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Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice

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Title: Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fly fishing, A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling, A History of Fly Fishing for Trout, Egg sucking leech, Trout bum
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice

Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice
Title page from 4th edition (1902)
Author Frederic M. Halford
Language English
Subject Fly fishing
Publisher Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, London
Publication date
Pages 289
Preceded by Floating Flies and How to Dress Them (1886)
Followed by Making a Fishery (1895)

Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice (1889) is British author and angler Frederic M. Halford's second and most influential book on dry-fly fishing. It followed Floating Flies and How to Dress Them (1886) and this pair of books initiated some 40 years of a rigid, and sometimes dogmatic school, the Halfordian school, of dry-fly fishing, especially on English chalk streams. The work also played a significant role in the development of dry-fly fishing in America.[1]


Whereas Floating Flies and How to Dress Them was about the dry fly, fly tying and to some extent the entomology of the chalk stream, Dry-Fly Fishing... was about fishing the dry fly. It was the consummate "how-to" manual for the dry-fly fisherman. It was not only about methodology, but also about the ethics and purism of the dry fly on English chalk streams.

The volume begins by spelling out the various pieces of fishing and personal equipment the dry-fly angler should possess. The pros and cons of different rod styles are discussed, along with fly lines, reels and the various miscellany a fly angler should carry. Although Halford did not invent dry-fly fishing, before this volume, no one had laid out in such detail the equipment recommendations needed to be a successful dry-fly angler.

Such were Halford's recommendations that they were routinely referenced by the fly-fishing trade:

A short, but concise Chapter 2 discusses the distinction between a floating (dry) fly and a sunk fly, with emphasis on the superiority of the floating fly as characterized by this concluding statement:

Plate XIV – Where to Cast

Chapters 3-5 go into great detail about how, when and where to cast the dry fly on the typical chalk stream. These chapters are heavily illustrated with casting techniques and comprise nearly 20% of the entire 1st edition.

The bulk of the remaining chapters deal with the entomology of the chalk stream, fly selection and trout behaviour.


  • In 1894 The New York Times wrote of Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice:
  • At some point in his career, Halford's great antagonist, G. E. M. Skues wrote of Dry-Fly Fishing...:
  • In 1913, Emlyn M. Gill, writing for The New York Times said:
  • In the foreword to the Centenary edition (1989), Dermot Wilson, a leading authority on UK dry-fly fishing,[8] points to the prophetic nature of Halford's Dry-Fly Fishing:

Influence on American fly fishing

Theodore Gordon, the acknowledged "Father of American dry-fly fishing", wrote extensively about the influence Halford had on his views.

George M. La Branche in his seminal American fly fishing work The Dry Fly and Fast Water,[11][12] wrote this of Halford's Dry-Fly Fishing:


  • Chapter I – The Dry-Fly Fisherman's Gear
  • Chapter II – Floating Flies and Sunk Flies
  • Chapter III – How to Cast
  • Chapter IV – Where to Cast
  • Chapter V – When to Cast
  • Chapter VI – Studies of Fish Feeding
  • Chapter VII – Circumstances Affecting the Angler's Sport
  • Chapter VIII – Selection of Fly
  • Chapter IX – Evening Fishing
  • Chapter X – Hooking, Playing and Landing
  • Chapter XI – Autopsy
  • Chapter XII – Trout or Grayling?
  • Chapter XIII – The Management of a Fishery


  • Frontispiece – Landing a Trout
  • Plate I – Grip of the Rod
  • Plate II – Over-handed Cast-Backward Position
  • Plate III – Over-handed Cast-Coming Forward
  • Plate IV – Over-handed Cast-Forward Position
  • Plate V – Downward Cut-Forward Position
  • Plate VI – Under-handed Cast-Backward Position
  • Plate VII – Under-handed Cast-Coming Forward
  • Plate VIII – Under-handed Cast-Forward Position
  • Plate IX – Steeple-Cast-Recovering the Line
  • Plate X – Steeple-Cast-Backward Position
  • Plate XI – Steeple-Cast-Coming Forward
  • Plate XII – Dry Switch-Commencement
  • Plate XIII – Dry Switch-Finish
  • Plate XIV – Where to Cast-Illustrative Plan
  • Plate XV – Mayfly-Eggs, Larve and Nymph-Coloured
  • Plate XVI – Larva and Nymph Magnified
  • Plate XVII – Sub-imago and Imago-Coloured
  • Plate XVIII – Sub-imago Male and Female-Magnified
  • Plate XIX – Imago Female Magnified
  • Plate XX – Mayfly-Imago Male Magnified
  • Plate XXI – Autopsy-Longitudinal Section of Trout
  • Plate XXII – Nymph of Ephemeride, Caddis and Shrimp-Coloured
  • Plate XXIII – Nymph of Ephemeride Magnified
  • Plate XXIV – Caddis arid Shrimp Magnified
  • Plate XXV – Management of a Fishery-Illustrative Plan

Other Editions

From Antiquarian Book Exchange

Additional reading

See also


  1. ^ Herd, Andrew Dr (2001). The Fly. Ellesmere, Shropshire: Medlar Press. pp. 304–5.  
  2. ^ Halford, Frederic M. (1902). Dry-Fly-Fishing in Theory and Practice (No. 1 of Halford Dry-Fly Series (4th revised) ed.). London: Vinton & Co. Limited. p. 66. 
  3. ^ Walbran, Francis M. (1894). Piscatorial Hints By Well-Known Writers, Combined With A Catalogue Of Salmon, Trout, Grayling, Pike, Coarse And Sea Fishing, Flies, Rods, Reels, Lines, Tackle, And Requisites Of Every Description. Leeds, UK: Francis M. Walburn. p. 4. 
  4. ^ Halford, Frederic M. (1889). Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice (Second ed.). London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington. p. 45. 
  5. ^ Editor (July 22, 1894). "FISHING FACTS IN ENGLAND; EXPRESSED IN CLUB MEMBERSHIP, LIBRARY, AND REPORTS. Books of Antiquarian Research, Natural History, Practical Hints, and Mere Records of Slaughter -- Increase in Knowledge of Fish and in Cunning of Men -- Decrease in Number of Streams and Rivers Fit for Fly Fishers.". N.Y. Times. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  6. ^ Robson, Kenneth (1998). The Essential G. E. M. Skues. London: A & C Black. p. 246.  
  7. ^ Gill, Emlyn M. (June 15, 1913). "A "COMPLEAT ANGLER"; Mr. Halford's Authoritative Work on Dry-Fly Fishing a Practical Help to Followers of Izaak Walton". N.Y. Times. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ Vines, Sidney (1996-01-17). "Obituary-Dermot Wilson". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2011-02-27. 
  9. ^  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Schullery, Paul (1996). American Fly Fishing-A History. Norwalk, CT: The Easton Press. pp. 110, 119–20. 
  12. ^ McDonald, John (1972). Quill Gordon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 44.  
  13. ^ La Branche, George M. L. (1914). The Dry Fly and Fast Water. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons. p. 12. 
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