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The History Of Angling

The history of angling dates back to the very beginnings of civilisation. Many of the earliest references to angling are documented in a book called 'Fishing From Earliest Times', by William Radcliffe (published in 1926). Although this largely academic work about the origins of angling is generally only available in specialist reference libraries, it is nevertheless an invaluable account of the history of angling, throughout the ages. It focuses primarily on the archaeological evidence of angling in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and further afield.

Interestingly, the author concludes from the welter of archaeological data available that the early Egyptians were probably the first anglers on record to use a rudimentary form of the modern fishing rod. He also found that fishing with a line and hook was widespread during the Graeco-Roman period. References to fishing can be found in the poetry of Homer, the Greek writer, during the 9th century BC; the Roman, Claudius Aelianus (c. A.D. 175 235), makes a fascinating allusion to an early form of fly fishing. The use of hooks is also mentioned in the Bible.

Evolution Of Angling

Opinion differs as to exactly when angling made the transition from necessity as a food-gathering activity to a pastime and sport in its own right. The general consensus of opinion amongst authorities on the subject of the evolution of British angling suggests that the process was gradual, and took place over the centuries. It has also been suggested that one of the main factors responsible for transforming fishing into a sport was the development of the rod.

Of course, the frisson associated with landing the perfect catch, whether for food or fun, has been part of the angling experience since time immemorial.

Much of the credit, however, for popularising angling as an exhilarating sport and pastime can be attributed to Izaak Walton's book 'The Compleat Angler' (first edition 1653). This definitive work on the history of angling is recognised not only for its literary merit, but also for its comprehensive and enthusiastic coverage on the subject of angling. The book is cram-packed with technical detail and sophisticated tips on improving the passionate angler's fishing techniques; it also advocates the notion of 'fair play' and giving fish a sporting chance using baited hooks, rods and lines. It is no coincidence that in the years following the publication of 'The Compleat Angler', sales of fishing tackle increased considerably as more and more people became 'hooked' on the sport!

Popularity Of Angling

The first British angling club was set up in 1792, in Dagenham, Essex. Thereafter, angling associations sprang up across Britain and began to play an important role in British society, particularly during the nineteenth century and the height of the Industrial Revolution. But, it has to be said that not all of the fishing activity, during these hard times was above board; poaching was commonplace and pollution of fishing waters a major problem.

In the main, however, angling was seen as one of the few sports that could be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, by the rich and the poor, alike. This was clearly a pastime that transcended class or social status and by the beginning of the twentieth century, angling as a sport and pastime was widespread; its appeal universally established.

During the twentieth century, Britain's angling organisations further promoted the sport and raised its profile by calling for legislation to control water pollution and to protect fish stocks in designated angling locations.

Today, in the twenty-first century, angling is one of the most popular participation sports with an estimated 3 million plus anglers in Britain alone, taking part in this hugely rewarding sport, on a regular basis. Angling and its associated industries is big business and despite concerns about pollution and dwindling fish stocks, in certain areas, the global passion for angling shows no signs of abating.

Technological advances and the use of more lightweight materials in tackle production continue apace, with state-of-the art tackle technology giving ardent anglers a distinct edge over the competition. For example, fly fishing lines now exist that are supposed to be undetectable by fish, while new technology nylon monofilament lines are producing better results due to their longer casting capabilities and better bite detection.

Angling Fascinating Historic Facts

Did you know that...

A painting dating back to 1195 by the Chinese artist, Ma Yuan, depicts an angler using a fishing reel. This piece of art is considered to be one of earliest examples of the use of a fishing reel.

Some of the earliest references to the use of the rod date back to around 2000 BC. But it is believed that the Romans first introduced a longer style of rod which was divided into sections.

The earliest fish hooks were made out of horn, bone, wood or stone and sharpened at both ends. The oldest existing remains of these primitive types of hooks were excavated in the former Czechoslovakia and are said to be over 20,000 years old.

Anglers, during the Middle Ages, used fishing lines made out of horse hair and tied to the end of a long pole.

'Barkers Delight' (Thomas Barker, 1651) is generally accepted as the first exhaustive book on fly fishing in the English language; it also contains one of the earliest references to the term 'reel' used for storing a fishing line. A later edition, published in 1659 contains an illustration of a reel, with a winch-like device in the form of a basic spool and crank wind reel.

Izaak Walton's 'The Complete Angler', 1653, despite being an important milestone in the history of angling, has come under attack from certain academic quarters for its lack of originality and for re-hashing the content of an earlier work, published, in 1651, called 'Barkers Delight' or the 'Art of Angling'.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, Nottingham became known for its production of a design of fishing reel based on the wooden lace bobbins used for making the famous Nottinghamshire lace.

By the early nineteenth century, the town of Redditch, Worcestershire, was a world leading centre for the manufacture and export of fish hooks.

Holden Illingworth, a British textile worker from Bradford, invented the fixed-spool reel, in 1905.

Angling More Than Just A Sport More Than A Pastime

There's much more to this enduringly popular sport than meets the eye, as any angling enthusiast will tell you. Over the centuries, anglers and writers have waxed lyrical about the joys of angling and the pleasures associated with this subtly mesmerising sport.

The history of angling is peppered with engaging descriptions, prose and poetry about escaping into a world of peace, tranquillity and beautiful landscapes, of silent communication with nature, of getting to know yourself through the art of angling. This was true, for example, in the writings of Izaak Walton (1593 to 1683), regarded as the 'father of freshwater fishing' when he likened angling to poetry. Walton was referring here to the relaxation, the uplifting environment, passion and inspiration that seize the ardent angler in the pursuit of his sport.

This magical connection is just as true today and possibly even more relevant in the hurried and stressful environment of the twenty-first century. In his book entitled 'John Bailey's Complete Guide to Fishing' (2001), the author, passionate angler and authority on contemporary fishing techniques states: 'The great thing about fishing is that it is such a multi-dimensional activity..that it is hard to know where to begin or stop singing its praises. Above everything else, fishing gets you into some wonderful environments'.

The love affair with angling continues.




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