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F.M. Halford
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Born 1844, died March 5th 1914

rederic Halford was born into a wealthy Midlands family in 1844. His parents moved to London when Frederic was seven, and as a boy he fished the Serpentine and the Long Pool. His first attempt at fly fishing was at the age of 24, as a result of the generosity of a friend of his father's who owned fishing on the Wandle. His first rod was an eleven foot. butt and middle section of hickory, top joint of cane. To begin with he fished with a silk and horsehair line, but it wasn't long before he had bought a dressed silk line. It was on the Wandle that he first encountered people fishing the dry fly, and other fishermen pointed out to him the advantages of casting to rising fish - so the first thing we should remember about Halford is that he didn't invent dry fly fishing.

Halford fished the Wandle for some years, but in 1877 he became a member of the Houghton Fly Fishers. In 1879, in John Hammond's tackle shop in Winchester, Halford met George Selwyn Marryat, a meeting that was to change the course of fly fishing history. They were to be friends for the remainder of Marryat's life. In 1880, Halford found accommodation at Houghton Mill, on the banks of the Test, and with Marryat, began his research for his first book, Floating Flies and How to Dress Them, published in 1886. Halford wanted Marryat to be joint author of the book, but Marryat declined, wishing to remain anonymous. The book was a huge success, and laid the foundations of Halford's fame as a fisherman.

In 1889, at the age of forty-five, Halford found himself in the fortunate position of being able to retire, and take up a lifetime devoted to fly fishing and writing. In that year he published his second book, Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice. the years that followed found him fishing a variety of beats on the Kennet, the Test and the Itchen. He published four other books, Making a Fishery (1895), Dry Fly Entomology (1897), Modern Development of the Dry Fly (1910), and the The Dry Fly Man's Handbook (1913).

Halford is pictured by many as a joyless old didact who enforced the dry fly code against all reasoned opposition. This is not the case, although Halford's writing was heavily influenced by the fact that he had relatively little experience of fishing the wet fly. The Halford school that followed in his wake were somewhat less forgiving in their attitude to wet fly fishing, and in particular in their opposition to the use of the nymph. Frederic Halford himself is a pivotal figure in fly fishing history. Whilst some of Halford's reasoning may be open to question, his dedication is not, and the man who gave so much of his life to the development of dry fly fishing deservedly takes his place among the greats.

 

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