February 10th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

What is a Compleat Angler?
By Steven H. McGarthwaite

In my fifty-four years of life I have done many things, some are of great importance, and others have been total failures. Many past-time pursuits have I enjoyed, yet once mastered, have been left behind on life's pathway. Yet through all those years I would go fishing, feeling that I was still missing something that this sport represented. I was a fisherman all of my life, yet missing the reason of why.

Only seven short years ago I took up the way of the angler in the true sense. I bought a fly rod to learned how to cast a fly, not knowing where this path leads, but sensing that it was the right path to follow.

Never in my life have I be so consumed with the wanting to know more about this gentle sport; everyday it has preyed on my mind. It has been a resource of knowledge, and place for quiet contemplation. I have met a multitude of anglers who have chosen the same pathway, many having become my friends.

I am fortunate that early on as I traveled this new pathway in life, I came across this magazine (then in it's infancy). Through others I have been shown (actions, words, and deeds), the reason this pastime has come to claim so much of my attention. There is more here then fishing or catching fish - yet the fish and fishing is a major portion of it.

All have their own unique needs that they are questing for the answers. Only recently I have, finally come to a place and time to finally really read and understand, what it means to be a "Compleat Angler!"

I have yet to read Izaak Walton's, The Compleat Angler. What I should really say is, I have read The Compleat Angler, but only read the words and not the meaning.

It is only by chance I tuned in a television program called "The Complete Angler" (notice the difference in the spelling of Compleat/Complete) about a 20 year old man (James Prosek), who went to England, to attempt to walk in Izaak Walton's footsteps. It is through his eyes and his thoughts as he journeyed, I have come to see the reason why Izaak Walton is so revered yet few have truly understood his true thoughts or his book.

Yet today Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, is the third most printed book, behind The Bible, and the writings of Shakespeare. Yet both of the fore mentioned books have a large place in Izaak's book. Izaak was an Anglican, born of humble birth rising to upper middle-class as a maker of linen draperies. Language of his time was similar to the language of the King James Version of the Bible and Shakespeare.

In the middle 1600's England was in turmoil; there were forces in play which would completely alter Izaak's life. Civil War broke out, and King Charles was executed. People were endangered for their religious beliefs, and Izaak Walton left London to seek safety and refuge. Izaak lost his wife and child years earlier, and being in his 40's, he had the financial means to live, yet need a purpose for living. Only then did he take up the pathway of the angler. Izaak was never a Fly Angler; it was only thru the writing of his dear friend Charles Cotton, that Fly Angling was added to the 5th Edition of The Compleat Angler.

To be a compleat angler, the true search is not in the catching of fish; but to become content in life, and to enjoy your place and time, through angling. ~ Parnelli

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