Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Compleat Angler
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo

Fourth Day

Chapter 5. CONTINUED

PISCATOR. Good morrow, good Hostess! I see my Brother Peter is still in bed: come, give my Scholar and me a morning drink, and a bit of meat to breakfast, and be sure to get a good dish of meat or two against supper, for we shall come home as hungry as hawks. Come, Scholar, let's be going.

VEN. Well now, good Master, as we walk towards the river give me direction, according to your promise, how I shall fish for a Trout.

PISC. My honest Scholar, I will take this very convenient oppor­tunity to do it.

The Trout is usually caught with a worm or a minnow, which some call a Penk, or with a fly, viz. either a natural or an artificial fly: concerning which three I will give you some observations and directions.

And, first, for worms: of these there be very many sorts; some breed only in the earth, as the Earth-worm; others of or amongst plants, as the Dug-worm; and others breed either out of excrements, or in the bodies of living creatures, as in the horns of sheep or deer; or some of dead flesh, as the maggot or gentle, and others.

Now these be most of them particularly good for particular fishes: but for the Trout, the Dew-worm, which some also call the Lob-worm, and the Brandling, are the chief; and especially the first for a great Trout, and the latter for a less. There be also of Lob-worms some called Squirrel-tails, a worm that has a red head, a streak down the back, and a broad tail, which are noted to be the best, because they are the toughest and most lively, and live longest in the water: for you are to know, that a dead worm is but a dead bait, and like to catch nothing, compared to a lively, quick, stirring worm. And for a Brandling, he is usually found in an old dunghill, or some very rotten place near to it: but most usually in cow-dung, or hog's dung, rather than horse-dung, which is some­ what too hot and dry for that worm. But the best of them are to be found in the bark of the tanners, which they cast up in heaps after they have used it about their leather.

There are also divers other kinds of worms, which for color and shape alter even as the ground out of which they are got; as the Marsh-worm, the Tag-tail, the Flag-worm, the Dock-worm, the Oak-worm, the Gilt-tail, the Twachel or Lob-worm, which of all others is the most excellent bait for a Salmon, and too many to name, even as many sorts as some think there be of several herbs or shrubs, or of several kinds of birds in the air: of which I shall say no more, but tell you, that what worms soever you fish with are the better for being well scoured, that is, long kept before they be used: and in case you have not been so provident, then the way to cleanse and scour them quickly is to put them all night in water, if they be Lob-worms, and then put them into your bag with fennel; but you must not put your Brandlings above an hour in water, and then put them into fennel for sudden use; but if you have time, and purpose to keep them long, then they be best preserved in an earthen pot with good store of moss, which is to be fresh every three or four days in summer, and every week or eight days in winter; or at least the moss taken from them, and clean washed, and wrung betwixt your hands till it be dry, and then put it to them again. And when your worm, especially the Brandling, begins to be sick and lose of his bigness, then you may recover him by putting a little milk or cream, about a spoonful in a day, into them by drops on the moss; and if there be added to the cream an egg beaten and boiled in it, then it will both fatten and preserve them long. And note, that when the knot, which is near to the middle of the Brandling, begins to swell, then he is sick, and, if he be not well looked to, is near dying. And for moss you are to note, that there be divers kinds of it, which I could name to you, but will only tell you that that which is likest a buck's horn is the best, except it be soft white moss, which grows on some heaths, and is hard to be found. And note, that in a very dry time, when you are put to an extremity for worms, walnut-tree leaves squeezed into water, or salt in water, to make it bitter or salt, and then that water poured on the ground where you shall see worms are used to rise in the night, will make them to appear above ground presently. And you may take notice, some say that camphor put into your bag with your moss and worms gives them a strong and so tempting a smell, that the fish fare the worse and you the better for it.

And now I shall show you how to bait your hook with a worm, so as shall prevent you from much trouble, and the loss of many a hook too, when you fish for a Trout with a running-line; that is to say, when you fish for him by hand at the ground. I will direct you in this as plainly as I can, that you may not mistake.

Suppose it be a big Lob-worm; put your hook into him some­ what above the middle, and out again a little below the middle: having so done, draw your worm above the arming of your hook; but note, that at the entering of your hook it must not be at the head-end of the worm, but at the tail-end of him, that the point of your hook may come out toward the head-end, and having drawn him above the arming of your hook, then put the point of your hook again into the very head of the worm, till it come near to the place where the point of the hook first came out: and then draw back that part of the worm that was above the shank or arm­ ing of your hook, and so fish with it. And if you mean to fish with two worms, then put the second on before you turn back the hook's head of the first worm. You cannot lose above two or three worms before you attain to what I direct you; and having attained it, you will find it very useful, and thank me for it, for you will run on the ground without tangling.

