, with feathery purplish heads, beloved of
night-flying moths. The forest is as tall as a
man, and so thick that you have to force your
way through it.
As September runs to its end, some of the
special features of the valley disappear. It
becomes more like other landscapes; beautiful
still, but less individual. If you like you can
stay on for the grayling fishing and watch the
trees take on their autumn colours. You can
if you like. For myself I do not care to. So
by September, if you take my advice, you will
quit the valley, taking with you memories which
will never leave you. Another year has passed,
and you are lucky to have spent any of it by the
river. You will not regret your 'idle time, not
THE EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY.
I. THE MATERIALS.
And among the variety of your Fly-adven-
turers, remember the Hackle, or the Fly
substitute, foriu'd without Wings, and drest up
with the Feather of a Capon, Pheasant, Part-
ridg, Moccaw, Phlimingo, Paraketa, or the like,
and the Body nothing differing in shape from the
Fly, save only in ruffness, and indigency of
Richard Franck. 1694.
I have said, fishermen when they
cast their eye on flies and began
to imitate them, proceeded on
what we can now recognise as
three distinct principles. Some
imitated fly life generally, and
produced an article which was a fair copy of an
insect but could not be connected with any
particular species or genus or group. Such
flies are called fancy flies. They have many
redoubtable advocates, drawn in modern times
142 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
chiefly from Scotland. Stewart pinned his
faith to his three famous hackles, his black,
red, and dun spider. No doubt each of those
could with a little laxity, be identified with a
specific insect ; but he did not set out to imitate
such, and chose his flies with an eye rather to
weather and water. This, in fact, is the feature
which distinguishes this school : more attention
is paid to light, to the clearness of the water,
and to the sky, than to the insect. Stewart has
many followers to this day.
The next school use what are called general
flies, that is, flies which imitate a genus or a
group, but not an individual. They differ from
the last in that they regard imitation as more
important than light or water : but they
consider that precise copying is impossible, and,
if it were possible, unnecessary.
The third and last is content with nothing
short of an actual copy of the individual species
which trout are taking. Of these was Halford,
who when he first wrote included fancy and
general flies in his list, but at the end of his
long life says that his full experience convinced
him that specific imitation is best in all weathers
and all waters. Of course these three schools
merge into each other. A fly can be more or
less general, or it can be on the borderland of
fancy and general, or of general and individual.
Take the Partridge and Orange as an example.
It is fished in the north all the year round, and
may be called a fancy fly. But it is possibly
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 143
the best imitation of the February Red, and
when so used it is specific. And besides the
February Red it also kills as an imitation of
the nymph of the Blue Winged Olive, and as
such is general. Or again the Wickham is
regarded as a fancy fly, yet a trout must be
keen sighted to distinguish it from a Red Quill,
specific imitation of a Red Spinner. So there
is no hard and fast line. Nor is there a hard
and fast line with fishermen, for most of us
use all three sorts. Few are entirely fancy ists
or generalists or individualists. Yet the
distinction remains and has been an important
one throughout history.
I do not propose to enter on that controversy,
which has been waged with some acrimony.
What I want to show, if I can, is man's struggle
towards the light in specific imitation, how he
found his way slowly to the exquisite copies
which we use to-day. But before doing that
there is one further distinction which I must
mention. The individualists themselves are
split into two schools, those who regard colour
as the more important factor and those who
regard form. Some, with Sir Herbert Maxwell,
believe that a scarlet Mayfly kills as well as a
natural coloured one. Others change their
Olive Quill so as to match its hackle more closely
to the legs of the fly which has just arrived on
the water. On this controversy all I have to
say is that I shall assume for the purpose of this
chapter that imitation both of colour and of
144 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
form can be no disadvantage, and that the
closer we can get to nature the better. But as
to what colour is to a fish and how it looks from
under the water, I cannot do better than refer
the enquirer to two striking books recently
produced by Mr. Francis Ward, Marvels of
Fish Life and Animal Life Under Water,
which break ground hitherto unexplored. Also
there is much new and stimulating matter in
Mr. J. C. Mottram's Fly Fishing. With that
I shall say no more.
The best way to realise the course of progress
is to choose a few natural flies which must have
been distinguished by fishermen from the
beginning of time and to see how succeeding
ages have copied them. I suggest that the
following twelve form as good a list as any :
February Red, Grannom, Olive Dun, Yellow
Dun, March Brown, Iron Blue, Stonefly,
Mayfly, Red Spinner, Black Gnat, Red Sedge
and Alder. All these flies are easily recognised
and well known. The entomologist might
protest, and deny a separate entity to the
Yellow Dun, but I should silence him by appeal-
ing to the universal though inaccurate opinion
of anglers. The earliest list of flies is in the
Treatise in 1496, which contains twelve flies,
copied from nature, as I hope to show. Mascall
in 1590 annexed it with little variation, and
Markham about twenty-five years later copied
Mascall, but in some notable ways improved and
explained the dressings. Walton, however,
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 145
disregarded Markham and reverted to Mascall,
and from Walton the list, getting more and
more corrupt, found its way into numberless
books, until finally in 1747 Bowlker did a public
service by rejecting most of it, and from that
time the Moorish Fly, the Sandy Yellow Fly,
the Ruddy Fly and many others disappear from
The next list is Cotton's in 1676, original
and good but very long, containing between
sixty and seventy flies, hard to identify with
natural insects. The fame of its author caused
it to be pirated often, and many of the dressings
survived a long time.
The third list is in Chetham in 1681 : not the
one in the body of his book, which is merely
copied from Cotton, but the one given in the
Appendix to the first edition and, in the later
editions, incorporated in the book. Chetham
says that it was the list of a very good angler
and came to his hands as he was going to press.
It is a list of great interest and modernity, the
first to mention starling as a wing material.
That concludes the seventeenth century. In
the eighteenth, by far the most accurate and
complete is Bowlker (1747), and from him we
move straight to the nineteenth century and
modern times. Ronalds and Theakston, both
writing at the middle of last century, give well-
known lists, and so does Francis ten years later,
and Aldam ten years later still. From him we
come to contemporary writers, who are
146 FLY PISHING FOR TROUT.
numerous and will be mentioned in their place.
There is one early French list, that in the
Traitte de toute sorte de Chasse et de Peche
(1714). It contains five flies, of which one or
two can possibly be identified; but I feel a
doubt whether they were copied from natural
insects. At the same time the dressings are
given in some detail and seem to be original :
at any rate, if they are pirated, I do not know
This is the Treatise's 'dun fly, the body of dun
wool and the wings of the partridge.'* That
is the dressing in 1496. It is the same to-day.
The Partridge and Orange, dressed with a
partridge hackle and a body of orange silk, is
the imitation most commonly used between the
Tweed and the Trent and kills hundreds of
trout every year. So that fly has not changed
at all in four centuries and a quarter. There
have of course been innumerable dressings
during the period, and the fly has been given
various names. Markham called it the Lesser
Dun Fly, dressed with dun wool and partridge
hackle; and Cotton the Red Brown, dressed
with a body of red brown dog's fur and wings
of light mallard. Chetham, not in his book
but in the remarkable list of flies in the
appendix, calls it the Prime Dun, with a body
*Throughout this chapter I have modernised the spelling
and punctuation of the Treatise, but made no other change.
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 147
of fox cub's down spun on ash-coloured silk and
wings from a starling's quill feather. Bowlker
called it the Red Fly, and dressed it with a red
squirrel's fur body, a red hackle and dark
mallard wings : Aldam exactly like the
Treatise, mahogany silk and partridge hackle.
And so on, to modern times, when it is dressed
with a body of orange silk and hackled either
with partridge, grouse, or woodcock, according
to the fancy of the writer. It is the same fly
throughout. There can be no doubt about the
identification. It is the first fly given in the
list in the Treatise ; and it is the first fly which
greets the fisherman when the inhospitable
winter is over. The earliest French list also
gives a fly not dissimilar for the month of
April : body of red silk, head green, and wings
from a red hen.
It is doubtful whether the Treatise mentions
the Grannom, and Chetham is the first to give
an unambiguous account of it.
The difficulty about the Treatise is this.
Here is the description of a fly given for July :
The Shell Fly at St. Thomas' Day. The body
of green wool and lapped about with the herl of
the peacocks tail: wings of the buzzard.' I
always considered that an excellent dressing of
the Grannom : green wool body and a mottled
buzzard wing could hardly be improved, but I
ruled it out because of the time of appearance.
148 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
The Grannom comes up in April and lasts about
a fortnight : the dates of its appearance and
disappearance are clearly marked. The Trans-
lation of St. Thomas of Canterbury is 7th July,
and I consider the Treatise particularly
accurate in dates, and I never saw a Grannom,
or heard of one being seen, so late as that. So
reluctantly I rejected it. But my scepticism
was considerably shaken by finding that Ronalds
both uses Shell Fly as a synonym for Grannom
and also found the fly, or one like it, in trouts'
stomachs in August ; and in his fifth edition says
that the Grannom if dressed buzz is a good fly
all the summer months into September. Cotton
gives the Shell Fly for July, but considers that
it was taken by the trout for the palm that drops
off the willow into the water, and other writers,
who cribbed from the Treatise or Cotton, also
give it. But it is one of the flies specifically
knocked out by Bowlker, and I do not think it
reappears till Ronalds resuscitates it. Ronalds,
extremely accurate, says definitely that he
found the fly in trout in August : and possibly
there is a fly which appears then with a green
egg-bunch like the Grannom. This difficulty
illustrates the intolerable burden under which
we fishermen labour in not having a good modern
entomology. Halford's book is not satisfactory.
It is the work of one who was a great fisherman
but not a naturalist, and I do not think that
anyone who is not could possibly succeed. And,
apart from this, it suffers from two defects : it
INVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY.
has no coloured reproductions of the natural
fly, and its scope is too limited. It is of little
use to the field naturalist, and his requirements
should be the object to be aimed at. Leonard
West's Natural Trout Fly and its Imitation
(1912) is in many ways excellent. It has good
plates. It is highly original. But it leaves out
too much; for instance, it does not mention
well-known flies such as the Grannom, Iron
Blue and Blue Winged Olive. Ronalds wrote
quite a marvellous book ; but it is getting on for
a hundred years old, and during that time
entomology has been revolutionised. Cannot
somebody give us the book for which we are
But to return to the Grannom. Chetham
gives the first undoubted reference. He calls it
by its common name of Greentail in the list of
flies in his Appendix. Its body is from a brown
spaniel's ear, the tail end of sea-green wool,
and wings from a starling's quill feather.
Bowlker dressed it with a body of fur from the
black part of hare's face, ribbed with peacock
herl, two turns of grizzled cock's hackle at the
shoulder, and wings from a finely mottled
pheasant's wing feather. He found it no
advantage to imitate the green tail of the
female fly. It is a well-known fly, for it comes
up in vast numbers and is noticeable because of
the so-called green tail of the female, really a
bunch of eggs; consequently nearly all writers
from the seventeenth century onwards describe
150 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
it. Chetham's dressing is good, but is weak in
the wing, which should be finely pencilled and
not clear. Bowlker's is much better, and
Francis gives a dressing which is not unlike it.
Still the dressing has varied little in the two
hundred and forty years since Chetham
described it. Pritt in his Yorkshire Trout
Flies (1885) gives a good modern dressing :
wings hackled from inside a woodcock's wing
or partridge's neck or under a hen pheasant's
wing : body lead-coloured silk with a little fur
from a hare's face and the lower part green silk.
A hen partridge wing feather makes perhaps
the best wing, and heron herl the best body.
This is how Halford dressed the floating fly.
The Shell Fly is, I think, in the early French
list. The following is a dressing given for
July : Body of green silk, inclining to golden
(tirant sur For), blue head, and wings of a
The duns are difficult. From the time of
Cotton at any rate there have been two among
many which occur in all lists, the Blue Dun and
the Yellow Dun. Entomology admits the
existence of neither, but will only allow of an
Olive Dun and of the Blue Winged Olive The
Olive Dun varies greatly in colour, from very
dark to quite pale : and I assume the Blue Dun
to be an imitation of the darker and the Yellow
of the paler flies.
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 151
The Blue or Olive Dun is, I believe, the second
Dun fly of the Treatise : 'the body of black wool,
the wings of the blackest drake, and the jay
under the wing and under the tail.' That
dressing is not easy to construe, and I suspect
the text is corrupt. It is plain that the fly had
a black wool body and I think wings from the
quill feather of a drake : not the dark mottled
feather, usually called dark mallard; for I
think (though it is only a matter of opinion)
that when the mottled feather, light or dark,
is intended, the Treatise uses the word 'mail/
which would be an appropriate word for a body
feather. So our fly has a black wool body and
clear dark wings of a drake's wing feather :
but what is the meaning of jay under the wing
and under the tail ? Does it mean a jay hackle
run all down the body from wings to tail, and is
this hackle the blue feather, or what is it? It
is difficult to say. Markham, who corrected so
many of the ambiguities of the Treatise, saw
this difficulty, for he gives a dressing materially
different : body of black wool and wings of the
dun feathers of a drake's tail. That is plain
enough, and both dressings are fairly good,
though a little dark even for the Dark Olive.
Cotton gives two Blue Duns, one for February
and one for March, besides a Great Dun for
February, the best fly for the month, giving
admirable sport. He is therefore confusing,
but as all three are so alike as to be practically
indistinguishable, I take the dressing of the
152 FLY FISHING FOE TEOUT.
Great Dun, which is a body of dun bear's hair,
and wings of grey mallard taken from near the
tail. That is an improvement on the Treatise
but still far from good. Chetham takes us
further ; he dressed his Blue Dun with the down
of a water mouse and the blue dun of an old
fox mixed together spun on ash-coloured silk,
and wings of a starling's quill feather. That
is getting on, and approaching the old mole's
fur Blue Dun of my youth. Bowlker dressed it
with a body of yellow mohair and blue fur of
a fox mixed, a blue cock's hackle, and blue duck
or starling wings. That dressing survives till
to-day, if the duck wing as an alternative be
dropped. Francis dressed it almost identi-
cally. In later years it was and still is dressed
with mole or rat's fur body and a snipe wing,
and these are the materials given in the late
Mr. Tod's Wet Fly Fishing, and still later by
Mr. Skues in Minor Tactics.
The progress of this fly is of extraordinary
interest. It starts with a black wool body,
dark mallard wings and possibly a jay's blue
feather as hackle. This dressing is too dark
altogether in body and wing. Cotton lightens
both, and gives a fairly good fly, and Chetham
a still better one. His Blue Dun has no hackle
it is true, but its rough body of fox fur could
easily be picked out, and except for this it is
almost as it now exists. But there were one or
two improvements, the snipe wing, which I
think is better than the starling for the sunk
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 153
fly, and mole's fur body. So we get the fly of
The dressing of Olive Duns as floating flies
is different. The fur body absorbs too much
water and the beautiful quill body we now use
has taken its place. The hackle is usually a
dyed olive one, though I doubt if it is any
improvement on the old undyed dun hackle;
and the wing is invariably starling, as Chetham
discovered two hundred and forty years ago.
The Dun Cut of the Treatise : 'the Dun Cut,
the body of black wool and a yellow list after
either side, the wings of the buzzard bound on
with barkyd (i.e. dyed) hemp.'
The curious name of Dun Cut lasted till last
century as a synonym for the Yellow Dun. It
is common in the eighteenth, and Sir Humphry
Davy uses it still later, and even in 1849 John
Beever ('Arundo') gives it in Practical Fly-
Fishing. I know nothing of its origin.
Curiously enough it is not given by Mascall,
who called it the Sad Yellow Fly, and from him
the name got into Walton, who pirated from
Mascall, and from Walton into the numberless
writers who pirated from him, till finally
Bowlker knocked it out of fishing books in the
middle of the eighteenth century. By then it
Was corrupted to Sandy Yellow Fly. But though
the Sad or Sandy Yellow Fly has disappeared,
the fly as the Yellow Dun or Dun Cut has had a
154 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
vigorous life. Cotton knew it as the Dun Cut,
made of dun bear's hair mixed with some blue
and yellow and a large dun wing. Chetham's
invaluable appendix calls it the Yellow Dun,
and he as usual produces a most modern fly, of
yellow marten's fur dubbed on yellow silk, and
a starling wing. Bowlker did not distinguish
it from the Blue Dun. Best (1787) gives both
Y T ellow Dun and Dun Cut, somewhat different
dressings, the first almost identical with
Chetham. Thus it comes down to the nine-
teenth century, when Ronalds finally rigs it up,
as it is to-day : body either yellow mohair mixed
with pale blue mouse fur, or yellow thread well
waxed to give it an olive tint, light yellow dun
hackle and light starling wing. The body of
waxed thread is best, but it must be a particular
golden olive colour. I have killed numberless
trout with it, and when they are taking it they
will look at no other imitation.
