The Flyfishers’ Club was founded on 18th December 1884, when a group of eight eminent flyfishermen including R.B. Marston (Editor of The Fishing Gazette), William Senior and Henry Cholmondeley Pennell met at No.10 Adelphi Terrace in London and resolved unanimously:
- To bring together gentlemen devoted to flyfishing generally
- To afford a ready means of communication between those interested in this delightful art
- To render the Club a means of obtaining knowledge… on all points relating to the art
Since our foundation, over the course of almost 130 years, the Club has led a nomadic existence. From the Crichton Club in 1887 (where our first landlords referred to us ‘as a lot of fellows whose only occupation seems to be swapping lies of a most unbelievable nature’), we moved to the Arundel Hotel in 1888, to No.8 Haymarket in 1889, and then to our own premises in Swallow Street in 1907.
With light, airy rooms overlooking Piccadilly and St James’ Church where Charles Cotton is buried, this proved an ideal home for 33 years. Even after the outbreak of the Second World War, Members continued to dine quietly in the evenings, until one night in 1940 when a bomb fell on the rectory just across Piccadilly and the Flyfishers’ Journal laconically reported that “the President’s glass was overturned”.
The President, C.M. Giveen, and the staff helped to put out the flames from a stick of incendiary bombs that had hit the Club and the church, but a few days later we suffered another direct hit from a high explosive bomb which wrecked the dining room, bedrooms and Secretary’s office. Dinner continued to be served in the lounge until April 1941, when a land mine blew up the island in Piccadilly, and the Club was given four days’ notice to vacate the building, which was now regarded as unsafe.
Several priceless treasures were lost in our personal experience of the Blitz, including one full cabinet of the Natural Fly Collection instituted by F.M. Halford, a museum case of rods, several cased fish, and probably a considerable number of books as well as the billiard table and much of the Club silver. Emergency premises for the Flyfishers’ were found at the Garrick Club, and between 1946 and 1995 we relocated seven times to premises including the Oxford & Cambridge Club, the Constitutional Club, the Bath Club and Bucks.
Since 1995 we have been occupied very comfortable rooms above the Savile Club on Brook Street, an enviable arrangement which includes access to a top quality kitchen as well as a bar, billiard room, screening room, terrace and ballroom.
But it is the members who make a club, rather than the building or its facilities, and the Flyfishers’ Club is particularly distinguished by its long tradition of lively literary Membership. F.M. Halford, William Senior and R.B. Marston were amongst its founder Members, Lord Grey of Falloden was elected to Membership in 1899 and G.E.M. Skues dedicated his great work, ‘The Way of a Trout with a Fly’, to the Club in 1921, ‘in gratitude for so many happy hours and some priceless friends’. Francis Francis, H.T. Sheringham, Arthur Ransome, Eric Taverner, Hugh Falkus, Donald Overfield, Richard Walker, Peter Lapsley and John Goddard are just a few of the near two hundred Members who have published works on fishing.
This literary tradition lives on to this day, and the Flyfishers’ still counts many of today’s best and most forward-thinking flyfishing writers amongst its Members. Thanks to their contribution, and to every Member of the Club, we still remain true to our founders’ original vision: that of creating one of the world’s most welcoming, diverse and interesting flyfishing fraternities.