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The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  600 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Walton's popular classic treatise on fishing goes far beyond techniques, as it embraces a life that values serenity and appreciation for creation. Some of the natural history lore is antiquated, but keen intelligence and good humor express themselves in a readable and enjoyable manner.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 10th 2005 by Coachwhip Publications (first published 1676)
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The Compleat Angler is a book that has been continuously in print for more than 350 years. Indeed, about five years ago I saw a nearly 300-year-old copy of it in the glass case at Half Price Books being sold for a steep figure. It's now freely and easily obtainable online, via Project Gutenberg and in other PDF editions as well as in audiobook form via Libravox.

So what could possibly be interesting about a four-centuries-old fishing book?
A lot, as it turns out.

Izaak Walto
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you want to find an answer to the question what is to be preferred 'angling or hunting' you should have a closer look into this book. In form of a philosophical dialogue the Piscator convinces the Venator (who regards the Piscator as his master) of the superiority of angling. You'll learn about the different ways of angling, come to know about proper fish and get the right attitude of the compleat angler. If you go to Marlow (UK) then you can go to the bar of the Perfect Angler Hotel, have a ...more
Angie Thompson
Dec 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
I tried twice and just could not make it past the first chapter. Maybe the practical part is better, but the philosophical dialogue on which sport was the best was just--painful.

Falconer: "In praise of my sport, let me tell you how nothing can live without air and how many lovely songbirds exist in the world."
Hunter: "In praise of my sport, let me tell you about the amazing qualities of elephants."
Angler: "In praise of my sport, let me tell you not only how important wate
This book was written by two authors, Izaak Walton who wrote the larger part, and Charles Cotton, who wrote a section on fishing in Derbyshire.
Walton's section was a charming read, interspersed with poems and anecdotes. Cotton wrote for anglers, and since I am not an angler, I found it boring at times.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
A pretty good read, in a dialogue format, between Piscator, Venator, and Auceps, about fishing in particular, and life in general; as meandering as a quiet brook. While it is primarily about fishing, it also celebrates the English countryside and a quiet, peaceful pasttime that is also conducive to communing with God. The characteristics of different fish are examined in succesive chapters, although my favorite section was Part II which covers trout and fly-fishing. Not a complicated book, and o ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this was a delightful read. I think I will have to write a proper review later but I highly recommend it.

Here is the full review https://spreadingthefeast102.wordpres...
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, which I stumbled across via a reference made in Robert W. Chambers' novel "Cardigan" by the titular character. Walton's commentary throughout is quite entertaining, and the "fishing advice" in the book, while ostensibly the point of it, is almost incidental in my mind -- the collected verses, humor, and pleasant descriptions of pastoral English countryside were my main enjoyments. A very pleasant read.
Maurice Halton
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book for anglers; it’s a book for Englishmen. It should be subtitled 'how an English gentleman behaves - in metaphor’. A book about fishing? Come on! Whoever gave this classic less than five stars needs something.
James Violand
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
An interesting read. A justification for doing nothing, although filled with descriptions of fishes and ways to catch them.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it did not like it
very tough boring read
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
very chill book, the best bits are all the neat little digression about things like the philosophy of angling, or pre science natural history stuff.
Paul Miller
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five days of fishing along the river Lea which joins the Thames near London is the background on which the cheerful narrative of The Compleat Angler is laid. The splendid civil conversation of Latin named Piscator, Venator, Auceps, Viator, and Piscator Junior is a joy to hear. Shakespeare was just publishing his first work when Izaak Walton was born in 1593 in Stafford. Walton retired in his early fifties and traveled about rural England visiting friends, fishing, and writing in his easy-going f ...more
Brandon Cook
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I imagine many readers will see this as tedious, particularly when the writer begins his discourse on the different kinds of flies, in the trout and fly-fishing second half. The fishing descriptions are rather tedious, but they are couched in a dialogue between a fisherman and his pupil, which, simple and charming as it is, you cannot but help being lured in by.

This I've seen praised as a proud revival of the "pastoral drama" genre, of which Theocritus is said to be the great exempla
Alastair Agutter
In 1981 representatives of the British Library presented an early leather bound edition of "The Compleat Angler" Book. At that time, back in 1981, it was claimed that The Compleat Angler was the third biggest selling book in history, after Pilgrims Progress, and the Holy Bible.

I was commissioned by the Izaak Walton Foundation to make and design a collection of limited edition split bamboo cane rods to commemorate the "Tercentenary" 1683. To do my very best, I wanted to get the real f
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I can understand why this book has become the classic introduction to angling but I don’t think today’s reader would want to read every word. It is in many places long and tedious.

The style is quaint and wholesome. The very enthusiastic narrator bestows his considerable knowledge of angling on an unknowing novice who manages to remain interested through many chapters on the different species.

