Oldest fishing book in the world. Did a 15th century Benedictine monk while away his hours making notes on fishing techniques?


The oldest fishing book in the world may have been discovered. Nestling in the back of an ancient mid-fifteenth century prayer book, hand written in obscure dialect, were notes relating to what was initially thought to be comment on feathers and colours. An unusual supplement to the latin breviary of a Benedictine monk.

The chance discovery has revealed that these notes are the oldest known reference to fly fishing and perhaps the oldest fishing book we know of. With an aptitude to be admired the monk noted down his fly tying techniques. For a modern version see our feature on salmon flys and fly-tying.

The handwritten prayer book was initially accquired by Maggs Brothers in Berkeley Square. It belonged to a 15th century Benedictine monk from Admont Abbey in Austria, but on closer inspection there was an added surprise.

It was discovered that although the main section of the prayer book was written in traditional Latin, the last few were written in middle/high German with an obscure Austrian dialect. It was in these last pages that the fishing notes were found.

The notes included recipes for fly patterns, which feathers to use and how to put them together, bait recipes and notes on traps and nets. The bait recipes include flying worms, ox meat and chopped eggs. There is reference to grayling, trout and the crucian carp.


“Maggs’ experts have dated the script around 1560 predating the “Tegernsee Fishing Advice” (Tegernsee Angel und Fishbacklein) written by another Benedictine monk at Tegernsee in Bavaria in the late 15th century, and making it possibly the earliest recorded reference to fly fishing anywhere in the world” says Richard Lisney of Fishing TV.

“Fishing TV was given exclusive access to this unique find and has made a short film with presenter Rae Borras talking to Jonathan Riley from Maggs about the book and taking a closer look between the pages” he says.