Now for the Minnow or Penk; he is not easily found and caught till March, or in April, for then he appears first in the river; Nature having taught him to shelter and hide himself in the winter in ditches that be near to the river, and there both to hide and keep himself warm in the mud or in the weeds, which rot not so soon as in a running river, in which place if he were in winter, the dis­ tempered floods that are usually in that season would suffer him to take no rest, but carry him headlong to mills and weirs, to his confusion. And of these Minnows, first you are to know, that the biggest size is not the best; and next, that the middle size and the whitest are the best: and then you are to know, that your Minnow must be so put on your hook, that it must turn round when 'tis drawn against the stream, and that it may turn nimbly, you must put it on a big-sized hook as I shall now direct you, which is thus. Put your hook in at his mouth and out at his gill; then, having drawn your hook two or three inches beyond or through his gill, put it again into his mouth, and the point and beard out at his tail; and then tie the hook and his tail about very neatly with a white thread, which will make it the apter to turn quick in the water: that done, pull back that part of your line which was slack when you did put your hook into the Minnow the second time; I say, pull that part of your line back so that it shall fasten the head so that the body of the Minnow shall be almost straight on your hook; this done, try how it will turn by drawing it across the water or against a stream; and if it do not turn nimbly, then turn the tail a little to the right or left hand, and try again, till it turn quick; for if not, you are in danger to catch nothing; for know, that it is impossible that it should turn too quick. And you are yet to know, that in case you want a Minnow, then a small Loach or a Stickle-bag, or any other small fish that will turn quick, will serve as well. And you are yet to know, that you may salt them, and by that means keep them ready and fit for use three or four days, or longer; and that of salt, bay-salt is the best.

And here let me tell you, what many old Anglers know right well, that at some times, and in some waters, a Minnow is not to be got, and therefore let me tell you, I have — which I will show to you — an artificial Minnow, that will catch a Trout as well as an artificial fly; and it was made by a handsome woman, that had a fine hand, and a live Minnow lying by her: the mould or body of the Minnow was cloth, and wrought upon or over it thus with a needle; the back of it with very sad French green silk, and paler green silk towards the belly, shadowed as perfectly as you can imagine, just as you see a Minnow; the belly was wrought also with a needle, and it was a part of it white silk, and another part of it with silver thread: the tail and fins were of a quill, which was shaven thin; the eyes were of two little black beads, and the head was so shadowed, and all of it so curiously wrought, and so exactly dissembled, that it would beguile any sharp-sighted Trout in a swift stream. And this Minnow I will now show you; look, here it is: and if you like it, lend it you, to have two or three made by it, for they be easily carried about an Angler and be of excellent use; for note, that a large Trout will come as fiercely at a Minnow, as the highest mettled hawk doth seize on a partridge, or a grey­ hound on a hare. I have been told, that one hundred and sixty Minnows have been found in a Trout's belly; either the Trout had devoured so many, or the miller that gave it a friend of mine had forced them down his throat after he had taken him.

Now for Flies, which is the third bait wherewith Trouts are usually taken. You are to know, that there are so many sorts of flies as there be of fruits: I will name you but some of them; as the Dun-fly, the Stone-fly, the Red-fly, the Moor-fly, the Tawny-fly, the Shell-fly, the Cloudy or Blackish-fly, the Flag-fly, the Vine-fly: there be of flies, Caterpillars, and Canker-flies, and Bear-flies; and indeed too many either for me to name or for you to remem­ber: and their breeding is so various and wonderful, that I might easily amaze myself and tire you in a relation of them.

And yet I will exercise your promised patience by saying a little of the Caterpillar, or the Palmer-fly or worm, that by them you may guess what a work it were in a discourse but to run over those very many flies, worms, and little living creatures with which the sun and summer adorn and beautify the river-banks and meadows, both for the recreation and contemplation of us Anglers: pleasures which, I think, myself enjoy more than any other man that is not of my profession.

