Fishing as a sport, however, is of considerable antiquity. An Egyptian angling scene of about 2000 BC shows figures fishing with rod and line and with nets. A Chinese account of about the 4th century BC refers to fishing with a silk line, a hook made from a needle, and a bamboo rod, with cooked rice as bait.
References to fishing are also found in ancient Greek, Assyrian, Roman, and Jewish writings.
Today, fishing, often called sport fishing to distinguish it from commercial fishing, is, despite the growth of towns and the increase of pollution in many sources, one of man’s principal relaxations and is, in many countries, the most popular participant sport.
The problems of the modern angler are still those of his ancestor: where to find fish, how to approach them, and what sort of bait to use. The angler must understand wind and weather. Fishing remains what it has always been, a problem in applied natural history.
The history of angling is in large part the history of tackle, as the equipment for fishing is called. One of man’s earliest tools was the predecessor of the fishhook, a gorge: a piece of wood, bone, or stone an inch or so in length, pointed at both ends and secured off-center to the line. The gorge was covered with some kind of bait. When a fish swallowed the gorge, a pull on the line wedged it across the gullet of the fish, which could then be pulled in.
With the coming of the use of metals, a hook was one of the first tools made. This was attached to a handline of animal or vegetable material, a method that is efficient only when used from a boat. The practice of attaching the line in turn to a rod, at first probably a stick or tree branch, made it possible to fish from the bank or shore and even to reach over vegetation bordering the water.
For thousands of years, the fishing rod remained short, not more than a few feet in length. The earliest reference to a longer, jointed rod is from Roman times, about the 4th century AD. At that time also, Aelian wrote of Macedonians catching trout on artificial flies and described how each fly was dressed (made). The rod they used was only 6 feet (1.8 metres) long and the line the same length, so that the method used was probably dapping, gently laying the bait on the surface of the water.