Return to TOC. Chapter VI. Chapter VII. Chapter VIII. Chapter IX.
THE FOURTH DAY.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE UMBER OR GRAYLING, AND DIRECTIONS HOW TO FISH FOR HIM.
Piscator.---The umber and grayling are thought, by some, to differ as the herring and pilchard do. But though they may do so in other nations, I think those in England differ nothing but in their names. Aldrovandus says, they be of a trout kind: and Gesner says, that in his country, which is Switzerland, he is accounted the choicest of all fish. And in Italy, he is, in the month of May, so highly valued, that he is sold at a much higher rate than any other fish. The French, which all the chub "um villain," call the umber of the lake Leman, "un umble chavalier;" and they value the umber or grayling so highly, that they say he feeds on gold; and say that many have been caught out of their famous river of Loire, out of whose bellies grains of gold have been often taken. And some think that he feeds on water-thyme, and smells of it at his first taking out of the water; and they may think so with as good reason as we do, that our smelts smell like violets at their first being caught, which I think is a truth. Aldrovandrus says, the salmon, the grayling, and trout, and all fish that live in clear and sharp streams, are made by their mother Nature of such exact shape, and pleasant colours, purposely to invite us to a joy and contentedness in feasting with her. Whether this is a truth or not, it is not my purpose to dispute: but it is certain, all that write of the umber, declare him to be very medicinable. And Gesner says that the fat of an umber, or grayling, being set, with a little honey, a day or two in the sun, in a little glass, is very excellent against redness, or swarthiness, or anything that breeds in the eyes. Salvian takes him to be called umber from his swift swimming or gliding out of sight, more like a shadow or a ghost than a fish. Much more might be said of both his smell and taste: but I shall only tell you that St. Ambrose, the glorious Bishop of Milan, who lived when the Church kept fasting-days, called him the flower-fish, or flower of fishes; and that he was so far in love with him, that he would not let him pass without the honour of a long discourse. But I must, and pass on, to tell you how to take this dainty fish.
First note, that he grows not to the bigness of a trout, for the biggest of them do not ususally exceed eighteen inches. He lives in such rivers as the trout does; and is usually taken with the same baits as the trout is, and after the same manner---for he will bite both at the minnow, or worm, or fly---though he bites not often at the minnow, and is very gamesome at the fly; and much simpler, and therefore bolder than a trout; for he will rise twenty times at a fly, if you miss him, and yet rise again. He has been taken with a fly made of the red feathers of a parakita, a strange outlandish bird; and he will rise at a fly not unlike a gnat, or a small moth, or indeed at most flies that are not too big. He is a fish that lurks close all winter; but is very pleasant and jolly after mid-April, and in May, and in the hot months. He is of a very fine shape; his flesh is white; his teeth, those little ones that he has, are in his throat,---yet he has so tender a mouth that he is oftener lost after an angler has hooked him than any other fish. Though there be many of these fishes in the delicate river Dove, and in Trent, and some other smaller rivers, as that which runs by Salisbury; yet he is not so general a fish as the trout, and to me so good to eat or to angle for. And so I shall take my leave of him: and now come to some observations of the salmon, and how to catch him.
THE FOURTH DAY.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE SALMON: WITH DIRECTIONS HOW TO FISH FOR HIM.
Piscator.---The Salmon is accounted the king of fresh-water fish; and is ever bred in rivers relating to the sea, yet so high, or far from it, as admits of no tincture of salt, or brackishness. He is said to breed or cast his spawn, in most rivers, in the month of August: some say, that then they dig a hole or grave in a safe place in the gravel, and there place their eggs or spawn, after the melter has has done his natural office, and then hide it most cunningly, and cover it over with gravel and stones; and then leave it to their Creator's protection, who, by a gentle heat which He infuses into that cold element, makes it brood, and beget life in the spawn, and to become samlets early in the spring next following.
The Salmons having spent their appointed time, and done this natural duty in the fresh waters,---they then hasten to the sea before winter, both the melter and the spawner: but if they be stopped by flood-gates or weirs, or lost in the fresh waters,---then those so left behind, by degrees grow sick and lean, and unseasonable, and kipper, that is to say, have bony gristles grow out of their lower chaps, not unlike a hawk's beak, which hinders their feeding; and in time, such fish so left behind pine away and die. It is observed, that he may live thus, one year, from the sea: but he then grows insipid and tasteless, and loses both his blood and strength; and pines and dies the second year. And it is noted, that those little salmons called skeggers, which abound in many rivers relating to the sea, are bred by such sick salmons that might not go to the sea; and that though they abound, yet they never thrive to any considerable bigness.
But if the old Salmon gets to the sea,---then that gristle which shows him to be a kipper, wears away; or is cast off, as the eagle is said to cast his bill; and he recovers his strength; and comes next summer to the same river, if it be possible,---to enjoy the former pleasures that there possest him; for, as one wittily observed, he has---like some persons of honour and riches, which have both their winter and summer-houses---the fresh rivers for summer, and the salt water for winter, to spend his life in; which is not, as Sir Francis Bacon hath observed in his "History of Life and Death," above ten years. And it is to be observed, that though the salmon does grow big in the sea, yet he grows not fat but in fresh rivers; and it is observed, that the farther they get from the sea, they be both the fatter and better.
