Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle
aka
How to Fly Fish - Installment No.5


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 the segment on weight and floats (strike indicators). This installment talks about where and when to fish.

Here I will declare to you in what place of the water you must angle. You should angle in a pool or in standing water in every place where it is at all deep. There is not a great choice of places where a pool is of any depth. For it is but a prison for fish, and they live for the most part in hunger like prisoners; and therefore it takes the less art to catch them. But in a river, you shall angle in every place where it is deep and clear by the bottom: for example gravel or clay without. mud or weeds. And especially if there an eddy or a cover. For example a hollow bank: or big roots of trees: or long weeds floating above in the water where the fish can cover and hide themselves at certain times when they like. Also it is good to angle in deep, swift streams, and also in waterfalls and weirs: and in floodgates and mill-races. And it is good to angle where the water rests by the bank: and where the current runs close by: and it is deep and clear at the bottom: and in any other places where you can see any fish rise or feeding.

Now you must know what time of the day you should angle. From the beginning of May until it is September, the biting time is early in the morning from four o'clock until eight o'clock. And in the afternoon, from four o'clock until eight o'clock, but not so good as in the morning. And if there is a cold, whistling wind and a dark, lowering day. For a dark day is much better to angle in than a clear day. From the beginning of September until the end of April, don't ignore any time of the day. Also many pool fishes will bite best at noontime. And if at any time of the day you see the trout or grayling leap, angle for him with an artificial fly appropriate to that same month. And where the water ebbs and flows, the fish will bite in some place at the ebb, and in some place at the flood. After that, they will rest behind stakes and arches of bridges and other places of that sort.

Here you should know in what weather you must angle: as I said before, in a dark, lowering day when the wind blows softly. And in summer season when it is burning hot, then it is no good. From September until April on a fair, sunny day, it is right good to angle. And if the wind in that season comes from any part of the east: the weather then is no good. And when it snows or hails, or there is a great tempest, with thunder or lightning, or sweltering hot weather, then it is no good for angling.

Now you must know that there are twelve kinds of impediments which cause a man to take no fish, without other common causes that may happen by chance. The first is if your tackle is not adequate nor suitably made. The second is if your baits are not good or fine. The third is if you do not angle in biting time. The fourth is if the fish are frightened by the sight of a man. The fifth, if the water is very thick: white or red from any recent flood. The sixth, if the fish cannot stir because of the cold. The seventh, if the weather is hot. The eighth, if it rains. The ninth, if it hails or snow falls. The tenth is if there is a tempest. The eleventh is if there is a great wind The twelfth if the wind is in the east, and that is worst, for commonly, both winter and summer, the fish will not bite then. The west and north winds are good, but the south is best.

And now that I have told you, in all points, how to make your tackle and how you must fish with it, it makes sense that you should know with what baits you must angle for every kind of fish in every month of the year, which is the effect of the art. And without these baits being well known by you, all your other skills taught until now will not be of much use. For you cannot bring a hook into a fish's mouth without a bait. Baits for every kind of fish and for every month follow here in this way.