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The Compleat Angler
or, the Contemplative Man's Recreation
By Izaak Walton with the Second Part,
by Charles Cotton
THE WHOLE BEING ILLUSTRATED BY
The Peter Pauper Press • Mount Vernon
[No Publication Date; ca. 1947]
THE FIRST PART
THE FIRST DAY
THE SECOND DAY
THE THIRD DAY
THE THIRD AND FOURTH DAYS
THE FOURTH DAY
THE FIFTH DAY
THE SECOND PART
INSTRUCTIONS HOW TO ANGLE FOR A TROUT OR GRAYLING IN A CLEAR STREAM
Dedication and Acceptance
THE FIRST DAY.
THE SECOND DAY.
THE THIRD DAY.
Irregular Stanzas to Mr. Izaak Walton
To the Right Worshipful
John Offley, Esq.
OF MADELY MANOR, IN THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD
My most Honored Friend
I HAVE made so ill use of your former favors, as by them to be encouraged to intreat that they may be enlarged to the Patronage and Protection of this Book: and I have put on a modest confidence, that I shall not be denied, because it is a Discourse of Fish and Fishing, which you know so well, and both love and practise so much.
You are assured, though there be ignorant men of another belief, that Angling is an Art; and you know that Art better than others: and that this truth is demonstrated by the fruits of that pleasant labor which you enjoy when you purpose to give rest to your mind, and divest yourself of your more serious business, and, which is often, dedicate a day or two to this recreation.
At which time, if common Anglers should attend you, and be eyewitnesses of the success, not of your fortune, but your skill, it would doubtless beget in them an emulation to be like you, and that emulation might beget an industrious diligence to be so; but I know it is not attainable by common capacities. And there be now many men of great wisdom, learning, and experience, which love and practise this Art, that know I speak the truth.
Sir, — This pleasant curiosity of Fish and Fishing, of which you are so great a master, has been thought worthy the pens and practices of divers in other nations that have been reputed men of great learning and wisdom; and amongst those of this nation, I remember Sir Henry Wotton, a dear lover of this Art, has told me that his intentions were to write a Discourse of the Art, and in praise of Angling. And doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which hath often made me sorry: for, if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned Angler had seen some better Treatise of this Art, a Treatise that might have proved worthy his perusal; which, though some have undertaken, I could never yet see in English.
But mine may be thought as weak, and as unworthy of common view: and I do here freely confess that I should rather excuse myself, than censure others, my own discourse being liable to so many exceptions; against which, you, Sir, might make this one, — that it can contribute nothing to your knowledge. And, lest a longer Epistle may diminish your pleasure, I shall make this no longer than to add this following truth,
That I am really, Sir,
Your affectionate Friend,
And most humble Servant,
To All Readers of this Discourse
BUT ESPECIALLY TO THE HONEST ANGLER
I THINK fit to tell thee these following truths, — that I did neither undertake, nor write, nor publish, and much less own, this Discourse to please myself: and having been too easily drawn to do all to please others, as I proposed not the gaining of credit by this under taking, so I would not willingly lose any part of that to which I had a just title before I begun it; and do therefore desire and hope, if I deserve not commendations, yet I may obtain pardon.
And though this Discourse may be liable to some exceptions, yet I cannot doubt but that most Readers may receive so much pleasure or profit by it, as may make it worthy the time of their perusal, if they be not too grave or too busy men. And this is all the confidence that I can put on, concerning the merit of what is here offered to their consideration and censure; and if the last prove too severe, as I have a liberty, so I am resolved to use it and neglect all sour censures.
And I wish the Reader also to take notice, that in writing of it I have made myself a recreation of a recreation. And that it might prove so to him, and not read dull and tediously, I have in several places mixed, not any scurrility, but some innocent, harmless mirth: of which, if thou be a severe, sour-complexioned man, then I here disallow thee to be a competent judge; for divines say, There are offences given, and offences not given but taken.
And I am the willinger to justify the pleasant part of it, because, though it is known I can be serious at seasonable times, yet the whole Discourse is, or rather was, a picture of my own disposition; especially in such days and times as I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing with honest Nat. and R. Roe: but they are gone, and with them most of my pleasant hours, even as a shadow that passeth away and returns not.
And next let me add this, that he that likes not the book should like the excellent picture of the Trout, and some of the other fish; which I may take a liberty to commend, because they concern not myself.
Next let me tell the Reader, that in that which is the more useful 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 know that a captious Reader may find exceptions against something said of some of these: and therefore I must entreat him to consider, that experience teaches us to know that several countries alter the time, and I think almost the manner, of fishes' breeding, but doubtless of their being in season: as may appear by three rivers in Monmouth shire, namely, Severn, Wye, and Usk; where Camden (Brit., fol. 633) observes, that in the river Wye, Salmon are in season from September to April; and we are certain that in Thames, and Trent, and in most other rivers, they be in season the six hotter months.
Now for the Art of Catching Fish, that is to say, how to make a man that was none to be an Angler by a book; he that undertakes it shall undertake a harder task than Mr. Hales, a most valiant and excel lent fencer, who in a printed book, called "A Private School of Defence," undertook to teach that art or science, and was laughed at for his labor. Not but that many useful things might be learned by that book, but he was laughed at, because that art was not to be taught by words, but practice: and so must Angling. And note also, that in this Discourse I do not undertake to say all that is known, or may be said of it, but I undertake to acquaint the Reader with many things that are not usually known to every Angler; and I shall leave gleanings and observations enough to be made out of the experience of all that love and practise this recreation, to which I shall encourage them. For Angling may be said to be so like the Mathematics that it can never be fully learned; at least not so fully but that there will still be more new experiments left for the trial of other men that succeed us.
But I think all that love this game may here learn something that may be worth their money, if they be not poor and needy men; and in case they be, I then wish them to forbear to buy it: for I write not to get money, but for pleasure, and this Discourse boasts of no more; for I hate to promise much and deceive the Reader.
And however it proves to him, yet I am sure I have found a high content in the search and conference of what is here offered to the Reader's view and censure; I wish him as much in the perusal of it. And so I might here take my leave; but will stay a little and tell him, that whereas it is said by many, that, in fly-fishing for a Trout, the Angler must observe his twelve several flies for the twelve months of the year; I say, he that follows that rule shall be as sure to catch fish, and be as wise, as he that makes hay by the fair days in an almanac, and no surer; for those very flies that use to appear about and on the water in one month of the year, may the following year come almost a month sooner or later, as the same year proves colder or hotter: and yet in the following Discourse I have set down the twelve flies that are in reputation with many Anglers, and they may serve to give him some observations concerning them. And he may note, that there are in Wales and other countries peculiar flies proper to the particular place or country; and doubtless, unless a man makes a fly to counterfeit that very fly in that place, he is like to lose his labor, or much of it: but for the generality, three or four flies neat and rightly made, and not too big, serve for a Trout in most rivers all the summer. And for winter fly-fishing, it is as useful as an almanac out of date. And of these, because as no man is born an artist, so no man is born an Angler, I thought fit to give thee this notice.
When I have told the Reader, that in this fifth impression there are many enlargements, gathered both by my own observations and the communication with friends, I shall stay him no longer than to wish him a rainy evening to read this following Discourse; and that, if he be an honest Angler, the east wind may never blow when he goes a-fishing.