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Modern fly fishing is normally said to have originated on the fast, rocky rivers of Scotland and northern England. Other than a few fragmented references, however, little was written on fly fishing until The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle was published (1496) within The Boke of St. Albans attributed to Dame Juliana Berners. The book contains, along with instructions on rod, line and hook making, dressings for different flies to use at different times of the year. The first detailed writing about the sport comes in two chapters of Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler (1653), which were actually written by his friend Charles Cotton, and described the fishing in the Derbyshire Wye.
British fly-fishing continued to develop in the 19th Century, with the emergence of fly fishing clubs, along with the appearance of several books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques. In southern England, dry-fly fishing acquired an elitist reputation as the only acceptable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the south such as the River Test and the other chalk streams concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The weeds found in these rivers tend to grow very close to the surface, and it was felt necessary to develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line on the surface of the stream. These became the foundation of all later dry-fly developments. However, there was nothing to prevent the successful employment of wet flies on these chalk streams, as George Edward MacKenzie Skues proved with his nymph and wet fly techniques. To the horror of dry-fly purists, Skues later wrote two books, Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, and The Way of a Trout with a Fly, which greatly influenced the development of wet fly fishing. In northern England and Scotland, many anglers also favored wet-fly fishing, where the technique was more popular and widely practiced than in southern England. One of Scotlandís leading proponents of the wet fly in the early-to-mid 19th century was W.C. Stewart, who published "The Practical Angler" in 1857.
In Scandinavia and the United States, attitudes toward methods of fly fishing were not nearly as rigidly defined, and both dry- and wet-fly fishing were soon adapted to the conditions of those countries.
Spey casting is a casting technique used in fly fishing. Spey casting requires a longer, heavier two-handed fly rod, referred to as a Spey rod.. Spey casting is essentially a large roll cast
Spey casting is used for fishing large rivers for salmon and large trout such as steelhead and sea trout. Spey technique is also used in saltwater surf casting. All of these situations require the angler to cast larger flies long distances. The two-handed Spey technique allows more powerful casts and avoids obstacles on the shore by keeping most of the line in front of the angler.
Fly fishing for trout is a very popular sport, which can be done using any of the various methods and any of the general types of flies. Many of the techniques and presentations of fly fishing were first developed in fishing for trout. There is a misconception that all fly fishing for trout is done on the surface of the water with "dry flies." In most places, especially heavily fished trout areas, success usually comes from fly fishing using flies that were designed to drift on the bottom of the water. A trout feeds at the bottom of a river nearly 90 percent of the time. Trout usually only come to the surface when there is a large bug hatch (when aquatic insects grow wings and leave the water to mate and lay eggs). There are exceptions to this rule, however, particularly during the summer months and on smaller mountain streams Trout anglers should always be prepared with the right flies to match any circumstance.
Cold water anglers often use chest high boots, known as waders, to wade into the water. In some areas, wading can be done in wading shoes and rubber booties.