Georgian Fly-fishing

Fly-fishing was a favorite pastime of Georgian gentlemen. Clubs like the British Fishing Society memorialized the top weight catches. Lord Byron made tongue in cheek reference to "the fine and dangerous art of fly-fishing" in his work. Jane Austen chose fly-fishing as the first topic of conversation between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's gentlemanly merchant uncle Mr. Gardiner in her book Pride and Prejudice. It was an interest a gentleman and a merchant might share for fishing had become increasingly popular with merchants and shop keepers after 1725, which accounts for why the tackle trade expanded so greatly at that time.

The sport had been around since the Golden Age of Greece, but improvements in fishing line as a result of the industrial revolution allowed for longer casts and steadily improved lines from 1790 onward. The typical rod was twelve feet long with deal, ash or willow used for butts, and hickory or hazel for tops, with the by now standard whalebone extension. "Bambou cane" was just coming into use for the construction of rod top sections. Reels were first mentioned in Europe by Thomas Barker in 1650. Kirby was advertising "the best sort of Winches" in local papers by 1726. The famous Ustonson company which was to supply tackle to King George IV began trading in the 1760s. Better line and the addition of improved flies in the early 1800's made the sport more exciting than ever.

The lakes on the gentry's country estates were inevitably stocked with brown trout, and the streams running into them were landscaped with fly-fishing as well as beauty in mind. Expeditions to Scotland for salmon fly-fishing were carefully planned to allow for comfort and fun. The basic excitement of watching a fish leap out of the water after an insect that is in reality your lure and wearing him down enough to land him without breaking your line has always been the same.

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©S.W. 2000 This site last updated August 2001 by webmaster