Pliny holds an opinion, that many have their birth or being from a dew, that in the spring falls upon the leaves of trees; and that some kinds of them are from a dew left upon herbs or flowers; and others from a dew left upon coleworts or cabbages; all which kinds of dews being thickened and condensed, are by the sun's generative heat most of them hatched, and in three days made living creatures: and these of several shapes and colors; some being hard and tough, some smooth and soft; some are horned in their head, some in their tail, some have none: some have hair, some none: some have sixteen feet, some less, and some have none: but, as our Topsel hath, with great diligence, observed, those which have none move upon the earth, or upon broad leaves, their motion being not unlike to the waves of the sea. Some of them he also observes to be bred of the eggs of other caterpillars, and that those in their time turn to be butterflies; and again, that their eggs turn the following year to be caterpillars. And some affirm, that every plant has his particular fly or caterpillar, which it breeds and feeds. I have seen, and may therefore affirm it, a green caterpillar, or worm, as big as a small peascod, which had fourteen legs; eight on the belly, four under the neck, and two near the tail. It was found on a hedge of privet; and was taken thence, and put into a large box, and a little branch or two of privet put to it, on which I saw it feed as sharply as a dog gnaws a bone: it lived thus five or six days, and thrived, and changed the color two or three times; but, by some neglect in the keeper of it, it then died and did not turn to a fly: but if it had lived, it had doubtless turned to one of those flies that some call Flies-of-prey, which those that walk by the rivers may, in summer, see fasten on smaller flies, and, I think, make them their food. And 'tis observable, that, as there be these Flies-of-prey which be very large, so there be others, very little, created, I think, only to feed them, and breed out of I know not what; whose life, they say, Nature intended not to exceed an hour; and yet that life is thus made shorter by other flies, or accident.

'Tis endless to tell you what the curious searchers into Nature's productions have observed of these worms and flies: but yet I shall tell you what Aldrovandus, our Topsel, and others, say of the Palmer-worm or Caterpillar: that whereas others content them­ selves to feed on particular herbs or leaves, — for most think those very leaves that gave them life and shape give them a particular feeding and nourishment, and that upon them they usually abide; — yet he observes that this is called a Pilgrim or Palmer-worm, for his very wandering life and various food; not contenting himself, as others do, with any one certain place for his abode, nor any certain kind of herb or flower for his feeding; but will boldly and disorderly wander up and down, and not endure to be kept to a diet, or fixed to a particular place.

Nay, the very colors of Caterpillars are, as one has observed, very elegant and beautiful. I shall, for a taste of the rest, describe one of them, which I will some time the next month show you feeding on a willow-tree, and you shall find him punctually to answer this very description: his lips and mouth somewhat yellow, his eyes black as jet, his forehead purple, his feet and hinder parts green, his tail two-forked and black; the whole body stained with a kind of red spots which run along the neck and shoulder-blade, not unlike the form of Saint Andrew's cross, or the letter X, made thus crosswise, and a white line drawn down his back to his tail; all which add much beauty to his whole body. And it is to me observable, that at a fixed age this Caterpillar gives over to eat, and towards winter comes to be covered over with a strange shell or crust, called an Aurelia; and so lives a kind of dead life, without eating, all the winter. And, as others of several kinds turn to be several kinds of flies and vermin the spring following, so this caterpillar then turns to be a painted butterfly.

Come, come, my Scholar, you see the river stops our morning walk, and I will also here stop my discourse: only, as we sit down under this honeysuckle hedge, whilst I look a line to fit the rod that our Brother Peter hath lent you, I shall, for a little confirma­tion of what I have said, repeat the observation of Du Bartas: —

God, not contented to each kind to give,
And to infuse the virtue generative,
By his wise power made many creatures breed
Of lifeless bodies, without Venus' deed.

So the cold humor breeds the Salamander;
Who, in effect, like to her birth's commander,
With child with hundred winters, with her touch
Quencheth the fire, though glowing ne'er so much.

So in the fire, in burning furnace, springs
The fly Perausta with the flaming wings:
Without the fire it dies; in it it joys;
Living in that which all things else destroys.

So, slow Boötes underneath him sees
In th' icy islands goslings hatched of trees;
Whose fruitful leaves, falling into the water,
Are turned, 'tis known, to living fowls soon after.

So rotten planks of broken ships do change
To barnacles. O transformation strange!
'Twas first a green tree, then a broken hull,
Lately a mushroom, now a flying gull.

VEN. O my good Master! this morning walk has been spent to my great pleasure and wonder: but I pray, when shall I have your direction how to make Artificial Flies, like to those that the Trout loves best? and also how to use them?

