Who Was Izaak Walton?

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton, who lived from 1593 to 1683, remains famous today as the author of The Compleat Angler, one of the most important environmental books in history. Through the character of Piscator (who is a veiled version of Walton himself), Walton teaches the reader about fish and fishing while also imparting a view of the natural world that was revolutionary at the time. Walton understood that a healthy environment was essential to the outdoor recreation that he loved, and used the story of Piscator and a novice fisherman to show how a healthy environment supports the “excellent art of angling.”

Throughout the book, Walton shares knowledge of natural history and ecology, advocates for methods of wildlife management and sustainable fishing that are fundamental to modern science-based resource management, describes environmental engagement as an enjoyable activity, and encourages recreational sportsmen to come together in a “brotherhood” of stewards of the natural world. The central theme of the book is a concept we embrace today but that was not well understood or widely practiced in Walton’s time: sustainability.

And sustainability wasn’t just something Walton’s characters practiced. Rather, they rooted their identities and their friendship in their shared appreciation for the natural world. When 54 sportsmen met in Chicago in 1922, determined to take action together to protect the environment for the use and enjoyment of those who would come later, they decided to name their new society after the visionary author of three centuries earlier.

Today, the 40,000 members of the Izaak Walton League continue to engage new generations in outdoor recreation, protect the waterways that people and wildlife rely on, and promote the sustainable use of land and its resources. Join us.

The original Ike's vision is still richly instructive for conservationists and sportsmen. Read more about how Walton's worldview continues to shape our modern movement.