Jim Schottenham, Curator at American Museum of Fly Fishing, is here to take us back to the history of fly fishing from 200 AD to this day. We talk about the evolution of fly fishing gear and the people behind these amazing inventions. We learn how Jim classifies these items as classic, vintage, and antique. Find out how the museum acquires their artifacts and how much they have so far in their collection.

Jim is a super fan of fly fishing history. He’s put a lot of time and effort into his research so that we can enjoy learning all this information that otherwise would have been forgotten and lost. Today, we’re going back in time. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do.


Click below and listen to the Podcast about the History of Fly Fishing with Jim Schottenham:

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(Read the Full Transcript at the bottom of this Blog Post)


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history of fly fishing

History of Fly Fishing Show Notes with Jim Schottenham

05:38 – Jim just started working for the American Museum of Fly Fishing as a Curator – click here to learn more about his professional background

08:28 – Jim tells us the history of fly fishing beginning 200 AD

10:16 – The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton is the 3rd most printed book in the English language – behind the Bible and the works of Shakespeare

history of fly fishing

13:29 – Jen Ripple was on the podcast at WFS 146 and we talked about women in fly fishing and some history – we noted that book, A Treatise Of Fishing With An Angle (1885)

14:24 – B.F. Meek & Sons No. 44 was the first artifact that was accessioned in the museum

history of fly fishing


15:57 – There are over 400 books on fly fishing in the AMFF library that date back to the 1400s

16:29 – If you want to learn about the fly fishing history but can’t get to the museum, you can visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing website

18:58 – Charles F. Orvis, (1831-1915), the founder of the Orvis Company, invented the Orvis reel – mounted upright, has a narrow spool, and has ventilated side plates – some collectors refer to this as the father of all fly reels

history of fly fishing

22:31 – George Snyder perfected the multiplying reel

history of fly fishing
Photo courtesy of AntiqueReels.com

22:42 – The Archimedian Reel by Frederick Skinner influenced the earliest fly reels in the US

history of fly fishing
Photo courtesy of SideMountReels.com

24:34 – William Billinghurst, also a well-known gunsmith, received a patent for his side-mount reel also referred as birdcage reel

history of fly fishing

33:14 – 1930s Elmer Sellers side-mounted reel – read more here

history of fly fishing

35:30 – Samuel Phillippe and Charles Murphy were the first creators of bamboo rods. Charles was the first US maker to produce a split bamboo rod. Samuel and his son were producing split rods in 4 strips (1840 – 1870)

36:47 – H.L. Leonard was the first to mass produce split bamboo rod (1877)

40:35 – Hardy Perfect Reels started in 1890s and still in production today

history of fly fishing
Photo courtesy of FishingMuseum.Org.UK

42:40 – Jim mentions some of the first fly shops back in the 1800s – they were usually centered in major cities

43:36 – One of the sought after collector reels today is made by Talbot Reel Co., called Ben Hur

history of fly fishing
Photo courtesy of AntiqueReels.com

44:30 – Edward Pole has fly shop Philadelphia and they were making hooks (1776)

46:56 – Jim tells us about the history of Dette Flies – started by Walt and Winnie Dette – they were original Catskill fly tiers

48:25 – Lee Wulff invented the fly fishing vest

history of fly fishing
Photo courtesy of Catskill Fly Fishing

50:57 – AMFF is putting together an exhibit this year for Lee and Joan Wulff – The Angling Adventure of Lee and Joan Wulff

51:07 – Joan Wulff was on the podcast at WFS 100

54:49 – Jim explains the difference between classic, antique, and vintage

1:07:56 – The Rangeley Museum in Maine has great history resource that we can dig into


Follow AMFF on Instagram @flyfishmuseum

You can learn more about the history of fly fishing at AMFF.org

history of fly fishing


Related Podcast Episodes

The History of Women in Fly Fishing with Jen Ripple (WFS 146)

WFS 100 – Joan Wulff Podcast – Fly Casting Tips, Lee Wulff, Yarn Rod, Dun Magazine, American Sportsman


Resources Noted in the Show

  • Old Reel Collectors Association (Jim Schottenham is a Past President of ORCA); www.orcaonline.org


Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below


History of Fly Fishing Conclusion with Jim Schottenham

Jim and I talked about the history of fly fishing since 200 AD. We talked about the evolution of fly fishing gear and the people behind these inventions. We learned how to classify items if they’re classic, vintage, or antique. We found out how much artifact the museum has right now and how they obtain them.