For the hackle fly nothing beats the Dotterel
and Yellow. Aldam gives the best dressing
and Pritt gives nearly the same : body yellow
green floss, hackled with a feather from the
outside of a dotterel's wing. It is, in my
experience, a better all-round fly than the
winged pattern given above. But on its day the
winged dressing beats it.
This fly has changed less than the Blue Dun,
because it started better. A black wool body
with a yellow list down either side, light
mottled buzzard wings and a head of black
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 155
thread make not a bad fly. As usual Cotton
improves it a little and Chetham much. He
strikes the two notes of modernity, yellow
dubbing spun on yellow silk and starling wings :
Chetham 's pattern in fact is like Ronalds' first
imitation, minus the hackle. The hackle is
perhaps an improvement, but dubbing well
picked out is nearly as good. Finally Ronalds
gives it a shape which no one wants to improve.
Jackson followed Ronalds with little variation,
and Francis followed Jackson, and so on till
now. For the floating fly the Yellow Dun is
merged in the Olive, with a quill body : and
there are innumerable other dressings, often
varying but slightly.
Not in the Treatise nor Cotton : I suppose it
does not appear on the Derbyshire streams
which Cotton fished, for Aldam only gives it
in his Appendix. It is not included in the
manuscript he edited. Not mentioned indeed
till Chetham, who called it the Moorish Brown
and tied it with wool got from between a black
sheep's ears spun on red silk, and wings of a
partridge's quill feather. Bowlker calls it the
Brown Fly or Dun Drake and tells a lot about
it : it used to be tied, he says, of a dun drake's
feather and hare's fur, which he thinks not the
colour of the fly. He made it of hare's fur
ribbed with yellow silk, partridge hackle, and
wing from either partridge or pheasant,
156 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
presumably the quill feather. From then
onwards it has had innumerable clothings, for
it is mighty difficult to copy, but it is remark-
able that Ronalds, writing nearly a century
after Bowlker, gives what amounts to the same
dressing, and many followed him. It is not
easy to choose the best modern dressing, for
there are so many, that everyone has his
favourite, but I will take the one in Brook and
River Trouting, of Edmonds and Lee, a good
modern book : wings, from tail feather of a
partridge, body orange silk dubbed with hare's
ear fur and ribbed with yellow silk; hackle, the
greyish feather from a partridge back.
I rather like Chetham's pattern, for black
sheep's wool is brown when held up to the light,
and if spun on red silk might give the reddish
brown of the body which is so hard to copy.
And then a partridge quill feather is good. The
perfect fly is still to come, but meantime it is
worth noticing how little it has changed in what
is nearly two centuries and a half.
Chetham is the first to mention this also, and
he made it c of the Down of a Mouse for body and
head, dubt with sad Ash-coloured Silk, wings
of the sad coloured feather of a Shepstare quill/
He calls it the Little Blue Dun, but it is clearly
the Iron Blue, for though he gives it as a
September fly and it makes its first appearance
much earlier, it lasts right into autumn and on
KVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 157
some rivers is a typical autumn fly. I have seen
it come down in fleets when fishing the Eden for
salmon in October. Bowlker knew it well, and
gives an excellent description, and is the first
writer to say what is so true, that it is particu-
larly abundant on cold, stormy days. Bowlker
winged it with 'a Cormorant's feather that lyes
under the Wing in the same form as those of a
Goose.' I should like to see that feather. The
body he made of mole's fur, or still better of
water rat's, ribbed with yellow silk : and two
or three turns of a grizzled hackle. The best
dressing to-day for a sunk fly is water hen either
for the winged or still better for the hackled
fly, with a body of silk, either all purple or
purple and orange. Or it may be composed of
a dark snipe hackle with a purple silk body.
Four variations, all good, are given in Pritt.
For the dry fly nothing beats tomtit's tail for
wings, whilst for body you can have either
mole's fur or quill dyed purple. I always fancy
mole's fur kills best. The hackle should be
honey dun. This pattern, by the way, with
mole's fur on claret silk, is given by that fine
judge Mr. Skues as the best underwater
pattern, but I should feel happier with a Water
Hen and Purple.
Such is the fly as it is, and such was it at the
end of the seventeenth century : how did it get
from one to the other? It starts well, for a
dark dull starling wing is good and so is a
mouse fur body. In fact either mouse or mole's
158 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
fur prevails to-day. The two improvements
which have been made on Chetham are the
substitution of torn tit's tail for wing, which
gives just the right purplish colour, and the
dun hackle. I am uncertain who first pitched
on torn tit's tail. Wade in 1861 in Halcyon
calls it the Little Blue Bloa and gives blue or
black cap's wing, and I suppose the blue cap is
the blue tit, and the black cap may be the torn
tit. Ronalds in his first edition gives
Bowlker's cormorant's feather, but as this is
hard to get the tips of two feathers from a
water hen's breast may be substituted; but in
his fifth edition in 1856 he gives as well the
upper end of the wing feather of a torn tit when
in full plumage. Francis mentions torn tit's
tail in 1867, though he attributes it to Wade,
which seems a mistake. So we must take off
our hat to the shade of that mighty fisher
This fly has changed neither in name nor in
dressing. It is quite unmistakeable, a fat,
stupid, clumsy clown, better at running than
flying. The Treatise is as follows : 'The stone
fly, the body of black wool and yellow under the
wing and under the tail, and the wings of the
drake.' Markham as usual makes the dressing
more definite : the yellow under wings and tail
is to be made with yellow silk and the wings
are of a drake's down, not the quill feather.
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 159
Cotton knew the fly well and gives an excellent
account of its history : he made the body of
dun bear's hair and brown and yellow camlet
well mixed, making your fly more yellow on the
belly and towards the tail, two or three hairs of
a black cat's beard for tail, and long, very large
wings of grey mallard. Though we use
different furs from Cotton, his body survives
unchanged in essence : but a hen pheasant's
quill feather makes a truer wing than light
mallard, and we like to add a hackle, either
blue dun or greenish. But the changes are
We get now on more debateable ground. The
Treatise does not mention the Mayfly by name,
and its identification is matter of conjecture.
I believe, though I do not feel sure, that two
dressings are given, one dark and the other
lighter, just as they are used to-day, according
as the fly is brown or light. I take the Maure
(i.e. Mulberry-coloured) fly to be the first : it is,
be it noted, given as appearing in June : The
body of dusky wool, the wings of the blackest
mail of the wild drake.' Dark mallard is still
a favourite wing material. The second or
lighter dressing is 'The Tandy (i.e. tan-
coloured) fly at St. William's day, the body of
tandy wool and the wings contrary either
against other of the whitest mail of the wild
drake.' St. William's Dav is 8th June, on
160 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
many waters the date of the fly's appearance.
Now, if these two dressings are looked at,
they are not bad. They stand comparison with
those of admitted masters. For instance,
Eonalds made the wings of light mallard,
stained either olive or purple; and before and
after him, from Cotton in the seventeenth
century to Francis in the nineteenth, the
common wing feather is light mallard, usually
dyed pale green or yellow, but sometimes
undyed. Undyed widgeon is also used : and it
is worth noting that Markham used light
widgeon set back to back. The dark brown
mallard was less common, but was used by
Ogden, who preferred undyed feathers, and
plenty of flies with undyed mallard wings both
light and dark are to be seen in the shop
windows as I write. And note too that in one
fly in the Treatise the mallard wings are to be
tied on back to back, as they are to-day. So
there is nothing wrong with the wings. As to
body, it was made either of dusky or tan-
coloured wool. This is too dark, but not
greatly so, for one of the very best mayflies that
I know has the body of dark copper-coloured
So much for the identification; and while it
does not reach certainty, it amounts to strong
probability. It is unlikely that so conspicuous
and widespread an insect as the mayfly is not
in the list; and, if it is, there is only one other
fly which it could possibly be. That is a fly
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 161
given for May and called the Yellow Fly, with
a body of yellow wool, a red cock's hackle, and
wings of the drake stained yellow; but that is
so clearly and unmistakeably the Little Yellow
May Dun that it can be rejected. So on the
whole I believe the identification to be right.
Mascall misread Maure and made it into More
or Moorish : and as the Moorish Fly the fly got
into Markham and Walton, and from Walton
into those who stole from him : and Tandy or
Tan-coloured similarly got corrupted into
Tawny. Both names were slavishly copied
into fishing books, until Bowlker knocked them
out. Whether the identification of the
Treatise's flies be accepted or not, there is no
doubt that Barker knew the Mayfly. He made
is 'with a shammy body ribbed with black hair'
or with black sandy hog's wool ribbed with
black silk, and winged with mallard. Cotton
also knew and described it. He called it the
Green and Grey Drake and gives a long and
good account of the natural insect. He dressed
the Green Drake with a light mallard wing
dyed yellow, and the Grey Drake with undyed
grey mallard, the darkest grey feather.
A whole book could be written on the
dressings of the Mayfly alone. Until the
middle of last century a mallard wing was
almost universal; but it has now been largely
replaced by wood or summer duck or Egyptian
goose. Many other materials have been used :
teal ? Rouen drake, Guinea fowl, Andalusian
162 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
cock hackles, silver pheasant's tail and many
more : and for body, wools of all sorts and
colours, quill, silk, tinsel, gut, straw, india-
rubber, gold beaters skin, cork, goat's hair,
grass, and numberless more.
'In the beginning of May a good fly, the body
roddyd (i.e. ruddy) wool, and lapped about
with black silk : the wings of the drake and
of the red capons hackle.' Thus was the fly
fished during the Wars of the Roses, and thus
in all essentials was it fished during the Great
War. 'Body, dark red brown silk, ringed with
fine gold thread; legs, a red hackle; tail, three
wisps of the same; wings, a dark shiny brown
feather, the more brilliant and transparent the
better.' This, it is true, is not quite modern,
for it is the dressing given by Francis fifty
years ago, but it prevails to this day, as can
be seen by walking into any tackle shop. Is it
not amazing that the fly should be unchanged
during nearly five hundred years ? It is a much
more remarkable case than the Stonefly or
Mayfly : that great blatant creature the Stone-
fly, forcing himself on our notice like an
overgrown puppy, or that lovely and delicate
lady the Mayfly, trimming her lateen sails to
the June breezes, are too notable to be over-
looked, and too clearly patterned for diversity
of copy; but a slight indefinite insect like the
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 163
Red Spinner, hard to determine and harder
still to imitate !
Just consider the two dressings. Red wool
dulled by a ribbing of black silk is indistin-
guishable from red brown silk brightened by
gold thread : the basis of the fly, red hackle, is
the same in both : the wings are not different.
The fly is the same, in detail as well as in
substance. And possibly no fly has had a
wider range of use. Everywhere where trout
are to be caught, the red cock's hackle will
catch them. Mascall called it the Ruddy Fly,
and as usual this was the name handed down.
He says it is c a good fly to angle with aloft on
the water.' He was prophetic: its modern
counterpart, the Red Quill, has floated aloft on
many waters in many lands. That old writer
of Queen Elizabeth's day has given us a
sentence which might serve as the dry fly man's
motto. Cotton dressed it with a purple body
and red capon's hackle. Bowlker is the first to
call it Red Spinner : he gives two patterns
differing not a great deal from Francis : one of
them has starling wings, anticipating the Red
Quill of to-day. Theakston calls it the Orange
Drake, with a body of orange silk, and an
orange cock's hackle : Jackson the Red Tailed
Spinner, winged from a landrail's quill
feather : but it really is unnecessary to go on
giving different dressings, for they are all
alike. In modern times the fly has evolved into
the Red Quill, with starling wings, quill body>
164 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
and of course a red cock's hackle. This fly
forms the foundation of dry fly fishing. It is
perhaps used less universally than it was
twenty years ago, but it remains the standard
summer fly. Some fishermen use hardly any-
thing else : it is one of Lord Grey's four flies,
and is indeed included in every list : and it is
the fly we should all of us put on when starting
to fish unknown water. The number of trout
that fall to it each year must be immense The
natural fly is of course the imago of the Olive
Dun. The Red Spinner is certainly in the first
French list : Dans le mois de May ils en font
une, couverte aussi de soye, mais elle est de
couleur rouge, et avec des filets tirans sur 1'or :
la tete en est noire, et on y joint les plumes
rouges d'un chapon. That is to say, a red silk
body ribbed with gold, which is precisely
Francis's body : and of course, the red hackle.
Cotton evidently knew it well. He made the
body of the down of a black water dog or of a
young coot, and wings of the whitest mallard
obtainable, the body being made as small as
possible and the wings as short as the body.
Two hundred years later, in spite of the dry fly
revolution and innumerable changes, Halford
made it not very differently : black quill body,
cock starling hackle and palest starling wings.
The fly has three characteristics; a small
body, transparent wings, and, in the male,
KVOLTTION OF THK TKOUT FLY. 165
particularly short ones. All these Halford
allows for : he uses a thin quill from a chaffinch
tail for body, and for wings the palest starling-
obtainable. And he notes, too, the short wings
of the male. These three characteristics are
the fly : and every one of these three Cotton
observed and copied.
After this it is hardly necessary to trace 'the
fly down. The commonest dressing, however,
not I think the best, is black ostrich herl body,
and either some sort of clear wing, or more
usually wingless, with a dark or black hackle.
So Bowlker dressed it : and so did Francis and
many others. Nearly every writer agrees that
it is a difficult fly to copy. It is a most unsatis-
factory fly to fish with.
THE RED SEDGE.
Unlike all that have gone before, I do not
think the Sedges were differentiated until quite
late in history. Which is odd, for some of
them, the Red Sedge for instance, are most
noticeable. Theakston at the middle of the
last century gives a good account of it, though
in his tiresome phraseology he calls it the Red
Dun. He winged it with landrail, brown owl,
or red dun hen ; body, copper silk ; and hackle,
red dun hen. Ronalds disregards it, though
he gives a picture of the Cinnamon Sedge.
Halford rejected it, and gives no dressing. On
the other hand Francis thought well of it, and
dressed it with a double wing, starling under
166 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
and landrail above. The fly is used by some
dry fly fishers, but is by no means universal, for
many prefer, for the magic quarter of an hour
when great trout take the Sedge, either a
Coachman, large Red Quill, large Wickham,
or Hare's Ear or Silver Sedge ; and I am of that
number. The large Red Sedge as dressed
to-day has a white body of silk or wool, a
reddish buff hackle run all the way down,
ribbed the reverse way with gold wire, and full
wings of landrail. For the sunk fly nothing
beats a copper silk body, with landrail hackle
at the head only. It is a great summer fly for
day or evening fishing, dressed very small. For
night fishing it becomes the Bustard, dressed
immense, with a brown owl wing.
The alder may or may not be mentioned in
the Treatise. This is the dressing of the only
fly given for August : 'The Drake Fly, the body
of black wool and lapped about with black silk ;
wings of the mail of the black drake with a
black head.' Markham called it the Cloudy
Dark Fly, and made it with a cork body covered
with black wool clipped from between a sheep's
ears, ribbed with black silk : head black :
wings, the under mail of the mallard.
First of all, there is a point on the construc-
tion of the Treatise dressing. What is the
meaning of 'mail of the black drake with a
black head' ? It may mean one of two things :
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 167
either some specially coloured dark mallard
feather, only to be found on a black headed
drake : or black head refers not to the bird but
the feather, and means one with a black or dark
base. Every fly dresser knows that dark
mallard varies greatly in colour, especially at
the base, and many feathers with dark tips
have a light root. You are therefore directed
to choose a dark rooted one. This interpreta-
tion is conjectural, but it is not unlikely and
Now, the living Alder has a black head,
nearly black thorax, dull brown abdomen, and
light brown wings with very strong brown
veining. It is a well-known fly, recognisable
at once from the downward set of the wings
when at rest, which caused Kingsley to
apostrophise it as 'hunchback.' It is clear at
once that Markham's dressing is first class :
wool of a black sheep has a reddish tinge when
held up to the light, as we saw in the March
Brown, and I believe would make a better body
than the coppery peacock herl now almost
universal. But be that as it may, there can
be no reasonable doubt about the identification,
for Markham certainly is describing the Alder.
So I think, but with less certainty, is the
Treatise. Black head, black wool body ribbed
with black silk, and very dark mallard wings,
make a good imitation, not very different from
the one you and I fish to-day.
The dressing commonly used now is a body
163 FLY FISHING FOE TEOUT.
of coppery peacock's herl, black or rusty black
hackle, and dark woodcock or hen pheasant tail
wings. But I believe we should do better to go
back to Markham's body, and indeed Mr. C. E.
Walker, who published in 1908 a book of high
originality and value, which is a special study
of dressing flat-winged and penthouse-winged
flies such as the Alder, made the body of very
dark brown floss silk, which is not dissimilar.
The Alder may possibly be described in the
earliest French list : it is made of the longest
feathers of a peacock, head yellow, and winged
with a pheasant's quill feather. If that means
a body of peacock's herl, and I think it must,
it is a good dressing.
