Filey Flither girl and fisherman baiting longline - G. Briggs

The artists impression above by local artist G Briggs  shows a Filey ‘Flither’ Girl with two baskets of bait. On the right of the picture is a fishermen baiting up hooks on a ‘longline‘ which was used to catch cod and other fish. Longlines were laid across the best fishing spots from the local ‘cobles‘ and were buoyed at one end. Usually several lines were laid amounting to thousands of hooks from each boat.

The need to provide massive amounts of bait for the hooks was relentless, common mussels (Mytilus edulis) could be used and another excellent bait was limpets (Patella vulgata) found in abundance on the rocky seashore around Filey Bay and on the more extensive rocky scars north of Scarborough up to Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby.The female members of our fishing community who collected this bait came to be known as ‘flither girls’, a word used to describe the limpets they collected but possible being derived from a Norwegian word, used to describe someone who looks from pool to pool on the seashore.

Bait would probably have been brought in from Norfolk and in the age of railways from Scotland but during the winter and in times of poverty, the female members of the local fishing community made heroic efforts to gather the bait from the seashore. The local supplies would have been quickly exhausted and witnesses of the Victorian Period stated that sometimes they set off in the Winter in the  middle of the night to walk North as far as Robin Hoods Bay to gather bait , lodging just North of Scarborough, a distance to Robin Hoods Bay and back of over 35 miles.


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