PISC. My honest Scholar, it is now past five of the clock; we will fish till nine, and then go to breakfast. Go you to yonder sycamore-tree, and hide your bottle of drink under the hollow root of it; for about that time, and in that place, we will make a brave breakfast with a piece of powdered beef, and a radish or two that I have in my fish-bag: we shall, I warrant you, make a good, honest, whole­ some, hungry breakfast; and I will then give you direction for the making and using of your flies: and in the mean time there is your rod and line; and my advice is, that you fish as you see me do, and let's try which can catch the first fish.

VEN. I thank you, Master, I will observe and practise your direction, as far as I am able.

PISC. Look you, Scholar; you see I have hold of a good fish: I now see it is a Trout. I pray put that net under him, and touch not my line, for if you do, then we break all. Well done, Scholar, I thank you.

Now for another. Trust me I have another bite. Come Scholar, come, lay down your rod, and help me to land this, as you did the other. So now we shall be sure to have a good dish of fish to supper.

VEN. I am glad of that; but I have no fortune: sure, Master, yours is a better rod and better tackling.

PISC. Nay, then, take mine, and I will fish with yours. Look you, Scholar, I have another. Come, do as you did before. And now I have a bite at another. Oh me! he has broke all; there's half a line and a good hook lost.

VEN. Ay, and a good Trout too.

PISC. Nay, the Trout is not lost; for pray take notice, no man can lose what he never had.

VEN. Master, I can neither catch with the first nor second angle: I have no fortune.

PISC. Look you, Scholar, I have yet another. And now, having caught three brace of Trouts, I will tell you a short tale as we walk towards our breakfast. A scholar, a preacher I should say, that was to preach to procure the approbation of a parish, that he might be their lecturer, had got from his fellow-pupil the copy of a sermon that was first preached with great commendation by him that composed it: and though the borrower of it preached it word for word, as it was at first, yet it was utterly disliked as it was preached by the second to his congregation; which the sermon-borrower complained of to the lender of it, and was thus answered: "I lent you indeed my fiddle, but not my fiddlestick; for you are to know, that every one cannot make music with my words, which are fitted for my own mouth." And so, my Scholar, you are to know, that as the ill pronunciation or ill accenting of words in a sermon spoils it, so the ill carriage of your line, or not fishing even to a foot in a right place, makes you lose your labor; and you are to know, that though you have my fiddle, that is, my very rod and tacklings with which you see I catch fish, yet you have not my fiddlestick: that is, you yet have not skill to know how to carry your hand and line, nor how to guide it to a right place: and this must be taught you, — for you are to remember I told you Angling is an art, — either by practice, or a long observation, or both. But take this for a rule, when you fish for a Trout with a worm, let your line have so much, and not more lead than will fit the stream in which you fish; that is to say, more in a great troublesome stream than in a smaller that is quieter: as near as may be, so much as will sink the bait to the bottom, and keep it still in motion, and not more.

But now let's say grace and fall to breakfast. What say you, Scholar, to the providence of an old Angler? Does not this meat taste well? and was not this place well chosen to eat it? for this sycamore-tree will shade us from the sun's heat.

VEN. All excellent good; and my stomach excellent good too. And now I remember, and find that true which devout Lessius says, "that poor men, and those that fast often, have much more pleasure in eating than rich men and gluttons, that always feed before their stomachs are empty of their last meat, and call for more; for by that means they rob themselves of that pleasure that hunger brings to poor men." And I do seriously approve of that saying of yours, "that you had rather be a civil, well-governed, well-grounded, temperate, poor Angler, than a drunken lord": but I hope there is none such. However, I am certain of this, that I have been at many very costly dinners that have not afforded me half the content that this has done, for which I thank God and you.

And now, good Master, proceed to your promised direction for making and ordering my Artificial Fly.

PISC. My honest Scholar, I will do it, for it is a debt due unto you by my promise. And because you shall not think yourself more engaged to me than indeed you really are, I will freely give you such directions as were lately given to me by an ingenious Brother of the Angle, an honest man, and a most excellent fly-fisher.

