Fly rod and reel with a wild brown trout from a chalk stream.

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Fly fishing is an ancient and distinct angling method, developed primarily for salmonids (trout and salmon, mostly) and now extended to other species such as pike, bass, and carp, as well as a wide range of marine species. more...

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Artificial flies are constructed — "tied" onto a hook with thread, fur, feathers and other materials — in sizes and colours to match naturally occurring food or simply to excite a fish. Fly rods are relatively light and long while the lines are relatively heavy, providing the casting weight. Lines may be tapered and of differing densities to float or sink and are matched to the rod according to weight. The fly itself can weigh very little and is normally attached to the line by a 2-3 meter leader which may taper to a very fine line at the tip end, also called the tippet. In fact, the main practical difference between fly fishing and casting is that in casting, you are using the weight of the lure to "throw" it out (much like throwing a baseball). In fly fishing, the "fly" is virtually weightless and you are using the weight of the line to place the fly where you want it to be. In fact, a fly line can be "cast" without any fly or lure on it at all, a feat impossible with a typical casting rod and reel. The point is that a fly can be presented gently and under the control of the angler instead of plopping down with a big splash. Stealth is often critical in fly fishing.

There are two basic forms of fly fishing, dry or wet. Dry flies are coated with a floatant and sit on the surface of the water. They are mostly cast upstream in moving water when fishing for trout. Wet flies are divided into other types such as nymphs, lures and true wet flies and they are all fished beneath the surface of the water.

Records of fishing with a fly go back to Ancient Greece when it was common to catch fish on a hook dressed with red yarn. Modern fly fishing originated on the fast, rocky rivers of Scotland and Northern England. The first detailed writing about the sport comes in two chapters of Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler which were actually written by his friend Charles Cotton and described the fishing in the Derbyshire Wye.

British fly-fishing was further developed in the 19th Century, with the development of dry-fly techniques for use on the slower, clearer rivers of the south such as the River Test and the other 'chalk streams' concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The weed in these rich rivers tends to grow very close to the surface, so that traditional wet fly fishing is impossible: the fly would snag in weed long before it reached a trout. So it was necessary to develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line floating on the surface. These became the foundation of all later developments.

Lines made of silk, instead of horse-hair, were heavy enough to be cast in the modern style. Cotton and his predecessors fished their flies with long rods, and light lines allowing the wind to do most of the work of getting the fly out to the fish. But the use of new woods in fly rods, first Greenheart, then bamboo, made it possible to cast flies into the wind on silk lines.

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