Next, I shall tell you, that though they make very hard shift to get out of the fresh rivers into the sea; yet they will make harder shift to get out of the salt into the fresh rivers,---to spawn, or possess the pleasures that they have formerly found in them: to which end, they will force themselves through flood-gates, or over weirs, or hedges, or stops in the water, even to a height beyond common belief. Gesner speaks of such places as are known to be above eight feet high above water. And our Camden mentions in his "Britannia," the like wonder to be in Pembrokeshire, where the river Tivy falls into the sea; and that the fall is so downright, and so high that the people stand and wonder at the strength, and slight, by which they see the salmon use to get out of the sea into the said river; and the manner and height of the place is so notable, that it is known, far, by the name of the salmon-leap. Concerning which, take this also out of Michael Drayton, my honest old friend; as he tells it you, in his "Polyolbion."
As when the salmon seeks a fresher stream to find,
Which hither from the sea comes, yearly, by his kind,
As he tow'rds season grows; and stems the wat'ry tract
Where Tivy, falling down, makes an high cataract,
Forced by the rising rocks that there her course oppose,
As though within her bounds they meant her to inclose;---
Here, when the labouring fish does at the foot arrive,
And finds that by his strength he does but vainly strive;
His tail takes in his mouth, and bending like a bow
That's to full compass drawn, aloft himself doth throw---
Then, springing at his height, as doth a little wand
That, bended end to end, and started from man's hand,
Far off itself doth cast, so does the salmon vault;
And if at first he fail, his second summersault
He instantly essays, and, from his nimble ring
Still yerking, never leaves until himself he fling
Above the opposing stream.
This, Michael Drayton tells you, of this leap or summersault of the salmon.
And next, I shall tell you,---that it is observed by Gesner and others, that there is no better salmon than in England,---and that though some of our northern counties have as fat, and as large, as the river Thames, yet none are of so excellent a taste.
And as I have told you that Sir Francis Bacon observes, the age of a salmon exceeds not ten years; so let me next tell you, that his growth is very sudden: it is said, that, after he is got into the sea, he becomes, from a samlet not so big as a gudgeon, to be a salmon, in as short a time as a gosling becomes to be a goose. Much of this, has been observed; by tying a ribband, or some known tape or thread, in the tail of some young salmons, which have been taken in weirs as they have swimmed towards the salt water; and then by taking a part of them, again with this known mark, at the same place, at their return from the sea, which is usually about six months after; (and the like experiment hath been tried upon young swallows; who have, after six months' absence, been observed to return to the same chimney, there to make their nests and habitations for the summer following:) which has inclined many to think, that every salmon usually returns to the same river in which it was bred; as young pigeons, taken out of the same dove-cote, have also been observed to do.
And you are yet to observe further, that the he-salmon is usually bigger than the spawner; and that he is more kipper, and less able to endure a winter in the fresh water than she is: yet she ---at that time of looking less kipper, and better---as watery, and as bad meat.
And yet you are to observe, that as there is no general rule without an exception, so there are some few rivers in this nation, that have trouts and salmons in season in winter, as it is certain there be in the river Wye in Monmouthshire, where they be in season, as Camden observes, from September till April. But, my scholar! the observation of this and many other things, I must in manners omit; because they will prove too large for our narrow compass of time; and, therefore, I shall next fall upon my directions, how to fish for this salmon.
And, for that: first, you shall observe, that usually he stays not long in a place, as Trouts will; but, as I said, covets still to go nearer the spring-head; and that he does not, as the trout and many other fish, lie near the water-side or bank, or roots of trees, but swims in the deep and broad parts of the water, and usually in the middle, and near the ground; and that, there, you are to fish for him; and that he is to be caught, as the trout is, with a worm, a minnow, which some call a penk, or with a fly.
And you are to observe, that he is very seldom observed to bite at a minnow, yet sometimes he will; and not usually at a fly; but more usually at a worm, and then, most usually, at a lob or garden-worm, which should be well scoured, that is to say, kept seven or eight days in moss before you fish with them; and if you double your time of eight into sixteen, twenty or more days, it is still the better; for the worms will still be clearer, tougher, and more lively, and continue so longer upon your hook. And they may be kept still longer, by keeping them cool, and in fresh moss; and some advise to put camphire into it.
Note also, that many use to fish for a salmon, with a ring of wire on the top of their rod, through which the line may run to as great a length as is needful, when he is hooked. And to that end, some use a wheel about the middle of their rod, or near their hand; which is to be observed better by seeing one of them, than by a large demonstration of words.