So even if we cannot date the Alder from
Henry VII. 's reign (though I think we can) at
any rate he dates from James I., and has a
respectable pedigree of three hundred years.
He has changed little during those three
centuries : so little, that it is not worth while
recording the dressings, so minute are the
variations. This conspicuous animal, easy to
recognise and easy to imitate, is usually seen
by fishermen either in the air or crawling up a
grass stem : it is never on the water, unless
blown there on a windy day, and there it lies,
kicking but helpless, an easy mark for the
That finishes the description of twelve repre-
sentative flies. What conclusions are to be
drawn? How many of these twelve flies have
INVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 169
a continuous history and from what date? It
is for the reader to decide : I have given the
evidence. I have tried to do this without
either understating the case, or overstating it :
the last error, the reading of modern facts into
old language, is an insidious, a common and a
corrupting one, and I trust I have avoided it.
Trying to hold the balance level, it seems to me
that of the twelve flies, five are described in the
Treatise beyond any reasonable doubt : the
February Red, Olive Dun, Yellow Dun, Stone-
fly and Red Spinner : two more, making seven,
the Mayfly and the Alder, are almost certainly;
and one more, making eight, the Grannom, is
probably included. Of the remaining four,
one, the Black Gnat, dates from Cotton in
1676 : two, March Brown and Iron Blue, from
Chetham in 1681, and one, the Red Sedge, from
the nineteenth century. Therefore of these
twelve representative flies, eight were probably
observed and copied by the author of the
Treatise, whoever that was, in the fifteenth
century, three originated in the seventeenth,
and only one in the nineteenth. I can imagine
no better illustration of the antiquity of fly
fishing, and of its continuity.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY
II. THE CONSTRUCTION.
Now for the shapes and proportions of these
flies, it is impossible to describe them without
painting, therefore you shall take of these several
flies alive, and laying them before you, try how
neere your Art can come unto Nature by an
equall shape, and mixture of colours.
A Discourse of the Generall Art of Fishing,
Gervase Markham. 1614.
ITHERTO the road has been easy.
It has not been difficult to show
that from the materials used
even in earliest times flies as
good as those we use to-day
could be constructed. It is
much harder to prove that they were. And,
without that, nothing is proved. You cannot
judge the excellence of a painter from his
colours and canvas alone, and fine marble does
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLT. 171
not necessarily produce a fine statue. What
do we know about the actual fly used, the
It is not easy to say. There are no directions
for fly dressing earlier than 1651, and no
picture of an artificial fly earlier than 1620;
and indeed then and for many years later illus-
trations are unreliable evidence; for the
engraver's art lagged woefully behind the
writer's. I do not know why, but the French,
who produced inferior fishing books, produced
infinitely better illustrations. If you compare
the clumsy and puerile plates of fish in the
Compleat Angler with the beautiful illustra-
tions of the contemporary Ruses Innocentes you
move into a different world ; and yet the fishing
letterpress of that Inventive Solitary, Frere
Frangois Fortin, is two hundred years behind
Walton. And even in Venables, whose frontis-
piece contains excellent pictures of the fisher-
man's rod, reel and basket, the flies depicted
are drawn roughly and inconclusively. So we
have to rely on inference, and somewhat on
conjecture : but w T e can perhaps find out some-
thing of what the old flies were, if we walk
warily with our eyes open. We have four
classes of evidence : the materials used, hooks
included : the directions for fly dressing : the
illustrations, for what they are worth : and
such evidence as exists of the study of natural
The Treatise gives no directions, but it does
172 FLY FISHING FOE TEOUT.
give us something of value, for in addition to
the materials discussed in the last chapter, it
has a plate of hooks showing their sizes. I
think the plate can be accepted as accurate :
those in the Treatise are either very good, like
the excellent one of tools for hook making, or
very bad, like that of the rod : and I believe this
is one of the good ones. The great thing it
proves is that hooks were not large. They vary
from 2 or 3 to 15 on the modern scale, and more-
over are notably short in the shank. That
argues a small fly. That is as far as we can go.
But it can be added that the fact that flies were
copied from nature, and the general excellence
of the materials, make it probable that the
construction of the trout fly did not lag behind.
Markham in 1614 went a little further. He
cannot, he says, describe the shapes and pro-
portions of flies without painting : therefore
you are to take live flies, and copy their shape
and colour as closely as you can. That again
looks like well-made flies, for both shape and
colour are to be copied. Then in 1620, in
Lawson's notes to the Secrets of Angling,
occurs the first picture of an artificial : but that
does not help. It resembles nothing so much as
a housefly on a hook. I cannot believe that that
admirable angler used anything so inartistic.
So we really know very little till we reach
Barker, the first to describe how to tie a trout
fly. Cut off your wing material, he says, and
tie the feather on the top of the hook, pointing
EVOLUTION OF THE TBOUT FLY. 173
away from the bend : strip one side of your
hackle and tie it and the body and ribbing
material in at the bend : make your body, run
on your tinsel and make fast under the wings :
turn your hackle and make fast. Divide your
wing with a pin into two, whip between with
a figure of eight, then with your thumb press
the wings over towards the bend of the hook
and take two or three turns of silk to keep them
This, the earliest description, makes what
we now call a reverse winged fly : the wings
are originally tied on pointing the opposite
way to the one they will finally adopt, and are
got into position by being pressed back and the
butt of the feather lashed down with two or
three turns of silk. Venables, who dressed his
flies in the same way, gives reasons why he did
so. If he did not, he says, the action of the
stream would fold the wing feathers round the
bend of the hook, if the fibres are soft, as they
should be. Also I think, though he is some-
what obscure, he believed that this method
made the fly swim with the hook point well up,
and not hang tail downwards : and therefore,
he says, the action of the stream will carry the
wings into the position of an insect when
Venables' directions are much more detailed
than Barker's. He tells how to make jointed
bodies and bodies with different colours
arranged lengthways : how to dress a hackle
174 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
fly : how to put on tails or horns : and how to
make a herl body. Imitate the underpart of
the natural fly, for that is the part of your
artificial which trout see : if you copy the back,
you will have a too 'Orient colour.' Wet your
body material before matching the fly, for
water alters its tint. The directions are
detailed and good, and the impression left on
the mind is one of skilled fly dressing.
Cotton's directions, a few years later, are
not very different. He too started by tying on
the wings, reverse way. You should not carry
the body beyond the bend of the hook, as you
do in London, says he slyly to his pupil. In
London, answers the pupil, we make the body
bigger than you do and also longer, almost to
the barb. I know you do, Cotton retorts : an
honest gentleman who came with my father
Walton gave me a fly like that, which, to tell
the truth, I hung in my parlour window to
laugh at. So here again is evidence that
Cotton's flies at any rate were slender and short
in the body. And here too is proof that
southern flies were fatter than northern, as they
are to this day.
Barker, Venables, and Cotton between them
give a fairly complete code. Their flies are, it
is true, of two types only, either hackled, or
with reverse wings, set on the top of the shank.
The feather too was a single strip tied on first
and then divided, for they did not make their
wings as they are made now, from two slips
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 175
taken from right and left-hand feathers. Nor
did they give any particular set to the wings of
flat-winged flies, such as Stoneflies or Alders,
but apparently tied them on at the same angle
as those of Olive Duns. In this indeed their
successors did little better, for the Alders and
Sedges in Halford's first book have practically
upright wings, and so they have in tackle shops
to-day. It is extremely difficult to get Alders
with wings tied at the proper penthouse angle,
in spite of Mr. Walker's valuable book.
The common way of dressing during the
eighteenth century also was reverse winged.
Bowlker gives it in 1747, and Bowlker was the
standard authority for over a century. Indeed
there was little change before the middle of the
nineteenth century. It is of interest to com-
pare the directions in Barker, Venables and
Cotton with those in Blacker, two centuries
later. I am referring to Blacker's third book,
the Art of Fly -Making (1855). In it he gives
the reverse winged fly as the first and easiest
pattern; all his directions are very like the
earlier writers, with the important difference
that his wings were made of two slips. He
also gives directions how to wing the other
way; but anyone reading the two accounts
together will not find much difference.
Ronalds, however, and Stewart, and I think
most nineteenth century dressers before dry fly
days, tied on the wings so as to face the bend
of the hook.
176 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
Thus down to Bowlker in the middle of the
eighteenth century wings were composed of a
single strip, tied on in a bunch and divided.
This developed into the rolled wing, made
famous by Stewart, and in general use to-day.
The material is cut from a single feather,
folded into several folds with the lightest
coloured side outside, tied on in a bunch at the
top of the hook and separated into two by tying
silk in a figure of eight. Mr. Skues, pondering
on Minor Tactics and casting his eyes round for
the best dressing of sunk flies for chalk streams,
unhesitatingly pitches upon this.
Leaving flat-winged flies on one side, there
are therefore two ways of constructing wings
and two ways of tying them on. They can be
constructed of a single piece, put on either
single or rolled; or they can be made of two
slips. They can be tied on either the natural
way or reversed. The earliest form was the
single strip, tied on reversed.
Cotton apparently did not hackle his winged
flies, but, as his bodies were always of dubbing,
this could be picked out. Barker recommends
hackles, with one side stripped, either cock or
capon, or plover's top which is best. Venables
used a hackle or none, indifferently. All made
their bodies of fur or wools, and since the
brightly-dyed wools which we use were not
obtainable, they had to get a rare collection,
bear's, heifer's, dog's, fox's, and what not.
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 177
The body of floss silk did not come in till later.
The detached body, such a favourite with early
dry fly fishers, but now rarely seen, is first
described and figured by Blacker.
During the second half of last century fly
tying differentiated. It was realised, slowly at
first, that sunk patterns would not do for
floaters, and still more slowly that floaters were
little use sunk. Who first dressed a fly to float
is uncertain, but both Ogden of Cheltenham
and Messrs. Foster of Ashbourne were selling
them in the fifties if not earlier. The first
directions are in Ogden's Fly Tying in 1879.
Seven years later Halford's Floating Flies
came out, far in advance of anything seen
before : it was and remains the standard work.
Since then many admirable books have
appeared, and the dry fly has been specialised
more and more, until we get the exquisite
creations we use to-day. Specialisation, too,
has not only produced flies differing from sunk
patterns : it has gone further, and the different
sexes and states of the natural insect are also
copied. Instead of being content with the old
Blue Dun and Red Spinner, the modern fisher-
man must have his Olive Nymphs, his Olive
Duns male and female, his Red Quills and his
Spent Olives of either sex. And I am bound
to say that there is a use for all of them. Nor
have sunk patterns been neglected. Much has
been done, and it is to be hoped that Mr. Skues,
who knows more about underwater happenings
ITS FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
than most of us, will one day give us the result
of his experience.
So much for fly dressing; now for pictures.
The earliest, in Lawson's notes to the Secrets of
Angling (1620) tells nothing, for it is clearly a
stock illustration, made by someone who knew
less than nothing of fishing. Nor are the next
any better, those on Venables' frontispiece. If
we are to go by them, his flies were clumsy and
wingless, with fat bodies and sparse hackle;
but I hardly think that much reliance can be
placed on them.
In fact there are no illustrations of any
value until the end of the eighteenth century.
At that date there is a plate in Sir John
Hawkins' edition of the Compleat Angler (it is
in his fourth edition of 1784 and no doubt also
in his first of 1760) and there is one not unlike
it, copied from it I suspect, in Best's Concise
Treatise of 1787. Some contemporary editions
of Bowlker also have the same flies, all possibly
from the same source. Six flies are figured in
Best, for example, two hackled and four
winged, varying in size from the Green Drake
to the Ant Fly. They are large and clumsy,
but not over-winged or over-hackled, and pro-
bably we must take them as typical. I think,
however, that Cotton would have had another
laugh at their portly bodies.
The first artistic picture of artificials is in
1826. An edition of Bowlker appeared in that
year with an admirable coloured plate of thirty
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 179
flies. For the first time illustration keeps step
with letterpress. The flies, though some sizes
bigger than I should care to use to-day, are
delicately made, light in hackle, slender in
body and thin in wing, and at last represent
the equipment of a modern fisherman.
Bowlker was precursor to a greater than
he. Ten years later Ronalds produced his
wonderful book. This gave coloured plates of
natural and artificial flies, the naturals all
classified and named. Few books have been
more widely read, or had more influence. It
went through eleven editions, the last, a
sumptuous one, coming out as late as 1913. It
started a school of writers and a school of
thought. Though nearly one hundred years
old it remains the only book of its class, and
the world is still waiting for the benefactor
who will bring it up to date. It is the text-
book and in a sense the creator of the race of
In giving coloured plates of natural and
artificial flies, though far superior to anything
that preceded it, the book is not original.
Bowlker anticipated it in plates of artificials;
whilst there were several writers before
Ronalds who studied nature, and a few who
gave figures of natural flies. So it is here
necessary to go back for a bit and to see how
fishermen first recorded their observations of
Ronalds is the father of the modern angler-
180 FLY FISHING FOE TKOUT.
naturalist; Taverner, if he had not been so
strangely neglected, might have filled the same
office for an earlier age. John Taverner was
Surveyor of the Royal Woods on the South of
the River Trent for King James I. He pub-
lished in 1600 a book, original and rare, called
Certaine experiments concerning fish and
fruite. It is full of observation far in advance
of his time : if Walton had read it, that great
man would have avoided certain fantastic
theories concerning the generation of pike and
eels. Perhaps the most remarkable thing in
the book is an accurate description of the
migration of the eel, which has puzzled
naturalists to this day. Indeed it is only in
this year 1920 that the actual breeding place
has been discovered, far off in the West
Atlantic, south of the Bermudas. Hither, in
the depths of the sea, eels from all Europe
repair to breed, and when they have bred they
die : and hence every spring come the elvers,
crossing an ocean they have never traversed
and bound for lands they have never seen ;
until, guided by some force of which we know
nothing, they repeople the rivers, the streams,
even the very ponds from which their parents
departed. Few stories in natural history are
so entrancing, few contrasts are so poignant,
as that of the eel; which in its infancy crosses
three thousand miles of ocean and forces its
way up rivers and streams and ditches in order
that it may spend its life in the agreeable mud
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 181
of some pond in England, in France, or in
Italy, shaded by elm-trees, haunted by slow-
moving cattle : and, after living there, and
growing fat in peaceful ease, returns by the
stormy road which it travelled, and fulfils its
long last journey, to reproduce and to die.
Taverner did not know all this, but he knew
much which others did not, for he says that
eels undoubtedly breed in brackish or sea water,
which no one else knew till centuries later.
He knew much about flies, too; he did not
believe that they were bred from mud, or cor-
ruption, or may-dew, or any other of the fairy
stories then prevalent ; for this is what he says :
C I have seene a young flie swimme in the water
too and fro, and in the end come to the upper
crust of the water, and assay to flie up : howbeit
not being perfitly ripe or fledge, hath twice or
thrice fallen downe againe into the water :
howbeit in the end receiving perfection by the
heate of the sunne, and the pleasant fat water,
hath in the ende within some halfe houre after
taken her flight, and flied quite awaie into the
ayre. And of such young flies before they are
able to flie awaie, do fish feede exceedingly/*
Taverner was probably more read by his
contemporaries than by later ages, who have so
strangely neglected him. Samuel Hartlib, in his
well-known Legacy of Husbandry (1655 the
*It was Mr. Turrell who I tkink first called attention to
Taverner, in Ancient Angling Authors; anyhow I am in-
debted to him for it and for much else. Bibliotheca Pisca-
toria mentions Taverner, but gives no idea of his importance.
182 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
third edition, the only one I have seen) quotes
him as an equal authority on fishponds with
Dubravius, high praise from a writer of that
date. And, by the way, Hartlib, though he
knew Taverner, had never heard of Markham
or Barker (he could hardly have heard of
Walton), for he laments that there is no good
treatise on angling in English.
Though Taverner does not actually describe
the splitting open of the ephemera nymph and
the birth of the subimago, he comes near it.
Cotton, an acute observer, knew a good deal, but
he knew less than Taverner. He tells us much
about the Stonefly and Mayfly, though he is
wrong about their underwater life, for he imag-
ined they came from caddises. It is odd that he
should not have identified the Creeper. Still
Cotton, though inferior to Taverner, was a fair
field naturalist and knew the dates of appear-
ance of the different flies. From Cotton know-
ledge gradually progresses. It was of course
handicapped by the absence of good scientific
works. I suppose the Theater of Insects by
Dr. Thomas Moffett, published with Topsel's
History of Fourfooted Beasts, 1658, is a fair
type of current entomology. Its author, whose
name is also spelt Muffet or Moufet, was a
celebrated doctor, and an acute observer of
insects; but in spite of this, and in spite of
quite good illustrations, one of which I take
to be a mayfly, the book would assuredly not be
much help to the eager and perplexed fisher-
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 183
man. He had to depend on observation, for
books were either wanting or misleading until
Linnaeus rebuilt natural history. So progress
was slow. By the time of Bowlker, a century
after Walton, knowledge had moved little.
