We do not know where fly fishing was invented, although we do know that the first fly was cast at least two millennia ago. Since then, so much water has flowed under so many bridges that for much of the 20th century it was forgotten that fly fishing hadn't been invented in England. John Waller Hills' 1921 book, A History of Fly Fishing for Trout made a passing mention that the Macedonians were known to have been fly fishermen, before treating the subject as if it had been an entirely British invention.

We know better, these days. Over the past 20 years, thanks to the work of historians like Professor Richard Hoffmann, it is clear that by the Middle Ages, fly fishing was well established in Europe and although the cradle of fly fishing appears to have been the Balkans, it seems to have been practised all over Western Europe by the 15th century.

It is frustrating to have to admit it, but very few artefacts relating to fly fishing have survived prior to the 17th century - and there is little enough from the 1600s. We have a few books and manuscripts, but very little tackle of any description that can be confidently dated to this era. The reason is that most fishing tackle was hand made prior to the 18th century and while a rod might have been the pride and joy of the fisherman who spent so many hours making it, his descendants generally viewed it as so much firewood. Flies have fared even worse and we are not aware of any survivors which have confirmed dates prior to the late 18th century - in many ways, it is amazing that any have survived from that age.

One of our aims with this site is to bring the past alive with photographs that capture the spirit of the times. Needless to say, we don't have many of items from the distant past, so friends of the Museum have stepped in and provided recreations of classic patterns, tied as they would have been a century ago or more.


The AlexandraThe Alexandra

Click here to read the amazing story of the battle to claim the Alexandra - and about its royal connection.



Black LouperA brief history of fly fishing

An introduction to the history of fly fishing that only takes a few minutes to read.



The dry fly

Still the favourite method for many anglers, this piece focusses on the early days.



Fly oilerMaking it float

The story of how flies were made to float by using paraffin - and the amazing gadgets that were used to apply it.



Swarbrick Orange PartridgeThe North Country School

The North of England developed its own particular style of fly fishing, which was so successful it is still used today.



The FliesFly tying videos

Enjoy ten free videos about tying and fishing historical patterns, made by Andrew to compliment the new edition of his book.



G.S. MarryatG.S. Marryat

The most talented dry fly man of his times, and yet we know so remarkably little about him.



The vice squad

A revolution in the way flies were tied, the vice came along surprisingly late in the history of fly dressing.



Green HighlanderGreen Highlander - tying in the hand

A unique record of how flies used to be tied without a vice. This is tradition online.



Brass silk and steelHow to refinish old silk fly lines

A practical guide on how to refinish old silk fly lines and if all else fails - where to get new ones.