Page 1. " The Compleat Angler "


Public Domain"Izaak Walton and his scholar" by American illustrator Louis John Rhead (1857-1926). Wood engraving. - Credit: Louis John Rhead

Be aware that titles to the books and chapters inside this novel are generally significant to full comprehension of the story and at the least lend depth and layers to it for the alert.  In this case, the title of Book One is also the title of a famous treatise written by Izaak Walton (9 August 1593 – 15 December 1683) first published in 1653.  Its complete title was The Compleat Angler: Or, the Contemplative Man's Recreation: Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing Not Unworthy the Perusal of Most Anglers.  Its first edition featured dialog between, veteran angler Piscator and student Viator while later editions change Viator to hunter Venator and  added falconer Auceps, as foils with each of the three defending their chosen sport.  Replete in advice on method for anglers--the catching and cooking of fish, the use of bait and tying of flies, the best streams and rivers in England, and the benefits on body and soul--presents the joys of fishing as on a par with that of the religious ecstatic.  The book has become a classic, third in sales only to the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.

Download this Project Gutenberg text file of the The Compleate Angler. 

Read online or download in PDF this one from the Renascence Editions project

Read a Google Books scanned file here.  This is the only one containing an introduction written after Walton's death and presenting better biographical information on him than the Wikipedia article.






Page 1. " Dylan Thomas "


Statue of Dylan Thomas, Maritime Quarter, Swansea
Creative Commons AttributionStatue of Dylan Thomas, Maritime Quarter, Swansea - Credit: Tony in Devon

  Dylan Thomas


b. 27 October 1914  d.  9 November 1953

Welsh poet/writer best know for his poem containing the line 'do not go gentle into that good night' written for his dying father.  His poetry was known for its musicality and its vivid imagery chosen and juxtaposed to emphasize the unity and cycle of life from birth through death and back again through the biological processes.

Read some of his poems at

Page 1. " Zachary Boyd "

A longer excerpt from this 17th century Scottish preacher's, humorous retelling of the Biblical Jonah story in doggerel verse can be found in this article from the 1901 edition of Chambers's Cyclopaedia of English Literature as well as a bio of Boyd 

Page 3. " Charles Williams "

British poet, novelist, theologian, and literary critic and an Anglican, member of the Inklings and member of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. b. 1886 – d. 1945.  Taliessin through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944) were both volumes of poems based on the Arthurian legends.

William's work focused on the sacramental nexus between the spirit and the physical and the tendency of power to corrupt--even spiritual power.


Page 3. " famous flyfisherman primarily "





Filyfishing is a particular kind of angling using artificial flies.

American Museum of Flyfishing

A Flyfishing History


Page 3. " 1954 Field and Stream "

Field and Stream is a magazine founded 1895 with a focus on hunting and fishing as well as other outdoor recreations in the US

Page 3. " some wily brown trout lurking "

brown trout
Creative Commons Attributionbrown trout - Credit: Philthy54
brown trout aka Salmo trutta morpha fario and S. trutta  morpha lacustris is a freshwater fish found in rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes.
Page 3. " the waters of a Letort, Beaverkill or Firehole "

All three are well know trout fishing locales among anglers

LeTort Creek, famed for its spring run is in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania near Carlisle

Beaverkill River, one of the most famous trout streams in the United States is a tributary of the East Branch of the Delaware River, in the U.S. State of New York.

The Firehole River  a major tributary of the Madison River in Wyoming has its source in Madison Lake on the Continental Divide and flows through several significant geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park before joining the Gibbon River at Madison Junction. Early trappers named the river for the way steam made it appear to be smoking as though it were on fire.

Page 4. " famed and respected in his twenty-five pound vest, hat full of phony insects, rubber trousertops flapping about his nipples "

Page 4. " Henning Hale-Orviston "

An author's choice of name for characters can often be suggestive of theme or the role the character plays in the story.  Let's see if this applies here:

The name Henning is a variant of Henry and means "home ruler".  


but...there is a species of fish called hen-fish

and...the female salmon is known as a hen

Somehow I doubt those are completely irrelevant coincidences.

Hale is of Old English origin and means "hero; from the hall"


But the word hale means fit, healthy


Ah, but this can't be an accident:

Orvis, founded  by Charles F Orvis in Manchester, Vermont in 1856 to sell fishing tackle is famed for its high-end gear and though it caters to hunters and other outdoor sportsmen as well is generally agreed to be synonymous with fly fishing.

Page 4. " he drinks Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch "

This and the following several bookmarks relate to the paragraphs in which Gus describes his father.  Though brief it is densely packed with images that give flavor and depth to the character and the relationships within the family.  But many of the things comprising the description are culture and era specific thus leaving any reader too far removed from the English and American cultures of the mid 20th century with a less rich concept of who Henning Hale-Orviston is.

Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky
Creative Commons AttributionGlenfiddich single malt scotch whisky - Credit: Ryan Bushby
 Glenfiddich Single Malt was at that time an exclusive whiskey distilled in a family run operation in Scotland since 1866 but not marketed outside Scotland until the 1960s out of concern that its palate was too intense for the English and Americans.

This picture was taken recently so may not represent accurately the look of a Glenfiddich bottle at that time.  But does impart its uniqueness and the classy ambiance it had and continues to have.


Page 4. " he smokes Rattray's Highland Targe and Balkan Sobranie "

Rattray's Highland Targe and Balkan Sobranie were two pipe tobacco blends each featuring  Latakia tobacco which is grown and smoke cured in Turkey

Page 4. " in meerschaums and briar perfects "

These are types of pipes for smoking tobacco and both are associated with higher quality and cost, unlike say,other woods that all tend to impart their own flavors to the tobacco smoke and do not hold up to the heat as well. or clay, ceramic, corncob, gourd, plastic or metal each of which have drawbacks in performance tho all but the clay would be cheaper than a quality meerschaum or briar..  


