Women and Flyfishing: Honoring Our Flyfishing Roots

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May 20, 2021 by Art of the Angle

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Dame Juliana Berners Mother of Modern Flyfishing

I wanted to make a post in honor of something I am passionate about; our true origins of modern day flyfishing.

Too often I see posts on social media where men take credit for splendid innovations in the flyfishing movement whether it is rod design, new synthetics for flytying or rod making or a new technique. However, I truly believe that we have allowed ourselves to forget one monumental fact; WE HAVE FLYFISHING TODAY BECAUSE OF A LADY!

over a quarter century ago, I had the privilege of designing a complete flyfishing course for a North Carolina community college. I designed the course around history instead of just techniques because I wanted the students to understand where our beautiful art of fly angling came from.

During our maiden class in a 13 week course, I was saddened by a low turnout of ladies where we had four women to over 20 men. before the class began, two of the women approached me and mentioned sheepishly that perhaps they shouldn’t be there. I replied “give me the first two hours before you decide to leave” to which they agreed.

The entire first class was dedicated to Dame Juliana Berners and how we celebrate her achievements in creating a refuge in outdoor sports for a gentle society. Buy the first break, all four women beamed with pride and knew that they deserved to be in that class just as much if not more so than the men.

So lets take a look at why we need to celebrate women in the art of flyfishing:

Fly fishing as we know and practice it was first brought to us by a noble woman.  Dame Julianna Berner was a benedictine nun in Sopwell, England and in 1496 she wrote a piece for The Book of Saint Albins called “treatyse of Fyshyng Wyth an Angle”. 

The treaty describes the tools necessary to catch fish with baits, hand made on hooks with assorted animal hair and fowl feathers.  In her works, she describes rod making and how to make leaders to fish the flies. It is an awesome work most definitive for its time well as today.  Many of the flies we tie are not much different in their dressing than they we some 500 years ago.

Here at artoftheangle.com we cover the fascinating history of fly fishing and all of the wonderful folks and their contributions.  We want to celebrate the grace and dignity of fly fishing and pass it on to our members.

If you want to know more, just let us know…we love to tell the story!

Tight Lines!

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