And now I shall tell you, that which may be called a secret. I have been a-fishing with old Oliver Henly, now with God, a noted fisher both for trout and salmon; and have observed, that he would usually take three or four worms out of his bag, and put them into a little box in his pocket, where he would usually let them continue half an hour or more, before he would bait his hook with them. I have asked him his reason; and he has replied, "He did but pick the best out, to be in rediness against he baited his hook the next time;" but he has been observed, both by others and myself, to catch more fish than I, or any other body that has ever gone a-fishing with him, could do, and especially salmons. AndI have been told, lately, by one of his most intimate and secret friends, that the box in which he put those worms, was anointed with a drop or two or three, of the oil of ivy-berries, made by expression or infusion: and told that, by the worms remaining in that box an hour, or a like time, they had incorporated a kind of smell that was irresistibly attractive, enough to force any fish within the smell of them to bite. This I heard not long since from a friend, but have not tried it; yet I grant it probable, and refer my reader to Sir Francis Bacon's "Natural History," where he proves fishes may hear; and, doubtless, can more probably smell; and I am certain Gesner says the otter can smell in the water; and I doubt not but that fish may do so too. It is left for a lover of angling, or any that desires to improve that art, to try this conclusion.
I shall also impart two other experiments, but not tried by myself, which I will deliver in the same words that they were given me, by an excellent angler and a very friend, in writing; he told me the latter was too good to be told, but in a learned language, lest it should be made common.
"Take the stinking oil drawn out of polypody of the oak by a retort, mixed with turpentine and hive-honey; and anoint your bait therewith, and it will doubtless draw the fish to it."
The other is this: "Vulnera hederae grandissimae inflicta exudant Balsamum oleo gelato, albicantique porsimile, odoris vero longe suavissimi."
'Tis supremely sweet to any fish, and yet assafoetida may do the like.
But in these things I have no great faith; yet grant it probable; and have had from some chymical men, namely from Sir George Hastings and others, an affirmation of them, to be very advantageous. But no more of these, especially not in this place.
I might, here, before I take my leave of the salmon, tell you, that there is more than one sort of them; as namely, a Tecon, and another called in some places a Samlet, or by some a Skegger. But these, and others which I forbear to name, may be fish of another kind, and differ, as we know, a Herring and a Pilchard do; which, I think, are as different as the rivers in which they breed, and must, by me, be left to the disquisitions of men of more leisure, and of greater abilities than I profess myself to have.
And lastly, I am to borrow so much of your promised patience, as to tell you, that the trout, or salmon, being in season, have---at their first taking out of the water, which continues during life---their bodies adorned, the one with such red spots, and the other with such black or blackish spots, as give them such an addition of natural beauty as, I think, was never given to any woman by the artificial paint or patches in which they so much pride themselves in this age. And so I shall leave them both, and proceed to some observations on the pike.
THE FOURTH DAY.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE LUCE OR PIKE, WITH DIRECTIONS HOW TO FISH FOR HIM.
Piscator. The mighty Luce or Pike is taken to be the tyrant, as the Salmon is the king, of the fresh waters. 'Tis not to be doubted but that they are bred, some by generation, and some not,---as namely, of a weed called pickerel-weed, unless Gesner be much mistaken; for he says this weed and other glutinous matter, with the help of the sun's heat, in some particular months, and some ponds adapted for it by nature, do become pikes,---but, doubtless, divers pikes are bred after this manner, or are brought into some ponds some such other ways as is past man's finding out; of which we have daily testimonies.
Sir Francis Bacon, in his "History of Life and Death," observes the pike to be the longest lived of any fresh-water fish; and yet he computes it to be not, usually, above forty years; and yet Gesner mentions a pike taken, in Swedeland, in the year 1449, with a ring about his neck, declaring he was put into that pond by Frederick the Second, more than two hundred years before he was last taken, as by the inscription in that ring, being Greek, was interpreted by the then Bishop of Worms. But of this no more, but that it is observed, that the old or very great pikes have in them more of state than goodness, the smaller or middle-sized pikes being by the most, and choicest palates, observed to be the best meat; and, contrary, the eel is observed to be the better for age and bigness.
All pikes that live long, prove chargeable to their keepers, because their life is maintained by the death of so many other fish, even those of their own kind, which has made him, by some writers, to be called the tyrant of the rivers, or the fresh-water wolf, by reason of his bold, greedy, devouring disposition, which is so keen, that, as Gesner relates, a man going to a pond, where it seems a pike had devoured all the fish, to water his mule, had a pike bit his mule by the lips, to which the pike hung fast, that the mule drew him out of the water, and by that accident the owner of the mule angled out the pike. And the same Gesner observes, that a maid in Poland had a pike bit her by the foot as she was washing close in a pond. And I have heard the like of a woman in Killingworth pond, not far from Coventry. But I have been assured by my friend Mr. Seagrave, of whom I spake to you formerly, that keeps tame otters, that he hath known a pike, in extreme hunger, fight with one of his otters for a carp that the otter had caught, and was then bringing out of the water. I have told you who relate these things; and tell you they are persons of credit, and shall conclude this observation, by telling you, what a wise man has observed, "It is a hard thing to persuade the belly, because it has no ears."
