The Compleat Angler, by Izaac Walton

To the Reader of this Discourse: But especially, To the honest ANGLER.

I think fit to tell thee these following truths; that I did not undertake to write, or to publish this discourse of fish and fishing, to please my self, and that I wish it may not displease others; for, I have confest there are many defects in it. And yet, I cannot doubt, but that by it, some readers may receive so much profit or pleasure, as if they be not very busie men, may make it not unworthy the time of their perusall; and this is all the confidence that I can put on concerning the merit of this Book.

And I wish the Reader also to take notice, that in writing of it, I have made a recreation, of a recreation; and that it might prove so to thee in the reading, and not to read dull, and tediously, I have in severall places mixt some innocent Mirth; of which, if thou be a severe, sowr complexioned man, then I here disallow thee to be a competent Judg. For Divines say, there are offences given; and offences taken, but not given. And I am the willinger to justifie this innocent Mirth, because the whole discourse is a kind of picture of my owne disposition, at least of my disposition in such daies and times as I allow my self, when honest Nat. and R. R. and I go a fishing together; and let me adde this, that he that likes not the discourse, should like the pictures the Trout and other fish, which I may commend, because they concern not my self. And I am also to tel the Reader, that in that which is the more usefull part of this discourse; that is to say, the observations of the nature and breeding, and seasons, and catching of fish, I am not so simple as not to think but that he may find exceptions in some of these; and therefore I must intreat him to know, or rather note, that severall Countreys, and several Rivers alter the time and manner of fishes Breeding; and therefore if he bring not candor to the reading of this Discourse, he shall both injure me, and possibly himself too by too many Criticisms.

Now for the Art of catching fish; that is to say, how to make a man that was none, an Angler by a book: he that undertakes it, shall undertake a harder task then Hales offered to thy view and censure; I with thee as much in the perusal of it, and so might that in his printed Book [called the private School of defence] undertook by it to teach the Art of Fencing, and was laught at for his labour. Not but that something usefull might be observed out of that Book; but that Art was not to be taught by words; nor is the Art of Angling. And yet, I think, that most that love that Game, may here learn something that may be worth their money, if they be not needy: and if they be, then my advice is, that they forbear; for, I write not to get money, but for pleasure; and this discourse boasts of no more: for I hate to promise much, and fail.

But pleasure I have found both in the search and conference about what is here offered to thy view and censure; I wish thee as much in the perusal of it, and so might here take my leave; but I will stay thee a little longer by telling thee, that whereas it is said by many, that in Fly-fishing for a Trout, the Angler must observe his twelve Flyes for every Month; I say, if he observe that, he shall be as certain to catch fish, as they that make Hay by the fair dayes in Almanacks, and be no surer: for doubtless, three or four Flyes rightly made, do serve for a Trout all Summer, and for Winter-flies, all Anglers know, they are as useful as an Almanack out of date.

Of these (because no man is born an Artist nor an Angler) I thought fit to give thee this notice. I might say more, but it is not fit for this place; but if this Discourse which follows shall come to a second impression, which is possible, for slight books have been in this Age observed to have that fortune; I shall then for thy sake be glad to correct what is faulty, or by a conference with any to explain or enlarge what is defective: but for this time I have neither a willingness nor leasure to say more, then wish thee a rainy evening to read this book in, and that the east wind may never blow when thou goest a fishing. Farewel.

Iz. Wa.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01