The Persians started eating fish about 3000 B.C. The food value of fish was their secret for hundreds of years, until the Assyrians learned about it and, in time, fish became one of the principal food items of ancient nations. The Chinese did not take up fishing until about 900 B.C. They were line fishermen at first, using braided silk, but since then the Chinese have devised more ways of catching fish than any other nation. India learned about fish as food about 800 B.C., using lines, but depending chiefly on spears. The spears had long, stout vines attached. Hit or miss, the fisherman could haul the spear back.
The Jews started fishing about 500 B.C. and were quick to realize the folly of catching one fish at a time. They introduced the woven net, which was the start of wholesale fishing and the beginning of a new enterprise. Until the Jews perfected their nets and were able to capture vast quantities of fish in a short time, fish were caught singly. The Jews made such huge hauls with their nets that not only did they have enough for themselves, but they also could sell or trade the excess.
For many centuries it was assumed that the early Egyptians had used a fishing rod with a reel attached. This belief was created by Plaque 141 found in the tomb of King Pi, which showed a man with a plain fish pole in one hand and, to quote a historian, “with another pole in the other hand, to which pole, it appears, a reel-like device was attached.” This idea existed until a curious and sharp-eyed gentleman made a careful study of the Plaque and discovered that while one pole undeniably was a fish pole, the other was much stouter, had a knob on its end and undoubtedly was a club used to subdue the larger, stronger fish.
It has not been established when the sport of fly-casting originated or where. This method was a departure from the old way, since it called for substitution of an artificial bait for the live lure. The original artificial bait was an imitation of a fly, which insect usually fell onto the surface of lakes and streams and was eagerly gulped by the fish.
Aelian, an Italian (170-230 A.D.), is credited with being first to write on fly-casting. His works are known as “Natural History,” sometimes referred to as “Natural History Recordings.” However, William Radcliffe of Baliol College, Oxford, England, who wrote “Fishing From the Earliest Times,” generally regarded as the most elaborate volume on the angling subject, concluded that Martial was the first author to write about fly-casting-between 10 B.C. and 20 A.D. He quotes this Latin sentence from Martial:
“Namque quis nescit avidum vrata decipiscarum musca.”
Translated, it means:
“Who has not seen the scarus rise, “Decoyed and killed by fraudful flies.”
The “scarus” is a species of fish.