Page images

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 towards 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 for him

PISCATOR. 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 leathermouthed 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 nests himself: yet sometimes he retires to deep and swift bridges, or flood-gates, 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 quiet 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 who 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.

The 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 Industria 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 specially 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 were 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 a 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 Dr Sheldon, whose skill is above others; and of that, the poor that dwell about him have a comfortable experience.

And now let's 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?

VENATOR. Which you think fit, master. PISCATOR. 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 Peter, at night, that you have caught a leash of Trouts this day. And now let's move towards our lodging, and drink a draught of red-cow's milk as we go; and give pretty Maudlin and her honest mother a brace of Trouts for their supper.

VENATOR. Master, I like your motion very well: and I think it is now about milking-time; and yonder they be at it.

PISCATOR. Good speed you, good woman! I thank you both for our songs last night: I and my companion have had such fortune a-fishing this day, that we resolve to give you and Maudlin a brace of Trouts for supper; and we will now taste a draught of your red-cow's milk.

MILK-WOMAN. Marry, and that you shall with all my heart; and I will be still your debtor when you come this way. If you will but speak the word, I will make you a good syllabub of new verjuice; and then you may sit down in a haycock, and eat it; and Maudlin shall sit by and sing you the good old song of the 'Hunting in Chevy Chase,' or some other good ballad, for she hath store of them: Maudlin, my honest Maudlin, hath a notable memory, and she thinks nothing too good for you, because you be such honest men.

VENATOR. We thank you; and intend, once in a month to call upon you again, and give you a little warning; and so, good-night. Good-night, Maudlin. And now, good

master, let's lose no time: but tell me somewhat more of fishing; and if you please, first, something of fishing for a Gudgeon.

PISCATOR. I will, honest scholar.


Observations of the Gudgeon, the Ruffe, and the Bleak, and how to fish for them

THE GUDGEON is reputed a fish of excellent taste, and to be very wholesome. He is of a fine shape, of a silver colour, and beautified with black spots both on his body and tail. He breeds two or three times in the year; and always in summer. He is commended for a fish of excellent nourishment. The Germans call him Groundling, by reason of his feeding on the ground; and he there feasts himself, in sharp streams and on the gravel. He and the Barbel both feed so: and do not hunt for flies at any time, as most other fishes do. He is an excellent fish to enter a young angler, being easy to be taken with a small red worm, on or very near to the ground. He is one of those leather-mouthed fish that has his teeth in his throat, and will hardly be lost off from the hook if he be once strucken.

They be usually scattered up and down every river in the shallows, in the heat of summer: but in autumn, when the weeds begin to grow sour and rot, and the weather colder, then they gather together, and get into the deeper parts of the water; and are to be fished for there, with your hook always touching the ground, if you fish for him with a float or with a cork. But many will fish for the Gudgeon by hand, with a running line upon the ground, without a cork, as a Trout is fished for: and it is an excellent way, if you have a gentle rod, and as gentle a hand.

« PreviousContinue »