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The Half Haul
Recent historical research into the first writings on fly fishing has revealed the origins of the double haul, by researches called the Ur-haul or the half haul
The ur-haul or the half haul is to fly fishing what Telemark style is to slalom: an almost ancient, but original and very different style, which might not be the most efficient and useful one with modern equipment and conditions, but has gained more and more proselytes and is used and praised by a growing group of contemporary users. It's not a triple haul, not a double and not even a single haul, but a half haul. The most fundamental haul of them all.
To uncover the story of the groundbreaking new and yet very old casting technique, we need to go back to the mid 13th century in the area of Hertfordshire in England, not far from what is London today.
There we would have found the Priory of St. Mary of Sopwell, near St Albans, and the later so famous Dame Juliana Berners, who at that time was writing on her book “The Boke of Seynt Albans” or ”Book of Saint Albans”, which was a treatise on matters relating to the interests of the gentlemen of the time, such as hunting, falconry, heraldics and handling weapons.
The book was first published in 1486, and in an edition published in 1496 a chapter called ”Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle” about fishing was added. Most people attribute this chapter to the Dame, but since it was published 99 years after her birth in 1388, she wasn't very likely to have been very involved in the publishing, considering the average lifespan of people at that time.
No, the real person behind the fishing chapter was a monk or a prior from the monastery called Fallo. Even in the earliest writings he was referred to as Prio Fallo.
Fallo had taken an interest in Dame Juliana's book and found that the work was missing a very important part about his favorite pastime: fishing with a feathered hook on a rod. Fallo had developed this kind of fishing into an art, and was refining it for every fishing season. He had dotted down some notes on his techniques on the parchment used by the monks to do hand copied bibles – the same way the Dame had made her manuscript for the later so famous Booke.
Now, Fallo wanted to include a thorough chapter on fly fishing in the Dame's Booke, but the printer of the second edition, Wynkyn de Worde, refused the manuscript and forced Fallo to just write a general chapter on fishing and even rejected the woodcut of the method made for the chapter and had it changed to illustrate general fishing, thus omitting important information on the first fly fishing methods and many fly patterns. Fallo wrote on making rods and lines, but also managed to squeeze in a handful of fly patterns as an addition to the description of baits and the different fish species and general advice on fishing.
But one very important part was left out: fly casting! The whole chapter “Castynge wythe a fly rode”, meticulously scripted by Fallo and illustrated with a woodcut was simply left out by the printer and laid aside. This chapter described a rod with rings for the line to pass through rather than one rigged “Tenkara style” with the line tied to the top of the rod. And it describes the first fly cast and hauling the line to gain distance and overcome wind.
Back in the 1920's the little known Italian fly fisher and champion caster Flora Poli, started digging into the story, and managed to uncover parts of the missing manuscripts on fly casting in a British library. On top of that she found a single printed page about fly casting. She was surprised to find this casting method described by Fallo, in detail penning a cast that must have come long before the first single and double hauls.
Signora Poli was married rich and lived a luxurious life in a large villa on Lake Como, and had plenty time to study and practice the method on the lake and in the nearby streams. She was known in the area as La Signora Nuda because of her habit of fishing totally undressed in the secluded streams of the mountains around Lake Como, but that's a whole other story.
She soon developed a liking for the method, which she called La Metà Raggio – literally translated The Half Haul. She spent some time practicing and refining the cast, and made a detailed description in Italian and got the article published in the April edition a local magazine called “Lanciatore Lago di Como” - the Lake Como Casters. Considering the circulation of about 50 quarterly copies, it's no big surprise that Poli's text and beautiful drawings were forgotten and almost almost lost.
Luckily the Norwegian master caster Olaf Prilo developed an interest in Signora Poli in the 50's, and managed to establish contact with one of her sons, Pauli, who could supply Olaf with Poli's original manuscripts as well as some magazine pages. Olaf was as surprised as Signora Poli had been with her original discovery, and translated the text into Norwegian, which of course did spread the concept a bit further, but with all due respect to the Norwegians, didn't exactly make it global news.
So once again the Half Haul was first excavated and then buried again in the form of an article reaching fairly few people.
But here you have it: The ur-haul, the original print as well as a version transcribed from the 1496 rejected print, describing in detail the half haul – a cast that might soon conquer the world and make the triple haul so last year! Time to go out and practice in the nice April weather...
Collect thy rodde and walke ye to thy water bringing enough lynes to from one ende to the other fyve times or even more of the rodde.
Tye onto this thy hooke of black wull or yelowe or reade or purple.
Thy rod must be with a rynge in the nether ende fastened and a rynge in the toppe fastened for the lyne to passe.
Then put your lyne to the toppe and to the nether rynge and tye it onto there. When your knot is knyt ye must collecte a leg of line in thy hands suche as it forms two legs. Cast thy line now in a maner in the shape or an arche over thy head and in the same mouement and tyme pulle ye halfe the leg togider. This uill requyre a nymble hande and tyme or ye will fayle. Ye shall do this many tymes until thy casts a length of a lyne.
When fyshynge in this maner his casting shall be not outragious & he wyll haue no labour in fyshynge and when the wynde is blowing.
Time to go out and practice!