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Observations of the Tench, and Advice how to Angle for him.
ISC. The Tench, the physician of fishes, is observed to love ponds better than rivers, and to love pits better than either; yet Camden observes, there is a river in Dorsetshire that abounds with tenches, but doubtless they retire to the most deep and quiet places in it.
This fish hath very large fins, very small and smooth scales, a red circle about his eyes, which are big and of a gold colour, and from either angle of his mouth there hangs down a little barb. In every tench's head there are two little stones, which foreign physicians make great use of, but he is not commended for wholesome meat, though there be very much use made of them for outward applications. Rondeletius says, that at his being at Rome, he saw a great cure done by applying a tench to the feet of a very sick man. This, he says, was done after an unusual manner, by certain Jews. And it is observed, that many of those people have many secrets yet unknown to
Christians; secrets that have never yet been written, but have been since the days of their Solomon (who knew the nature of all things, even from the cedar to the shrub) delivered by tradition, from the father to the son, and so from generation to generation, without writing, or (unless it were casually) without the least communicating them to any other nation or tribe; for to do that they account a profanation. And yet it is thought that they, or some spirit worse than they, first told us that lice swallowed alive were a certain cure for the yellow-jaundice. This, and many other medicines, were discovered by them, or by revelation; for, doubtless, we attained them not by study.
Well, this fish, besides his eating, is very useful both dead and alive for the good of mankind. But I will meddle no more with that; my honest humble art teaches no such boldness; there are too many foolish meddlers in physic and divinity, that think themselves fit to meddle with hidden secrets, and so bring destruction to their followers. But I'll not meddle with them any further than to wish them wiser; and shall tell you next (for I hope I may be so bold) that the tench is the physician of fishes, for the pike especially; and that the pike, being either sick or hurt, is cured by the touch of the TENCH. And it is observed that the tyrant pike will not be a wolf to his physician, but forbears to devour him though he be never so hungry.
This fish, that carries a natural balsam in him to cure himself and others, loves yet to feed in very foul water, and amongst weeds. And yet I am sure he eats pleasantly, and doubtless you will think so too, if you taste him. And I shall therefore proceed to give you some few, and but a few, directions how to catch this Tench, of which I have given you these observations.
He will bite a paste made of brown bread and honey, or at a marsh-worm, or a lob-worm; he inclines very much to any paste with which tar is mixed; and he will bite also at a smaller worm, with his head nipped off, and a cod-worm put on the hook before that worm; and I doubt not but that he will also in the three hot months (for in the nine colder he stirs not much) bite at a flag-worm, or at a green gentle; but I can positively say no more of the tench,
he being a fish I have not often angled for; but I wish my honest scholar may, and be ever fortunate when he fishes.
Observations of the Perch, and Directions how to Fish for him.
MISC. The Perch is a very good and a very boldbiting fish. He is one of the fishes of prey that, like the pike and trout, carries his teeth in his mouth, which is very large; and he dare venture to kill and devour several other kinds of fish. He has a hooked or hog back, which is armed with sharp and stiff bristles, and all his skin armed or covered over with thick dry hard scales, and hath (which few other fish have) two fins on his back. He is so bold that he will invade one of his own kind, which the pike will not do willingly, and you may therefore easily believe him to be a bold biter.
The perch is of great esteem in Italy, saith Aldrovandus, and especially the least are there esteemed a dainty dish. And Gesner prefers the perch and pike above the trout, or any fresh-water fish : he says the Germans have this proverb, "More wholesome than a perch of Rhine;" and he says the river perch is so wholesome that physicians allow him to be eaten by wounded men, or by men in fevers, or by women in child-bed.
He spawns but once a year, and is, by physicians, held very nutritive; yet, by many, to be hard of digestion. They abound more in the river Po, and in England (says Rondeletius) than other parts, and have in their brain a stone which is in foreign parts sold by apothecaries, being there noted to be very medicinable against the stone in the reins. These be a part of the commendations which some philosophical brains have bestowed upon the fresh-water perch; yet they commend the sea-perch, which is known by having but one fin on his back (of which, they say, we English see but a few) to be a much better fish.
The perch grows slowly, yet will grow, as I have been credibly informed, to be almost two feet long; for an honest informer told me such a one was not long since taken by Sir Abraham Williams, a gentleman of worth, and a brother of the angle (that yet lives, and I wish he may): this was a deep bodied fish, and doubtless durst have devoured a pike of half his own length; for I have told you he is a bold fish, such a one as, but for extreme hunger, the pike will not devour; for to affright the pike, and save himself, the perch will set up his fins, much like as a turkey-cock will sometimes set up his tail. But, my scholar, the perch is not only valiant to defend himself, but he is (as I said) a bold-biting fish, yet he will not bite at all seasons of the year; he is very abstemious in winter, yet will bite then in the midst of the day, if it be warm and note, that all fish bite best about the midst of a warm day in winter, and he hath been observed by some not usually to bite till the mulberry-tree buds, that is to say, till extreme frosts be past the spring, for when the mulberry-tree blossoms, many gardeners observe their forward fruit to be past the danger of frosts, and some have made the like observation on the perch's biting.
But bite the perch will, and that very boldly and as one has wittily observed, if there be twenty or forty in a hole, they may be at one standing all catched one after another, they being, as he says, like the wicked of the world, not afraid, though their fellows and companions perish in their sight. And you may observe, that they are not like the solitary pike, but love to accompany one another, and march together in troops.