« PreviousContinue »
to fly in England for six months in the year, but about Michaelmas leave us for a better climate than this; yet some of them that have been left behind their fellows, have been found (many thousands at a time) in hollow trees, or clay caves; where they have been observed to live and sleep out the whole winter without meat; and so Albertus observes, that there is one kind of frog that hath her mouth naturally shut up about the end of August, and that she lives so all the winter; and though it be strange to some, yet it is known to too many among us to be doubted.
And so much for these Fordidge trouts, which never afford an angler sport, but either live their time of being in the fresh water, by their meat formerly got in the sea (not unlike the swallow or frog), or by the virtue of the fresh water only; or, as the birds of Paradise and the chameleon are said to live, by the sun and the air.
There is also in Northumberland a trout called a bull-trout, of a much greater length and bigness than any in the southern parts. And there are, in many rivers that relate to the sea, salmon-trouts, as much different from others, both in shape and in their spots, as we see sheep in some countries differ one from another in their shape and bigness, and in the fineness of their wool: and, certainly, as some pastures breed larger sheep, so do some rivers, by reason of the ground over which they run, breed larger trouts.
Now the next thing that I will commend to your consideration is, that the trout is of a more sudden growth than other fish. Concerning which, you are also to take notice, that he lives not so long as the perch, and divers other fishes do, as Sir Francis Bacon hath observed in his History of Life and Death.
And next you are to take notice, that he is not like the crocodile, which if he lives never so long, yet always thrives till his death; but it is not so with the trout, for after he has come to his full growth, he declines in his body, and keeps his bigness, or thrives only in his head till his death. And you are to know, that he will about, especially before, the time of his spawning, get almost miraculously through weirs and flood-gates against the streams; even through such high and swift places as is almost incredible. Next, that the
trout usually spawns about October or November, but in some rivers a little sooner or later which is the more observable, because most other fish spawn in the spring or summer, when the sun hath warmed both the earth and the water, and made it fit for generation. And you are to note that he continues many months out of season; for it may be observed of the trout, that he is like the buck or the ox, that he will not be fat in many months, though he go in the very same pasture that horses do, which will be fat in one month: and so you may observe that most other fishes recover strength, and grow sooner fat and in season than the trout doth.
And next you are to note, that till the sun gets to such a height as to warm the earth and the water, the trout is sick, and lean, and lousy, and unwholesome for you shall in winter find him to have a big head, and then to be lank, and thin, and lean: at which time many of them have sticking on them sugs, or trout-lice, which is a kind of worm, in shape like a clove or pin, with a big head, and sticks close to him and sucks his moisture; those, I think, the trout breeds himself, and never thrives till he free himself from them, which is when warm weather comes; and then, as he grows stronger, he gets from the dead, still water, into the sharp streams, and the gravel, and there rubs off these worms or lice; and then, as he grows stronger, so he gets him into swifter and swifter streams, and there lies at the watch for any fly or minnow that comes near to him; and he especially loves the May-fly, which is bred of the codworm or cadis; and these make the trout bold and lusty, and he is usually fatter and better meat at the end of that month than at any time of the year.
Now you are to know that it is observed, that usually the best trouts are either red or yellow; though some (as the Fordidge trout) be white and yet good; but that is not usual: and it is a note observable, that the female trout hath usually a less head, and a deeper body than the male trout, and is usually the better meat. And note, that a hog-back and a little head to either trout, salmon, or any other fish, is a sign that that fish is in season.
But yet you are to note, that as you see some willows or palmtrees bud and blossom sooner than others do, so some trouts be, in
rivers, sooner in season and as some hollies or oaks are longer before they cast their leaves, so are some trouts in rivers longer before they go out of season.
And you are to note, that there are several kinds of trouts: but these several kinds are not considered but by very few men; for they go under the general name of trouts: just as pigeons do, in most places; though, it is certain, there are tame and wild pigeons; and of the tame, there be helmets and runts, and carriers and cropers; and indeed too many to name. Nay, the Royal Society have found and published lately, that there be thirty and three kinds of spiders; and yet all (for aught I know) go under that one general name of spider. And it is so with many kinds of fish, and of trouts especially; which differ in their bigness and shape and spots and colour. The great Kentish hens may be an instance, compared to other hens. And, doubtless, there is a kind of small trout, which will never thrive to be big; that breeds very many more than others do, that be of a larger size which you may rather believe, if you consider that the little wren and titmouse will have twenty young ones at a time, when usually the noble hawk, or the musical thrassel or blackbird, exceed not four or five.
And now you shall see me try my skill to catch a trout; and at my next walking, either this evening or to-morrow morning, I will give you direction how you yourself shall fish for him.
VEN. Trust me, master, I see now it is a harder matter to catch a trout than a chub: for I have put on patience, and followed you these two hours, and not seen a fish stir, neither at your minnow nor your worm.
worse luck some time, or But what say you now?
PISC. Well, scholar, you must endure you will never make a good angler. There is a trout now, and a good one too, if I can but hold him, and two or three more turns will tire him. Now you see he lies still, and the sleight is to land him. Reach me that landing net; so, sir, now he is mine own, what say you now? Is not this worth all my labour and your patience?
VEN. On my word, master, this is a gallant trout; what shall we do with him?
PISC. Marry, e'en eat him to supper; we'll go to my hostess, from whence we came; she told me, as I was going out of door, that my brother Peter, a good angler and a cheerful companion, had sent word that he would lodge there to-night, and bring a friend with him. My hostess has two beds, and I know you and I may have the best; we'll rejoice with my brother Peter and his friend, tell tales, or sing ballads, or make a catch, or find some harmless sport to content us and pass away a little time, without offence to God or man.
VEN. A match, good master, let's go to that house; for the linen looks white, and smells of lavender, and I love to lie in a pair of sheets that smell so. Let's be going, good master, for I am hungry again with fishing.
PISC. Nay, stay a little, good scholar; I caught my last trout with a worm; now I will put on a minnow, and try a quarter of an hour about yonder trees for another; and so walk towards our lodging. Look you, scholar, thereabout we shall have a bite presently or not at all. Have with you, sir! o' my word I have hold of him. Oh! it is a great logger-headed chub; come hang him upon that willow twig, and let's be going. But turn out of the way a little, good scholar, towards yonder high honeysuckle hedge; there we'll sit and sing, whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives yet a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn these verdant meadows.