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rule without an exception, so there are some few rivers in this nation, that have trouts and salmons in season in winter, as it is certain there be in the river Wye in Monmouthshire, where they be in season, as Camden observes, from September till April. But, my scholar! the observation of this and many other things, I must in manners omit; because they will prove too large for our narrow compass of time; and, therefore, I shall next fall upon my directions, how to fish for this
And, for that: first, you shall observe, that usually he stays not long in a place, as Trouts will; but, as I said, covets still to go nearer the spring-head; and that he does not, as the trout and many other fish, lie near the water-side or bank, or roots of trees, but swims in the deep and broad parts of the water, and usually in the middle, and near the ground; and that, there, you are to fish for him; and that
1 In the River Lea, which runs into the sea at the Cove of Cork, salmon are in season the whole year round, as I can myself testify, having resided at Cork the greater part of the year.-RENNIE.
2 The salmon delights in large, rapid rivers; especially such as have pebbly, gravelly, and sometimes weedy bottoms.-H.
3 A caddis or gentle, put on the tip of a hook baited with a dub-fly, takes salmon smelts beyond expectation.-BROWNE. The sand-eel is a favourite food of the Salmon, although it seldom happens that any food is discovered in the stomach of the fish. The reason is, that when a salmon is hooked, or struggling in a net, the contents of the stomach are immediately disgorged. A friend of mine in Scotland having, in an estuary of the sea, enclosed a great number of salmon, distinctly saw them, as the net was being hauled to the shore, throw up quantities of sand-eels.-ED.
he is to be caught, as the trout is, with a worm, a minnow, which some call a penk, or with a fly.'
And you are to observe, that he is very seldom observed to bite at a minnow, yet sometimes he will; and not usually at a fly; but, more usually at a worm, and then, most usually, at a lob or garden-worm, which should be well scoured, that is to say, kept seven or eight days in moss before you fish with them; and if you double your time of eight into sixteen, twenty, or more days, it is still the better; for the worms will still be clearer, tougher, and more lively, and continue so longer upon your hook. And they may be kept still longer, by keeping them cool, and in fresh moss; and some advise to put camphire into it.2
Note also, that many use to fish for a salmon, with a ring of wire on the top of their rod, through which the line may run to as great a length as is needful, when he is hooked. And to that end, some use a wheel about the middle of their rod, or near their hand; which is to be observed better by seeing one of them, than by a large demonstration of words.
And now I shall tell you, that which may be called a secret. I have been a-fishing with old Oliver Henly, now with God, a noted fisher both for trout and salmon; and have observed, that he would usually take three or four
1 The precise layers of Salmon in different rivers can only be known by experience. They are sometimes found close to the banks in eddies, diverging currents, or rapids caused by obstructions, about which flies, worms, and other food are likely to be collected. The best plan is to obtain information from a fisherman in the locality.-ED.
2 Baits for salmon are : lob-worms, for the ground; smaller worms and bobs, cad-bait, and, indeed, most of the baits taken by the trout, at the top of the water. And as to flies; remember to make them of the most gaudy colours, and very large. There is a fly called the horse-leech fly, which he is very fond of: they are of various colours, have great heads, large bodies, very long tails, and two (and some have three) pair of wings, placed behind each other: behind each pair of wings, whip the body about with gold or silver twist, or both; and do the same by the head. With this fly, fish at length, as for trout and grayling. But if you dib, do it with two or three butterflies of different colours, or with some of the most glaring small flies you can find.-H. The artificial fly is undoubtedly the most pleasant and effective mode of angling for salmon. Never strike too suddenly at a rising fish, nor till you feel him, which you will do readily if he has taken the bait, as he generally turns his head.-ED.
worms out of his bag, and put them into a little box in his pocket, where he would usually let them continue half an hour or more, before he would bait his hook with them. I have asked him his reason; and he has replied, "He did but pick the best out, to be in readiness against he baited his hook the next time;" but he has been observed, both by others and myself, to catch more fish than I, or any other body that has ever gone a-fishing with him, could do, and especially salmons. And I have been told, lately, by one of his most intimate and secret friends, that the box in which he put those worms, was anointed with a drop or two or three, of the oil of ivy-berries, made by expression or infusion and told that, by the worms remaining in that box an hour, or a like time, they had incorporated a kind of smell that was irresistibly attractive, enough to force any fish within the smell of them to bite. This I heard not long since from a friend, but have not tried it; yet I grant it probable, and refer my reader to Sir Francis Bacon's
Natural History," where he proves fishes may hear; and, doubtless, can more probably smell; and I am certain Gesner says the otter can smell in the water; and I doubt not but that fish may do so too. It is left for a lover of angling, or any that desires to improve that art, to try this conclusion.