You are to note, that there are twelve kinds of artificial-made Flies to angle with upon the top of the water. Note by the way, that the fittest season of using these is a blustering, windy day, when the waters are so troubled that the natural fly cannot be seen, or rest upon them. The first is the Dun-fly, in March: the body is made of dun wool, the wings of the partridge's feathers. The second is another Dun-fly: the body of black wool, and the wings made of the black drake's feathers, and of the feathers under his tail. The third is the Stone-fly, in April: the body is made of black wool, made yellow under the wings, and under the tail, and so made with wings of the drake. The fourth is the Ruddy-fly, in the beginning of May: the body made of red wool wrapt about with black silk, and the feathers are the wings of the drake; with the feathers of a red capon also, which hang dangling on his sides next to the tail. The fifth is the yellow or greenish fly, in May likewise: the body made of yellow wool, and the wings made of the red cock's hackle or tail. The sixth is the Black-fly, in May also: the body made of black wool, and lapped about with the herle of a peacock's tail; the wings are made of the wings of a brown capon with his blue feathers in his head. The seventh is the Sad-yellow-fly in June: the body is made of black wool, with a yel­low list on either side, and the wings taken off the wings of a buz­zard bound with black braked hemp. The eighth is the Moorish-fly: made with the body of duskish wool, and the wings made of the blackish mail of the drake. The ninth is the Tawny-fly, good until the middle of June: the body made of tawny wool, the wings made contrary one against the other, made of the whitish mail of the wild-drake. The tenth is the Wasp-fly, in July: the body made of black wool, lapped about with yellow silk; the wings made of the feathers of the drake, or of the buzzard. The eleventh is the Shell-fly, good in mid-July: the body made of greenish wool, lapped about with the herle of a peacock's tail, and the wings made of the wings of the buzzard. The twelfth is the dark Drake-fly, good in August: the body made with black wool, lapped about with black silk; his wings are made with the mail of the black-drake, with a black head. Thus have you a jury of flies likely to betray and condemn all the Trouts in the river.

I shall next give you some other directions for fly-fishing, such as are given by Mr. Thomas Barker, a gentleman that hath spent much time in fishing; but I shall do it with a little variation. First, let your rod be light, and very gentle: I take the best to be of two pieces. And let not your line exceed, — especially for three or four links next to the hook, — I say, not exceed three or four hairs at the most, though you may fish a little stronger above in the upper part of your line; but if you can attain to angle with one hair, you shall have more rises and catch more fish. Now you must be sure not to cumber yourself with too long a line, as most do. And before you begin to angle, cast to have the wind on your back, and the sun, if it shines, to be before you, and to fish down the stream; and carry the point or top of your rod downward, by which means the shadow of yourself, and rod too, will be the least offensive to the fish; for the sight of any shade amazes the fish, and spoils your sport, of which you must take a great care.

In the middle of March, till which time a man should not in honesty catch a Trout; or in April if the weather be dark, or a little windy or cloudy, the best fishing is with the Palmer-worm, of which I last spoke to you; but of these there be divers kinds, or at least of divers colors: these and the May-fly are the ground of all fly-angling, which are to be thus made.

First, you must arm your hook with the line in the inside of it; then take your scissors, and cut so much of a brown mallard's feather as in your own reason will make the wings of it, you having withal regard to the bigness or littleness of your hook: then lay the outmost part of your feather next to your hook, then the point of your feather next the shank of your hook; and, having so done, whip it three or four times about the hook with the same silk with which your hook was armed; and, having made the silk fast, take the hackle of a cock or capon's neck, or a plover's top, which is usually better: take off the one side of the feather, and then take the hackle, silk, or crewel, gold or silver thread, make these fast at the bent of the hook, that is to say, below your arming; then you must take the hackle, the silver or gold thread, and work it up to the wings, shifting or still removing your finger as you turn the silk about the hook; and still looking at every stop or turn, that your gold, or what materials soever you make your fly of, do lie right and neatly, and if you find they do so, then, when you have made the head, make all fast: and then, with a needle or pin, divide the wing into two; and then with the arming silk whip it about cross-ways betwixt the wings; and then with your thumb you must turn the point of the feather towards the bent of the hook; and then work three or four times about the shank of the hook; and then view the proportion, and if all be neat and to your liking, fasten.

