IZAAK WALTON & CHARLES COTTON were both long-time family friends and fervent fishing buddies, so it was only natural that they would join together - in 1676 - to publish the two parts of the  word's most famous fishing book. 


1593 - Izaak Walton born in Stafford
1630 - Charles Cotton born in Beresford
1653 - Walton publishes 1st Edition
1655 - Walton publishes 2nd Edition
1661 - Walton publishes 3rd Edition


Early artist impression of Beresford Hall, Staffordshire -
birthplace of Charles Cotton in 1630.


1668 - Walton publishes 4th Edition
1676 - Walton publishes 5th Edition
1676 - Cotton publishes Part Two
1683 - Walton dies in Winchester
1687 - Cotton dies in London


Parts of the commemorative Walton Window in Winchester Cathedral, where Izaak was buried in 1683. 



early editions of The Compleat Angler from 1676 onwards

“All drawbacks considered, can our own Age produce the literary equals of such immortal English books as 'Paradise Lost,' 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' 'The Compleat Angler'?"

Prof. Edward Arber, 'A Bibliography of English Literature' (1903)


Since its joint publication in 1676, this humble two-part fishing manual has spawned over 700 reprinted editions - proving there is much more to this book than a simple guide to catch fish.

Along with its environmental legacy, TCA is widely considered a literary classic to stand with other legendary English language titles.

After 350 years, the time is right for a third instalment to one of the most famous books ever published. With 600+ editions reprinted in the intervening centuries, there has clearly remained a deep-seated interest in The Compleat Angler, and its equally celebrated co-authors: Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton.

Reissued editions of The Compleat Angler (Parts One and Two) are still being published today, with a revered role call of celebrated editors lending their interpretation to the ever-expanding TCA legend.

Personal introductions from fishing experts such as R.B. Marston ('The Prince of Living Anglers') in 1888, acclaimed authors such as John Buchan (The 39 Steps) in 1901, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists such as Howell Raines (editor of 'The NY Times') in 1997, and university scholars such as Prof. Majorie Swan in 2016, all contain individual insights into Walton's & Cotton's classic and their lives.

Broadly both Parts were fishing manuals written as a narrative storyline: Walton's Part focusing on coarse angling; Cotton's on fly-fishing.

Not only were the two authors connected by The Compleat Angler but both were born in Staffordshire, were long-time family friends and, as legend has it, fished together as often as they could. Cotton even built a large Fishing House - dedicated to Walton - on the banks of his stretch of the River Dove where he lived.


the compleat angler part one 1653 izaak walton frontispiece

In 1653, Izaak Walton - a diehard Anglican - published his first edition of The Compleat Angler. He would publish four more editions in his lifetime. In the next 350 years this simple coarse fishing manual - written as a countryside ramble cum travelogue - became one of the most reprinted and much beloved books in the English language. 

The Compleat Angler a lovely bucolic idyll, the most famous book in the literature of sport.”

Carl Otto v. Kienbusch (1956)


The Compleat Angler remains a publishing phenomenon - more than 500 editions, and never out of print since 1759.”

David Profumo, 'Compliments for Fishing'
in The Spectator (1997)


The Compleat Angler after Robinson Crusoe perhaps the most popular of English classics.”

Richard Le Gallienne, 'Introduction' to The Complete Angler (1896)


Millions of readers have rejoiced at the bucolic beauty and idyllic imagery of Walton’s perambulating parable of a wise old angler teaching a younger man how to fish, and how to enjoy rural life to its fullest.

“What Walton does for us transcends all mechanical devices and all scientific knowledge of nature and habits of fish. He does not merely furnish a manual of instructions: he teaches a way of life.”

Bliss Perry, 'Introduction' to The Compleat Angler (1928)


“In the most famous fishing book of all, Walton maintained that ‘angling may be so like mathematics that it can never be fully learnt,’ and then went on to spend the rest of the book telling his readers how they could indeed learn to fish."

