I was tipped off to this fun fact by Jen, a woman who publishes a fly fishing magazine for women. She related that the earliest known book on fishing was in fact written by a woman–and was published in 1496. Of course, the news that a woman was writing about fly fishing 500 years ago piqued my curiosity. I had to dig deeper.
Titled A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, the book was written by Dame Juliana Berners. An angle is a hook, and its originally being called an angle is why we call fishing with a hook and line (vs. nets or traps) angling. Dame Juliana was an English noblewoman and prioress who loved, and was good at, fishing, hunting, and heraldry. A bit more research turned up the fact that Treatyse is still admired, as it was a remarkable work for its detail and vision. It offered a comprehensive guide for the anglers of its time, with information on fishing destinations, rod and line construction, and selection of natural baits and preferred artificial fly dressings categorized by the season during which they’d offer best results. However, as valuable as that information is, the thing that makes the book most remarkable is its foresight. There are essays on the virtues of conservation, respecting the rights of streamside landowners, and angler’s etiquette, with ideas that have really gained traction in recent decades. Also remarkable is that you can get it on Amazon!
As for Jen’s magazine, it’s a handsome and useful work for today’s anglers. You can check it out here: Dun Magazine: A New Rise in Fly Fishing.