Anglers All: Humanity in Midstream. Exhibit Open July 21 - October 21, 2001  
Angling Hat, Rod, Reel, Flies, and Reference Book




Anglers All: Humanity in Midstream, an exhibition produced by the American Museum of Fly Fishing, celebrates and explores all that is fly fishing: arts, crafts, sciences, and most important, people and the relationships to their natural world and to each other that they develop through the sport.

John Voelker (a.k.a. Robert Traver, author of Anatomy of a Murder) wrote, "I fish because I love to: because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful...and...not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect so many other concerns of men are equally unimportant—and not nearly so much fun."

Anglers All was created with Voelker's perspective in mind. We hope "beauty" and "fun" are two words that come to mind often as you enjoy the exhibition and again any time you might go fishing or are just out enjoying nature—when you are "Humanity in Midstream."

—Gary Tanner
Executive Director, American Museum of Fly Fishing


(selected excerpts)

200 AD: Ælian, in his De Natura Animalium, describes a method of fishing he witnessed in Macedonia: “They fasten red (crimson red) wool round a hook, and fix on to the wool two feathers which grown under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax…”  Most historians consider this passage to be one of the earliest references to fly fishing.

1496The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, one of the earliest essays on fly fishing, is published. A remarkably detailed manual for fly and tackle making, the Treatyse, which for many years was attributed to Juliana Berners, was added to the second edition of Wynkyn de Worde’s Boke of Saint Albans. It is perhaps the first attempt to elevate fishing as a sporting pursuit to the level of falconry and hunting.

1830The Fly Fisher’s Entomology by Alfred Ronalds is the first illustrated study describing and classifying the insects that trout and grayling feed upon in British waters.  At the same time,  sport fishing is gaining popularity in America, dependent as it was on its origins in British method and theory, and supply of tackle.

1980's: The practice of “Catch and Release,” a cry among anglers since the 1940’s, sees a sudden spurt of popularity as efforts are stepped up to save populations of trout in the face of fishing pressure that before had been unimaginable.

Please visit the Anglers All exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences to see the complete timeline.


Angling Gear: Rods and Reels DEVELOPMENT OF THE ROD, REEL & FLY

The Rod

A fly rod enables a fisherman to extend his reach. This simple idea has led to centuries of study on the properties of natural materials used in rodmaking and on the physics of motion in fly casting.

The earliest rods were simple reeds or poles with lines attached. By the 18th century rods had become longer—20 feet or more—and were made of multiple sections of various local and exotic woods such as ash, hickory, lancewood, and greenheart.

The development of reels allowed the use of line longer than the rod itself; angling craftsmen turned to lighter and stronger materials with which more line could be cast. By the mid-19th century, bamboo was the favored material.

Fine rods are still made from bamboo but are outnumbered by those made of fiberglass and graphite.

The Reel

In 15th century England (and earlier), anglers used no reel at all; a braided horsehair line was simply tied to the tip of a long rod. By the 18th century, small brass "winches" were being made in British toolmakers' shops; either a spike or clamp attached the reel to the rod's base. With these reels, in addition to longer lines of horsehair and silk, the capture of large fish became possible.

As the Industrial Revolution swept North America, the variety and number of fly reels increased dramatically. The Victorian era was perhaps the golden age of reelmaking. Artisans such as Edward Vom Hofe and Benjamin Meek devoted their skills to the construction of increasingly sophisticated devices for the simple purpose of catching a fish.

Angling artifactsFly reels progressed from brass and wood to hard rubber and nickel-silver and on to today's lightweight magnesium, aluminum, and modern composite materials, even as fly lines progressed from braided horsehair to silk to nylon and other modern synthetics. But, while the materials may have changed over the years, modern reels are still strikingly similar to their early ancestors.

The Fly

Fish eat insects but small insects are too fragile to use as bait on hooks. Someone, thousands of years ago, constructed an artificial insect with a primitive hook, some thread, wool, and feathers. So it began.

Today millions of artificial flies are sold annually, and hundreds of thousands of anglers study aquatic entomology in order to better imitate those insects upon which trout feed.

There are thousands of patterns for the flies in an angler's collection. Some flies are literal imitations of actual insects; many are impressionistic; other are gaudy attractors, imitating nothing at all. An angler must carry hundreds of different flies on any given day, for none of them work all the time; their success is inevitably subject to the whims of fish.


Aldo Leopold 1887-1948
Photo courtesy the Aldo Leopold Foundation

Audio Excerpt from A Sand County Almanac

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) was an avid angler and perhaps the leading environmentalist of the 20th century.  Born in Burlington, Iowa, he earned his master of forestry degree from Yale University in 1909 and immediately entered the Forest Service in the southwestern United States. Leopold saw problems with the theories governing land and wildlife management, eventually leading him to the notion that land ought to be put aside for its recreational and aesthetic values alone. Written in 1933, Leopold's cornerstone book Game Management defined basic skills and techniques, creating a new science that combined forestry, agriculture, biology, zoology, ecology, and education. A Sand County Almanac, a collection of Leopold’s essays published posthumously in 1949, is considered by many one of the basic texts of the modern ecological ethic.


Ishi In Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North AmericaNATIVE AMERICAN ANGLER: ISHI

The following is an excerpt from Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America by Theodora Kroeber. Univeristy of California Press, 1961. ISBN 0-520-00675-5. p188-9.

A fisherman today, [of Mill or Deer creeks] will have lines of nylon, toggles of steel, and complex flies; but he could without serious disadvantagement, exchange his own for Ishi's fishing kit, and come in with a good day's catch (carried in one of Ishi's baskets), as Ishi could have used modern tackle with a minimum of instruction. Perhaps creek and river continue to draw young and old to their quiet pools to fish because it is restful and healing to reenact an age old craft. No other occupation or activity today brings modern man so close to his Stone Age ancestors.

By contrast, Ishi the hunter, and modern man the hunter, shared neither weapons, techniques, nor attitudes. Modern man hunts for sport, and he is wasteful of the game he takes, his need being not for the animal which he has killed, but to engage briefly and violently in the act of killing. Ishi hunted to live, used each hock and hair of the animal he killed, and lived in proximity to, and knowledge of, all animal life. American Indian mythology which has it that people were animals before they were people, recognizes, in however a literalistic a fashion, man's biological continuity with all animal life, a sustem of belief which precludes the taking of life except with respect for it in the taking.


Catch and Release FishingCONSERVATION - CATCH & RELEASE

California Trout - Catch and Release Fishing

California Trout - Conservation

Trout Unlimited - Catch and Release

The Nature Conservancy California - Shasta Rainbow Trout

Catch & Release Fishing That Works

Bringing back the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout: Restoring habitat for fish and people



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