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Well, scholar, you see what pains I have taken to recover the lost credit of the poor despised chub. And now I will give you some rules how to catch him: and I am glad to enter you into the art of fishing by catching a chub; for there is no better fish to enter a young angler, he is so easily caught, but then it must be this particular way.
Go to the same hole in which I caught my chub; where, in most hot days, you will find a dozen or twenty chevens floating near the top of the water. Get two or three grasshoppers as you go over the meadow: and get secretly behind the tree, and stand as free from motion as possible.
Then put a grasshopper on your hook; and let your hook hang a quarter of a yard short of the water, to which end you must rest your rod on some bough of the tree. But it is likely the chubs will sink down towards the bottom of the water, at the first shadow of your rod: for the chub is the fearfulest of fishes; and will do so if but a bird flies over him, and makes the least shadow on the water. But they will presently rise up to the top again, and there lie soaring till some shadow affrights them again. I say, when they lie on the top of the water, look out the best chub; which you, setting yourself in a fit place, may very easily see; and move your rod, as softly as a snail moves,' to that chub you
1 "No throwing," says Titus, in Blackwood's Magazine; "put your bait on as gently as a thief at a public dinner puts his hand in the high sheriff's pocket."
intend to catch; let your bait fall gently on the water three or four inches before him, and he will infallibly take the bait. And you will be as sure to catch him; for he is one of the leather-mouthed fishes, of which a hook does scarcely ever lose its hold,—and therefore give him play enough before you offer to take him out of the water. Go your way presently; take my rod, and do as I bid you; and I will sit down and mend my tackling till you return back.
Ven. Truly, my loving master, you have offered me as fair as I could wish. I'll go and observe your directions.
Look you, master, what I have done! that which joys my heart, caught just such another chub as yours was.
Pisc. Marry! and I am glad of it: I am like to have a towardly scholar of you. I now see, that with advice and practice, you will make an angler in a short time. Have but a love to it: and I'll warrant you.
Ven. But master! what if I could not have found a grasshopper?
Pisc. Then I may tell you, that a black snail,' with his belly slit, to show the white; or a piece of soft cheese;" will usually do as well. Nay, sometimes a worm; or any kind of fly, as the ant-fly, the flesh-fly, or wall-fly; or the dor or beetle, which you may find under cow-dung; or a bob, which you will find in the same place, and in time will be a beetle, it is a short white worm, like to and bigger than a gentle; or a cod-worm; or a case-worm; any of these will do very well to fish in such a manner.
And after this manner you may catch a trout, in a hot evening; when as you walk by a brook, and shall see or hear him leap at flies; then if you get a grasshopper, put it on your hook, with your line about two yards long; standing behind a bush or tree where his hole is, and make your bait stir up and down on the top of the water; you may, if you
1 Browne says that chub take snail early in the morning, but seldom in the heat of the day, and advises the angler to choose his baits in the order that Nature puts them forth.-ED.
2 Hofland found this bait, about the size of a hazelnut, very effective for both chub and barbel. With such baits it is usual to fish near the bottom of deep holes, or at the foot of mills or rivers, and if with a float, it should be small. The bait should be dropped in very gently.-ED.
stand close, be sure of a bite, but not sure to catch him,— for he is not a leather-mouthed fish. And after this manner you may fish for him with almost any kind of live fly, but especially with a grasshopper.
Ven. But before you go further, I pray, good master, what mean you by a leather-mouthed fish?
Pisc. By a leather-mouthed fish, I mean such as have their teeth in their throat, as the chub or cheven; and so the barbel, the gudgeon, and carp, and divers others have. And the hook being stuck into the leather, or skin of the mouth of such fish; does very seldom or never lose its hold: but on the contrary, a pike, a perch, or trout, and so some other fish, which have not their teeth in their throats, but in their mouths; which you shall observe to be very full of bones, and the skin very thin, and little of it; I say, of these fish the hook never takes so sure hold, but you often lose your fish, unless he have gorged it.
