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Just when man first discovered that feather-covered hooks could be very effective fishing equipment is shrouded in the mists of time. Archaeologists believe that the fishing hook was discovered sometime around 30,000 years ago in southern Europe. The hooks, which were eventually provided with barbs, were first manufactured of bone and probably also of different wooden materials.
Dr. Herd has traced fly fishing back to 200 A. D. in Macedonia. The Macedonians used a wooden pole with a line and a bit of crimson wool attached to homemade hooks to catch fish. Doubtless this was a solid pole and not very flexible but nonetheless a fly rod by definition.
The earliest references to fly fishing rods date back to the book Aelian’s Natural History. Published in 200 AD by Roman angler Aelian, the two thousand year old text illustrates the Macedonian fishing technique in which red wool and homemade hooks were tied to wooden branches. The wood rods of this period were extremely stiff and heavy, little more than glorified tree bows that could weigh upwards of 20 pounds.
Whilst on a recent holiday to Seville in Southern Spain I called into the Archeological Museum and in the roman section there was a display of fishing hooks used on a rod. These are amongst the earliest known examples of fishing hooks.
Fishing equipment in those days was described as consisting of relatively simple tied flies, long rods of ash, hazel and willow, and lines braided with horsehair. The rods, which are assumed to have been about 15 feet (4.5 meters) long, were made of two parts joined by iron or tin links. The line was twisted horsehair fixed to the top of the rod - no reel was used. It is unlikely that fifteenth century fly fishermen used lines much longer than twice the length of their rod. You can imagine that it could be problematic to play large fish with this primitive equipment