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And the baits for this bold fish are not many: I mean, he will bite as well at some or at any of these three, as at any or all others whatsoever: a worm, a minnow, or a little frog (of which you may find many in haytime); and of worms, the dunghill-worm, called a brandling, I take to be best, being well scoured in moss or fennel; or he will bite at a worm that lies under a cowturd, with a bluish head. And if you rove for a perch with a minnow, then it is best to be alive, you sticking your hook through his back fin, or a minnow with the hook in his upper lip, and letting him swim up and down about mid-water, or a little lower, and you still keeping him to about that depth by a cork, which ought not to be a very little one; and the like way you are to fish for the perch, with a small frog, your hook being fastened through the skin of his leg, towards the upper part of it; and lastly, I will give you but this advice, that you give the perch time enough when he bites, for there was scarce ever any angler that has given him too much. And now I think best to rest myself, for I have almost spent my spirits with talking so long.
VEN. Nay, good master, one fish more, for you see it rains still, and you know our angles are like money put to usury, they may thrive, though we sit still and do nothing but talk and enjoy one another. Come, come, the other fish, good master.
PISC. But, scholar, have you nothing to mix with this discourse, which now grows both tedious and tiresome? Shall I have nothing
from you, that seem to have both a good memory and a cheerful spirit?
VEN. Yes, master, I will speak you a copy of verses that were made by Doctor Donne, and made to show the world that he could make soft and smooth verses when he thought smoothness worth his labour; and I love them the better because they allude to rivers, and fish and fishing. They be these :—
Come live with me, and be my love,
There will the river whisp'ring run,
When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
If thou to be so seen be'st loath,
Let others freeze with angling-reeds,
Let coarse bold hands, from slimy nest,
For thee thou need'st no such deceit,
PISC. Well remembered, honest scholar; I thank you for these choice verses, which I have heard formerly, but had quite forgot till they were recovered by your happy memory. Well, being I have now rested myself a little, I will make you some requital, by telling you some observations of the eel, for it rains still, and because (as you say) our angles are as money put to use, that thrives when we play, therefore we'll sit still and enjoy ourselves a little longer under this honeysuckle hedge.
Observations of the Eel, and other Fish that want scales,
ISC. It is agreed by most men, that the eel is a most dainty fish; the Romans have esteemed her the Helena of their feasts, and some the queen of palate-pleasure. But most men differ about their breeding some say they breed by generation as other fish do, and others, that they breed (as some A worms do) of mud; as rats and mice, and many other living creatures are bred in Egypt, by the sun's heat, when it shines upon the overflowing of the river Nilus; or out of the putrefaction of the earth, and divers other ways. Those that deny them to breed by generation as other fish do, ask, if any man ever saw an eel to have a spawn or melt? and they are answered, that they may be as certain of their breeding as if they had seen spawn: for they say, that they are certain that eels have all parts, fit for generation,
like other fish, but so small as not to be easily discerned, by reason of their fatness; but that discerned they may be; and that the he and the she-eel may be distinguished by their fins. And Rondeletius says he has seen eels cling together like dew-worms.
And others say that eels, growing old, breed other eels out of the corruption of their own age; which, Sir Francis Bacon says, exceeds not ten years. And others say, that as pearls are made of glutinous dew-drops, which are condensed by the sun's heat in those countries, so eels are bred of a particular dew, falling in the months of May or June on the banks of some particular ponds or rivers (apted by nature for that end), which in a few days are, by the sun's heat, turned into eels; and some of the ancients have called the eels that are thus bred the offspring of Jove. I have seen, in the beginning of July, in a river not far from Canterbury, some parts of it covered over with young eels, about the thickness of a straw; and these eels did lie on the top of that water, as thick as motes are said to be in the sun; and I have heard the like of other rivers, as namely, in Severn (where they are called yelvers), and in a pond, or mere, near unto Staffordshire, where, about a set time in summer, such small eels abound so much that many of the poorer sort of people that inhabit near to it, take such eels out of this mere with sieves or sheets; and make a kind of eelcake of them, and eat it like as bread. And Gesner quotes venerable Bede, to say, that in England there is an island called Ely, by reason of the innumerable number of eels that breed in it. But that eels may be bred as some worms, and some kind of bees and wasps are, either of dew, or out of the corruption of the earth, seems to be made probable by the barnacles and young goslings bred by the sun's heat and the rotten planks of an old ship, and hatched of trees; both which are related for truths by Du Bartas and Lobel, and also by our learned Camden, and laborious Gerard, in his Herbal.
It is said by Rondeletius, that those eels that are bred in rivers that relate to or be nearer to the sea, never return to the fresh waters (as the salmon does always desire to do), when they have once tasted the salt water; and I do the more easily believe this, because I am certain that powdered beef is a most excellent bait to catch an eel. And though Sir Francis Bacon will allow the eel's life