But if these relations be disbelieved,---it is too evident to be doubted, that a pike will devour a fish, of his own kind, that shall be bigger than his belly or throat will receive, and swallow a part of him, and let the other part remain in his mouth till the swallowed part be digested, and then swallow that other part that was in his mouth, and so put it over by degrees, which is not unlike the ox and some other beasts taking their meat---not, out of their mouth, immediate into their belly, but first into some place betwixt, and then chew it, or digest it by degrees after, which is called chewing the cud. And, doubtless, pikes will bite when they are not hungry; but as some think, for very anger, when a tempting bait comes near to them.
And it is observed, that the pike will eat venemous things, as some kind of frogs are, and yet live without being harmed by them; for, as some say, he has in him a natural balsam, or antidote against all poison. And he has a strange heat, that though it appears to us to be cold, can yet digest, or put over, any fish-flesh by degrees, without being sick. And others observe, that he never eats the venemous frog till he have first killed her, and then---as ducks are observed to do to frogs in spawning time, at which time some frogs are observed to be venemous---so thoroughly washed her, by tumbling her up and down in the water, that he may devour her without danger. And Gesner affirms, that a Polonian gentleman did faithfully assure him, he had seen two young geese, at one time, in the belly of a pike. And doubtless a pike, in his height of hunger, will bite at and devour a dog that swims in a pond; and there have been examples of it, or the like; for as I told you, "The belly has no ears when hunger comes upon it."
The pike is also observed to be a solitary, melancholy, and a bold fish; melancholy, because he always swims or rests himself alone; and never swims in shoals, or with company, as roach and dace, and most other fish do; and bold, because he fears not a shadow, or to see or be seen of anybody, as the trout and chub, and all other fish do.
And it is observed by Gesner, that the jaw-bones, and hearts, and galls of pikes, are very medicinable for several diseases, or to stop blood, or abate fevers, to cure agues, to oppose or expel the infection of the plague, and to be many ways medicinable and useful for the good of mankind; but he observes, that the biting of a pike is venomous, and hard to be cured.
And it is observed, that the pike is a fish that breeds but once a year, and that other fish, as namely, loaches, do breed oftener, and so, we are certain, tame pigeons do almost every month; and yet the hawk, a bird of prey, as the pike is a fish, breeds but once in twelve months. And you are to note, that in his time of breeding or spawning, is usually about the end of February, or somewhat later, in March, as the weather proves colder or warmer; and to note, that his manner of breeding is thus; a he and she pike will usually go together out of a river into some ditch or creek, and that there the spawner casts her eggs, aand the melter hovers over her all that time she is casting her spawn, but touches her not.
I might say more of this: but it might be thought curiosity or worse;---and shall therefore, forbear it; and, take up so much of your attention, as to tell you, that the best of pikes are noted to be in rivers; next, those in great ponds or meres; and the worst in small ponds.
But before I proceed further, I am to tell you, that there is a great antipathy betwixt the pike and some frogs: and this may appear to the reader of Dubravius, a Bishop in Bohemia, who in his book "Of Fish and Fis-ponds," relates what, he says, he saw with his own eyes, and could not forbear to tell the reader. Which was:--
"As he and the Bishop Thurzo were walking by a large pond in Bohemia, they saw a frog---when the pike lay, very sleepily and quiet, by the shore side---leap upon his head; and the frog having expressed malice or anger by his swollen cheeks and staring eyes, did stretch out his legs, and embraced the pike's head, and presently reached them to his eyes, tearing, with them and his teeth, those tender parts: the pike, moved with anguish, moves up and down the water, and rubs himself against weeds, and whatever he thought might quit him of his enemy; but all in vain, for the frog did continue to ride triumphantly, and to bite and torment the pike, till his strength failed; and then the frog sunk with the pike to the bottom of the water: then, presently, the frog appeared again at the top; and croaked, and seemed to rejoice like a conqueror; after which, he presently retired to his secret hole. The Bishop, that had beheld the battle, called his fisherman to fetch his nets, and by all means to get the pike that they might declare what had happened: and the pike was drawn forth; and both his eyes eaten out,---at which when they began to wonder, the fisherman wished them to forbear, and assured them, he was certain that pikes were often so served."
I told this, which is to be read in the sixth chapter of the first book of Dubravius, unto a friend, who replied,"It was as improbable as to have the mouse scratch out the cat's eyes." But he did not consider, that there be fishing-frogs, which the Dalmations call the water-devil, of which I might tell you as wonderful a story: but I shall tell you, that 'tis not to be doubted, but that there be some frogs so fearful of the water-snake, that when they swim in a place in which they fear to meet with him, they then get a reed across into their mouths; which, if they two meet by accident, secures the frog from the strength and malice of the snake; and note, that the frog, usually, swims the fastest of the two.
And let me tell you, that as there be water and land-frogs, so there be land and water-snakes. Concerning which, take this observation, that the land-snake breeds and hatches her eggs---which become young shakes---in some old dung-hill, or a like hot place: but the water-snake, which is not venomous, and as I have been assured by a great observer of such secrets, does not hatch but breed her young alive; which she does not then forsake, but bides with them; and in case of danger, will take them into her mouth, and swim away from any apprehended danger, and then let them out again when she thinks all danger to be past: these be accidents that we, anglers, sometimes see, and often talk of.