Bowlker himself gives a most excellent and
accurate account of the two transformations of
the Mayfly : and about other flies, too, he has
some useful notes. But it was not till the publi-
cation of the writings of Pictet, the Swiss
naturalist, in the first half of last century, that
tiie needed stimulus was given. There was
some stirring of the waters before this, it is
true, but of a rather unscientific kind.
Hawkins' edition of the Compleat Angler gives
a print, uncoloured, of a fly and of caddis cases.
About 1800 there came out Scotcher's Fly
Fisher's Legacy, a remarkable little book in
many ways, chiefly because it is the first to give
coloured figures of natural flies. He gives the
February Red, Blue Dun, March Brown,
Grannom, Mayfly, Black Gnat and others.
They are drawn and described from original
observation, and though there are some careless
mistakes, such as giving the Mayfly eight legs,
it is a good book. He wrote it, he said, because
he found it impossible to recognise flies from
the descriptions in books.
After Scotcher there came two other writers
before Ronalds, Bainbridge, who wrote the
Fly-fisher's Guide in 1816, and Carroll the
Angler's Vade Mecum in 1818. Bainbridge
184 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
is the best. His book went through four
editions, of which the last came out after two
editions of Ronalds' had been published. It
contains five plates of natural flies, fairly well
drawn, and coloured; it was a popular and
reliable handbook; and it would have had a
longer life had it not met a work of genius in
Ronalds. It is well worth looking at, even
Carroll's book is a curiosity. Though pub-
lished after Bainbridge, it is most inferior : it
contains the portentous number of one hundred
and ninety- four flies, none with scientific
names, very few with popular ones, and most
with quite inadequate descriptions, roughly
drawn and as roughly coloured by hand. I
suppose most collectors have a copy in their
library but that not many look at it twice.
I will only say this, that if you do take the
trouble to wade through the crudities of the
drawings, as I have had to do, it is just possible
to identify the flies. The pictures are not quite
so wild as they seem. Perhaps Carroll was the
victim of his illustrator. At any rate the book
was a failure; it was never reprinted, nor is it
likely to be.
Ronalds is entirely original, and owes
nothing to Scotcher or Bainbridge or Carroll.
His book is both scientific and popular. He
took trouble to identify his insects and give
them their Latin names (not always correctly,
it is true, and of course according to the science
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 185
of his day, now largely obsolete).* At the same
time, for the unscientific, he gave exquisite
pictures, an example which Halford might
have followed. They are, in a well worn
phrase, works of art : it is difficult to imagine
better pictures of the mayfly, for instance. Nor
of the mayfly alone. All are good, and have
the important quality of making the living
insects easily recognisable.
Ronalds was followed on two lines. Some
good books with plates of flies appeared, which
would either not have existed at all or would
have been done much less well had the
Entomology never been written. If anyone
doubts this, let him compare the rough and
inadequate plates of flies, natural and artifi-
cial, in Salmonia published only a few years
before Ronalds, with the beautiful and accu-
rate illustrations in the books which followed
him, such as Wheatley's Rod and Line,
Theakston's List, Jackson's Practical Fly-
Fisher and Wade's Halcyon. Identification
and illustration have passed out of the hands
of the amateur into those of the expert. There
were good naturalists and good engravers
before Ronalds, certainly; but he raised the
*The fifth edition of Ronalds in 1856 and some later ones
were edited and revised by Piscator, whom Mr. H T.
Sheringham has conclusively identified as Barnard Smith,
author of the well known arithmetic. Smith modernised the
nomenclature. Pictet's work on the Neuroptera, in which the
Ephemeridae are included, began to appear in 1842, six years
after Ronalds' first edition, and was completed in 1845. It
would therefore have been available for Smith in 1856.
186 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
general standard so high that a writer of Sir
Humphry Davy's eminence, had he lived after
him, would have been slow to encumber his book
with such artless productions. From hence-
forth the engraver keeps pace with the writer.
But Ronalds started another stream also, the
angler-naturalist : in this his influence acted
more perhaps by permeating all writers than
by inspiring individual books. Still there were
such. Chalk Stream Studies owes much to
him. Kingsley indeed could have written a
great book for the angler-naturalist. And
Hamilton's River-Side Naturalist, too, is a
book which might be better known than it is.
Of one of the latest of the books describing
the natural fly, Halford's Dry Fly Entomology,
something has been said already. Its author,
a distinguished and devoted fisherman, gave
much time and work to the book; and he was
helped by his friends. The scheme of the book
is in advance of Eonalds, as may be imagined,
seeing the strides entomology had made. It
attempted to give a life history of the better
known insects in all their stages, from egg to
imago. I will only here say two things about
it : first that it should be read in its revised
and improved form, not in the original book
of 1897, but in the reissue in 1913 in the Dry
Fly Man's Handbook. Secondly that though
it contains much for which the fisherman is
grateful, he is still impatiently expecting some-
thing more : something which really shall give
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 187
him a modern scientific work on those flies on
which his happiness depends. It will not be an
easy book to write, for it must be the work of
a naturalist. It will not be a cheap book to
produce, for it must have really good coloured
plates. But it will earn for its creator present
gratitude and future immortality. Mr.
Leonard West has attempted this. He has
laid a foundation on which much may be built.
His present book is incomplete, and his identifi-
cations difficult. It is to be hoped that the
second edition, which is now promised, will
carry the matter further.
There exist to-day many books with excellent
representations of artificial flies so many and
so well-known that it is unnecessary to name
them. Halford's first and best book, Floating
Flies, is admirable. But one further method
of representation should be noticed, that of
books in whose pages there are inlaid actual
artificial flies themselves. There are several
such. I believe that some of Blacker' s books
are thus embellished, though I have never seen
one. Sir Herbert Maxwell's edition of Ronalds
is of this character, and so is the edition de
luxe of Halford's Dry Fly Man's Handbook.
But the best of all, for beauty and interest, is
Aldam's Quaint Treatise. The flies in it are
tied with an excellence that I have never seen
beaten; and, as well as complete flies, all the
materials of which they are made, silk, wool
and feathers, are there displayed.
188 FLY FISHING FOR TKOUT.
Finally, as the latest repercussion of the
influence of Ronalds, there is American Trout
Stream Insects by Louis Rhead, which has just
appeared. It contains a series of coloured
prints of natural flies and some photographic
reproductions of artificials and of other lures.
The naturals are not identified or classified;
and the nomenclature adopted is that of
Theakston, a great drawback for British
readers, among whom Theakston 's names are
confusing and obsolete. But in spite of all
this, the book is invaluable. It contains
coloured pictures of over ninety insects painted
by the author : and though he tells us that the
book represents seven years' work he should be
well repaid by the gratitude he has earned.
That finishes the subject of flies. They have
been followed for over four hundred years, and
an attempt has been made to trace their
development. There seems to me to be three
conclusions to be drawn. First, from the
beginning of things, flies were imitated from
natural insects; every fly in the Treatise I
believe to be such. Imitated clumsily, it may
be, but still imitated. The next point is that,
on the whole, the imitation was good, in view
of the materials at hand. In Henry VII's
reign fishermen were restricted to the homely
products of the farm, the field and the forest :
in our day the whole world has been ransacked.
We, who have foreign materials available, have
an advantage not possessed by earlier dressers.
EVOLUTION OF THE TROUT FLY. 189
But the point to realise is that in cases where
we still rely on home products, we use the same
materials as did Dame Juliana : and therefore
her flies have stood the test of four centuries
and the competition of five continents. The
February Red, made of partridge hackle and
orange wool or silk, will be fished next March
as it was fished four centuries and a quarter
ago : the Red Spinner is dressed almost identi-
cally by Dame Juliana in the fifteenth century
and by Francis in the nineteenth. For both we
still use home-grown materials. But compare
these two flies with the Mayfly, where we do
not. Your Tudor ancestor made it of brown
wool plucked from a heifer or a red deer, with
wings from the common wild duck. You, when
you set out next June, may take with you one
whose wings are of the Summer Duck which
comes from America, or of a goose which comes
from Egypt, dyed with chemical dye whose
ingredients come I know not whence : whose
hackle is of Golden Pheasant which comes from
China, and whose body is of maize straw which
comes from Italy, or of indiarubber which
comes from Africa. It is in these flies that
there have been the greatest changes : in the
others there have been few. No stronger proof
could be given of the merits of the Treatise.
Lastly, I find it impossible to believe that the
author of the Treatise originated all the
dressings described in it. When I think of the
difficulties of imitation, of the many trials and
190 FLY FISHING FOR TKOUT.
failures which must precede success, I am com-
pelled to the conclusion that the Treatise
embodies a long previous history. This history
may be traditional. It is possible that the
author gathered all the knowledge displayed in
the book from word of mouth and that she
records traditions handed down through
generations of anglers. This may be so. But
I think it more likely that the written word
existed as a guide. That we shall ever find any
earlier manuscript is perhaps unlikely, but the
possibility is alluring. I like to think that
there is a chance, even the remotest, that some
day we may have revealed to us dressings of
flies even earlier than those which date from
the Wars of the Roses.
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING.
And now we are arived at the last,
In wished harbour where we meane to rest ;
And make an end of this our journey past;
Here then in quiet roade I think it best
We strike our sailes and stedfast Anchor cast
For now the Sunne low setteth in the West.
Secrets of Angling,
John Dennys. 1613.
sport has a finer literature than
fishing, and no part of that
literature is finer than that
devoted to the fly. From the
earliest times fishing has never
lacked writers who can express
and fly fishing especially has
had much more, for authors of
outstanding repute have written about it, both
in prose and verse. Something has been said
of these famous ones in previous chapters, and
indeed their writings are generally known.
Apart from Walton, who is known by name at
192 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
any rate to every household, most people have
heard of' Cotton, of Gay, of Sir Humphry
Davy, of Stoddart, of Colquhoun, of Andrew
Lang, of Halford and of Lord Grey. But
there are many lesser men who are not known
even to fishermen, and they are not less interest-
ing. Indeed, they are worth study even more
than the greater ones; for they have not their
facility, and yet they often have much to say.
Fly fishing springs from a splendid source.
The author of the Treatise, whoever that may
be, was fortunate in being able to draw on the
noble model of French and English sporting
books. The Treatise too was fortunate in the
time of its birth, for it has all the clarity and
directness of fifteenth century English. Our
language had not then reached its full summit
and sweep : it was to gain in flexibility and
variety and colour ; but among the prose of plain
narrative, which can on occasion rise to beauty
and dignity, the Treatise stands high. Do not
take fish out of another man's gins or fish-traps,
for that is not only stealing, but robs you of
your sport : it *'shall be to you a very pleasure
to see the fair, bright, shining scaled fishes
deceived by your crafty means and drawn upon
land.' When you go fishing, too, 'you will not
desire greatly many persons with you, which
might let you of your game. And then you may
serve God devoutly, in saying affectuously your
^Throughout this chapter I have modernised the spelling
and punctuation of the Treatise, but made no other change.
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 193
customable prayer. And thus doing you shall
eschew and void many vices ; as idleness, which
is principal cause to enduce man to many other
vices : as it is right well known.'
Leonard Mascall, who wrote a century after
the Treatise, but who since he stole from it
belongs to the same literary epoch, is chiefly
known as a writer on fruit trees and vermin
traps. I gather that his horticulture was good,
from the extent to which it was pirated.
Thomas Barker, who wrote on gardening as
well as fishing, stole Mascall' s chapter on graft-
ing, which was unkind of a brother angler.
However, as Mascall himself borrowed from
the Dutch, and as he also robbed the Treatise,
he has no cause to complain. Mascall was a
fly fisher; but above all a fish preserver. There
are many in this realm, he complains, 'that
spares no time to kill, nor cares for no time to
save, but takes at all times, which maketh
freshe fishe so deare, and so scant in rivers and
running waters.' Samuel Hartlib, fifty years
later, a well-known writer on agriculture,
friend of Milton, Evelyn and Pepys, says the
same. Fish are scarce because nets are used
with so small a mesh as to destroy the fry : and
also because of a disgusting practice, which
fortunately is obsolete, of feeding pigs on the
fry. But to come rather nearer fly fishing,
from which this is a digression, Hartlib quotes
a writer on Ireland who imputes the leprosy of
the Irish to their brutish eating of salmon
194 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
when the very eye would have made them know
they were unwholesome. The English there-
fore forbade the taking or selling of unseason-
able salmon, which stamped out leprosy. One
wonders, however, whether the prohibition was
enforced in the interest of the Irish peasant or
of the English fly fisher.
It is not until the seventeenth century that
the literature of fly fishing reaches its height.
Lawson, an early writer of that period, gives
us a tantalising glimpse of what he might have
done, had he devoted himself to fishing instead
of gardening. His notes on fly fishing have
been quoted. Admirable as they are in matter,
they are too staccato and telegraphic in form to
do justice to his prose. But listen to this, from
his New Orchard and Garden-, Walton might
have written it. 'One chief grace that adornes
an Orchard, I cannot let slip : a brood of
Nightingales, who with severall notes and
tunes, with a strong delightsome voyce out of
a weak body, will bear you company night and
day. She loves (and lives in) hots of woods
in her heart.' That is surely an apt and
beautiful phrase : she loves hots of woods in her
heart. It brings to our mind early May, and
innumerable nightingales answering each other
in Kent or Surrey copses. And again, take
Lawson's description of bees. 'Store of Bees,
in a dry and warm Bee-house, comely made of
Fir boards, to sing and sit, and feed upon your
flowers and sprouts, make a pleasant noyse and
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 195
sight. For cleanly and innocent Bees, of all
other things, love and become, and thrive in an
Orchard.' I would that he had written a fish-
ing book. In the little which he wrote on the
fly there is that intangible something which
puts him among the mighty : indeed, if I do not
exaggerate, he stands as high as any. And
these quotations show that he could read nature
and describe her. He might have written an
angling book for which collectors would be
Markham was in close alliance with Lawson,
and their books were published together As
a writer he is colourless. However, either he
or whoever wrote the fly dressing section of his
book put original work into it. But he also
used grosser baits, and you are told to use 'in
September either Cherries, Mice before they
have any hayre, or the great Sow-worme.' The
trout of those days must have been coarse
feeders. I should feel no confidence if I had
on a hairless mouse.
We now reach Walton and the golden age.
I have already been rash enough to express an
opinion of him : now for a specimen of his
prose. I will take a passage which, though
often quoted, is appropriate, for it tells of the
only day's fly fishing : 'My honest Scholar, it is
now past five of the Clock, we will fish till nine,
and then go to breakfast : Go you to yonder
Sycamore-tree, and hide your Bottle of drink
under the hollow root of it ; for about that time,
196 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
and in that place, we will make a brave break-
fast with a piece of powdered Beef, and a
Radish or two that I have in my Fish-bag; we
shall, I warrant you, make a good, honest,
wholsome, hungry breakfast, and I will then
give you direction for the making and using of
I chose that passage because it shows Walton
at his best, and shows how hard he is to follow.
Charles Lamb says that the meals in the
Compleat Angler give you an immortal hunger.
And truly we long for nine o'clock to arrive on
that May morning, so that we can sit under the
sycamore tree and taste powdered beef and a
radish or two. But the passage also illustrates
the difficulty of imitating Walton. It looks so
easy; a homely scene, told in simple words. It
is only when you have seen it tried that you
realise the difficulties. It is this side of Walton
which has led his admirers to such hopeless
But to come back to the sycamore tree.
Whilst they are at breakfast, they leave their
rods in the water. The Scholar finds a fish on
his, but is broken. Then Piscator points the
moral: 'I marry Sir, that was a good fish
indeed : if I had had the luck to have taken up
that Rod, then 'tis twenty to one, he should not
have broke my line by running to the rods end
as you suffered him : I would have held him
within the bent of my Rod (unlesse he had
teen fellow to the great Trout that is near an ell
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 19T
long, which was of such a length and depth,
that he had his picture drawn, and now to be
seen at mine Hoste Rickabies at the George in
Finally, let me give a less known passage.
There appeared in 1646 the Shepheards
Oracles, by that very real poet, Francis
Quarles. He was then dead, and Walton
brought out the book, and himself wrote the
introduction, though Marriot the publisher
It describes Quarles going fishing on a May
morning. 'He in a Sommers morning (about
that howre when the great eye of Heaven first
opens it selfe to give light to us mortals) walk-
ing a gentle pace towards a Brook (whose
Spring-head was not far distant from his
peacefull habitation) fitted with Angle, Lines
and Flyes : Flyes proper for that season (being
the fruitfull Month of May;) intending all
diligence to beguile the timorous Trout (with
which the watry element abounded), observed
a more then common concourse of Shepheards,
all bending their unwearied steps towards a
The seeming simplicity of Walton's style is
its distinction : a simple Arcadian style, as Sir
Walter Scott called it. It is simple to read,
but it is by no means simple to write, and I
really believe it has defeated everyone who has
tried to copy it. There is no one exactly like
him in English prose.
