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Now, as the increase of carps is wonderful for their number, sơ 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 stole 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 so, 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 had almost watched the pond, and at a like distance of time, at the fishing of the pond, found, of seventy or eighty large carps, not above five or six; and that he had foreborne 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, and 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 the 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 be 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 or luce) 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 leathermouthed 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 Fishponds, in which he says, that carps begin to spawn at the age 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 sticks 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 that 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 cost to make glass hives, and order them in such a manner as to see how bees have bred and make their honeycombs, and how they have obeyed their king, and governed their commonwealth. But it is thought that all carps are not bred by generation; but that 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 cavaire made of the sturgeon, that being a fish that wants scales, and (as may appear in Lev. II) by them reputed to be unclean.
Much more might be said out 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, than 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 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 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 either at 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 toothache; but doubtless sweet pastes are the best; I mean pastes made with honey or with sugar; which, that you may the better
beguile this crafty fish, should be thrown in 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 a 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 chickens' 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 two, 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