I confess, no direction can be given to make a man of a dull capacity able to make a fly well: and yet I know this, with a little practice, will help an ingenious Angler in a good degree: but to see a fly made by an artist in that kind, is the best teaching to make it. And, then, an ingenious Angler may walk by the river and mark what flies fall on the water that day, and catch one of them, if he see the Trouts leap at a fly of that kind: and then having always hooks ready-hung with him, and having a bag also always with him, with bear's hair, or the hair of a brown or sad-colored heifer, hackles of a cock or a capon, several colored silk and crewel to make the body of the fly, the feathers of a drake's head, black or brown sheep's wool, or hog's wool, or hair, thread of gold and of silver, silk of several colors, especially sad-colored, to make the fly's head; and there be also other colored feathers both of little birds and of speckled fowl: — I say, having those with him in a bag, and trying to make a fly, though he miss at first, yet shall he at last hit it better, even to such a perfection as none can well teach him. And if he hit to make his fly right, and have the luck to hit also where there is store of Trouts, a dark day, and a right wind, he will catch such store of them as will encourage him to grow more and more in love with the art of fly-making.

VEN. But, my loving Master, if any wind will not serve, then I wish I were in Lapland, to buy a good wind of one of the honest witches, that sell so many winds there, and so cheap.

PISC. Marry, Scholar, but I would not be there, nor indeed from under this tree: for look how it begins to rain, and by the clouds, if I mistake not, we shall presently have a smoking shower: and therefore sit close; this sycamore-tree will shelter us: and I will tell you, as they shall come into my mind, more observations of Fly-fishing for a Trout.

But first for the wind: you are to take notice, that of the winds the south wind is said to be best. One observes, that

                   when the wind is south,
It blows your bait into a fish's mouth.

Next to that, the west wind is believed to be the best: and having told you that the east wind is the worst, I need not tell you which wind is the best in the third degree: and yet, as Solomon observes (Eccles. xi. 4), that "he that considers the wind shall never sow"; so he that busies his head too much about them, if the weather be not made extreme cold by an east wind, shall be a little superstitious: for as it is observed by some, that there is no good horse of a bad color, so I have observed that if it be a cloudy day, and not extreme cold, let the wind sit in what corner it will, and do its worst, I heed it not. And yet take this for a rule, that I would will­ingly fish standing on the lee-shore: and you are to take notice, that the fish lies or swims nearer the bottom, and in deeper water, in winter than in summer; and also nearer the bottom in a cold day, and then gets nearest the lee-side of the water.

But I promised to tell you more of the Fly-fishing for a Trout, which I may have time enough to do, for you see it rains May butter. First for a May-fly: you may make his body with greenish-colored crewel, or willowish color; darkening it in most places with waxed silk, or ribbed with black hair, or some of them ribbed with silver thread; and such wings, for the color, as you see the fly to have at that season, — nay, at that very day on the water. Or you may make the Oak-fly with an orange tawny and black ground, and the brown of a mallard's feather for the wings; and you are to know, that these two are most excellent flies, that is, the May-fly and the Oak-fly. And let me again tell you, that you keep as far from the water as you can possibly, whether you fish with a fly or worm, and fish down the stream: and when you fish with a fly, if it be possible, let no part of your line touch the water, but your fly only; and be still moving your fly upon the water, or casting it into the water, you yourself being also always moving down the stream.

Mr. Barker commends several sorts of the Palmer-flies; not only those ribbed with silver and gold, but others that have their bodies all made of black, or some with red, and a red hackle. you may also make the Hawthorn-fly, which is all black, and not big, but very small, the smaller the better: or the Oak-fly, the body of which is orange-color and black-crewel, with a brown wing: or a fly made with a peacock's feather is excellent in a bright day. You must be sure you want not in your magazine-bag the peacock's feather, and grounds of such wool and crewel as will make the Grasshopper; and note, that usually the smallest flies are the best. And note also, that the light fly does usually make most sport in a dark day, and the darkest and least fly in a bright or clear day: and lastly note, that you are to repair upon any occasion to your magazine-bag; and upon any occasion vary, and make them lighter or sadder according to your fancy or the day.

And now I shall tell you, that the fishing with a natural fly is excellent, and affords much pleasure. They may be found thus: the May-fly usually in and about that month near to the river-side, especially against rain: the Oak-fly on the but or body of an oak or ash, from the beginning of May to the end of August; it is a brownish fly, and easy to be so found, and stands usually with his head downward, that is to say, towards the root of the tree: the small black fly, or Hawthorn-fly, is to be had on any hawthorn-bush after the leaves be come forth: with these and a short line, as I showed to angle for a Chub, you may dape or dop; and also with a grasshopper behind a tree, or in any deep hole; still making it to move on the top of the water, as if it were alive, and still keeping yourself out of sight, you shall certainly have sport if there be Trouts; yea, in a hot day, but especially in the evening of a hot day, you will have sport.

