Fly fishing is an ancient style of fishing that has become an important part of popular culture. Images of it gear often evoke powerful emotions in the viewer.
It was practiced at least as early as the 2nd century by Macedonian anglers; however, some argue that fly fishing may have originated even earlier with the Chinese.
Little is known of the development of it from the 2nd century through the end of the 15th century. The English publication of a book in 1496 detailing dozens of artificial fly designs suggests that the sport was kept active during this period though. It continued to grow in popularity for some time in England, Scotland, Scandinavia and the United States. However, the sport eventually came to be viewed as an elitist sport, in part due to the high cost of fly fishing gear. Early fly rods were crafted from a tropical wood and later from bamboo. Both types of rods were expensive. By the 1920s interest in fly fishing in the United States had peaked.
Following World War II, fly fishing interest increased in the United States again. The introduction of fiberglass fishing rods, mono filament leaders, and synthetic line all served to lower the cost of fishing gear. Fly fishing interest in the United States was once again on the rise. Many of our fathers and grandfathers were fly fishermen of this era, and the overall respect that is given that generation in American culture may be reason enough to explain the enduring strength of it in popular culture.
Over the years Western it has emerged with its own cultural image. This may be due to several factors, including the American romanticizing of Western culture in general along with some brilliant marketing by early Western fly fishing entrepreneurs. The Western American cultural image of fly fishing is inextricably linked with horses, wide-brimmed hats, and leather apparatus. Western-clad fly fishers wading a rocky river while horses graze nearby on the aspen-lined shore is a powerful picture that transports most of us to a place we want to be. Whether the image is completely rooted in reality is not important.
Consider how many images designed to communicate masculinity feature fishing gear. Artists and graphic designers know that images are a powerful way to communicate masculinity – whether attempting to speak to men or to speak about men.
Even those who have not held a fly rod in years are powerfully impacted by the image of a fly rod or a fly fishing scene. The picture instantly transports people back in time. Fly fishing is so deeply embedded in the American culture that a single picture can take us back to childhood or transport us to a far away place. In this place the world seems right again; everything is once again as it should be.
It’s an important part of popular American culture. Images of fly fishing abound in movies, magazines, books and homes. Even an image of it apparatus communicates powerfully to many Americans. It’s an important part of American popular culture and history.