Meerschaum is a soft white mineral sometimes found floating on the Black Sea, and rather suggestive of sea-foam, hence the name, but the meerschaum used to make smoking pipes is mined.Watch as a miner brings the meerschaum up from a mine and an artisan carves an elaborate pipe bowl.


The briar for making smoking pipes is from the root burl of the tree heath (Erica arborea) a shrub or small evergreen. The 'perfect' probably refers to the lack of imperfections in the grain made by the polished method of making a briar wood pipe (there is also a sandblasted method) with preference given to the grain going straight up the barrel and not swirling or showing bald patches.


Watch this display of briar to get a glimpse of the craftmanship and art in the making of briar pipes.

Page 4. " he drives a Rover in the city and a Winnebago on the road "

 The Rover Company is a former British car manufacturing company founded as Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry  in 1878.  One likely candidate for Henning Hale-Orviston's Rover model was the Rover P4 series, a group of saloon automobiles produced from 1949 through to 1964



 Winnebago Industries was founded in February 1958 in Winnebago County, Iowa. In 1966 the first motor home rolled off the  assembly lines.

Page 4. " fishes in tweeds "

With a history tracing back to Scotland in the 1800, Tweed is a coarse, woollen fabric, with a flexible texture witha plain or twill weave and  a check or herringbone pattern that being durable and moisture-resistant as well as comfortable is ideal for outdoor activities. 

Page 4. " his flies are constructed with a scrupulousness "


 Artificial flies are made to resemble the natural prey of the fish and used as by fly fishers instead of live bait. Flytying is a craft taken seriously among flyfishers.flies


Page 4. " his handwriting is like calligraphy "

Calligraphy is the art of decorative writing.

caligraphy signiture
Public Domaincaligraphy signiture

[I made this with a word processor and took a screenshot of it.  I hereby release it to public domain if that's required]

Page 4. " my legal name, Augustine "

 The name Agustine is a variant of August  (Latin), and means "great, magnificient".

Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), Bishop of Hippo  a Latin church father, teacher, rhetorician, philosopher and theologian.  Author of The Confessions of St. Augustine and The City of God

Page 4. " to his chagrin I call him H2O "


Duncan is punning on watery and fishy themes again with the the two nicknames given to Henning Hale-Orviston by his son and wife.



Jumping Salmon
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJumping Salmon - Credit: Jerome Charaoui

Gus calls him H2O which is the chemical symbol for pure water and Ma calls him Hen which Gus informs us is common usage among fishermen of the US Northwest for female steelhead



[this picture was labeled steelhead in the Wikipedia article and in one place on the license page though its title claims salmon.  They're closely related so I'll  let this stand for now as it's so gorgeous. ]





Page 5. " Nijinsky "

 Vaslav Nijinsky  (March 12, 1890 - April 8, 1950) famed for his gravity-defying leaps was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer born to two Polish dancers.

Page 5. " Deschutes River "

The Deschutes River is a major tributary of the Columbia River in central Oregon.

Page 8. " Seven Devils Mountains "

The Seven Devils Mountains are on the Oregon-Idaho border on the east rim of Hell's Canyon which was cut by the Snake River.  The ten-mile-wide Hell's Canyon is the deepest North American river gorge and is inaccessible by road.

See more pictures here along with a journal of a hike to several summits.

Page 8. " Columbia River Basin "

The Columbia River Basin drains 260,000 square milesor about 673,396 square kilometres of the Pacific Northwest region of North America that includes the southeastern British Columbia in Canada, most of the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana, as well as small areas of Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming.

Columbia River Basin
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeColumbia River Basin - Credit: Kmusser

Page 9. " Carolina Carper, my very own Ma "

Let's see if there are meaningful associations with Ma's name as there was for Pa's:

Carolina = a version of the name Caroline, a name associated with royalty

Hmm.  Not sure there is much of the royal about her other than her dicatitorialness.

Carper =  a person who habitually carps, who talks too much and regularly finds fault

Now that seems to fit.

carp = an ornamental freshwater common koi. Several species of carp are listed as invasive species by the U.S 

Izaak Walton said about carp in The Compleat Angler, "The Carp is the queen of rivers; a stately, a good, and a very subtil fish; that was not at first bred, nor hath been long in England, but is now naturalised."


Page 10. " Rogue River Fishing War "

The Rogue River in Southern Oregon flowing 215 miles (346 km) from near Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean is one of the first 8 rivers named in the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that forbids manmade impediment of its natural flow in two long sections totaling 124 miles (200 km),nearly 58 percent.

Rogue River watershed map





'fishing war' may be an allusion to the Rogue River Wars of the 1800s between European settlers and local indigenous tribes culminating in the near complete removal of natives to reservations far north of their Rogue River basin homes after 1859


See the wild and scenic vistas of the Rogue River


Page 10. " Taj Mahal "

Taj Mahal is the stage name of the blues musician born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks on May 17, 1942 in Harlem, New York and then grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts.  His music is informed by a plethora of world music genre but especially by African American blues and the West Indies and Caribbean.

His first album Taj Mahal was released in 1968.  He continues to be a sought after performer worldwide.

Visit Taj Mahal's official web site to listen to him sing and discover where he is performing next. 

Here's Taj Mahal siging the song from the epigraph "I'm a Goin' Fishin'"