But whither am I going? I had almost lost myself, by remembering the discourse of Dubravius. I will, therefore, stop here; and tell you, according to my promise, how to catch this pike.
His feeding is, usually, of fish or frogs: and, sometimes, a weed of his own called pickerel-weed,---of which, I told you, some think Pikes are bred; for they have observed, that where none have been put into ponds, yet they have there found many; and that there has been plenty of that weed in those ponds, and that that weed both breeds and feeds them; but whether those pikes, so bred, will ever breed by generation as the others do, I shall leave to the disquisition of men of more curiosity and leisure than I profess myself to have. And shall proceed to tell you, that you may fish for pike, either with a ledger, or a walking bait; and you are to note, that I call that a ledger-bait, which is fixed, or made to rest in one certain place when you shall be absent from it,---and I call that a walking-bait, which you take with you, and have ever in motion. Concerning which two, I shall give you this direction; that your ledger-bait is best to be a living bait, though a dead one may catch, whether it be a fish or a frog: and that you may make them live the longer, you may, or indeed you must, take this course.
First, for your live-bait. Of a fish; a roach or dace is, I think, best and most tempting; and a pearch is the longest lived on a hook,---and having cut off his fin on his back, which may be done without hurting him,---you must take your knife, which cannot be too sharp, and betwixt the head and the fin on the back, cut or make an incision, or such a scar as you may put the arming wire of your hook into it, with as little bruising or hurting the fish, as art and diligence will enable you to do; and so carrying your arming-wire, along his back, unto or near the tail of your fish, betwixt the skin and the body of it, draw out that wire or arming of your hook at another scar near to his tail: then tie him about it with thread, but no harder than of necessity, to prevent hurting the fish; and the better to avoid hurting the fish, some have a kind of probe to open the way, for the more easy entrance and passage of your wire or arming: but as for these, time, and a little experience, will teach you better than I can by words. Therefore I will, for the present, say no more of this: but come next to give you some directions how to bait your hook with a frog.
Ven. But, good master! did you not say even now, that some frogs were venemous; and is it not dangerous to touch them?
Pisc. Yes, but I will give you some rules or cautions concerning them. And first you are to note, that there are two kinds of frogs; that is to say, if I may so express myself, a flesh and a fish-frog. By flesh-frogs, I mean frogs that breed and live on the land; and of these there be several sorts also, and of several colours, some being speckled, some geenish, some blackish, or brown: the green-frog, which is a small one, is by Topsell taken to be venemous; and so is the padock or frog-padock, which usually keeps or breeds on the land, and is very large, and bony, and big, especially the she-frog of that kind; yet these will sometimes come into the water, but it is not often; and the land-frogs are some of them observed by him, to breed by laying of eggs; and others to breed of the slime and dust of the earth, and that in winter they turn to slime again, and that the next summer that very slime returns to be a living creature; this is the opinion of Pliny. And Cardanus undertakes to give a reason for the raining of frogs; but if it were in my power, it should rain none but water-frogs, for those I think are not venemous, especially the right water-frog, which, about February or March, breeds in ditches by slime, and blackish eggs in that slime: about which time of breeding, the he and she-frogs are observed to use divers summersaults, and to croak and make a noise, which the land-frog or padock-frog, never does.
Now of these water-frogs, if you intend to fish with a frog for a pike, you are to choose the yelowest that you can get, for that the pike ever likes best. And thus use your frog, that he may continue long alive.
Put your hook into his mouth, which you may easily do from the middle of April till August; and then the frog's mouth grows up, and he continues so for at least six months without eating, but is sustained, none, but He whose Name is Wonderful, knows how; I say, put your hook, I mean the arming -wire, through his mouth, and out at his gills, and then with a fine needle and silk sew the upper part of his leg with only one stitch to the arming-wire of you hook, or tie the frog's leg above the upper joint to the armed wire; and in so doing, use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer.
And now, having given you this direction for the baiting your ledger-hook with a live fish or frog, my next must be to tell you how your hook thus baited must or may be used: and it is thus. Having fastened your hook to a line, which if it be not fourteen yards long, should not be less than twelve, you are to fasten that line to any bough near to a hole where a pike is, or is likely to lie, or to have a haunt; and then wind your line on any forked stick, all your line, except half a yard of it, or rather more; and split that forked stick with such a nick or notch at one end of it, as may keep the line from any more of it ravelling from about the stick than so much of it as you intend. And choose your forked stick to be of that bigness as may keep the fish or frog from pulling the forked stick under water till the pike bites, and then the pike having pulled the line forth of the cleft or nick of that stick in which it was gently fastened, he will have line enough to go to his hold and punch the bait. And if you would have this Ledger-bait to keep at a fixed place, undisturbed by wind or other accidents, which may drive it to the shore-side; for you are to note, that it is likeliest to catch a pike in the midst of the water, then hang a small plummet of lead, a stone, or piece of tile, or a turf, in a string, and cast it into the water, with the forked stick, to hang upon the ground, to be a kind of anchor to keep the forked stick from moving out of your intended place till the pike come. This I take to be a very good way to use so many ledger-baits as you intend to make trial of.
