The History of Fly Fishing & Divine Intervention

Fly fishing can be dated back to approximately 200 AD. Claudius Aelianus wrote “On the Nature of Animals”. In his writing he referenced a Macedonian method of catching fish. Aelianus gave an account of fly fishing, using lures of red wool and feathers with lacquer-work. Aelianus offers the first, albeit, lesser glimpse into fly fishing as it is no more than a mere reference.

While fly fishing may appear to be a male sport and is currently dominated by men, it has been equally appreciated throughout the centuries by men and women alike.

The first published work on fly fishing was accomplished by Juliana Berners. Berners was born in 1388. She was a nun prioress of the St Mary of Sopwell Monastery. Berners belonged to the Order of Saint Benedict, a monastic Catholic religious order of monks and nuns.

Berners wrote A Treatise of Fishing with an Angle. In her Treatise, Berners describes equipment, preparation and instruction on the sport. She informs on fly types for various months. For September, Berners suggests the use of ‘fly flesh, bacon fat and a big red worm bound together’.

Berners Treatise formed the basis for the first fly fishing book written 150 years later by Izaak Walton titled The Compleat Angler.

It is interesting to note the influence of religion on fly fishing. Some would suggest that God is the true angler; a fisher of men (women). Perhaps that is just the tip, or tippet, so to speak. While He seeks humanity, does humanity not touch Godliness while fly fishing? On the water, God is revealed. His revelation mirrors the sun’s reflection upon the ripples in the river as His beauty reflects upon the angler’s soul.

One religious woman is known for her use of fly fishing to change lives. Mother Mary Angelica was an ambitious nun who, in 1958, took the industry by storm. She was a member of the Poor Clare’s of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan Order in Canton, Ohio. Mother Angelica prayed to fulfill her dream of opening a monastery in the deep South. She knew that, in order to accomplish this great task, she would have to raise the money herself. The monastery would then have to be self-sufficient. Mother Angelica prayed for divine intervention and it came to her, in the form of fly fishing. Mother Angelica’s plan was to sell fishing lures.

The Catholic Church agreed to allow Mother Angelica to proceed with her plan, most likely thinking it would not amount to much success. In all seriousness, how many fishing lures could Mother Angelica and 5 nuns (minus angler experience) produce? And, how much could they profit, given a cost of 75 cents each?

What most people didn’t realize was that Mother Angelica had a business marketing background. She used her skills to create a product that was offered to the market with a special, heavenly touch. Offering blessed lures, Mother Angelica stated….

“We pray that fishermen will have big catches, will learn to fish with the Great Fisherman, and will be protected from accidents.”

Mother Angelica advertised her blessed lures across country and the result was a splash. Consequentially, she raised the required money for the monastery construction within two years!

The new monastery was built in Alabama, the center of the Civil Rights movement, in effort to support such rights among African-Americans. It was named Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. Once in Alabama, Mother Angelica led her monastery into other avenues of business venture. The most notable was the creation of the first religiously focused television channel, EWTN. Ultimately, her channel touched a world-wide audience with the word of God. For more information on this story, please refer to the article by Dr. Todd EA Larson. Dated 09/24/2008, it is a wonderful rendition of Mother Angelica and her dream entitled, Holy Lures: The Incredible Story of Mother Angelica and St. Peter’s Fishing Lures

Mother Angelica proved that small starts can change the world if God, good intention and a little ingenuity are part of the recipe. RFG can hope for no more than the success that God intends. With hard work and devotion, RFG will use the inspiration of Mother Angelica to create success. Our success will be measured by the work accomplished within the community through profits raised within the business. While we cannot bless each item, we can guarantee that each item will offer blessing to those in need.

The founders of RFG have long dreamed to assist with the impoverished and suffering homeless. Most of these individuals struggle with mental health disorders. The first goal is to create a specific track of land with small living spaces for the homeless. This area will provide social services within the confines of a safe space, allowing individuals to come and go as they please. RFG recognizes that some individuals will never fit the mold of ‘normal’ as designated by our society. However, each of God’s creatures was created in His image and should be cared for accordingly. RFG envisions accomplishing God’s work by helping those individuals who are so often displaced and lost among the rest of society. By starting in Louisville, Kentucky, RFG intends to eradicate the need for God’s children to find refuge under bridges and food in trash cans.

It seems silly (maybe far-fetched) to think of such lofty aspirations, especially considering that women’s fly fishing apparel is the impetus for reaching such success. While doubts come and go, we strive to keep our hearts focused on future goals. And, we seek inspiration from Mother Angelica, asking for her guidance and prayers as we venture forward. It is because of Mother Angelica that we are inspired and, as such, seems only appropriate to call this place The Mother Angelica Sanctuary.

Reel Fly Girls love Mother Angelica!