Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle
How to Fly Fish - Installment No.3

In the mid to late 1400's the first known instruction manual on the art of fly fishing was published, "Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle". The work is generally attributed to Dame Juliana Berners. The text includes instructions on how to make a rod, line, hooks, instructions for twelve fly patterns and hints about how to catch the common varieties of fish. Last month we published how to construct your line. We're still waiting for examples of finished work. This month we're going to deal with hooks.

Making Hooks

You shall understand that the subtlest and hardest art in making your tackle is to make your hooks. For the making of which you must have suitable files, thin and sharp and beaten small; a semi-clamp of iron: a bender: a pair of long and small tongs: a hard knife, somewhat thick: an anvil: and a little hammer. And for small fish you shall make your hooks in this manner, of the smallest square needles of steel that you can find. You shall put the square needle in a red charcoal fire till it is of the same colour as the fire. Then take it out and let it cool, and you will find it well tempered for filing. Then raise the barb with your knife and make the point sharp. Then temper it again, for otherwise it will break in the bending. Then bend it like the bend shown here as an example. And you shall make greater hooks in the same way out of larger needles: such as embroiderers' or tailors' or shoemakers' needles. Spear points or shoemakers' needles especially are the best hooks for great fish. And [see that they bend] at the point when they are tested; otherwise they are not good. When the hook is bent, beat the hinder end out broad, and file it smooth to prevent fraying of your line. Then put it in the fire again and give it an easy red heat. Then suddenly quench it in water, and it will be hard and strong. And for you to have knowledge of your instruments, see them here in portrayed in the picture.

When you have made your hooks as you have been taught, then you must attach them on your lines, according to size and strength in this manner. You must take fine red silk, and if it is for a large hook, then double it, don't twist it. Otherwise, for small hooks, let it be single: and with it, thickly bind the line there for a straw's breadth from the end of the hook where your line is placed. Then set your hook there, and wrap it with the same thread for two-thirds of the length that is to be wrapped. And when you come to the third part, turn the end of your line back upon the wrapping, double, and wrap it thus double for the third part. Then put your thread in at the loop twice or thrice, and let it go each time round about the shank of your hook. Then wet the loop and pull it until it is tight. And be sure that your line always lies inside your hooks and not outside. Then cut off the end of the line and the thread as close as you can without cutting the knot.

Now that you know how big a hook to angle with for every fish, I will tell you with how many hairs you must angle for every kind of fish. For the minnow, with a line of one hair. For the growing roach, the bleak, the gudgeon, and the ruffee, with a line of two hairs. For the dace and the great roach, with a line of three hairs. For the perch, the flounder, and small bream, with four hairs. For the chevin-chub, the bream, the tench, and the eel, with six hairs. For the trout, grayling, barbel, and the great chub, with nine hairs. For the great trout, with twelve hairs. For the salmon, with fifteen hairs. And for the pike, with a chalk line made brown with your brown colouring as described earlier, strengthened with a wire, as you will hear hereafter when I speak of the pike.