198 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Cotton, following Walton, was too good an
artist to make the mistake of trying to imitate.
Consequently, he was driven to the opposite
extreme. And perhaps also he wrote under the
influence of the sobering respectability of
Walton, and had dropped the exuberant frank-
ness of his youth. That he required correction
no one who has read him will deny. His
Scarronnides outraged even the easy standards
of the Restoration : but though as a poet he is
full of unquotable grossness, his verses have
touches of observation of nature, which to tell
the truth his Compleat Angler lacks. Indeed,
in spite of faults, he was no mean poet : and his
Poems on Several Occasions contain a good deal
that might be better known than it is. The
following lines are possibly his best on fishing :
they are from a poem to Izaak Walton.*
If the all-ruling Power please
We live to see another May,
We'll recompence an age of these
Foul days in one fine fishing day :
We then shall have a day or two,
Perhaps a week, wherein to try,
What the best Master's hand can doe
With the most deadly killing Flie.
And these lines, too, from one of those rollick-
ing poems which he wrote so well, are perhaps
*'To my most dear and worthy Friend, Mr. Isaac Walton,'
printed in Poems on Several Occasions, 1689.
tFrom A Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque, ibid.
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 199
And now farewell Dove, where I've caught
such brave Dishes
Of over-grown, golden, and silver-scaled
Thy Trout and thy Grailing may now feed
I've left none behind me can take J em so
Feed on then, and breed on, untill the next
But if I return I expect my arrear.
Cotton, I think, wrote better verse than
prose. His prose is a little thin, and you feel
it would have been better had he let himself go.
In his verse he does so, sometimes no doubt to
a degree which is not amusing but simply
disgusting : but a great deal of it is vigorous
and agreeable. On the other hand his prose,
though clear and efficient, lacks colour. Still
his book remains the best ever written on fly
Sir Henry Wotton, sometime Provost of Eton
College, was an even better poet. He is chiefly
famous for his epigram, that an Ambassador is
an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of
his country. Which unluckily came to the ear
of his royal master James I., who was very
angry, and Wotton nearly lost his post of
Ambassador at Venice. Which would have
served him right; for you should not make jokes
when your employer is a king who has no sense
200 FLY FISHING FOE TBOUT.
Wotton wrote a really beautiful poem to
James I.'s daughter, the luckless Queen of
Bohemia ; he also wrote one of the few first-class
poems on fishing. It is quite short, but a series
of miniature pictures. I like them all. Take
this of the trout :
The jealous Trout, that low did lie,
Rose at a wel-dissembled Flie.
Or this, which might be called a vision of a
fisherman's day in spring :
The showers were short ; the weather mild ;
The Morning fresh; the Evening smiFd.
But I like best this picture :
Tone takes her neat-rub 'd paile, and now
She trips to milk the Sand-red Cow;
Where, for some sturdy foot-ball Swaine,
Jone strokes a sillibub, or twaine.
for it strikes that note of irrelevant beauty
which great poetry gives.
Barker's ingenuous style has considerable
charm, but he keeps his best for cookery, which
stirred him to the depths. However, he was a
crafty catcher of fish. The night began to
alter and grew somewhat lighter : I took off the
Lob- worms, and set to my Rod a white Palmer
Flie, made of a large hook, I had sport for the
time, till it grew lighter : then I put on my red
Palmer, I had sport for the time, untill it grew
very light; then I set on my black Palmer, had
good sport, made up my dish of fish, put up my
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 201
Tackles, and was at my time appointed for
service. For these three Flies, with the help
of the Lob- worms, serve to Angle all the year
long, observing the times, as I have shewed in
this nights work : a light Flie for darkness, the
red Flie in medio, and a dark Flie for light-
The following quotation, from the dedication
to Edward Lord Montague, who was after-
wards Earl of Sandwich and Pepys' patron,
shows Barker at his most whimsical :
'Under favour I will complement and put a
case to your Honour. I met with a man, and
upon our discourse he fell out with me, having
a good weapon, but neither stomach nor skil;
I say this man may come home by Weeping
cross, I will cause the Clerk to toll his knell.
It is the very like case to the gentleman Angler
that goeth to the River for his pleasure : this
Angler hath neither judgement nor experience,
he may come home light laden at his leisure/
The book, as was usual in the seventeenth
century, had many introductory verses; per-
haps these lines are worth disinterring :
Cards, Dice, and Tables pick thy purse ;
Drinking and Drabbing bring a curse.
Hawking and Hunting spend thy chink ;
Bowling and Shooting end in drink.
The fighting-Cock, and the Horse-race
Will sink a good Estate apace.
Angling doth bodyes exercise,
202 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
And maketh soules holy and wise :
By blessed thoughts and meditation :
This, this is Anglers' recreation !
Health, profit, pleasure, mixt together,
All sport's to this not worth a feather.
Franck cannot be classed with anyone else in
the world. He is unique. His preface does
not submit his work to the public. No. It
manuducts the reader through the slender
margin of his uncultivated book. When he
wants to say that it is spring time, he says that
the Vernon Ingress smiles. A hackle fly is not
a wingless fly : nothing so simple : it is a fly
which possesses indigency of wings. His
political opinions necessitate his hiding him-
self : he takes umbrage in London. He gives
an admirable account of a novice and an old
hand fishing for salmon in Scotland. The
novice is broken, the other successful. The
novice is nervous and uncomfortable : he is
described as not much deliciated. To make a
fish rise is to teach him the art of invasion.
And so on. But the odd thing is that it is
obvious that Franck was an excellent fisherman.
Chetham, a late contemporary of Walton,
supplemented the conspicuous excellence of his
fly dressing by certain obscene mixtures which
he recommends as 'Oyntments to alure fish to
the bait.' Here is one : 'Take the Bones or
Scull of a Dead-man, at the opening of a Grave,
and beat the same into pouder, and put of this
pouder in the Moss wherein you keep your
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 203
Worms. But others,' adds Chetham, 'like
Grave Earth as well.' I can quite believe that
it is equally efficacious. One of his ointments
was so deadly that in his first edition he for-
bore to give it. It prodigiously causes fish to
bite, if used by an artist. It is composed thus :
Of Man's Fat, Cat's Fat, Heron's Fat, and the
best Assafoetida, of each two Drams, Mummy
finely powdred two Drams, mixed with various
other chemicals into an indifferent thin oint-
ment. With this anoint eight inches of your
line next the hook. The Man's Fat you can
get of the London Chyrurgeons concerned in
anatomy, and the Heron's Fat from the
poulterers; the rest are to be had from
druggists. I wonder what my poulterer would
say if I ordered heron's fat or my chemist if
I asked him for cat's fat or mummy finely
powdered. The older fishermen had some
advantages over us.
These seventeenth-century writers are a well-
marked group. Except Franck, they could all
write effective prose. In this they stand
together, and they do so in another sense also,
for they complete each other, without an undue
amount of copying. When we leave them, we
leave the reign of the book, and come to that
of the manual. There is no great fishing prose
work during the eighteenth century. And yet
there are writers who deserve a mention.
Bowlker is the best. His Art of Angling
was still in use as a text-book in my boyhood.
204 FLY FISHING FOB TKOUT.
though written considerably more than a
century before I was born. In this I believe it
to stand alone. True, other books have had
longer lives and more editions. The Treatise,
through Mascall who copied it, lasted till
Walton's time. The Compleat Angler of
course is still being republished every few
years. But the success of Bowlker, writing in
the mid-eighteenth century against numerous
competitors, is far more notable than that of
Dame Juliana, writing three centuries earlier
against none. And Walton is reprinted not as
a fisherman but as a writer. So Bowlker
remains the most successful purely fishing book
ever written. His prose is simple and not
unpleasing. He says of fly fishing, 'Even the
preparation of the Materials for the artificial
Fly, and the skill and contrivance in making
them, and comparing them with the natural,
is a very pleasing amusement : The manner of
the Fishes taking them, which is by rising to
the surface of the water, and sometimes out of
it, gives the Angler a very agreeable surprize.'
Which is pleasantly told. Bowlker was obser-
vant of nature, and well-read in angling books.
His account of the transformations of the May-
fly is worth looking at even to-day. His great
merit is that he gives old ideas a good shaking
up and fishing a fresh outlook. He clears away
a lot of lumber. I have already told how he
freed us for all time from the obsession of flies
which had come down from the Treatise : flies
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 205
which, though originally copied from living
insects, had for centuries lost all touch with
nature, and were slavishly inserted by succeed-
ing writers, while even their names were
corrupted. In this he gave fly fishing a new
start. His position is thus not dissimilar to
that of Stewart and Halford, to both of whom
he presents many points of resemblance.
I believe I know the book Bowlker had in
mind when he castigates certain angling
treatises for mentioning flies which he never
found it worth while to dress; it must have
been the Gentleman Angler, 1726, by George
Smith. In a bombastic preface Smith says
'I may, without Vanity, affirm, that the follow-
ing Treatise upon Angling, is the most perfect
and compleat of any that has hitherto appeared
in Print' ; and that his 'Rules and Directions
are founded upon Experience, which is the
most infallible Mistress, and not taken up upon
Hear-say, to which little Credit is to be given/
After this it is perhaps hardly surprising to
find that the only experience he had was steal-
ing other people s ideas. He robbed not only
Walton, but as far back as Mascall. However,
the book has the saving grace of being printed
in delightful type. And there is this, too.
After giving Walton's list of flies verbatim, he
says 'The best sort of Artificial Flies are made
by the ingenious Mr. Jemmit, and therefore
called Jemmits Flies.' All that he tells us of
the ingenious Mr. Jemmit is that he was a nice
206 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
and complete artist. But my copy of the
Gentleman Angler has this note, written in an
eighteenth-century hand, possibly contem-
porary : 'A list of this Gent flys are handed
about in Manuscript. 5 I would give a good
deal to see that list and to know who Mr.
Jemmit was. His name appeals to me : in fact
all their names appeal to me, these individuals,
casually mentioned in fishing books, of whom
nothing else is known. Who was Captain
Henry Jackson, kinsman and neighbour of
Cotton, by many degrees the best fly maker he
ever met, who taught him all the fly dressing he
knew? Who was the very good angler whose
list of flies came into Chetham's hand, since his
book was almost finished at press ? And who,
above all, who were Merril and Faulkner, whom
Franck thought so infinitely superior to
Walton : and who was that paragon of them
all, 'Isaac Owldham, a man that fish'd Salmon
but with three Hairs at Hook 5 ? We shall
never know, alas! alas! His 'Collections and
Experiments were lost with himself. 5 Probably
future ages will not know who Dickie
Routledge was, the greatest fisherman of my
lifetime. He is dead, and his knowledge with
him. His collections and experiments are lost
with himself. Nor has he been described. We
have no portrait of him, as we have Addison 5 s
portrait of Mr. William Wimble (brother to a
baronet, and descended of the ancient family
of the Wimbles) ; who 'makes a May-fly to a
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 207
Miracle; and furnishes the whole country with
Angle-rods.'* This passage, by the way, is
one of the very few references to fishing to be
found in general literature which is not either
inaccurate or trivial. Seeing how popular
fishing has been for centuries, it is strange that
so little notice has been taken of it, and that
little usually incorrect.
Two more prose writers of the century, and
two only, shall be mentioned, one at the
beginning the other at the end. Robert Howlett
produced one of those treatises of which there
are many, chiefly copied, but with just enough
originality to escape utter plagiarism. He
gives a good description of current practice in
fly fishing. 'If you cannot discern your Flie
upon the Water, for more Sureness, strike as
soon as you perceive a Fish rises within the
reach of your Rod and Line; and if you miss
him, throw your Flie immediately beyond him,
and draw it gently over the Place; if he like it,
he will take it; and always carefully watch,
that you may strike at the first rising of the
Fish, when you can; and lest you should not see
when you have a rise, strike so soon as you see
the Line go from you; and keep your Flie
always in a gentle Motion, that a fish may hang
himself though you strike not/
Thomas Best (Gent, late of his Majesty's
Drawing Room in the Tower) wrote a work
which must have been exceedingly popular, for
Spectator No. 108 (4 July, 1711).
208 FLY FISHING FOB TROUT.
it ran through thirteen editions. He is
interesting as showing that a hundred and
thirty years ago you could get good fishing in
the heart of London. 'When you go to angle
at Chelsea, on a calm fair day, the wind being
in a right corner, pitch your boat most opposite
to the church, and angle in six, or seven feet
water, where, as well as at Battersea Bridge,
you will meet with plenty of roach and dace. 9
I wonder how many you would meet with now.
Such is the prose of the eighteenth century.
There is much of it, but it is not distinguished.
I come back to what I said in an earlier chapter,
that the best account of fly fishing is in verse.
Gay's lines are surely admirable :
Oft have I seen a skilful angler try
The various colours of the treacherous fly ;
When he with fruitless pain hath skimmed the
And the coy fish rejects the skipping hook,
He shakes the boughs that on the margin grow,
Which o'er the stream a waving forest throw ;
When, if an insect fall (his certain guide),
He gently takes him from the whirling tide ;
Examines well his form, with curious eyes,
His gaudy vest, his wings, his horns and size.
Then round his hook the chosen fur he winds
And on the back a speckled feather binds.
Having made the fly, you proceed to try it :
Upon the curling surface let it glide,
With natural motion from thy hand supplied ;
Against the stream now let it gently play,
Now in the rapid eddy roll away.
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 209
If you take the trouble to break through the
classical crust with which that is covered, it is
surely a first-rate description of fishing a fast
stream. In fact I hardly know a better.
About a hundred years later another poet,
a less famous name certainly, but a true poet,
produced a fine fishing sonnet. Thomas
Doubleday was chiefly known as an active
political reformer : but he was a voluminous
writer of angling songs which appeared year
by year in the Newcastle Fishers Garlands and
were collected by Crawhall in 1864. Good as
they are, they never approach the level of his
early sonnet, published in 1818 when he was
eight and twenty; it is quite one of the best
things written on fishing :
Go, take thine angle, and with practised line,
Light as the gossamer, the current sweep ;
And if thou failest in the calm still deep,
In the rough eddy may a prize be thine.
Say thou'rt unlucky where the sunbeams shine ;
Beneath the shadow, where the waters creep,
Perchance the monarch of the brook shall
For fate is ever better than design.
Still persevere ; the giddiest breeze that blows,
For thee may blow with fame and fortune
Be prosperous and what reck if it arose
Out of some pebble with the stream at strife,
Or that the light wind dallied with the boughs?
Thou art successful ; such is human life.
These Newcastle Fishers Garlands appeared
210 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
year by year from 1820 to 1864 : they are by
different writers, of whom the best known are
Thomas Doubleday and Robert Roxby. The
verse often reaches a high level : but it suffers,
I think, from being written in the Northum-
brian dialect. I believe that dialect poetry is
only good when you cannot imagine its being
written as well in another medium. This is
the case with Burns; for whether his Scots
poetry be considered to be written in dialect or
in a separate language, you cannot conceive it
written as well in anything else. So it is with
lesser men, such as Barnes, the Dorset poet,
and perhaps with Stoddart; and, to take a
living example, there is La Passion de noire
frere le poilu, written by Marc Leclerc in the
Anjou dialect, one of the best poems the war
produced. In all these you feel the note of
necessity; the poetry had to be in that medium,
or not at all. I do not feel that in Doubleday,
indeed his non-dialect sonnet is clearly
Fishing prose came to its own again in the
nineteenth century. It sprang into sudden
life. One of the reasons for this has already
been given : the writings of Scott and the
romantic revival. The result was a second
golden age, with many points of resemblance
to that of Walton. If there is no single writer
of his class, there is a high level of excellence.
After the disappearance of Stoddart and the
others of this epoch, there is another partial
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 211
eclipse, then comes another age of great prose,
that of Andrew Lang, of Lord Grey and some
other living writers.
Before coming to Stoddart, it is impossible
to pass over Scrope, who, though he despised
the trout, is too good to be left out. He is one
of the very best. Listen to this description of
a fisherman who at last gets to the river, after
eating his heart out whilst it is in flood. 'At
last we started. We had about two or three
miles to go to the upper cast, called the "Carry-
wheel." As I neared it, and saw the sweep of
the gallant river, I stepped out in eagerness
till I came to the top of a steep covered with
wood gorse and broom ; then I dashed down the
rocks, and found myself on the channel, with
the rush of a glorious salmon cast before me.
