Here is a list of free old fly fishing and fly tying books in my digital library. Click on the links to read these books. In addition, scroll down on each of them to download and create your own digital library in PDF, Kindle, or other formats.
I encourage you to peruse a couple of the books and find one that speaks to you. Many of these authors, by nature of the age of the books, are English writers. You might be intrigued by what fly fishers did or thought in the late 1800’s. Perhaps you’re interested in Atlantic Salmon flies, not to tie them, but looking at the colored fly plates for their beauty. It was a different era in those days.
I’m amazed how someone writing in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s could have easily written similar books today. Yes, much has changed in fly fishing, but then again, maybe not.
I presented many of these books in an earlier post – Old Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Books that you may have read.
Be sure to check back occasionally as I plan to update this list as I find more interesting old books.
They are listed in the order they were published:
The Art of Angling by Richard Brookes, MD (1740) – 1st edition
The Art of Angling by Richard Brookes, MD (1766)
The Art of Angling by Richard Brookes, MD (1781) – 5th edition
The Art of Angling by Richard Brookes, MD (1790) 7th edition
Art of Angling by Thomas Best (1807) – a new edition, carefully corrected
The Fly-Fisher’s Guide by Geo. C. Bainbridge (1816)
Art of Angling by Charles Bowlker (1826)
The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology by Alfred Ronalds (1836), 1st edition
The Angler’s Manual; or Fly-Fisher’s Oracle, by John Turton (1836)
The Northern Angler; or Fly-Fisher’s Companion by John Kirkbride (1837)
Art of Angling by Charles Bowlker (1839)
The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology by Alfred Ronalds (1839), 2nd edition
The Contemplative and Practical Angler by Joseph Wells (1842)
Handbook of Angling: Teaching Fly-Fishing, Trolling, Bottom-Fishing, and Salmon-Fishing; with the Natural History of River Fish, and the Best Modes of Catching Them by Ephemera (Edward Fitzgibbon) (1847)
The British Angler’s Manual by Thomas Christopher Hofland (1848)
Book of Salmon by Ephemera (Edward Fitzgibbon) (1850)
Art of Angling by Charles Bowlker (1854) – a new edition, revised – perhaps the best known version
Art of Angling and Complete System of Fly Making, and Dying of Colours by William Blacker (1842 edition – 38 pages) Note – other editions include 1843 and 1855, immediately below
Catechism of Fly Making Angling and Dyeing by William Blacker (1843 edition – 130 pages) Note – other editions include 1842 and 1855, immediately above and below
Art of Flymaking, Angling, and Dying of Colours by William Blacker (1855 edition – 259 pages) Note – other editions include 1842 and 1843 immediately above (read only, not download-able)
The American Angler’s Guide by John J. Brown (1857 edition)
The Practical Angler by W. C. Stewart (1857)
Halcyon: Or, Rod-fishing with Fly, Minnow, and Worm by Henry Wade (1861)
The American Angler’s Book by Thad. Norris (1864)
Autumns of the Spey by A. E. Knox (1872)
My Life as an Angler by William Henderson (1876)
Yorkshire Trout Flies by T. E. Pritt (1885) Note – The following book is the same text, only the title was changed.
North Country Flies by T.E. Pritt (1886) – Note: only the title was changed from Pritt’s Yorkshire Trout Flies published the previous year.
Floating Flies and How to Dress Them by Frederic M. Halford (1886)
Ogden on Fly Tying, etc. by James Ogden (1887)
British Angling Flies by Michael Theakston (1888)
Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice by Frederic M. Halford (1889)
Favorite Flies and Their History by Mary Orvis Marbury (1892)
How to Tie Salmon Flies by Captain Hale (1892)
The Salmon Fly: How to Dress It and How to Use It by Geo. M. Kelson (1895)
Dry Fly Entomology by Frederic M. Halford (1897)
Salmon Sea Trout by Sir Herbert Maxwell (1897)
A Dictionary of Trout and Bass Flies by Malcolm A. Shipley (1898)
The Trout Fly Dresser’s Cabinet of Devices or How to Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling Fishing by H. G. McClelland (1898; 2nd edition 1905; 3rd edition 1909; 4th edition 1919)
Tips by Geo. M. Kelson (1901)
Dry-Fly Fishing the Theory and Practice by Frederic. M. Halford (1902)
Salmon Fishing by John James Hardy (1907)
Book of the Dry Fly by George A. B. Dewar (1910)
Modern Development of the Dry Fly by Frederic M. Halford (1910)
Practical Dry-Fly Fishing by Emlyn M, Gill (1912)
The Dry-Fly Man’s Handbook by Frederic M. Halford (1913) – updated from
Fishing at Home and Abroad by Sir Herbert Maxwell (1913)
How to Dress Salmon Flies by T. E. Pryce-Tannatt (1914)
The Dry Fly and Fast Water by George M. L. La Branche (1914)
Brook and River Trouting by Harfield H. Edmonds and Norman N. Lee (1916)
A Book on Angling by Francis Francis (1920) – First edition was 1847
Salmon Fishing by W. Earl Hodgson (1920)
The Dry-Fly Fisherman’s Entomology by Martin E. Mosely (1921) – a supplement to Halford’s The Dry-Fly Man’s Handbook (see above)
A History of Fly Fishing for Trout by John Waller Hills (1921)
The Natural Trout Fly and It’s Imitation by Leonard West (1921) – First edition privately published in 1912
Secrets of the Salmon by Edward Ringwood Hewitt (1922)
Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedley (1944)
Most of these digital books are the result of Google’s approach to keep these books available in our time. Here is an excerpt from Google:
“This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project to make the world’s books discoverable online.
It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that’s often difﬁcult to discover. Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this ﬁle – a reminder of this book’s long journey from the publisher to a library and ﬁnally to you.”
Laws differ by country and even though the books listed are in the public domain for users in the United States, it may not be in the public domain in other countries.