Fly fishing is a popular type of rod fishing that is also considered the pinnacle of fishing.
The first written record of this particular type of fishing – using an imitatated fly or insect as bait – comes from the Roman writer Claudius Aelianus over two thousand years ago.
He described how fish were caught in Macedonia with hazelnut rods, horsehair lines and artificial flies. This is the first written evidence of fly fishing ever.
Claudius Aelianus also described trying to imitate a certain insect. He wrote:
“They [the Macedonians] attached red wool to a hook and two feathers from a rooster. The rod is 6 feet long and the line is the same length.”
Michael Russell, was a publisher who wrote a bestselling spoof book on fly fishing, also confirmed this assumption that Macedonians invented fly fishing by citing Radcliffe’s “Fishing From The Earliest Times,” which was published in 1921.
Excerpt of the article by Russell:
Origin Of Fly Fishing
Fly fishing goes all the way back to around 200 AD. The first reference to it was written by Aelian who was born around 170 AD. Early in his life he knew nothing of the sea. In his early writing “On The Nature Of Animals” he writes about a certain way of catching fish supposedly invented by the Macedonians. A particular fish that runs through the Astraeus River in Macedonia happens to feed on flies that are peculiar to that region.
These flies are not found anywhere else. The natives of the land called this species of fly Hippouros. These flies seek their food over the river and are never very far away from the fish in the river below. Because of this it is relatively easy for the fish to jump out of the water, catching the flies in their mouths and eating them.
It is from seeing this that the Macedonian’s got the idea to use these flies to catch the fish. However, because it is unclean for their people to touch this species of fly they had to develop a way to catch the fish without actually handling the flies. So what they did was fasten red wool around a hook. They then fixed onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles. The rod they used was six feet long and the line was also the same length.
They then threw the line in the direction of the flies. The fish seeing this line which is disguised to look like the fly think they are going to have a nice meal and instead are caught by the fisherman’s trap. Fly fishing was developed. It should be pointed out that according to accounts of what the fly looked like and what the actual “bait” looked like it would seem that the Macedonians didn’t try to imitate the fly exactly, as the fly color was yellow and the bait color was red. Some speculation is that the fly changed color when near water but this was never proven.