Think of this, ye gudgeon fishers! The rod
was put together in haste, out came the
London book; and whilst I selected that
misnomer, a metropolitan salmon fly, a huge
fish sprang out of the water before me, bright
and lusty.' That is a picture we have all seen,
and hope to see again. But we shall never
again see Harry Otter burning the water, with
Charlie and Tom Purdie, fresh from a wigging
from Sir Walter Scott for getting drunk. And
as fly fishers perhaps it is as well. We might
Stoddart, who came of an old Border family,
was born in Edinburgh and lived at Kelso. He
fished all his life. His Art of Angling, 1835,
212 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
was the first treatise of its kind published in
Scotland. He lives, however, in his verse
rather than his prose. He is always a poet,
and always by Tweedside : thither he returns,
however far he has wandered.
An' Gala, too, an' Teviot bright,
An' mony a stream o' playfu' speed ;
Their kindred valleys a' unite
Amang the braes o' bonnie Tweed.
The Tweed, and fly fishing on the Tweed that
is what stirred him. It was for fly fishing, he
says, that Thomson, Burns, Scott and Hogg,
and, in his own day, Wilson and Wordsworth,
exchanged eagerly the grey-goose quill and the
companionship of books, for the taper wand
and the discourse, older than Homer's
measures, of streams and cataracts. For this
Paley left his meditative home, Davy his tests
and crucibles, and Chantrey his moulds,
models, and chisel work. Stoddart is symbolic
of his age as Walton is of his. And, though
the later age produced no writer whose prose
lives as does that of Walton, the two periods
were not dissimilar. In both men were not
ashamed to say what fishing meant to them.
The later age did not say it so well as Walton,
but it said it as sincerely. 'Anglers are a more
gifted and higher order of men than others,
in spite of the sneers of pompous critics, or the
trumpery dixit of a paradoxical poet. In their
histories, there are glimpses snatched out of
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 213
heaven immortal moments dropping from
Eternity upon the forehead of Time/ says
Stoddart, not caring whether he be thought
ridiculous, for to him it was no bombast but a
statement of fact. No doubt he crosses a limit
which Walton would have set himself. Walton
said the same thing differently. 'Indeed my
good Scholar, we may say of angling, as Dr.
Boteler said of Strawberries; Doubtlesse God
could have made a better berry, but doubtlesse
God never did; and so (if I might be Judge)
God never did make a more calm quiet innocent
recreation then Angling.' Walton's words
will live longer than Stoddart 's. But we could
not afford to lose Stoddart.
There are so many contemporaries of
Stoddart that choice is difficult. Penn's
amusing Maxims, though getting on for a
century old, are very modern. If you 'pass
your fly neatly and well three times over a trout,
and he refuses it, do not wait any longer for
him.' He can be read to-day with pleasure.
So can Sir Humphry Davy and Colquhoun and
Pulman, father of the dry fly. So, too, can
Peter Hawker, who fished the Test on horse-
back. And so can many others. But there are
two who stand above them all, Ronalds and
Stewart. Much has been said of both, and I
shall not add anything here. Stewart, whose
life the Dictionary of National Biography most
scandalously omits, has a style which, though
simple and lucid, is damaged to my thinking
214 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
by his use of the journalistic 'we,' which robs
it of actuality. But let anyone who has not
done so read him, and read in particular his
fourth chapter. His creed it summed up in
this sentence : 'The nearer the motions of the
artificial flies resemble those of the natural
ones under similar circumstances the greater
will be the prospects of success.' And this, it
may be remarked, sums up the creed of the dry
fly also. Ronalds, twenty years earlier, had
produced the best book on natural and artificial
flies ever written. As prose it is not remark-
able : but it will always be read.
There arose, in the years following Ronalds,
a body of writers who have been somewhat
neglected. Between 1847 and 1861 five really
good books appeared, little studied now. Their
authors were Wallwork, Wheatley, Theakston,
Jackson and Wade. All are deeply stamped
with the influence of Ronalds and together they
form a body of doctrine standing by itself.
Strangely enough, two of the five came from
the Yorkshire Ure, for Theakston lived at
Ripon and Jackson at Tanfield Mill, and two
more, Wallwork and Wade, were north country
men too. Only Wheatley came from the south.
He says that his book is a sequel to Ronalds,
'not an extension of the entomological part, but
an addition to the fisherman's means of success-
fully pursuing his favourite sport. Mr.
Ronalds has confined himself wholly to nature.
The angler, though generally an enthusiastic
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 215
admirer of nature, yet uses and with the
greatest success, too many flies (so called) and
other devices wherewith nature has nothing
whatever to do. These anomalies are, how-
ever, found to beguile the tenants of the stream
when the charms of nature fail a sort of
Cayenne to a jaded appetite.' But Wheatley
is better than he professes, for though he did
not confine himself to flies, he stuck to nature,
and imitated most exceeding well grasshoppers
and beetles and suchlike. All the others, too,
were of the naturalist school. Theakston, the
most remarkable of all, would have had more
influence but for his tiresome nomenclature.
He cared for nothing but the fly. Study natural
insects, he cries, they only are your true and
permanent guides. This transitory book shall
perish; but so long as rivers run the flies will
continue to flourish in their rounds, types for
the fly fisher as in days of yore, until the great
doomsday volume is shut.' In this he tries to
express what is at the back of all our minds, a
sense of continuity. What now is has been,
and will continue to be. When June comes and
there are still unpolluted rivers (there will soon
be mighty few unless tar-poisoning is stopped)
the delicate mayfly will flicker on the water,
and the great spotted trout will roll up at it,
though you and I may not be there to see.
Sir Humphry Davy, earlier than Ronalds
and Stewart, describes very pleasantly a day's
fishing on the Colne, and many other days in
216 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
many lands. His book is of great value. As
a writer he suffers from using dialogue, which
none but a master should attempt; his
characters do not live, but are mere abstract
arguments personified, in Charles Lamb's
words. But he puts into fishing the same
forceful penetration he employed in science.
His book incidentally contains a fishing poem
which ought to be better known than it is He
says that it was written in his copy of Walton
by a noble lady, long distinguished at court for
pre-eminent beauty and grace, whose mind
possesses undying charms. Here is her invoca-
tion to Walton :
Albeit, gentle Angler, I
Delight not in thy trade,
Yet in thy pages there does lie
So much of quaint simplicity,
So much of mind,
Of such good kind,
That none need be afraid,
Caught by thy cunning bait, this book.
To be ensnared on thy hook.
which is musical, and poetry. I have seen it
stated that the author was Lady Charlotte
Bury. It may well be so. That beautiful and
talented daughter of the fifth Duke of Argyll,
the friend of Sir Walter Scott and other men
of letters, was a voluminous writer, famous and
popular. She was known chiefly for her
anonymous Memoirs of George IV. 's Court,
which caused some stir; but her novels were
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 217
widely read, and she was a celebrity in her day.
From Stewart to the present day is some sixty
years, and many have been the good books
written during that time. They are too
numerous even to name. I shall therefore say
nothing of Henderson, who fished all his long
life and wrote with equal skill : nothing of
Fitzgibbon or Pennell, victor in the famous
fishing duel with Stewart; nothing of Prime
and Orvis and the older school of American
writers; nothing of La Branche and modern
American dry fly practice : nothing of Petit
and the French fishermen, now an important
group : nothing of many a living writer. There
is much to be said about each, but to write of
all would require more space than I have left,
and more patience than I can expect of a
reader. So I will conclude with four writers
and four only. Lord Grey of Fallodon pub-
lished his book at the end of last century. The
dry fly was then at its zenith, and the other
system was receiving somewhat intolerant
treatment. He was the first writer of
importance on the dry fly who really knew what
the wet fly meant. Himself the best and most
devoted dry fly fisherman in England, he thus
started unconsciously that restatement of
values which Mr. Skues has carried so far.
But he did more. He is gifted with the power
to write fine prose. Listen to this. After
telling how Londoners who own gardens in the
country realise more poignantly than others
218 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
what they are missing when spring comes
round, he goes on :
'At such moments there surges within you a
spirit of resentment and indignation, kept in
abeyance during the actual hours of hard work,
but asserting itself at all other times, and you
pass through the streets feeling like an
unknown alien, who has no part in the bustle
and life of London, and cannot in the place
of his exile share what seem to others to be
pleasures. Work alone, however interesting,
cannot neutralise all this, because it is only
partly by the mind that we live. Mental effort
is enough for some of the satisfaction of life;
but we live also by the affections, and where
out-of-door things make to these the irresistible
appeal, which they do make to some natures, it
is impossible to live in London without great
I might have quoted other passages : I quote
that because it moves me most. Every fisher-
man who lives in a town will know.
The other three are dead. Francis Francis
was for many years fishing editor of the Field,
a devoted sportsman and fish preserver, and an
immense writer, with a jolly captivating style.
The only thing I shall quote is an epigram
attributed to him : Some fishing is better than
others, he said; but there is no such thing as
bad fishing. Which I suspect sums up the
man. It must have pleased both Walton and
Stoddart, when it reached them.
THE LITERATURE OP FLY FISHING. 219
Andrew Lang has left a picture of himself
fishing which will live as long as men like good
fishing and good letters. But one who knew
him and has fished with him many times on
many waters from Galloway to Hampshire may
perhaps be allowed to say that he exaggerates
his deficiencies. The truth is that he loved
fishing so well that he cared not if he caught
fish or not. He loved the game. He was never
so happy as by a river. He has told this admir-
able both in prose and verse; and perhaps he
expresses himself best in his well-known lines :
Brief are man's days at best; perchance
I waste my own, who have not seen
The castled palaces of France
Shine on the Loire in summer green.
But no. Scotland has a nearer and dearer
Nay, Spring I'd meet by Tweed or Ail,
And Summer by Loch Assynt's deep,
And Autumn in that lonely vale
Where wedded Avons westward sweep.
Or where, amid the empty fields,
Among the bracken of the glen,
Her yellow wreath October yields,
To crown the crystal brows of Ken.
The Tweed was his early love, and he never
changed. But afterwards I think that the
Test, Itchen and Kennet claimed an equal
220 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Last of all comes Half or d. His reputation
as a pioneer stands high. As a writer it would
stand higher had he written less. His later
books show a great falling off, and indeed I do
not think he ever came up to the level of his
first. His prose in that is better than anything
he wrote afterwards; clearer, more terse, and
more pleasing. But his place does not depend
on his style. There are four names which stand
above others in the history of the fly : the
author of the Treatise, who started it : Cotton,
who established it : Stewart, who converted the
world to upstream fishing : and Half or d, who
systematised the dry fly.
Four and a quarter centuries have gone by
since the Treatise appeared. I have tried to
give an account of those centuries. I hope
there are some readers whom this book will
interest. As I have written it, and still more
as I have read over what I have written, I have
been appalled at the thought that it was of no
interest to anyone. Perhaps that is so. But
on the other hand I know that there are some
who read everything which is written about
fishing, for I am of that number, and it is
improbable that I am the only one. That is
one consolation. And then I believe that there
must be others also like myself, whom the
history of the sport attracts, who are fascinated
by the devices of other days, and who are never
weary of going back to the old writers, of
reading them again, of getting at their real
THE LITERATURE OF FLY FISHING. 221
meaning and of seeing where they have
anticipated us and where we have improved on
222 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
OF BOOKS QUOTED OR MENTIONED.
AELIANUS, Claudius. Opera (including De anima-
Hum naturd), Tiguri, apud Gesneros fratres,
1556. Fol. And other editions.
ALDAM, W. H. A quaint treatise on Flees, and the
Art a Artyfichall Flee Making. London, 1876.
ARUNDO. See BEEVER, John.
BAINBRIDGE, George C. The fly-fishers guide.
Liverpool, 1816. 80. And other editions.
BARKER, Thomas. The art of angling. London,
1651. 12o. And other editions.
Barkers delight, or the art of angling.
London, 1657. 12o. And other editions.
BARNES, Dame Julyans. See BERNERS, Dame
BECKFORD, Peter. Thoughts on hunting. Sarum,
1781. 4o. And other editions.
(BEEYER, John.) Practical fly-fishing. By Arundo.
London, 1849. 12o.
Do. Second edition, with author's name.
Edited by A. nd A. R. Severn. London, 1893.
BERNERS, Dame Juliana. The Boke of St. Albans.
St. Albans, 1486. Fol. And other editions.
A treaty se of fysshynge wyth an angle.
Westminster. Wynkyn de Worde. 1496. Fol.
And other editions.
An older form of the Treaty se of Fysshynge
myth an angle. London, 1883. 4o.
BEST, Thomas. A concise treatise on the art of
annlinfj. I/ondon, 1787. 12o. And other editions.
BLACKER, William. The Art of fly-making.
London, 1855. 12o.
(BLAKEY, Robert.) Hints on angling. By Palmer
Hackle, Esq. London, 1846. 80.
Historical sketches of the angling literature
of all nations. London, 1856. 12o.
BOWLKER, Richard and Charles. The art of
angling by Richard Bowlker, Worcester, n.d.
(1747).* 12o. Second edition, n.d. (1774) and
all later editions by Charles Bowlker.
BOYLE, Hon. Robert. Occasional reflections upon
several subjects. London, 1665. 12o. And
BROOKES, Richard. The art of angling. London,
CARROLL, W. The angler's vade mecum. Edin-
burgh, 1818. 8vo.
LA CHACE DOU SERF. Anonymous. Paris, 1839.
(Jubinal, Nouveaux Receuils de Contes, dits
Fabliaux.) Translated into English in The Art
of Hunting by Alice Dryden, q.v.
CHENEY, A. See ORVIS, Charles P.
(CHETHAM, James.) The angler's vade mecum.
London, 1681. 12o. And other editions, with
(CHITTY, Edward.) The fly-fishers text book. By
Theophilus South. London, 1841. 80. And
COLQIJHOUN, John. The moor and the loch.
Edinburgh, 1840. 80. And other editions.
COTTON, Charles. The Compleat Angler. Part II.
London, 1676. 12o. And other editions.
The universal angler, made so by three books
of fishing. The first by Mr. Izaak Walton; the
second by Charles Cotton Esquire; the third by
Colonel Robert Venables. London, 1676. 80.
Scarronnides, or Vergile Travestie. London,
Poems on several occasions. London, 1689.
COX, Nicholas. The gentleman's recreation. London,
1674. 80. And other editions.
*See note on page 89 as to date of first edition of Bowlker.
224 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
CEAWHALL, Joseph. A collection of right merrie
garlands for north country anglers. Newcastle-
on-Tyne, 1864. 80.
(DAVY, Sir Humphry.) Salmonia, or days of fly-
fishing. By an angler. London, 1828. 80.
And other editions.
D(ENNYS) J(OHN). The secrets of angling.
London, 1613. 80. And other editions.
DOUBLEDAY, Thomas. Sixty-five sonnets, with
prefatory remarks on the sonnet. 1818. And see
DEYDEN, Alice. The art of hunting. Northampton,
EDMONDS, Harfield H., and LEE, Norman N.
Brook and river trouting. Bradford, n.d. (1916).
ESTIENNE, Charles. L' agriculture et maison
rustique. Paris, 1564 & 1565. 4o. And other
Maison rustique, or the countrie farme.
Translated by Eichard Surfleet. Augmented with
additions by Gervase Markham. London, 1616.
Fol. And other editions.
(FITZGIBBON, Edward.) A handbook of angling.
By Ephemera. London, 1847. 80. And other
Book of the Salmon. By Ephemera. London.,
FOIX, Gaston de. Le Livre de la Chasse. Paris,
n.d. (1507). And other editions.
F(OETIN), F(rere) F(ranc.ois). Les ruses innocentes.
Par F(rere) F(rancois) F(ortin) R(eligieux) D(e)
G(rammont), dit le Solitaire Inventif. Paris,
1660. 4o. And other editions.
FOUENIVAL, Richard de. La vielle, ou lea
dernieres amours d'Ovide, traduit du latin de
Richard de Fournival par Jean Lefevre. Paris,
FEANCIS, Francis. A book on angling. London,
1867. 80. And other editions.
FEANCK, Richard. Northern memoirs. London,
New edition, by Sir Walter Scott. Edin-
burgh, 1821. 80.
FROUDE, James Anthony. Short studies on great
subject*. Fourth series, containing Cheneys and
the house of Russell. London, 1883. 80.
GAT, John. Poems on several occasions, containing
Rural Sports. 2 vols. London, 1720. 4o. And
GREY, of Fallodon, Viscount (Sir Edward Grey).
Fly fishing. London, 1899. 80. And other
HALE, J. H. How to tie salmon flies. London, 1892.
80. And other editions.
HALFORD, Frederic M. Floating flies and how to
dress them. London, 1886. 80. And other
Dry-fly fishing in theory and practice.
London, 1889. 80. And other editions.
Dry-fly entomology. London, 1897. And
The dry-fly man's handbook. London, n.d.
HAMILTON, Edward. The river-side naturalist.
London, 1890. 80.
HARTLIB, Samuel. His legacy of husbandry.
Third edition. London, 1655. 80.
HAWKER, Peter. Instructions to young sportsmen
in all that relates to guns and shooting. London,
1816. 80. And other editions.
