The Fishing Museum Online is run by Andrew Herd and Jon Ward-Allen. Jon is the proprietor of the Medlar Press, Britain's largest angling publisher and Andrew is well-known as an angling historian, his work including the standard reference work on the history of fly fishing and Angling Giants, a collection of short biographies of famous fishermen, which you can read more about by clicking here. Jon is the one with the beard. After an ID parade they would almost certainly find the pair of us guilty of culpable optimism.
In the late 1990s, both of us were involved in the setting up of a charity, The Angling Collection, which still exists in a dormant state - it was originally conceived by a committee of well-known fishermen, including Barrie Rickards and Fred Buller. The constitution is designed to form a firm base for the establishment of a permanent collection for the display and interpretation of British angling artefacts.
Establishing such a collection would require a major sponsorship agreement and no credible sponsor has ever come forward in the UK - one of the problems being that many of the potential candidates have questionable track records as far as support for field sports are concerned, but the major issue has always been the scale of the finance involved, which is very considerable, especially when it is set against the probable returns on the investment. The location presents more considerable challenges, but as the cradle of British angling is Derbyshire, a site somewhere in the midlands would make tremendous sense.
In the meantime however, thanks to the collaboration of many individual collectors and tackle manufacturers in the UK, we have managed to build up a quite breathtaking library of images of fishing tackle and a heretical idea began to take hold in our fevered imaginations - why not establish an online museum, that would be open all hours and would have no need to charge an admission fee?
With this came another, even wilder idea, which was that such an online museum needn't cater for the narrow target of angling, as the Collection had, but might look at the wider field of fishing in general, paying homage to the many fishermen who have risked their lives at sea for hundreds of years, hauling nets and fishing to feed the nation - a subject which has rarely been considered by angling historians.
With the combination of skills we share between us, writing copy, taking photographs and designing and creating web pages was hardly a problem . . . apart from the issue of time. Yes, there are some expenses involved and they are hardly trivial, but they are nowhere near the scale of financial hurt that would be involved in setting up a physical museum. The other great attraction of an online museum is that anyone can visit - it doesn't matter where you are in the world, the website is only a click away.
So we decided to go ahead and do something instead of just talking about it. In some respects, this was eased by the experience Andrew had gained from establishing and running the Fly Fishing History website, with the incomparable Hector Yamasaki's support. Fly Fishing History is one of the oldest sites on the Internet and was established very shortly after it became possible to build a web site. Much of the material from Fly Fishing History will be incorporated into this site and in doing so all we can do is pay tribute to Hector, who is one of the angling greats. A finer person it is very hard to imagine. We also should pay tribute to the collectors who have so generously allowed us to photograph their treasures, among them Chris Sandford, John Knott, Keith Harwood, David Stanley and Roy Orritt - and many others who have been very generous with their time and expertise - without them this site would be a pale shadow of itself. Special mention should be made of the amazing Alberto Calzolari, whose tying of salmon flies has a special kind of magic that has found its way into many photographs on these pages.
What you see here took far more time to create than you can possibly imagine, but we think we have got the format right. At present the only reason this ambitious site exists is because of sponsorship from the Medlar Press, which is why you will come across links to Medlar books where they are relevant to the text. We would welcome other sponsors on board and are happy to discuss advertising if necessary. This website is not a charity and like everything else in these hard times, it must pay its way, but it will not do so by charging visitors for access.
Give us a little more time and you will see how high we can really fly. Click on our names to send us mail.