Ven. I thank you, good master, for this observation. But now, what shall be done with my chub or cheven that I have caught?
Pisc. Marry! sir, it shall be given away to some poor body; for I'll warrant you I'll give you a trout for your supper: and it is a good beginning of your art to offer your first-fruits to the poor, who will both thank you and God for it, which I see by your silence you seem to consent to. And for your willingness to part with it so charitably, I will also teach more concerning chub-fishing: you are to note, that in March and April he is usually taken with worms; in May, June, and July, he will bite at any fly, or at cherries, or at beetles with their legs and wings cut off,-or at any kind of snail, or at a black bee, that breeds in clay walls. And he never refuses a grasshopper, on the top of a swift stream;1 nor, at the bottom, the young humble bee that breeds in long grass, and is ordinarily found by the mower of it. In August, and in the cooler months, a yellow paste, made of the strongest cheese, and pounded in a mortar, with a little butter and saffron, so much of it as being beaten small will
1 In the Thames, above Richmond, the best way of using the grasshopper for chub, is to fish with it as with an artificial fly; the first joints of the legs must be pinched off; and in this way-when the weeds are rotten, which is seldom till September-the largest dace are taken.-H.
turn it to a lemon colour. And some make a paste, for the winter months (at which time the chub is accounted best; for then it is observed, that the forked bones are lost, or turned into a kind of gristle, especially if he be baked), of cheese and turpentine. He will bite also at a minnow, or penk; as a trout will: of which I shall tell you more hereafter, and of divers other baits. But take this for a rule, that in hot weather he is to be fished for towards the mid-water, or near the top; and in colder weather, nearer the bottom. And if you fish for him on the top, with a beetle, or any fly; then be sure to let your line be very long, and to keep out of sight. And having told you that his spawn is excellent meat, and that the head of a large cheven, the throat being well washed, is the best part of him, I will say no more of this fish at present, but wish you may catch the next you fish for.
But, lest you may judge me too nice in urging to have the chub dressed so presently after he is taken, I will commend to your consideration how curious former times have been in the like kind.
You shall read in Seneca's "Natural Questions," lib. iii. cap. 17, that the ancients were so curious in the newness of their fish, that that seemed not new enough that was not put alive into the guest's hand. And he says, that to that end they did usually keep them living in glass bottles in their dining-rooms; and they did glory much, in their entertaining of friends, to have that fish taken from under their table alive that was instantly to be fed upon. And he says, they took great pleasure to see their mullets change to several colours, when they were dying. But enough of this; for I doubt I have stayed too long from giving you some observations of the trout, and how to fish for him,-which shall take up the next of my spare time.1
1 The haunts of the chub are streams shaded with trees; in summer, deep holes,-where they will sometimes float near the surface of the water; and under the boughs, on the side of a bank. Their spawning-time is towards the beginning of April: they are in season from about the middle of May, till the middle of February; but are best in winter. At mid-water, and at bottom, use a float; at top, either dib, or, if you have room, use the fly-line as for trout. They are so eager in biting, that, when they take the bait, you may hear their jaws chop like those of a dog.-H.
THE THIRD DAY.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE NATURE AND BREEDING OF THE TROUT, AND HOW TO FISH FOR HIM. AND THE MILKMAID'S SONG.
Piscator. The trout is a fish highly valued, both in this and foreign nations. He may be justly said, as the old poet said of wine, and we English say of venison, to be a generous fish: a fish that is so like the buck, that he also has his seasons; for it is observed, that he comes in and goes out of season with the stag and buck. GESNER says, his name is of German offspring; and he says he is a fish that feeds clean and purely, in the swiftest streams, and on the hardest gravel; and that he may justly contend with all fresh-water fish; as the mullet may with all sea-fish, for precedency and daintiness of taste; and that being in right season, the most dainty palates have allowed precedency to him.
And before I go further
into my discourse, let me tell you, that you are to observe, that as there be some barren does that are good in summer, so there be some barren trouts that are good in winter;
1 Probably male trout, which have shed their milt, and have not recover ed.-ED.