F L Y F I S  H I N G     H I S T O R Y -  S A I N T     Z E N O   F R E S C O
    Flyfishing History


   Flyfishing Entomology
   Sign on The Water


   Flyfishing Workshops

Commercial page

   About us



                      River Astræus      Medieval Fisherman of Jerma      Saint Zeno from Verona

                                              History of hook making


                    There are few written documents about the dawn of the fly fishing. The ideas about the possible and real place where it started, and about the ways it was spread go from Ælian to medieval times and first books about fishing. That is why all details from those times are valuable.

                With the restoration of frescoes in the church in the Borso Del Grappa, north of Verona in Italy, the old painting was discovered showing Saint Zeno the protector of fishermen. The saint was of African origin and he was the eight Bishop of Verona, who lived in IV century and died in 372. The original church where the fresco was discovered was built in VI century, and the painting was created by Jacobo Da Bassana around 1538.

                      The beauty and precision of the painting, and the fact that he was protector of fishermen are not the only reasons why it is interesting for fly fishermen. Like in the case of the Monastery of St. John the Divine, the painter took a bit of liberty from church canons and added a few interesting details. The portrait of Saint Zeno had one particularly fine detail, which makes it very valuable for investigators of the fly fishing history. On a first glance there is only a slender rod with a white line and a fish on its end. The closer observation opens a number of questions for all who care about the history of fly fishing.




         It can be clearly seen that the Saint is holding a rod and a white line. In obviously experienced way the old man is holding the weight of the fish, while at the same time he uses his small finger to divide it from his clothes and the rest of the tackle, in order to avoid tangling. The details showed are fascinating. The fish caught was a grayling, and the droppers can also be observed, also the knots and what is most important – the flies. It seems that he used a system with three flies, of which the first is in the fish’s mouth, and the others hang down on the line freely. Although the picture leaves no doubts about what it shows, there are still some questions which can be asked: was the picture created in order to connect the religion to man and his ordinary life, or wish to show importance of fish as a symbol in Christian religion. This was obviously a work of someone who knew well the fly fishing of that time and had a precise description of someone who lived twelve centuries previously. Be it as it may, it is clear that the history of the spreading of fly fishing followed the history of civilization, with migrations, wars, pilgrims … Along that way there are a stones which form a mosaic that would give the answers to the questions we are seeking. Maybe we would never reach the full mosaic, but as long as we try and collect its pieces we would prove that we are interesting not only in fishing as such but also in the identity of the civilization itself.




           The churches and monasteries in ancient times were the only centers of literacy and culture and that is why many data were discovered there.


            Brown trout was always important both in culinary and sporting way. The idea of fly fishing was built in order to catch that elusive fish. In is interesting to know that it is present in very old church mosaics. One of them was discovered close to the Ohrid lake, in a basilica built in VI century, where there is clearly shown a “fish with speckles on its skin”.