From “The Speckled Brook Trout” by Louis Rhead (1902): In the United States, fly anglers are thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass fishing. After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies. Fly anglers seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper fly, which are still used today.
In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as Theodore Gordon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using fly tackle to fish the region’s brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly anglers also made new fly patterns and wrote extensively, increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and in the United States as a whole. One such man was Charles F. Orvis, who helped popularizing fly fishing by designing and distributing novel reel and fly designs. His 1874 fly reel was described by reel historian Jim Brown as the "benchmark of American reel design," the first fully modern fly reel. The founding of The Orvis Company helped institutionalize fly fishing by supplying angling equipment. His tackle catalogs, distributed to a small but devoted customer list in the late 1800s, are now highly collectible as forerunners of today's direct-mail outdoor products industry.
Participation in fly fishing peaked in the early 1920s in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont and in the Midwest in the spring creeks of Wisconsin. Along with deep sea fishing, Ernest Hemingway did much to popularize fly fishing through his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises. It was the development of inexpensive fiberglass rods, synthetic fly lines, and monofilament leaders, however, in the early 1950s, that revived the popularity of fly fishing, especially in the United States.
In recent years, the interest in fly fishing has surged. Movies such as Robert Redford's film A River Runs Through It, with Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt, cable TV fishing shows, and the emergence of a competitive fly casting circuit have added to the sport's visibility.