Angling, the art or practice of the sport of catching fish by means of a baited hook or "angle" (from the Indo-European root ank-, meaning "bend"). It is among the most ancient of human activities, and may be said to date from the time when man was in the infancy of the Stone Age, eking out a precarious existence by the slaughter of any living thing which he could reach with the rude weapons at his command. It is probable that attack on fishes was at first much the same as attack on animals, a matter of force rather than of guile, and conducted by means of a rude spear with a flint head. It is probable, too, that the primitive harpooners were not signally successful in their efforts, and so set their wits to work to devise other means of getting at the abundant food which waited for them in every piece of water near their caves. Observation would soon show them that fish fed greedily on each other and on other inhabitants of the water or living things that fell into it, and so, no doubt, arose the idea of entangling the prey by means of its appetite. Hence came the notion of the first hook, which, it seems certain, was not a hook at all but a "gorge," a piece of flint or stone which the fish could swallow with the bait but which it could not eject afterwards.
From remains found in cave-dwellings and their neighbourhood in different parts of the world it is obvious that these gorges varied in shape, but in general the idea was the same, a narrow strip of stone or flake of flint, either straight or slightly curved at the ends, with a groove in the middle round which the line could be fastened. Buried in the bait it would be swallowed end first; then the tightening of the line would fix it cross-wise in the quarry's, stomach or gullet and so the capture would be assured. The device still lingers in France and in a few remote parts of England in the method of catching eels which is known as "sniggling." In this a needle buried in a worm plays the part of the prehistoric gorge.
The evolution of the fish-hook from the slightly curved gorge is easily intelligible. The ends became more and more curved, until eventually an object not unlike a double hook was attained. This development would be materially assisted by man's discovery of the uses of bronze and its adaptability to his requirements. The single hook, of the pattern more or less familiar to us, was possibly a concession of the lake-dweller to what may even then have been a problem - the "education" of fish, and to a recognition of the fact that sport with the crude old methods was falling off. But it is also not improbable that in some parts of the world the single hook developed pari passu with the double, and that, on the sea-shore for instance, where man was able to employ so adaptable a substance as shell, the first hook was a curved fragment of shell lashed with fibre to a piece of wood or bone, in such a way that the shell formed the bend of the hook while the wood or bone formed the shank. Both early remains and recent hooks from the Fiji Islands bear out this supposition. It is also likely that flint, horn and bone were pressed into service in a similar manner. The nature of the line or the rod that may have been used with these early hooks is largely a matter of conjecture.
The first line was perhaps the tendril of a plant, the first rod possibly a sapling tree. But it is fairly obvious that the rod must have been suggested by the necessity of getting the bait out over obstacles which lay between the fisherman and the water, and that it was a device for increasing both the reach of the arm and the length of the line. It seems not improbable that the rod very early formed a part of the fisherman's equipment.