You’ll Find Me on the Riverbank


Three hundred and some forty odd years ago, Izaak Walton put pen to paper and started crafting what is still today one of the most famous odes to fishing: The Compleat Angler. Part field guide, part cook book, part story with some songs and poems thrown in, The Compleat Angler has all of the ornately confusing language and inventive spelling you would expect from a book first published in 1653 (which can be charming or confusing, depending on your mood). It’s hard to find fault with the basic argument: if you could be fishing, why would you be doing anything else? With spring on its way, and general fishing opening up across Montana on May 19, Walton’s words keep ringing through my head. I’m going to leave you with a few more of my favorites stanzas and the video above, because really, do you need any more persuasion to pick a river, maybe find an outfitter, and plan your first fishing trip of the spring?

Oh the brave Fisher’s life,
It is the best of any,
‘Tis full of pleasure, void of strife,
And ’tis belov’d of many:
Other joyes
are but toyes,
only this
lawful is,
for our skil
breeds no ill,
but content and pleasure.


When we please to walk abroad
For our recreation,
In the fields is our abode,
Full of delectation:
Where in a Brook
with a hook,
or a Lake
fish we take,
there we sit
for a bit,
till we fish intangle.


Or we sometimes pass an hour,
Under a green willow,
That defends us from a showr,
Making earth our pillow,
There we may
think and pray
before death
stops our breath;
other joyes
are but toyes
and to be lamented.