Or if you bait your hooks thus with live fish or frogs, and in a windy day, fasten them thus to a bough or bundle of straw, and by the help of that wind can get them to move across a pond or mere, you are like to stand still on the shore and see sport presently if there be any store of pikes: or these live-baits may make sport, being tied about the body or wings of a goose or duck, and she chased over a pond. And the like may be done with turning three or four live-baits, thus fastened to bladders, or boughs, or bottles of hay or flags, to swim down a river, whilst you walk quietly along on the shore, and are still in expectation of sport. The rest must be taught you by practice, for time will not allow me to say more of this kind of fishing with live-baits.
And for your dead-baits for a pike, for that you may be taught by one day's going a-fishing with me, or any other body that fishes for him; for the baiting your hook with a dead Gudgeon or a Roach, and moving it up and down the water, is too easy a thing to take up any time to direct you to do it: and yet, because I cut you short in that, I will commute for it by telling you that that was told me for a secret. It is this:
Dissolve gum of ivy in oil of spike, and therewith anoint your dead-bait for a pike; and then cast it into a likely place, and when it has lain in a short time at the bottom, draw it towards the top of the water and so up the stream: and it is more than likely that you have a pike follow with more than common eagerness.
And some affirm, that any bait anointed with the marrow of the thigh-bone of an heron, is a great temptation to any fish.
These have not been tried by me, but told me by a friend of note, that pretended to do me a courtesy. But if this direction to catch a pike thus do you no good, yet I am certain this direction how to roast him when he is caught is choicely good, for I have tried it; and it is somewhat the better for not being common: but with my direction you must take this caution, that your pike must not be a small one, that is, it must be more than half a yard, and should be bigger.
First, open your pike at the gills, and, if need be, cut also a little slit towards the belly. Out of these take his guts and keep his liver, which you are to shred very small with thyme, sweet marjoram, and a little winter-savory; to these put some pickled oysters, and some anchovies, two or three; both these last whole, for the anchovies will melt, and the oysters should not; to these you must add also a pound of sweet butter, which you are to mix with the herbs that are shred, and let them be well salted. If the pike be more than a yard long, then you may put into these herbs more than a pound, or if he be less, then less butter will suffice. These being thus mixed, with a blade or two of mace, must be put into the pike's belly, and then his belly so sewed up, as to keep all the butter in his belly if it be possible; if not, then as much of it as you possibly can: but take not off the scales. Then you are to thrust the spit through his mouth, out at his tail; and then take four, or five, or six, split sticks or very thin laths, and a convenient quantity of tape or filleting; these laths are to be tied round about the pike's body from his head to his tail, and the tape tied somewhat thick to prevent his breaking or falling off from the spit. Let him be roasted very leisurely, and often basted with claret-wine, and anchovies, and butter, mixed together; and also with what moisture falls from him into the pan. When you have roasted him sufficiently, you are to hold under him, when you unwind or cut the tape that ties him, such a dish as you purpose to eat him out of; and let him fall into it with the sauce that is roasted in his belly; and by this means the pike will be kept unbroken and complete. Then, to the sauce which was within, and also that sauce in the pan, you are to add a fit quantity of the best butter, and to squeeze the juice of three or four oranges: lastly, you may either put into the pike with the oysters, two cloves of garlic, and take it whole out, when the pike is cut off the spit; or to give the sauce a haut-gout, let the dish into which you let the pike fall, be rubbed with it: the using or not of this garlick is left to your discretion. M. B.
This dish of meat is too good for any but anglers, or very honest men; and I trust, you will prove both, and therefore I have trusted you with this secret.
Let me next tell you, that Gesner tells us there are no pikes in Spain, and that the largest are in the lake Thrasymene in Italy; and the next, if not equal to them, are the pikes of England; and that in England, Lincolnshire boasteth to have the biggest. Just so doth Sussex boast of four sorts of fish; namely, an Arundel mullet, a Chichester lobster, Shelsy cockle, and a Amerly trout.
But I will take up no more of your time with this relation, but proceed to give you some observations of the carp, and how to angle for him, and to dress him: but not till he is caught.
THE FOURTH DAY.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE CARP, WITH DIRECTIONS HOW TO FISH FOR HIM.
Piscator. The Carp is the queen of rivers: a stately, a good, and a very subtle fish, that was not at first bred, nor hath been long, in England, but is now naturalised. It is said, they were brought hither by one Mr. Mascal, a gentleman that then lived at Plumsted in Sussex, a county that abounds more with this fish than any in this nation.
You may remember that I told you, Gesner says, there are no pikes in Spain; and doubtless, there was a time, about a hundred or a few more years ago, when there were no carps in England, as may seem to be affirmed by Sir Richard Baker, in whose chronicle you may find these verses.
Hops and turkies, carps and beer,
Came into England all in a year.
And doubtless, as of sea-fish the herring dies soonest out of the water, and of fresh-water-fish the trout, so, except the eel, the carp endures most hardness, and lives longest out of his own proper element: and, therefore, the report of the carp's being brought out of a foreign country into this nation, is the more probable.
