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'La Piche est ma folie 

Due DK CHOISEUL (1761) 












ANGLE - - - - 16 



ANGLER ... 36 




PORARIES .... 56 





CONTENTS (Continued) . 











INDEX 231 



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. 

About 1250. 
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,. 
Cap I. 


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 


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- 


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. 


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 
more later. 

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 


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 


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 
was founded. 

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 
their books. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 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 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 


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. 


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 


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 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 


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). 


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 


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. 


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; 


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. 


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 
its babyhood. 

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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 



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 
dainty Fish. 

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 


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 


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. 


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- 
serve them. 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
Gervase Markham. 

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. 


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 


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. 



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 


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 


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 


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 
scholarly information. 


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 


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 


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- 
vellous age. 



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 


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 
they were. 

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. 


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, 
read far. 

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. 


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's reputation. 

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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


than he had received, and he tended and kept 
alive a flame which otherwise might have 
flickered out. 

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 
with it. 

There are four great landmarks in fly fishing. 
The first is imitation, the copying of the colour 


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- 


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, 


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. 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 
contemporaries . 

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 


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 


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 


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, 


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 
out snags. 

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 


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 


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. 



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. 

Collected Verses. 
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 


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 
have covered. 

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 
the fly. 

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. 


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 

No Fisher 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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- 


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. 


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 


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- 


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 


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 


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 
were there. 

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 


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 


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. 



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 


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 


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- 


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, 


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. 


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, 


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, 


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.' 


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 


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 


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 
preached at. 

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 


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? 


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 


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, 


certain occasions when the fly fished down- 
stream pays best, without attempting to give 
the reason. 

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. 



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 


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). 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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- 


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 
less good. 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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 


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 
idly spent/ 



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 

Northern Memoirs, 
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 


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 


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 


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, 


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 
fishing literature. 

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 


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 
the source. 


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. 


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. 


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 


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 
waiting ? 

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 


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 
light-coloured feather. 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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> 


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, 


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. 


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 


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 : 


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 
makes sense. 

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 


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 


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. 





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 


not necessarily produce a fine statue. What 
do we know about the actual fly used, the 
finished article? 

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 


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 


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 
in place. 

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 


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 


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. 


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. 


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 


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 


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 
living insects. 

Ronalds is the father of the modern angler- 


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 


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. 


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- 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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. 


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. 


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 


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. 




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 



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. 


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 


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 


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, 


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 
your flies.' 

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 


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 
signed it. 

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 
pleasant Meadow/ 

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. 


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 
worth quoting.! 

*'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. 


And now farewell Dove, where I've caught 

such brave Dishes 
Of over-grown, golden, and silver-scaled 

Fishes ; 
Thy Trout and thy Grailing may now feed 

I've left none behind me can take J em so 

surely ; 
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 
of humour. 


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 


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 : 
'Noble Lord, 

'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, 



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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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). 


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. 


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 

rife ; 
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 


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 


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 
be tempted. 

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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


meaning and of seeing where they have 
anticipated us and where we have improved on 





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1556. Fol. And other editions. 
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Art a Artyfichall Flee Making. London, 1876. 


BAINBRIDGE, George C. The fly-fishers guide. 

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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 

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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 

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Historical sketches of the angling literature 

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BOWLKER, Richard and Charles. The art of 

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(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 

other editions. 
BROOKES, Richard. The art of angling. London, 

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CARROLL, W. The angler's vade mecum. Edin- 
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LA CHACE DOU SERF. Anonymous. Paris, 1839. 

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CHENEY, A. See ORVIS, Charles P. 
(CHETHAM, James.) The angler's vade mecum. 

London, 1681. 12o. And other editions, with 

author's name. 
(CHITTY, Edward.) The fly-fishers text book. By 

Theophilus South. London, 1841. 80. And 

another edition. 
COLQIJHOUN, John. The moor and the loch. 

Edinburgh, 1840. 80. And other editions. 
COTTON, Charles. The Compleat Angler. Part II. 