HKXDERSON, William. Notes and reminiscences
of my life as an angler. London, 1876. 80.
Then as My life as an angler. London, 1879. 80.
H(OWLETT) R(obert). The anglers sure guide.
London, 1706. 80.
JACKSON, John. The practical fly-fisher. London
and Leeds, 1854. 80. And other editions
KKLSUX, George M. The salmon fly. London,
KIXGSLEY, Charles. Chalk stream studies. In-
eluded in Miscellanies. 2 vol. London, 1859.
80. Also included in Prose Idylls. London,
226 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
LA BRANCHE, George M. L. The dry fly and fast
water. New York, 1914. 80.
LANG, Andrew. Rhymes a la mode. London, 1885.
Angling Sketches. London, 1891. 80.
And other editions
LAUSON, William. See LAWSON, William.
LAWSON, William. A new orchard and garden.
London, 1617-8. 4o. And other editions.
The Secrets of angling, by I. D. Esquire.
Augmented with many proved experiments, by
W. Lawson. London, n.d. (1620). 80. And
LECLERC, Marc. La passion de notre frere le poilu.
Paris, 1916. 12o.
LEE, Norman N. See EDMONDS, Harfield H.
LEFEVRE, Jean. See de FOURNIVAL, Richard.
LIGER, Loxiis. Amusemens de la campagne. 2 vols.
Paris, 1709. 12o. And other editions.
MARKHAM, Gervase. A discourse of the generall
art of fishing ivith the angle. (First printed in
The Second booke of the English husbandman.
London, 1614. 4o. Afterwards in The pleasures
of princes, A way to get wealth and other works of
the author.) Many editions.
See also ESTIENNE, Charles.
M(ASCALL), L(eonard). A booke of fishing with
hooke and line, by L. M. London, 1590. 4o.
And other editions.
MARSTON, R. B. Walton and some earlier writers
on fish and fishing. London, 1894. 12o.
MAXWELL, Sir Herbert. Chronicles of the Hough-
ton Fishing Club, 1822-1908. London, 1908. 4o.
MOFFETT, Thomas. The Theater of insects. Pub-
lished with Edward TopselFs History of four-
footed beasts and serpents. London, 1658. Fol.
MOTTRAM, J. C.- Fly-fishing. London, n.d. 80.
MUFFET, Thomas. See MOFFETT, Thomas.
NOBBES, Robert. The compleat troller. London,
1682. 80. And other editions.
NORTH, Christopher. See WILSON, John.
OGDEN, James. On fly tying. Cheltenham, 1879.
80. And other editions.
ORVIS, Charles F., and CHENEY, A. Nelson.
Fishing with the fly. Manchester, Vermont,
U.S.A., 1883. 12o. And other editions.
PEACH AM, Henry. The compleat gentleman.
London, 1627 and 1634. 4o. And other editions.
PENN, Richard. Maxims and hints for an angler.
London, 1833. 12o. And other editions.
PENNELL, Harry Cholmondeley. The modern
practical angler. London, 1870. 80.
PETIT, G. Albert. La truite de riviere. Paris,
PICTET, Francois Jules. Recherches pour servir a
Vhistoire et a I'anatomie des Phryganides.
Geneva, Paris, and London, 1834.
Histoire naturelle, generale et particuliere,
des insect es Neuropteres. 1842-5.
POPE, Alexander. Windsor Forest. London, 1713.
Fol. And other editions.
POWELL, G. H. Excursions in Libraria (containing
A Gascon Tragedy). London, 1895. 80.
PRIME, W. C. 1 go a-fi.shing. New York and
London, 1873. 80. And other editions.
PRITT, T. E. Yorkshire trout flies. Leeds, 1885.
80. Then as
North -country flies. London, 1886. 80.
PULMAN, George P. R. Vade mecum of fly-fishing
for trout. London and Axminster, 1841. 12o.
Second Edition. London, 1846. 16o.
Third Edition. London, 1851. 80.
QUARLES, Francis. The Shepheards Oracles.
London, 1646. 4o.
RHEAD, Louis. American trout-stream insects.
New York, n.d. (1916). 80.
RONALDS, Alfred. The fly-fisher's entomology.
London, 1836. 80. And other editions.
RUSSELL, Harold. Chalkstream and moorland.
London, 1911. 80.
SATCHELL, T. See WESTWOOD, T.
SAUNDERS, James. The compleat fisherman.
London, 1724. 12o.
228 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
SCOTCHER, George. The fly-fisher's legacy. Chep-
stow, n.d. (circa 1800). 80.
SCROPE, William. Days and nights of salmon
fishing in the Tweed. London, 1843. 80. And
SHIRLEY, Thomas. The angler's museum. London,
1784. 12o. And other editions.
SKUES, G. E. M. Minor tactics of the chalk
stream. London, 1910. 80.
(SMITH, George.) The gentleman angler. By a
gentleman. London, 1726. 12o. And another
S(MITH), J(ohn). The true art of angling. London,
1696. 24o. And other editions.
(SNART, Charles.) Practical observations on angling
in the river Trent. By a gentleman resident in
the neighbourhood. Newark, 1801. 12o.
SOUTH, Theophilus. See CHITTY, Edward.
STEWART, W. C. The practical angler. Edin-
burgh, 1857. 80. And other editions.
STODDART, Thomas Tod. The art of angling as
practised in Scotland. Edinburgh, 1835. 12o.
And another edition.
Songs and poems. Edinburgh, 1839. 80.
The angler's companion to the rivers and
lakes of Scotland. Edinburgh and London, 1847.
80. Second edition. Edinburgh and London,
1853. 80. And other editions.
An angler's rambles and angling songs.
Edinburgh, 1866. 80. And another edition.
TAVERNER, John. Certaine experiments concern-
ing fish and fruite. London, 1600. 4o.
(THEAKSTON, Michael.) A list of natural flies.
Ripon, 1853. 12o. And other editions.
TOD, E. M. Wet-fly fishing. London, 1903. 80.
And another edition.
TOPSEL, Edward. See MOFFETT, Thomas.
TRAITTE de toute sorte de chasse et de peche.
Amsterdam, 1714. 12o. A reprint of Louis
Liger's Amusemens de la campagne, q.v.
TURRELL. Ancient angling authors. London,
TWICI, Guyllame. Le Art de Venerie. Edited by
Sir Henry Dryden. Middle Hill Press, 1840.
Also as The Art of hunting, by Alice Dryden
(q.v.). Northampton, 1908. 80. *
VENABLES, Robert. The experienced angler.
London, 1662. 80. And other editions.
The universal angler. Made so by three
books of fishing. The first by Mr. Izaak Walton;
the second by Charles Cotton Esquire; the third
. by Colonel Robert Venables. London, 1676. 80.
WADE, Henry. Halcyon. London, 1861. 80.
WALKER, Charles Edward. Old flies in new dresses.
London, 1898. 80.
WALL WORK, James. The modern angler. Man-
chester, 1847. 80.
WALTON, IZAAK. The compleat angler. London,
1653. 80. And other editions.
The universal angler. Made so by three
books of fishing. The first by Mr. Izaak Walton;
the second by Charles Cotton Esquire; the third
by Colonel Robert Venables. London, 1676. 80.
WARD, Francis. Marvels of fish life. London,
1911. 80. And another edition.
Animal life under water. London, 1919. 80.
WKRSTER, David. The angler and the loop-rod.
Edinburgh and London, 1885. 80.
WELLS, Henry P. The American salmon fisherman.
London and New York, 1886. 16o.
WEST, Leonard. The natural trout fly and its
imitation. 1912. 80.
WEST WOOD, T., and SATCHELL, T. Bibliotheca
Piscatoria. London, 1883. 80.
WHEATLEY, Hewett. The rod and line. London,
WILSON, Professor John. The recreations of
Christopher North. 3 vol. Edinburgh, 1842.
80. And other editions.
WOTTON, Sir Henry. Reliquice Wottoniance.
London, 1651. 12o. And other editions.
WRIGHT, William. Fishes and fishing. London,
230 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
YORK, Edward, Duke of. The Master of Game.
London, 1904. Fol. Edited by W. A. and F.
Baillie-Grohman. And another edition.
YOUNGER, John. On river angling for salmon and
trout. Edinburgh, 1840. 16o. And other
ADDISON, J., 206.
AELIANUS, CLAUDIUS. De Animalium Natura describes
fly fishing, 1.
d'ALBRET, JEAN, 6.
ALDAM, W. H., 125, 147, 155.
excellence of his flies, 187.
ALDER, 73, 144.
possibly in Treatise 166.
history and dressings of, 166 168.
London tackle maker making three-section split cane in
LE ART DE VENEEIE, 5.
copied from nature, Treatise 26, 27; Markham 71, 172;
Peacham 71; in Cotton's time 71 et seq; three schools
of imitation 7374; 141144; Stewart 73, 142; Halford
142; colour and form 143, 144;
description of, in Treatise 25, 26; in Cotton and his con-
temporaries 71, 72; north and south country flies differ
71, 174; Stewart 73;
illustrations of, earliest by Lawson 42, 171, 178; Venables
171, 178; Hawkins 178; Best, 178; none good before
Bowlker 178 : Excellence of Ronalds 185 ; his influence
186; Aldam and Blacker 187.
See also under names of individual flies FLY DRESSING
FLY FISHING NATURAL FLY.
' ARUNDO ' (JOHN BEEVER), 26 n, 153.
first mentioned in Treatise, 27.
Chetham recommends microscope, 71.
BAINBRIDGE, G. C., 84, 103.
232 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
BARKER, THOMAS. 5960, 70, 103105, 161.
account of, 59, 60; place in history of fishing, 60; prose
style, 60, 200.
first to use single hair, 23.
as fly dresser, 71, 77, 118, 172 3.
interested in cooking, 60, 72.
and gardening, 193.
BECKFORD, PETER, 4, 84.
BEEVER, JOHN (' ARUNDO ').
Practical Fly Fishing, 26 n, 153.
BERNARD. London tackle maker, making three-section split
cane in 1851, 92.
BERNERS, DAME JULIANA.
See Treatise of Fishing with an Angle.
her existence, 2, 12 and 12 n.
BEST, THOMAS, 88, 103, 105.
popularity of his work, 207; his position in history of
BIBLIOTHECA PISCATORIA, 89 n, 181 n.
BLACK GNAT, 144, 164, 183.
first mentioned by Cotton, 164; history and dressings of,
164165. Similarity of Halford's pattern to Cotton's,
BLACK LOUPER, 2fi.
his method of dressing flies, 175 ; first to describe detached
BLAKEY, ROBERT, writer on fishing, 15, 106, 107.
BLUE DUN, 177, 183.
BLUE WINGED OLIVE, 73, 143.
BOOK OF ST. ALBANS, 5, 11.
its contents and character, 12.
authorship, 12, 12 n.
BOWLKER, R. and C., 55, 88, 89, 90, 103, 105, 106, 148158,
date of, 89 n.
position in history of sport, 89, 90, 204, 205.
popularity and importance, 204; his prose, 204.
rejects many useless flies, 89, 145.
BOWNESS, GEORGE. London tackle maker, 95.
BOYLE, HON. ROBERT,
account of, 118120.
place in history of fishing, 121.
BROOKES, RICHARD, 103, 105.
BURY, LADY CHARLOTTE, 216.
mentioned in Treatise, 14.
CASTING THE FLY.
early method of, 24, 25.
fly must fall first, 24, 25, 76.
first mention of, 42; in Cotton's time, 75.
nine hairs thick recommended by Treatise, 23.
three hairs by Lawson, 23.
single hair by Barker, 23.
Cotton used single, double or treble, 24, 68, 69;
Markham's practice, 48.
of lute or viol string, mentioned by Venables and Samuel
Gut, 94, 95.
Indian Weed, 70 and 81 n.
LA CHACE DOU SEBF, I, 4.
CHETHAM, JAMES, 55, 103105, 146, 149156, 158.
excellence of his dressings of flies, 71, 74, 145.
ointments to allure fish, 202203.
CHOLMONDELEY PENNELL, 108, 217.
CLARK. London tackle maker, making split cane rods in
CLERK & Co., ANDREW, of New York,
early makers of six-section split cane, 94.
COCHERIS, M., editor of La Vieille, 52 n.
COLQUHOUN, JOHN, 84, 96, 98, 103, 192, 213.
see WALTON, IZAAK.
in fifteenth century, 12; in seventeenth, 44.
CORK BODIES FOR FLIES.
first mentioned by Mascall, 38.
COTTON, CHARLES, 56, 67, 68, 89, 103105, 146, 148, 150151,
1545, 159161, 163165.
as fly dresser, 71, 7375, 145.
good naturalist, 182.
position in history of sport, 24, 48, 65, 74, 104, 220.
relation between him and Walton, 65, 198 : its influence
on his prose style, 198.
style, in prose and verse, 65, 198;
superiority of his verse, 199.
The Gentleman's Pecreation, 103.
CREEL, mentioned by Dennys, 40.
234 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
mentioned by Lawson, 43.
DAVY, SIR H., 26 n, 84, 95, 103, 106107, 153, 192, 213.
position in history of sport, 215 216.
Salmonia, its fishing excellence, 97; and literary faults,
his collection of fishing books, 13.
DENISON TEXT is earlier than text from which Treatise is
printed, 13 14; is more accurate, 20 n.
Secrets of Angling, account of, 40; high position in fishing
poetry, 40, 191.
DOUBLEDAY, THOMAS, 40.
DRAKE FLY, 26, 166.
anticipation of, in early writers, 116 121; Mascall, Barker
and Boyle not really talking of it, 117, 120.
invention of, probable date, 115, 116.
use of, on Itchen, 115 116; by Scotch er 121, 122; Ogden
124125; first described by Pulman, 122124; known
to Stoddart 126127; Francis 127129; Kingsley and
Froude 128; before 1860, 128; 18601870, 129; work of
partial reaction against, 131 133; case overstated by
Halford, 131; work of Skues, 133.
early sale of, 125, 126.
progress since Halford, 131134.
attraction of sport, 134140.
DRYDEN, MISS ALICE.
The Art of Hunting, 5.
DRYDEN, SIR HENRY, translator of La Chace dou Serf, 1.
DUKE OF YORK.
his life and character, 7; author of Master of Game, 7 8.
DUN CUT, 26, 26 n, 39. And see YELLOW DUN.
DUN FLY, 25, 146, 151.
EDMONDS AND LEE.
Brook and Biver Trouting, 156.
author of Maison Eustique, 52; its fame, ibid.
London tackle maker, making three-section split cane in
FEBRUARY RED, 143, 144, 183
described in Treatise, 25, 146;
dressing of, 146147.
unchanged to-day, 146147.
before Stewart's time, 87.
first mentioned in Treatise, 20.
FIELD, THE, articles in, 126, 127.
Dennys, 191; Cotton, 198199; Wotton, 200; Lang, 219;
Cochrane, 82; dialect poetry, 210; Barker, 201202;
Gay, 208209; Doubleday, 209210; Newcastle Fishers
Garlands, 209210; Lady Charlotte Bury, 216.
The Treatise, 30, 31, 192193; Mascall, 193; excellence of
Lawson, 194195; Walton, 195197; Cotton's relation
to Walton, 198; criticism of Cotton's prose, 198;
excellence of seventeenth century, 203; comparison
between seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, 212,
213, 98; poverty of eighteenth, 83, 84, 203; influence of
Walter Scott, 85, 210; eighteenth century writers,
206208; Gay's verse better than any prose, 208;
nineteenth century, Scrope, Stoddart, Stewart,
Ronalds and their followers, 211 215; comparison of
Stoddart with Walton, 212213; brilliance of early
nineteenth century, 96. Later writers, Lord Grey,
217218; Francis, 218; Lang, 219; Halford, 220.
FITZGIBBON, EDWARD, 84, 103, 107, 217.
first mentioned by Barker, 70.
continuity from early times to to-day, 169.
earliest directions in Barker, 172.
excellence of early imitations, 188 190.
floating flies first dressed, 177.
imitation of natural insect in Lawson 42; Markham, 71;
Peacham and Cotton, 71; in Treatise, 144168;
Markham, 144166; Barker, 74, 172, 173; Venables, 74,
173; Cotton, 7174, 145176.
in seventeenth century, 71; Chetham, 145158; Traitte,
147168; Bowlker, 145163; his importance, 89.
in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the common
practice is reverse winged, 174, 175.
Ronalds, 148 150, 175; his importance, 179; and influence,
Blacker, 175; Francis, 152163; Halford, 148165; Skues,
176; Stewart, 175.
Stewart's spiders, 73.
three schools of imitation 73, 74, 141143 ; form and colour,
236 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
North and South country schools of dressing, 75, 174.
See also under names of individual flies ARTIFICIAL FLY
FLY FISHING NATURAL FLY.
in Treatise, 29 30; copy fly on water, 33 34; early writers
advise keeping fly on top, 25, 77, 116 121; sunk in
slow water 78; Mascall 38; Liger 55; Cotton and
contemporaries 74 78; Stewart 77.
casting, first mentioned by Lawson, 42.
different development in France and England, 49 50.
