Killer patterns from the past - on video

The History of Fly FishingTwenty years ago, I started work on what seemed at the time to be a completely quixotic venture, which was a comprehensive history of fly fishing. If I had known how much work was going to be involved, I don't think I would ever have taken it on. No, that isn't quite right - if I had known how much work was involved, I would have bought in more coffee.

The book was published as The Fly and we were overwhelmed at its reception, with the first edition (that's the one without the index) selling out very fast, with the result that it was reprinted as a paperback only two years after first publication. Well, you know what I am like... true to form, I kept on collecting stories and bits of this and that and then, thanks to the kindness of collectors including Chris Sandford and John Knott, Jon Ward-Allen and I set out on what turned out to be a photographic odyssey with the aim of producing a new edition. The reason? Well, apart from the fact that I had greatly revised and extended the original manuscript, print technology had advanced enough in the intervening years that we could now contemplate printing the book in full colour. By the way, if anyone has got a snapshot of Charles Cotton, we are still looking...

By the time the new edition was ready to go into production, it was clear that it was a vastly different beast to its predecessor, The Fly. It had grown by 25% - and that was just where the words were concerned. So we retitled it, The History of Fly Fishing, although it really is the third edition of The Fly.

What has changed? Well, there are hundreds of photographs, and a great deal more detail, particularly on American fly fishing, but also covering the modern era... and there is a second volume which we (quite frankly) chickened out of printing a decade ago, but which is now a viable project, thanks to the era of the digital press. This is called Trout Fly Patterns 1496-1916 and it contains every significant list of British patterns from 1496 to 1916. There are 1500 flies in the index and at a guess there are around five thousand patterns listed in total, including many lists which cannot be accessed anywhere else. Then, because we don't know when to stop, we published Salmon Fly Patterns 1766-1914. Between them, the three books run to 1000 pages.

Then we got a bit carried away. Some things can't be explained entirely in words, so we made ten videos about tying and fishing historical patterns to accompany the new books. You can access these by following the links in the sidebar at top left. I only hope that you enjoy watching them as much as we did making them.

There are videos on everything from Aelian's "hippouros" fly, which was being fished two thousand years ago, to a video on Frederic Halford - it takes about two hours to watch them all from start to finish.

The page for ordering the third edition of the book formerly known as The Fly is here.