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The universal angler, made so by three books 

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second by Charles Cotton Esquire; the third by 

Colonel Robert Venables. London, 1676. 80. 
Scarronnides, or Vergile Travestie. London, 

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Poems on several occasions. London, 1689. 


COX, Nicholas. The gentleman's recreation. London, 
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*See note on page 89 as to date of first edition of Bowlker. 


CEAWHALL, Joseph. A collection of right merrie 

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on-Tyne, 1864. 80. 

(DAVY, Sir Humphry.) Salmonia, or days of fly- 
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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 

also CEAWHALJj. 
DEYDEN, Alice. The art of hunting. Northampton, 

1908. 80. 
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., 

1850. 80. 
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, 

1861. 80. 
FEANCIS, Francis. A book on angling. London, 

1867. 80. And other editions. 
FEANCK, Richard. Northern memoirs. London, 

1694. 80. 


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 

other editions. 
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 

other editions. 

The dry-fly man's handbook. London, n.d. 

(1913). 80. 
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, 

1895. 4o. 
KIXGSLEY, Charles. Chalk stream studies. In- 

eluded in Miscellanies. 2 vol. London, 1859. 

80. Also included in Prose Idylls. London, 

1873. 80. 


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 
other editions. 

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. 
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MARKHAM, Gervase. A discourse of the generall 
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London, 1614. 4o. Afterwards in The pleasures 
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See also ESTIENNE, Charles. 

M(ASCALL), L(eonard). A booke of fishing with 
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And other editions. 

MARSTON, R. B. Walton and some earlier writers 
on fish and fishing. London, 1894. 12o. 

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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. 

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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, 

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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. 
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London, 1836. 80. And other editions. 
RUSSELL, Harold. Chalkstream and moorland. 

London, 1911. 80. 

SAUNDERS, James. The compleat fisherman. 

London, 1724. 12o. 


SCOTCHER, George. The fly-fisher's legacy. Chep- 

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SCROPE, William. Days and nights of salmon 

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other editions. 
SHIRLEY, Thomas. The angler's museum. London, 

1784. 12o. And other editions. 
SKUES, G. E. M. Minor tactics of the chalk 

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(SMITH, George.) The gentleman angler. By a 

gentleman. London, 1726. 12o. And another 

S(MITH), J(ohn). The true art of angling. London, 

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in the river Trent. By a gentleman resident in 

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SOUTH, Theophilus. See CHITTY, Edward. 
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STODDART, Thomas Tod. The art of angling as 

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An angler's rambles and angling songs. 

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TAVERNER, John. Certaine experiments concern- 
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And another edition. 

TOPSEL, Edward. See MOFFETT, Thomas. 

TRAITTE de toute sorte de chasse et de peche. 
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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. 
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the second by Charles Cotton Esquire; the third 

by Colonel Robert Venables. London, 1676. 80. 
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WKRSTER, David. The angler and the loop-rod. 

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WHEATLEY, Hewett. The rod and line. London, 

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80. And other editions. 
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WRIGHT, William. Fishes and fishing. London, 

1858. 80. 


YORK, Edward, Duke of. The Master of Game. 

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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. 


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 
1851, 92. 



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 


' ARUNDO ' (JOHN BEEVER), 26 n, 153. 


first mentioned in Treatise, 27. 
Chetham recommends microscope, 71. 

BAINBRIDGE, G. C., 84, 103. 


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. 


Practical Fly Fishing, 26 n, 153. 

BERNARD. London tackle maker, making three-section split 
cane in 1851, 92. 


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 
sport, 208. 


BLACK GNAT, 144, 164, 183. 

first mentioned by Cotton, 164; history and dressings of, 
164165. Similarity of Halford's pattern to Cotton's, 



his method of dressing flies, 175 ; first to describe detached 
body, 177. 

BLAKEY, ROBERT, writer on fishing, 15, 106, 107. 

BLUE DUN, 177, 183. 



its contents and character, 12. 
authorship, 12, 12 n. 

BOWLKER, R. and C., 55, 88, 89, 90, 103, 105, 106, 148158, 

161, 165. 
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. 

account of, 118120. 
place in history of fishing, 121. 

