Check Out This Seminal Book in the History of American Fly Fishing Online, for Free!

Yesterday, I discovered that the Internet Archive—non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more—contains a full copy of the first book by our founder, Charles F. Orvis. It is really cool to page through this, to see the fly patterns of the day, and to read about how anglers saw the sport at the end of the 19th Century. Here’s the description of Fishing with the Fly, from the company history page:

In 1883, Charles F. Orvis co-edited, along with A. Nelson Cheney, an important new book, Fishing with the Fly, which featured the extensive subtitle “Sketches by Lovers of the Art, with Illustrations of Standard Flies.” The 333 page book was cloth-bound, the cover lettered in gold, and contained colored plates of 149 standard trout, salmon, and bass flies, to accompany twenty-four articles by well known fly fishers.

It was an irresistible catalog, a book to treasure, in which the authors guided the reader and introduced him to trout waters he would never see; let him shake hands with outdoor writers he would never meet, and gave him the ability to marvel over the illustrations of the flies, seductively arranged for his appreciation and appraisal.

Fishing with the Fly was one of the finest of America’s angling books, as it reflected an age when the American fly fisher was developing his own graces. He was a sportsman tourist anxious for the full creel, yet at the same time the deep woods and waters became pastorals he could always remember. Certainly both Orvis and Cheney were sensitive to the sportsman’s love of nature and perceptive in their understanding of his environment. Adjacent to each page of color plates were quotations from angling literature, many taken from authors who had contributed to Fishing with the Fly.

The book was so well received that it was continued in print for four editions. At the same time, the use of color was promoting sales for a wide variety of artificial flies. For $2.50, as the annual catalog stated, the purchaser enjoyed “color illustrations, the most correct and the finest ever produced.”

Click here to see the whole book.

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