Carps and loaches are observed to breed several months in one year, which pikes and most other fish do not. And this is partly proved by tame and wild rabbits, as also by some ducks, which will lay eggs nine of the twelve months; and yet there be other ducks that lay not longer than about one month. And it is the rather to be believed, because you shall scarce or never take a male-carp without a melt, or a female without a roe or spawn, and for the most part very much; and especially all the summer season: and it is observed, that they breed more naturally in ponds than in running waters, if they breed there at all; and that those that live in rivers, are taken by men of the best palates to be much the better meat.
And it is observed, that in some ponds carp will not breed, especially in cold ponds; but where they will breed, they breed innumerably: Aristotle and Pliny say, six times in a year, if there be no pikes nor pearch to devour their spawn, when it is cast upon grass, or flags, or weeds, where it lies ten or twelve days before it be enlivened.
The carp, if he have water-room and good feed, will grow to a very great bigness and length; I have heard, to be much above a yard long. 'Tis said, by Jovius who hath writ of fishes, that in the lake Lurian in Italy, carps have thriven to be more than fifty pounds weight; which is the more probable, for as the bear is conceived and born suddenly, and being born is but short-lived, so, on the contrary, the elephant is said to be two years in his dam's belly, some think he is ten years in it, and being born grows in bigness twenty years; and 'tis observed too that he lives to the age of a hundred years. And 'tis also observed, that the crocodile is very long-lived, and more than that, that all that long life he thrives in bigness: and so I think some carps do, especially in some places; though I never saw one above twenty-three inches, which was a great and goodly fish; but have been assured there are of a far greater size, and in England too.
Now, as the increase of carps is wonderful for their number, so there is not a reason found out, I think by any, why they should breed in some ponds, and not in others, of the same nature for soil and all other circumstances. And as their breeding, so are their decays also very mysterious: I have both read it, and been told by a gentleman of tried honesty, that he has known sixty or more large carps put into several ponds near to a house, where by reason of the stakes in the ponds, and the owner's constant being near to them, it was impossible they should be stolen away from him: and that when he has, after three or four years, emptied the pond and expected an increase from them by breeding young ones,---for that they might do, he had, as the rule is, put in three melters, for one spawner,---he has, I say, after three or four years, found neither a young nor old carp remaining. And the like I have known of one that has almost watched the pond, and at a like distance of time, at the fishing of a pond, found of seventy or eighty large carps not above five or six: and that he had forborne longer to fish the said pond, but that he saw in a hot day in summer, a large carp swim near the top of the water with a frog upon his head; and that he upon that occasion caused his pond to be let dry: and I say, of seventy or eighty carps, only found five or six in the said pond, and those very sick and lean, with every one a frog sticking so fast on the head of the said carps, that the frog would not be got off without extreme force or killing. And the gentleman that did affirm this to me, told me he saw it; and did declare his belief to be, and I also believe the same, that he thought the other carps that were so strangely lost, were so killed by frogs, and then devoured.
And a person of honour now living, in Worcestershire, assured me he had seen a necklace, or collar of tadpoles, hang like a chain or necklace of beads about a pike's neck, and to kill him: whether it were for meat or malice, must be to me a question.
But I am fallen into this discourse by accident; of which I might say more, but it has proved longer than I intended, and possibly may not to you be considerable: I shall therefore give you three or four more short observations of the carp, and then fall upon some directions how you shall fish for him.
The age of carps is by Sir Francis Bacon, in his "History of Life and Death," observed to be but ten years, yet others think they live longer. Gesner says, a carp has been known to live in the Palatinate above a hundred years; but most conclude, that, contrary to the pike, all carps are the better for age and bigness. The tongues of carps are noted to be choice and costly meat, especially to them that buy them: but Gesner says, carps have no tongue like other fish, but a piece of flesh-like fish in their mouth like to a tongue, and should be called a palate: but it is certain it is choicely good, and that the carp is to be reckoned amongst those leather-mouthed fish, which I told you have their teeth in their throat; and for that reason he is very seldom lost by breaking his hold, if your hook be once stuck into his chaps.
I told you that Sir Francis Bacon thinks that the carp lives but ten years; but Janus Dubravius has writ a book "Of Fish and Fish-ponds," in which he says, that carps begin to spawn at the end of three years, and continue to do so till thirty: he says also, that in the time of their breeding, which is in summer, when the sun hath warmed both the earth and water, and so apted them also for generation, that then three or four male carps will follow a female; and that then she putting on a seeming coyness, they force her through weeds and flags, where she lets fall her eggs or spawn, which stick fast to the weeds, and then they let fall their melt upon it, and so it becomes in a short time to be a living fish: and, as I told you, it is thought the carp does this several months in the year; and most believe that most fish breed after this manner, except the eel. And it has been observed, that when the spawner has weakened herself by doing that natural office, that two or three melters have helped her from off the weeds by bearing her up on both sides, and guarding her into the deep. And you may note, that though this may seem a curiosity not worth observing, yet others have judged it worth their time and order them in such a manner as to see how bees have bred and make their honey-combs, and how they have obeyed their king, and governed their commonwealth. But it is thought that all carps are not bred by generation, but some breed other ways, as some pikes do.