' drawing ' the fly, first recommended by Markham, 47.
fishing for individual fish, Chetham, 66.
North Country school, 48.
playing a fish, in Treatise, 27 29; Lawson 42; Ronalds, 28.
popularity of, in Markham's time, 47, 48.
striking, Treatise, 38; Mascall 38; Lawson 42; Fortin, 53;
in Cotton's time 78.
upstream fishing, 66, 100110.
weather, 30, 41, 81.
See also under names of individual flies ARTIFICIAL FLY
FLY DRESSING NATURAL FLY.
DE FOIX, CATHERINE, ancestress of Henri IV., 6.
DE FOIX, COMTE GASTON.
author of Livre de la Chasse, 5; his life and character,
6, 7; his book, 7.
author of Euses Innocentes, 52; account of it, 53 54; its
position in history of fishing, 53 54; his debt to
Treatise, 53; to Mascall, 53; excellence of illustrations,
FOSTER, W. H., 126.
DE FOURNIVAL, RICHARD.
early work on fishing in France, 51; account of it, 50, 51.
FRANCE. Early works on sport, 27; our debt to her, 11.
contrast with England, 49, 50.
early fly fishing in, 54, 55.
fly not mentioned before eighteenth century, 49.
FRANCIS, FRANCIS, 127, 129, 150, 152, 155, 158, 160, 162, 163,
his enthusiasm for fishing, 218.
FRANCE, RICHARD, 141.
his turgid style, 57, 58, 202; his quarrel with Walton, 59.
account of, 57 59; position in history of fishing, 58, 59.
visits Gaston de Foix, 6.
FROUDE, J. A., 128.
mentioned by Barker, 70; by Venables, 79.
GAY, JOHN, 40, 83, 84, 192, 208.
GASTON PHCEBUS. See de Foix, Count Gaston.
GINGER QUILL, 73.
GRANNOM, 73, 144, 183.
dressings of, 147 150.
is Shell Fly of Ronalds, 148; in Traitte, 150.
first mentioned, 91; rejected by Stewart, 91; and Francis,
92; its history, 94.
GREY OF FALLODON, LORD, 3, 97, 109, 164, 211.
his importance, 217; his prose, 217218.
first mention, 94; little used in eighteenth century, 95;
universal in nineteenth, 95.
HACKLE FLIES, 141.
HALE, CAPTAIN, 21, 22.
HALFORD, F. M., 86, 87, 97, 142, 148, 150, 164, 165, 192; his
importance, 129130, 220; style, 130131, 220; criticism
of his Entomology, 148, 149, 186, 187.
HAMILTON, EDWARD, 80, 186.
HARE'S EAR SEDGE, 73.
HARTLIB, SAMUEL, 181182, 193194.
HAWKER, PETER, 4, 213.
HAWKINS, SIR J.
gives print of natural flies, 178.
HAWTHORN FLY, 74.
favourite material for rods, 20.
HENDERSON, WILLIAM, 80, 217.
HICKORY, as rod material, 91.
HIGGINBOTHAM. London tackle maker
probable inventor of three or four-sectioned split cane, 93
In Treatise, 21, 172; sizes 25; in Lawson 41.
Kirbys hooks, 60; eyed hook, in Fortin, 53;
double hook in Mascall 38, 73; in Venables 73.
HOWLETT, ROBERT, 88, 103, 105.
his contribution to fishing, 207.
excellence of French, 53.
see also ARTIFICIAL FLY NATURAL FLY.
INDIAN GRASS (or INDIAN WEED), TO, 81 n.
238 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
IRON BLUE, 144.
first mentioned by Chetham, 156; history and dressings
JACKSON, CAPTAIN HENRY, 206.
JACKSON, JOHN, 103, 155, 163, 185, 214.
JACQUERIE, the. Gaston de Foix helps to quell, 6
JEMMIT, MR., his list of flies, 205206.
his judgment on Markham, 43; on Donne and Shake-
KINGSLEY, CHARLES, 97, 128, 167.
excellence as naturalist, 186.
KIRBY. His hooks mentioned by Barker, 60.
LA BRANCHE, G. M. C., 217.
LAMB, CHARLES, his admiration for Walton, 196.
LANCEWOOD, used for making rods, 91.
mentioned by Dennys, 40, 79; triangular, invented by
Fortin, 53, 79.
LANG, ANDREW, 40, 192, 211.
his prose, 219; poetry, 219; enthusiasm for fishing, 219.
LAWSON, WILLIAM, 23, 37, 41, 42, 46, 47, 48.
account of, 41.
as fly dresser, 46, 47.
connection with Markham, 46, 47.
his position in history of fishing, 41 42, 48; his prose, 41;
high place among fishing writers, 36, 194 195.
LECLERC, MARC, 210.
translated De Vetula into La Vieille, 51; account of book,
51; its position in history of fishing, 51, 52.
author of Amusemens de la Compagne, 54; its relation to
Fortin, 54; its position in history of fishing, 54, 55.
LIGHT OLIVE, 73.
LINE (see also CASTING LINE);
of hair, in Treatise, 20, 21 ; in Cotton, 68, 75.
of silk and hair, mentioned by Markham, 48; condemned
by Venables, 68.
of silk, first mentioned by Nobbes, 87.
hair lines made thick for fly fishing, 68.
LITTLE, London tackle maker, making three-section split
cane in 1851, 93.
LITTLE YELLOW MAY DUN, 26 and 26 n.
MA1SON EUSTIQUE, 52.
MARCH BROWN, 144, 183.
first mentioned by Chetham, 155; history and dressings
MARKHAM, GERVASE, 37, 39, 4348, 144, 146, 151, 158, 160,
161, 166, 167, 168, 170, 172.
colourless as a writer, 195; his relation to the Treatise, 39;
to Mascall, 39; to Walton, 39; his versatility, 44; his
position in literature, 45; his debt to Dennys, 46; to
Mascall, 47; to Lawson, 4647; account of, 4346;
his character, 43 44; his position in history of fishing,
46 48 ; advises copying natural flies, 172.
MARSTON, R. B.
Walton and the Earlier Fishing Writers, 22 n.
MASCALL, LEONARD, 25, 3740, 117118, 144, 153, 161, 163.
first English writer on fish culture, 3839; his debt to
Treatise, 25, 193; and the Dutch, 193; recommends
fishing on top of water, 117118; account of, 37; his
contribution to fishing, 37, 38.
MASTEE OF GAME, THE, 3, 711.
is model on which Treatise is founded, 9; first sporting
book written in English, 8; its importance, 7, 11;
model on which fishing literature was founded, 8, 11
MAURE FLY, 26, 39, 161.
MAXWELL, SIR HERBERT, 128, 143.
MAYFLY, 73, 74, 143, 144, 183, 189.
probably in Treatise, 159161; history and dressings of,
159162; diversity of patterns, 162.
MERRIL, mentioned by Franck, 206.
MOFFETT, DR. THOMAS.
Theater of Insects, 182.
MONTAGUE, MR. R. L., 94 n.
MOORISH FLY, 145.
rejected by Bowlker, 89; and see MAURE FLY.
MORE FLY. See MAURE FLY.
MOTTRAM, J. C., 144.
MURPHY, CHARLES F., of New York, early maker of
six-section split cane, 94.
Knowledge of, in Treatise, 26 27.
date of appearance known, 27; Cotton, 182; universally
copied in seventeenth century, 71; important work of
Taverner, 182; lack of scientific books in eighteenth
century, 182; Moffett's Theater of Insects, 182;
Bowlker, 183; Hawkins, 183; importance of Scotcher,
183; Bainbridge and Carroll, 183184; high position of
240 FLY FISHING FOE TROUT.
Ronalds, 179, 184 186, 213 214; great advance made
by Pictet, 183, 185 n; Kingsley and Hamilton, 186;
criticism of Halford, 148, 149, 186; West, 187; Rhead,
Moffett, 182; Hawkins' Compleat Angler, first fishing
book which gives, 183; Scotcher first to give coloured,
183; Bainbridge, Carroll and Ronalds, 183186;
importance of Ronalds, 179, 184 186; criticism of
Halford, 148, 149, 186, 187; West, 187; Rhead, 188.
See also under names of individual flies ARTIFICIAL FLY
FLY DRESSING FLY FISHING.
NET. See LANDING NET.
' NORTH, CHRISTOPHER/ 84, 96.
NORTH COUNTRY SCHOOL, 48, 71, 7577, 107, 174.
See FRANCK, RICHARD.
in Cotton's time, 79; in Waltons', 79; in Stoddart and
Stewart's, 80; in nineteenth century, 80, 81.
early dry fly fisher, 124125; and dresser, 124, 125, 160.
OINTMENTS TO ATTRACT FISH, 202.
OLIVE DUN, 144, 177.
probably in Treatise, 25, 151; history and dressings of,
OLIVE NYMPH, 177.
ORVIS, C. F., 217.
famous fisherman mentioned by Franck, 24, 206.
meaning of, in Barker, 77.
PALE WATERY, 73.
PARTRIDGE AND ORANGE, 142.
recommends copying natural flies, 71.
PENN, RICHARD, 84, 95, 103, 106, 107.
his contribution, 213.
mentions casting line of catgut, 69.
PETIT, G. A., 217.
probable inventor of six-section split cane, 94.
PICTET, F. J., 128, 185 n.
POPE, ALEXANDER, 84.
POWELL, G. H., 7n.
PRIME, W. C., 217.
PRITT, T. E., 150, 154, 157.
PULMAN, G. P. R., 84, 103, 213.
first writer on dry fly, 97, 122124.
introduction of Shepheards Oracles, written by Walton,
RAVENNA, BATTLE OF, 6.
RED QUILL, 143, 177.
history and dressings of, 163164.
RED SEDGE, 144.
history and dressings of, 165166.
not mentioned till nineteenth century, 165;
RED SPINNER, 177, 189.
mentioned in Treatise, 26, 162; by Mascall, 38, 117; in
Traitte, 164; history and dressings of, 162 164.
RED TAG, 73.
forerunner of, used by Fortin, 53, 54; first mentioned by
Barker, 70; figured by Venables, 70; multiplying, first
mentioned, 88; in general use, for salmon, 88; for
RHEAD, LOUIS, 188.
first mentioned, 95; history of, 95.
jointed, in Treatise, 20; and ferrulled, 20, 87; spliced rod
first mentioned by Lawson, 86; disappearance of
spliced to-day, 86, 87.
length of, in Treatise, 23; Cotton, 23, 67; long rods used
till nineteenth century, 23, 28, 85; Stewart first to
advise short rod, 85; Halford, 86.
materials for (and see split cane below) in Treatise, 19, 20;
hazel the favourite, 20, 90; whole cane, 40; Lawson, 41;
Cotton, 67, 68; Venables, 68; hickory, lancewood and
greenheart in nineteenth century, 9092; greenheart
disliked at first, 91, 92.
split cane, first mentioned 1801, 92; is three or four-
sectioned, 92; English invention, 93; inventor, 93;
superseded by greenheart, 94; greenheart superseded
by six-sectioned cane, 94; an American invention, 94.
in France, first mention, 52, 53.
could be bought in Markham's time, 48; and Cotton's, 68.
' rush grown/ 68.
242 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
' RODDYD ' WOOL, 26.
RONALDS, ALFRED, 26 and 26 n, 84, 103, 106, 107, 148, 149,
his great importance, 179, 184 185, 213 214, and influence,
ROUTLEDGE, DICKIE, 81, 206.
RUDDY FLY, 39, 145.
rejected by Bowlker, 89; and see RED SPINNER.
BUSES INNOCENTES. See FORTIN, FRANCOIS.
' RUSH GROWN/ 68. (See ROD.)
RUSSELL, HAROLD, 115 n.
SAD YELLOW FLY, 39.
mentioned in Treatise, 29; described by Franck, 59.
SANDY YELLOW FLY, 145.
rejected by Bowlker, 89.
SCOTCHER, GEORGE, 103, 105, 106.
his importance, 121; first to give coloured pictures of
natural flies, 121; precursor of the dry fly, 121 122.
SCOTT, THOMAS, quotation from, 114.
SCOTT, SIR WALTER, 84.
influence of, on fishing writers, 96; his edition of Franck,
57; his criticism of Franck's style, 57, 59; and of
Walton's, 59, 197.
SCROPE, WILLIAM, 24 n, 96, 98.
his prose, 211.
SHAKESPEARE, 7, 37.
mentioned in Treatise, 26; by Ronalds, 26; and see
SHERINGHAM, H. T., 185 n.
SHIRLEY, THOMAS, 103, 105, 106.
SKEAT, PROFESSOR, 13.
SKUES, G. E. M., 133, 134, 152, 157, 177.
SMITH, BARNARD, 185 n.
SMITH, GEORGE, 205.
SMITH, J., 88, 103, 104, 105.
SPENSER, EDMUND, 58 n.
SPENT OLIVE, 177.
early, in France, 27; no early French books on fly, 11;
in England, 7 11.
STEWART, W. C., 98, 107, 108, 113.
position in history of sport, 48, 98, 213214, 220.
his spiders, 73.
STODDART, T. T., 40, 84, 97, 103, 106, 107, 192, 210.
account of, 211213; as a poet, 212; his position in history
of sport, 212213; describes dry fly, 126127.
mentioned in Treatise, 26, 158; history and dressings of,
in Treatise, 78; in Cotton, 78; and see under FLY FISHING.
SWINBURNE, A. C., 40.
TANDY FLY, 26, 39, 159.
his importance as observer of aquatic insect*, 181, 182;
and of eels, 180181.
TAWNY FLY. See TANDY FLY.
TENNYSON, LORD, 45.
THEAKSTON, MICHAEL, 103, 145, 163, 165, 185.
his tiresome nomenclature, 215; his importance, ibid.
TOD, E. M., 152.
TOPSEL, EDWARD, 182.
TPAITTE DE TOUTS SORTS DE CHASSE ET DE PECHE,
49, 54, 146, 147, 150, 164, 168.
TREATISE OF FISHING WITH AN ANGLE, 2, 18, 144148,
151, 153, 155, 158162, 166169, 190.
authorship and origins, 712, 12 n, 1315, 19, 189; date,
1314; place in history of fishing, 13, 19, 2122, 3235,
220; prose style, 30, 31, 192, 193.
TURRELL, W. J., 181 n.
rejected by Bowlker, 89.
TWICI, WILLIAM, 5.
first mentioned by Venables, 66, 67, 100102; in Cotton's
time, 77; importance of, 99, 101; history of, Venables
to Stewart, 102107; Stewart to present day, 107108;
comparison of up and down-stream, 109 113.
and see also under FLY FISHING.
T RQUHART, SIR THOMAS, 57.
USTONSON, ONESIMUS, 88, 95.
VENABLES, ROBERT, 56, 70, 71, 99, 103, 104, 105.
account of, 60, 61; relation to Walton, 61; position in
history of sport, 65, 75, 77; first to mention upstream
fishing, 66, 67, 100102.
244 FLY FISHING FOR TROUT.
DE VETULA, 50, 51.
LA V1EILLE, 51.
WADE, HENRY, 158, 185, 214.
in time of Cotton, 78; in time of Scrope, 78.
WALKER, C. E., 168.
WALLWORK, JAMES, 121, 214.
WALTON, IZAAK, 70, 100, 117, 153, 161, 183, 191, 210.
great importance of Compleat Angler, 61, 65; his relation
to the Treatise, 39, 64, 144145; to Mascall, 25, 39,
144145; to Markham, 144145; to Barker, 60.
his prose, its quality, 6165, 195197, 213; Charles Lamb's
opinion, 63, 196; and Walter Scott's, 59, 197.
his quarrel with Franck, 59.
inferiority of illustrations in Compleat Angler, 171.
ignorance of natural history, 180.
WARD, FRANCIS, 144.
WASP FLY, 26.
Advice as to in Treatise, 30; by Lawson, 41; in Cotton's
day, 81; for dry fly, 81.
WELLS, H. P., 86.
WEST, LEONARD, 149.
his entomological work, 187.
used for tip of rod by Fortin, 53; in Cotton's time, 68;
to-day for Spey salmon rods, 68 n.
WHEATLEY, HEWETT, 185.
his contribution, 214215.
WICKHAM, 73, 143.
WILSON, PROFESSOR JOHN, 84, 96.
WIMBLE, MR. WILLIAM, 206.
WOTTON, SIR HENRY, 40, 199.
excellence of his verse, 200.
WRIGHT, WILLIAM, 93.
WYNKYN DE WORDE, 2, 12.
YELLOW DUN, 144.
history and dressings of, 153 155.
YELLOW FLY, 26 and 26 n.
YOUNGER, JOHN, 80, 103, 104, 106, 107.
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