When mankind first discovered that fish could be caught with hooks covered in feathers is shrouded in the mists of time. The earliest known article on this subject describes how people fished with artificial flies in the river Astracus in Macedonia. This was contained in a book, “On the Nature of Animals” by the Roman Claudius Aelianus in AD 200. The prey was presumed to be trout since it had a “spotted exterior”.

The Macedonians “fastened red wool around a hook and fixed onto the wool two feathers which grew under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax. Their rod is six feet long and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish attracted and maddened by the colour, come straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when however it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook and becomes a captive”.


The hook had its origins in the gorge, a device used by many primitive cultures, and frequently found in prehistoric sites. They were made from slivers of bone, flint or turtle-shell which were attached to a line which was knotted through a hole in the centre of the gorge. The fish swallowed the gorge end first in a bait, and the pull of the line levered the gorge across the fish’s throat, trapping it in place.

Archaeologists believe that the fishing hook was discovered some 30,000 years ago in southern Europe. The hooks, which were eventually made with barbs, were first made of bone, shell or thorn and probably also of wood, depending on which materials were to hand.

By 2000 BC the Egyptians were fishing with rods, lines and hooks, a level of sophistication that the Chinese would not match for a thousand years, and which other civilizations, including our own, would wait even longer to attain.

To read further download the history of fly fishing here