Jeremy Paxman, Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life (1994)


“Even if you don’t know your bass bug from your blue flash damsel fly — and have never backcast in your life — you’ve probably still heard of The Compleat Angler, the ultimate manual on all things fishing, written by Izaak Walton in the 1650s. Its technical advice is interspersed with verse and witty observations, as well as musings on nature, advice on how to prepare a small frog as bait, and the best way to stuff a pike."

Emma Wells in The Times (2014)




In 1676, 83 year old Walton published his Fifth edition along with a second part on fly-fishing written by close family friend and long-time fishing companion, Charles Cotton. 

“It was when the Fifth edition added Cotton’s part - treating fishing in mountain streams with artificial flies - that the Angler became truly Compleat.” 
Rodolphe L. Coigney, 
Isaac Walton (1989)


“By 1676 and the publication of Walton’s Fifth edition, coupled with Cotton’s First edition as Part 2 of The Complete Angler, going fishing became more of an event once again, and the sentiment Piscator non solum piscatur (there is more to fishing than catching fish) became not only acceptable, but the prime reason for going fishing. In this respect Walton’s influence was not only singular but persists to this day and has permeated much of the vast literature on angling ever since that time."

Bryn Hammond, Halcyon Days (1992)


In his Part Two, Cotton carried on the teacher / student story-line from Walton's original - along with retaining the dialogue format. 

“In this last edition the thirteen chapters of the original had grown to twenty-one, and a second part was added by his friend and brother angler Charles Cotton, who took up Venator where Walton had left him and completed his instruction in fly fishing and the making of flies.”



Where Walton had set his tale on the River Lea in North London; Cotton set his story, in the Peak District, on his stretch of the River Dove - where he was born. 

“Truly enough Cotton’s breezy, practical treatise differs as much from Walton’s quaint and delightful pastoral, as does the March wind which sings in Viator’s window at Beresford from the showers which rain May butter on the honeysuckle hedges and flower decked meadows of Walton’s Lea valley.” 

Gerald G. P Heywood, Charles Cotton & His River (1928)


Walton's Fifth and Cotton's First were the final editions published by either author in their lifetime. But, in the next 350 years the two books were printed side-by-side over 700 times.

for "The Compleat Angler"
Parts One & Two

“What makes The Compleat Angler such an unfailing delight is its mingling of simplicity and wisdom, its genial human and artistic pride. Walton was careful to protest that, in writing his 'discourse of fish and fishing,' Walton made 'a recreation of a recreation"; and so that his book might not 'read dull and tediously,' he had 'in several places mixt some innocent Mirth.' "
The Morning Post (1928)

“An immediate success when if was first published in 1653, Walton's classic celebration of the joys of fishing continues to captivate anglers and nature lovers with its timeless advice and instruction.  Originally cast in the form of a dialogue between an experienced angler named Piscator and his pupil Viator, the book details methods for catching, eating, and savoring all varieties of fish, from the common chub to the lordly salmon. More than an engaging guide to the subtle intricacies of the sport, Walton's reflective treatise is a graceful portrait of rural England that extols the pleasures of country life."
Penguin Random House [Canada] (1998)

“Millions have read Walton with joy who have never caught a fish since childhood, if at all. Indeed, he is not a terribly good guide to the art of fishing ... We do not read The Compleat Angler for the fish, or for instruction in how to catch them. There are hundreds of more efficient books for such purposes, whether manuals or ichthyologies. We read Izaak Walton for a special quality of soul."
Kenneth Rexroth, Classics Revisited (1968)


“While fly-fishing was invented in ancient times, the English take credit for evolving the art of fly-fishing to what it has become today. In 1653, Izaak Walton wrote The Compleat Angler, a collection of fly- fishing stories enhanced by Walton’s personal philosophy on life. The well-known book became somewhat of a bible for England’s tightly-knit fly-fishing community.”
Michael D. Shook, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fly-Fishing (1999)


The Compleat Angler, written under Cromwell’s reign, Walton saw his inspired fishing manual-cum-metaphysical-treatise as a beacon of sanity amid the madness of war and Puritanism; it inspired everyone from Alexander Pope to Nicolas Poussin."
Gabriel Tate in The Times (2017)