Friday, December 14, 2012

"...they have planned a snare for the fish"

Many credit the first recorded use of an artificial fly to the Roman Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century. He described the practice of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River:
...they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman's craft. . . . They fasten red wool. . . round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's wattles, and which in color are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.
In his book Fishing from the Earliest Times, however, William Radcliff (1921) gave the credit to Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), born some two hundred years before Aelianus, who wrote:
...Who has not seen the scarus rise, decoyed and killed by fraudful flies...
The last word, somewhat indistinct in the original, is either "mosco" (moss) or "musca" (fly) but catching fish with fraudulent moss seems unlikely.


  1. Replies
    1. Isn't that amazing? An actual record of men fishing using wool and neck hackle from 1800 years ago. Our craft has changed so much, yet is still the same.