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thou found it, eat no more than is sufficient, lest thou surfeit; for it is not good to eat much honey." And let me add this, that the uncharitable Italian bids us "give eels and no wine to our enemies."
And I will beg a little more of your attention to tell you Aldrovandus, and divers physicians, commend the eel very much for medicine, though not for meat. But let me tell you one observation, that the eel is never out of season, as trouts, and most other fish are at set times: at least most eels are not.
I might here speak of many other fish, whose shape and nature are much like the eel, and frequent both the sea and fresh rivers; as namely, the lamprel, the lamprey, and the lamperne: as also of the mighty conger, taken often in Severn, about Gloucester; and might also tell in what high esteem many of them are for the curiosity of their taste; but these are not so proper to be talked of by me, because they make us anglers no sport; therefore I will let them alone, as the Jews do, to whom they are forbidden by their law.
And, scholar, there is also a flounder, a sea-fish, which will wander very far into fresh rivers, and there lose himself and dwell; and thrive to a hand's breadth, and almost twice so long: a fish without scales, and most excellent meat; and a fish that affords much sport to the angler, with any small worm, but especially a little bluish worm
gotten out of marsh-ground or meadows, which should be well scoured but this, though it be most excellent meat, yet it wants scales, and is, as I told you, therefore an abomination to the Jews.
But, scholar, there is a fish that they in Lancashire boast very much of, called a char; taken there (and I think there only), in a mere called Winander Mere: a mere, says Camden, that is the largest in this nation, being ten miles in length, and some say as smooth in the bottom as if it were paved with polished marble. This fish never exceeds fifteen or sixteen inches in length; and 'tis spotted like a trout; and has scarce a bone but on the back. But this, though I do not know whether it make the angler sport, yet I would have you take notice of it, because it is a rarity, and of so high esteem with persons of great note.
Nor would I have you ignorant of a rare fish called a guiniad; of which I shall tell you what Camden and others speak. The river Dee (which runs by Chester) springs in Merionethshire; and, as it runs toward Chester, it runs through Pemble-Mere, which is a large water: and it is observed, that though the river Dee abounds with salmon, and Pemble-Mere with the guiniad, yet there is never any salmon caught in the mere, nor a guiniad in the river. And now my next observation shall be of the Barbel.
Observations of the Barbel, and Directions how to Fish
ISC. The Barbel is so called (says Gesner) by reason of his barb or wattles at his mouth, which are under his nose or chaps. He is one of those leather-mouthed fishes, that I told you of, that does very seldom break his hold if he be once hooked but he is so strong that he will often break both rod and line, if he proves to be a big one. But the barbel, though he be of a fine shape, and looks big, yet he is not accounted the best fish to eat, neither for his wholesomeness nor his taste: but the male is reputed much better than the female, whose spawn is very hurtful, as I will presently declare to you.
They flock together, like sheep, and are at the worst in April, about which time they spawn, but quickly grow to be in season. He is able to live in the strongest swifts of the water, and in summer they love the shallowest and sharpest streams; and love to lurk under weeds, and to feed on gravel against a rising ground, and will root and dig in the sands with his nose like a hog, and there nest himself: yet sometimes he retires to deep and swift bridges, or floodgates, or weirs, where he will nest himself amongst piles, or in hollow
places, and take such hold of moss or weeds, that be the water never so swift, it is not able to force him from the place that he contends for. This is his constant custom in summer, when he and most living creatures sport themselves in the sun; but at the approach of winter, then he forsakes the swift streams and shallow waters, and by degrees retires to those parts of the river that are quieter and deeper; in which places (and I think about that time) he spawns, and, as I have formerly told you, with the help of the melter, hides his spawn or eggs in holes, which they both dig in the gravel, and then they mutually labour to cover it with the same sand, to prevent it from being devoured by other fish.
There be such store of this fish in the river Danube, that Rondeletius says, they may in some places of it, and in some months of the year, be taken by those that dwell near to the river, with their hands, eight or ten load at a time: he says, they begin to be good in May, and that they cease to be so in August; but it is found to be otherwise in this nation: but thus far we agree with him, that the spawn of a barbel, if it be not poison, as he says, yet that it is dangerous meat, and especially in the month of May; which is so certain, that Gesner and Gasius declare it had an ill effect upon them, even to the endangering of their lives.
This fish is of a fine cast and handsome shape, with small scales, which are placed after a most exact and curious manner, and, as I told you, may be rather said not to be ill, than to be good meat: the chub and he have (I think) both lost part of their credit by ill cookery, they being reputed the worst or coarsest of fresh-water fish. But the barbel affords an angler choice sport, being a lusty and a cunning fish; so lusty and cunning as to endanger the breaking of the angler's line, by running his head forcibly towards any covert, or hole, or bank, and then striking at the line, to break it off with his tail (as is observed by Plutarch in his book, De Industriâ Animalium); and also so cunning to nibble and suck off your worm close to the hook, and yet avoid the letting the hook come into his mouth.
The barbel is also curious for his baits; that is to say, that they be clean and sweet; that is to say, to have your worms well scoured,
and not kept in sour and musty moss, for he is a curious feeder; but at a well scoured lob-worm he will bite as boldly as at any bait, and especially if, the night or two before you fish for him, you shall bait the places where you intend to fish for him with big worms cut into pieces; and note, that none did ever overbait the place, nor fish too early or too late for a barbel. And the barbel will bite also at gentles, which (not being too much scoured, but green) are a choice bait for him; and so is cheese, which is not to be too hard, but kept a day or two in a wet linen cloth to make it tough: with this you may also bait the water a day or two before you fish for the barbel, and be much the likelier to catch store; and if the cheese were laid in clarified honey a short time before (as namely, an hour or two) you are still the likelier to catch fish; some have directed to cut the cheese into thin pieces, and toast it, and then tie it on the hook with fine silk and some advise to fish for the barbel with sheep's tallow and soft cheese beaten or worked into a paste, and that it is choicely good in August, and I believe it; but doubtless the lob-worm well scoured, and the gentle not too much scoured, and cheese ordered as I have directed, are baits enough, and I think will serve in any month, though I shall commend any angler that tries conclusions, and is industrious to improve the art. And now, my honest scholar, the long shower, and my tedious discourse are both ended together; and I shall give you but this observation, that when you fish for barbel, your rod and line be both long and of good strength, for (as I told you) you will find him a heavy and a dogged fish to be dealt withal, yet he seldom or never breaks his hold if he be once strucken. And if you would know more of fishing for the umber or barbel, get into favour with Doctor Sheldon, whose skill is above others; and of that the poor that dwell about him have a comfortable experience.
And now let us go and see what interest the trouts will pay us for letting our angle-rods lie so long, and so quietly in the water, for their use. Come, scholar, which will you take up?
VEN. Which you think fit, master.
PISC. Why, you shall take up that, for I am certain, by viewing the line, it has a fish at it. Look you, scholar! well done! Come, now take up the other too: well! now you may tell my brother