Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle
How to Fly Fish - Installment No.4

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 make you own hooks. Things are so much simpler now aren't they? Anyway, here is the description of adding weight and creating a strike indicator.

Your lines must be weighted with lead, and you must know that the nearest sinker to the hook should be a full foot and more separated from it, and every sinker of a weight suitable for the thickness of the line. There are three kinds of sinkers for a running ground-line. And for the float set upon the stationary ground-line ten weights all joining together. On the running ground-line, nine or ten small ones. The float sinker must be so heavy that the least pluck of any fish can pull it down into the water. And make your weights round and smooth so that they do not stick on stones or on weeds. And for the better understanding see them here in picture.

Then you are to make your floats in this manner. Take a good cork that is clean without many holes, and bore it through with a small hot iron: and put a quill in it even and straight. The larger the float, the larger the quill and the larger the hole. Then shape it large in the middle and small at both ends, and especially sharp in the lower end, and similar to the pictures which follow. And make them smooth on a grinding stone, or on a tile stone. And see that the float for one hair is no more than pea-sized; for two hairs; as a bean; for twelve hairs, as a walnut. And so every line according to proportion. All kinds of lines that are not for the ground must have floats, and the running ground-line must have a float. The stationary ground-line doesn't need a float.

Now I have taught you to make all your tackle. Here I will tell you how you shall angle. You will fish: understand that there are six ways of angling. The first is at the bottom for the trout and other fish. Another is at the bottom at an arch or at a pool, where it ebbs and flows, for bleak, roach, and dace. The third is with a float for all manner of fish. The fourth, with a minnow for the trout without lead or float. The fifth is running in the same way for roach and dace with one or two hairs and a fly. The sixth is with an artificial fly for the trout and grayling. And for the first and principal point in angling, always keep away from the water, from the sight of the fish: either keep back on the land or else behind a bush, so that the fish can't see you. For if they do, they will not bite. Also take care that your shadow does not fall on the water any more than it might, for that is a thing which will soon frighten the fish. And if a fish is frightened, he will not bite for a long time after. For all kinds of fish that feed at the bottom, you must angle for them at the bottom, so that your hooks will run or lie on the bottom. And for all other fish that feed above, you must angle for them in the middle of the water, or somewhat beneath or somewhat above. For the bigger the fish, the nearer he lies to the bottom of the water; and the smaller the fish, the more he swims above. The third good point is when the fish bites, that you be not too quick to strike, nor too slow. For you must wait till you suppose that the bait is fairly in the mouth of the fish, and then wait no longer. And this is for the bottom. And for the float, when you see it pulled softly under the water or else carried softly upon the water, then strike. And see that you never strike too hard for the strength of your line, for fear of breaking it. And if you have the fortune to hook a great fish with a small tackle, then you must lead him in the water and labour with him there until he is drowned and overcome. Then take him as well as you can or may, and always beware that you do not pull beyond the strength of your line. And as much as you can, do not let him come out of the end of your line straight from you, but keep him ever under the rod and always hold him there, so that your line can sustain and bear his leaps and his plunges with the help of your rod and of your hand.