The physicians make the galls and stones in the heads of carps to be very medicinable. But 'tis not to be doubted but that in Italy they make great profit of the spawn of carps, by selling it to the Jews, who make it into red caviare, the Jews not being by their law admitted to eat of caviare made of the sturgeon, that being a fish that wants scales, and, as may appear in Levit. xi. 10, by them reputed to be unclean.
Much more might be said of him, and out of Aristotle, which Dubravius often quotes in his "Discourse of Fishes;" but it might rather perplex than satisfy you; and therefore I shall rather choose to direct you how to catch, then spend more time in discoursing either of the nature or the breeding of this Carp[,] or of any more circumstances concerning him: but yet I shall remember you of what I told you before, that he is a very subtle fish, and hard to be caught.
And my first direction is, that if you will fish for a carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience; especially to fish for a river-carp; I have known a very good fisher angle diligently four or six hours hours in a day, for three or four days together, for a river-carp, and not have a bite. And you are to note, that in some ponds, it is as hard to catch a carp as in a river; that is to say, where they have store of feed, and the water is of a clayish colour: but you are to remember, that I have told you there is no rule without an exception; and therefore being possessed with that hope and patience, which I wish to all fishers, especially to the carp-angler, I shall tell you with what bait to fish for him. But first you are to know, that it must be either early or late; and let me tell you, that in hot weather, for he will seldom bite in cold, you cannot be too early or too late at it. And some have been so curious as to say, the tenth of April is a fatal day for carps.
The carp bites at either worms or at paste; and of worms I think the bluish marsh or meadow-worm is best; but possibly another worm, not too big, may do as well, and so may a green gentle; and as for pastes, there are almost as many sorts as there are medicines for the tooth-ache; but doubtless sweet pastes are best; I mean pastes made with honey or with sugar: which, that you may the better beguile this crafty fish, should be thrown into the pond or place in which you fish for him, some hours, or longer, before you undertake your trial of skill with the angle-rod: and, doubtless, if it be thrown into the water a day or two before, at several times and in small pellets, you are the likelier when you fish for the carp to obtain your desired sport. Or in a large pond, to draw them to any certain place, that they may the better and with more hope be fished for, you are to throw into it, in some certain place, either grains, or blood mixed with cow-dung or with bran; or any garbage, as chicken's guts or the like; and then some of your small sweet pellets with which you purpose to angle: and these small pellets being a few of them also thrown in as you are angling, will be the better.
And your paste must be thus made: Take the flesh of a rabbit or cat cut small, and bean-flour: and if that may not be easily got, get other flour, and then mix these together, and put to them either sugar, or honey, which I think better; and then beat these together in a mortar, or sometimes work them in your hands, your hands being very clean; and then make it into a ball, or t wo, or three, as you like best for your use; but you must work or pound it so long in the mortar, as to make it so tough as to hang upon your hook without washing from it, yet not too hard: or that you may the better keep it on your hook, you may knead with your paste a little, and not much, white or yellowish wool.
And if you would have this paste keep all the year for any other fish, then mix with it virgin-wax and clarified honey, and work them together with your hands before the fire; then make these into balls, and they will keep all the year.
And if you fish for a carp with gentles, then put upon your hook, a small piece of scarlet about this bigness , it being soaked in, or anointed with oil of peter, called by some oil of the rock: and if your gentles be put two or three days before, into a box or horn anointed with honey, and so put upon your hook as to preseve them to be living, you are as like to kill this crafty fish this way as any other: but still as you are fishing, chew a little white or brown bread in your mouth, and cast it into the pond about the place where your float swims. Other baits there be; but these, with diligence, and patient watchfulness, will do it better than any that I have ever practised, or heard of. And yet I shall tell you that the crumbs of white bread and honey made into a paste, is a good bait for a carp; and you know it is more easily made. And having said thus much of the carp, my next discourse shall be of the bream, which shall not prove so tedious; therefore I desire the continuance of your attention.
But first I will tell you how to make this carp, that is so curious to be caught, so curious a dish of meat, as shall make him worth all your labour and patience: and though it is not without some trouble and changes, yet it will recompense both. Take a carp, alive if possible, scour him, and rub him clean with water and salt, but scale him not: then open him, and put him with his blood and his liver, which you must save when you open him, into a small pot or kettle; then take sweet-marjoram, thyme, and parsley, of each half a handful; a sprig of rosemary, and another of savory; bind them into two or three small bundles, and put them to your carp, with four or five whole onions, twenty pickled oysters, and three anchovies. Then pour upon your carp as much claret-wine as will only cover him; and season your claret well with salt, cloves, and mace, and the rinds of oranges and lemons. That done, cover your pot and set it on a quick fire, till it be sufficiently boiled: then take out the carp, and lay it with the broth into the dish, and pour upon it a quarter of a pound of the best fresh butter, melted and beaten with half a dozen spoonfuls of the broth, the yolks of two or three eggs, and some of the herbs shred: garnish your dish with lemons, and so serve it up, and much good do you!