Fly fishing is a type of recreational fishing which is named after the special artificial lures created to imitate the insects that are born, develop, reproduce and die in aquatic environments, as well as terrestrial insects such as ants, grasshoppers and wasps. It requires the use of thin, light, relatively short fishing rods, with a fishing reel located below the grip.
A typical feature of this type of fishing is the line known as “mice tails”, which consist of a generously sized thread which is generally brightly coloured so as to be visible to the angler and cone-shaped, tapering towards the tip. The tail-piece, a transparent line, is attached to the end of it, onto which the fly is joined. There are no leads or sinkers, as the artificial lure is cast by making use of the mouse tail and the elasticity of the rod.
This kind of fishing, which entails studied observation of nature, is unquestionably the one which respects nature – and fish in particular – the most. The hooks are barbless and the fish caught are released without having suffered serious injury.
The first precise description of this technique is furnished by the Roman historian Claudius Aelianus (commonly Aelian) who in his book De Animalium Natura (3rd century BC) describes how Macedonian anglers decorated their hooks with feathers and plumes, in imitation of insects, and used them with a rod of approximately three metres in length with an off-centre line consisting of intertwined horsehair, the equivalent of today’s mouse tail.
In around 1460, Sister Juliana Berners, the prioress of an English Benedictine convent, wrote A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, which contains chapters on fly-fishing technique, on the construction of fly rods, on entomology, on the making of artificial flies and lines, and on fishermen’s ethics.
The publication of Izaak Walton’s celebrated work The Compleat Angler in 1653 was followed by several other texts in England and all over the world. So it is that today the library dedicated to fly fishing is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most extensive of those dedicated to recreational fishing. Thanks to a donation by Carlo Caprioglio, in this field our museum can boast a collection of significant interest.