I shall also impart two other experiments, but not tried by myself, which I will deliver in the same words that they were given me, by an excellent angler and a very friend, in writing; he told me the latter was too good to be told, but in a learned language, lest it should be made common.
"Take the stinking oil drawn out of polypody of the oak by a retort, mixed with turpentine and hive-honey; and anoint your bait therewith, and it will doubtless draw the fish to it."
The other is this: "Vulnera hederæ grandissimæ inflicta sudant Balsamum oleo gelato, albicantique persimile, odoris vero longe suavissimi."I
'Tis supremely sweet to any fish, and yet assafoetida may do the like.
1 Translation-"Slit the largest branches of an ivy tree, and it will yield an oleaginous balsam, white in colour and of a pleasing odour." 2 The assafoetida bait which Walton refers to probably is this:"Take
But in these things I have no great faith; yet grant it probable; and have had from some chymical men, namely, from Sir George Hastings and others, an affirmation of them, to be very advantageous. But no more of these, especially not in this place.1
I might, here, before I take my leave of the salmon, tell you, that there is more than one sort of them; as namely, a Tecon, and another called in some places a Samlet, or by some a Skegger. But these, and others which I forbear to name, may be fish of another kind, and differ, as we know, a Herring and a Pilchard do; which, I think, are as different as the
assafoetida, three drachms; camphor, one drachm; Venice turpentine, one drachm. Beat altogether with some drops of oil of lavender and oil of camomile. Anoint eight inches of your line above the hook with it; and for a trout in a muddy stream, and a gudgeon in clear water, it has the preference over any other unguent whatever." In a book intitled, the "Secrets of Angling," by J. Denny; at the end, is the following mystical recipe of "R. R." who possibly may be the "R. Roe" mentioned in Walton's preface :
To bliss thy bait, and make the fish to bite,-
1 No honest angler will ever resort to a nefarious way of taking fish. The following extract of a letter which appeared in one of the London papers, 21st June, 1788, should operate as a general caution against using, in the composition of baits, any ingredient prejudicial to the human constitution (Nux vomica, &c.). Newcastle, June 16. Last week, in Lancashire, two young men, having caught a large quantity of trout by mixing the water in a small brook with lime, ate heartily of the trout at dinner the next day they were seized, at midnight, with violent pains in the intestines; and though medical assistance was immediately procured, they expired, before noon, in the greatest agonies."-SIR H. NICOLAS.
2 Called also a brandling, They live in the swiftest streams, and never grow beyond six or eight inches. The bait for these is the ant-fly or red worm, as for gudgeon.-BROWNE. They are also called fingerling, skerling, gravelling, laspring, sparling, and parr, all which names it would be desirable to discontinue excepting par and samlet. —YARRELL.
3 There is a fish, in many rivers, of the salmon kind; which, though very small, is thought by some curious persons to be of the same species; and this, I take it, is the fish known by the different names of salmon-pink, shedders, skeggers, last-springs, and gravel last-springs. But there is another small fish very much resembling these in shape and colour, called
rivers in which they breed, and must, by me, be left to the disquisitions of men of more leisure, and of greater abilties than I profess myself to have.
And lastly, I am to borrow so much of your promised patience, as to tell you, that the trout, or salmon, being in season, have at their first taking out of the water, which continues during life-their bodies adorned, the one with such red spots, and the other with such black or blackish spots, as give them such an addition of natural beauty as, I think, was never given to any woman by the artificial paint or patches in which they so much pride themselves in this age. And so I shall leave them both, and proceed to some observations on the pike.
the gravel last-spring, found only in the rivers Wye and Severn; which is undoubtedly, a distinct species: these spawn about the beginning of September and in the Wye, I have taken them with an ant-fly, as fast as I could throw. Perhaps this is what Walton calls the tecon.-H.