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both 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 at 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 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
Piscator. The Perch is a very good, and a very bold biting 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 so 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 of 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.
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 hay-time. 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 cow-dung, 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. Venator. Nay, good master, one fish more,
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.
Piscator. 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? Venator. Yes, master, I will speak you a copy
of verses that were made by Doctor Donne, and made to
shew 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, beest loath
Let others freeze with angling reeds,
Let coarse bold hands, from slimy nest,
For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
Piscator. 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,
and how to fish for them
Piscator. 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 palatepleasure. But most men differ about their breeding : some say they breed by generation, as other fish do; and others, that they breed, as some 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 eеl 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 dewdrops, 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