Interestingly whenever the narrator drops his fly or bait into the water he catches a large
Robert Lloyd
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book to understand the spirit of fishing

Being an avid angler, and having heard of this book in passing before, I downloaded this free copy. Though this book is very old, there are timeless nuggets of wisdom that make this an invaluable read to the thoughtful fisherman. First, the reason I gave it four stars out of five is because there are several portions of the book that focused more on fishing tactics, which to me seemed dated and obsolete (plus it was in England, so there were differ
Jim Janssen
Very bizarre, from contemporary standards! But something I'd say any student of English writing history needs to read at least a little of. As often is the case with old tales that have been kept alive over the years, it has a deeper message than just explaining how was done centuries ago. Doing fishing the "correct" way, according to this tale, is a philosophical and spiritual pursuit as well as a physical experience.

I highly doubt anybody ever reads all of the myriad of fish-cookin
Rex Bradshaw
This is not merely a quaint 17th-century handbook to fishing. It is an essay on the good life, a literary experiment, and a celebration of leisured fraternity, nature, and simple pleasures. Walton's genial wisdom can nourish even those of us who do not belong to the Brotherhood of the Angle. From the erudite alchemical controversy of its opening pages to the homely moralizing verse of its conclusion, The Compleat Angler delights and satisfies with fine prose and sound philosophy. "Be quiet; and go a-A ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written as a series of dialogues between the primary discussant, Piscator, and his student, this book provides a most agreeable look into the early days of sport fishing in England. As the subtitle says, it is a contemplative occupation, and Walton focuses at many points on the soul-enriching benefits to those who engage in it. Organized over a series of days, Piscator's lessons cover the whole variety of fish and the recommended ways of angling for each species. The recipes for baits are given ...more
Rocky Curtiss
I asked for this book for Christmas, so any disappointment is my own. I found it quite difficult; first from having been written in the sixteenth century, and second reading page after page of how to make the best bait. I would have enjoyed more of the story part, less of the other. I cannot recommend this but am glad for the experience. It really stretched me.
François Carrière
As a fisherman I enjoyed the description and techniques presented by Walton. They are definitely dated and we know a lot more about the species and their behaviour. It was amazing to see how much of what we know came from these people.
Hunter Q Lee
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Pleasant, enjoyable reading. It make you feel like you need to be fishing by a river somewhere. You owe it to yourself to read this book.
Cynthia Moore
Feb 21, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I seem to be on a roll of choosing books that are impossible for me to read beyond a chapter or two. Sorry this is another.
Andre Piucci
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it

#-#-# TO READ #-#-#

Scott Joseph
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third time that I've read "The Compleat Angler" and I learn something new each time.
Jim Krotzman
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was a bit boring and written in the language of the eighteenth century. It mostly catalogued fish, their environments, baits, and methods of catching them. The main point I got from the book was that fishing was a way to know mindfulness. Fishing is a good pastime because one is quiet.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Being such a famous book, I felt bad giving it a 2/5 initially so I’ve revised this to 3/5 given that one probably needs to read this in context….it would be a much better read on the banks of a river than on a daily commute!
Bob G
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: top100
A practical guide to fishing, describing the fish, how to fish, how to prepare fish, how to tie flies, which baits work best, how to build a fish pond, … (Quite a bit of verse and moralizing also thrown in!)
The practical part was wrapped in a story of several men who chanced to meet. Most of the book involves the "master" teaching the art to the "scholar". The value of the book is historical (the description of the art). The book, though, is poorly written. Time seems to compress. Having just c
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fishing
This book has been a must read for anglers since the 1650's. For the non-angler, I'd only give this 2 or 3 stars. You'd find it dry and boring in most ways. For the avid angler, it is definitely a 5 star book and should be part of your personal library. It is more a book on how to live life as a contemplative man and less a how too book on fishing. I like the addition by Charles Cotton (Sir Isaac's son) at the end of the book as it is more specifically geared towards the Trout fisherman. I also ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Written hundreds of years ago, this is still the standard for all those who love the art of fly-fishing. This is not just a book about fishing, but about the love of the stream and its finned denizens. This is a philosophy book, and in a real sense, one of the first marriage advice books. Try it on, and once you wade through the Elizabethan English, you will find an amazing depth of insight into humanity.
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Izaak Walton (c. 1594[1] – 15 December 1683) was an English writer. Best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, he also wrote a number of short biographies that have been collected under the title of Walton's Lives.

Walton was born at Stafford c. 1594; the traditional '9 August 1593' date is based on a misinterpretation of his will, which he began on 9 August 1683.[1] The register
“As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.” 13 likes
“Hops, and Turkies, Carps and Beer
Came into England all in a year.”
More quotes…