BROOKES, RICHARD, 103, 105. 

INDEX. 233 


mentioned in Treatise, 14. 


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 

Pepys, 69. 
Gut, 94, 95. 
Indian Weed, 70 and 81 n. 


CHETHAM, JAMES, 55, 103105, 146, 149156, 158. 
excellence of his dressings of flies, 71, 74, 145. 
ointments to allure fish, 202203. 


CLARK. London tackle maker, making split cane rods in 
1805, 93. 

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. 



in fifteenth century, 12; in seventeenth, 44. 


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. 




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, 
97, 216. 


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. 

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 
Halford, 129131. 

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. 

The Art of Hunting, 5. 

DRYDEN, SIR HENRY, translator of La Chace dou Serf, 1. 


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. 


Brook and Biver Trouting, 156. 


author of Maison Eustique, 52; its fame, ibid. 


London tackle maker, making three-section split cane in 
1851, 93. 

INDEX. 235 

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, 



North and South country schools of dressing, 75, 174. 
See also under names of individual flies ARTIFICIAL 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 


DE FOIX, CATHERINE, ancestress of Henri IV., 6. 


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, 
53, 171. 
FOSTER, W. H., 126. 


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, 
165, 189; 

his enthusiasm for fishing, 218. 

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. 

INDEX. 237 

GAY, JOHN, 40, 83, 84, 192, 208. 

GASTON PHCEBUS. See de Foix, Count Gaston. 


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. 

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. 

HARTLIB, SAMUEL, 181182, 193194. 
HAWKER, PETER, 4, 213. 


gives print of natural flies, 178. 



favourite material for rods, 20. 

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. 




IRON BLUE, 144. 

first mentioned by Chetham, 156; history and dressings 

of, 156158. 

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- 
speare, 44. 

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. 



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. 


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. 

INDEX. 239 


MARCH BROWN, 144, 183. 

first mentioned by Chetham, 155; history and dressings 
of, 155156. 

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. 


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. 


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. 

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. 

Theater of Insects, 182. 

MONTAGUE, MR. R. L., 94 n. 


rejected by Bowlker, 89; and 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 


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, 

Representations of, 

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 




NORTH COUNTRY SCHOOL, 48, 71, 7577, 107, 174. 




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. 


OLIVE DUN, 144, 177. 

probably in Treatise, 25, 151; history and dressings of, 

ORVIS, C. F., 217. 


famous fisherman mentioned by Franck, 24, 206. 


meaning of, in Barker, 77. 



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. 

INDEX. 241 

PICTET, F. J., 128, 185 n. 
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, 


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 
trout, 88. 


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. 


' RODDYD ' WOOL, 26. 

RONALDS, ALFRED, 26 and 26 n, 84, 103, 106, 107, 148, 149, 

154158, 165. 

his great importance, 179, 184 185, 213 214, and influence, 


RUDDY FLY, 39, 145. 

rejected by Bowlker, 89; and see RED SPINNER. 

' RUSH GROWN/ 68. (See ROD.) 


mentioned in Treatise, 29; described by Franck, 59. 

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. 

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. 


mentioned in Treatise, 26; by Ronalds, 26; and see 

SHERINGHAM, H. T., 185 n. 

SHIRLEY, THOMAS, 103, 105, 106. 


SKUES, G. E. M., 133, 134, 152, 157, 177. 



SMITH, J., 88, 103, 104, 105. 




early, in France, 27; no early French books on fly, 11; 
in England, 7 11. 

INDEX. 243 

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. 
THEAKSTON, MICHAEL, 103, 145, 163, 165, 185. 

his tiresome nomenclature, 215; his importance, ibid. 

TOD, E. M., 152. 



49, 54, 146, 147, 150, 164, 168. 

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. 



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. 


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. 


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. 

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. 


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. 

his contribution, 214215. 

WICKHAM, 73, 143. 



WOTTON, SIR HENRY, 40, 199. 
excellence of his verse, 200. 



history and dressings of, 153 155. 

YELLOW FLY, 26 and 26 n. 
YOUNGER, JOHN, 80, 103, 104, 106, 107. 

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