And now, Scholar, my direction for fly-fishing is ended with this shower, for it has done raining. And now look about you, and see how pleasantly that meadow looks; nay, and the earth smells as sweetly too. Come, let me tell you what holy Mr. Herbert says of such days and flowers as these; and then we will thank God that we enjoy them, and walk to the river, and sit down quietly, and try to catch the other brace of Trouts.

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,

The bridal of the earth and sky,
Sweet dews shall weep thy fall to-night, —
                                            For thou must die!

Sweet rose, whose hue, angry and brave,
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave, —
                                            And thou must die!

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My music shows you have your closes, —
                                           And all must die!

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber, never gives,
But when the whole world turns to coal, —
                                           Then chiefly lives!

VEN. I thank you, good Master, for your good direction for fly-fishing, and for the sweet enjoyment of the pleasant day, which is so far spent without offence to God or man: and I thank you for the sweet close of your discourse with Mr. Herbert's verses; who, I have heard, loved Angling: and I do the rather believe it, because he had a spirit suitable to Anglers, and to those primitive Christians that you love, and have so much commended.

PISC. Well, my loving Scholar, and I am pleased to know that you are so well pleased with my direction and discourse.

And since you like these verses of Mr. Herbert's so well, let me tell you what a reverend and learned divine that professes to imi­tate him, and has indeed done so most excellently, hath writ of our Book of Common Prayer: which I know you will like the better because he is a friend of mine, and I am sure no enemy to Angling.

What? Prayer by the Book? and Common? Yes; why not?

          The spirit of grace
     And supplication
     Is not left free alone
          For time and place
But manner too: to read or speak by rote,
     Is all alike to him, that prays
     In's heart what with his mouth he says.

They that in private by themselves alone
          Do pray, may take
     What liberty they please,
     In choosing of the ways
          Wherein to make
Their soul's most intimate affections known
     To Him that sees in secret, when
     Th' are most concealed from other men.

But he that unto others leads the way
          In public prayer,
     Should do it so,
     As all that hear may know
          They need not fear
To tune their hearts unto his tongue and say,
     Amen! not doubt they were betrayed
     To blaspheme, when they meant to have prayed.

Devotion will add life unto the letter,
          And why should not
     That which authority
     Prescribes esteemed be
          Advantage got?
If th' prayer be good, the commoner the better,
     Prayer in the Church's words, as well
     As sense, of all prayers bears the bell.

And now, Scholar, I think it will be time to repair to our angle-rods, which we left in the water to fish for themselves; and you shall choose which shall be yours; and it is an even lay one of them catches.

And let me tell you, this kind of fishing with a dead-rod, and laying night-hooks, are like putting money to use; for they both work for the owners when they do nothing but sleep, or eat, or rejoice; as you know we have done this last hour, and sat as quietly and as free from cares under this sycamore, as Virgil's Tityrus and his Melibœus did under their broad beech-tree. No life, my honest Scholar, no life so happy and so pleasant as the life of a well-governed Angler; for when the lawyer is swallowed up with busi­ness, and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams, which we now see glide so quietly by us. Indeed, my good Scholar, we may say of Angling, as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did": and so, if I might be judge, "God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than Angling."

I'll tell you, Scholar, when I sat last on this primrose-bank, and looked down these meadows, I thought of them as Charles the Emperor did of the city of Florence, — "that they were too pleasant to be looked on, but only on holy-days": as I then sat on this very grass, I turned my present thoughts into verse: 'twas a Wish, which I'll repeat to you.


I in these flowery meads would be;

These crystal streams should solace me;
To whose harmonious, bubbling noise
I with my angle would rejoice:
     Sit here, and see the turtle-dove
     Court his chaste mate to acts of love:

Or, on that bank, feel the west wind
Breathe health and plenty; please my mind
To see sweet dew-drops kiss these flowers,
And then washed off by April showers:
     Here, hear my Kenna sing* a song;
     There, see a blackbird feed her young,

Or a leverock build her nest;
Here, give my weary spirits rest,
And raise my low-pitched thoughts above Earth,
Or what poor mortals love:
     Thus free from lawsuits, and the noise
     Of princes' courts, I would rejoice:

Or, with my Bryan, and a book,
Loiter long days near Shawford Brook;
There sit by him, and eat my meat,
There see the sun both rise and set:
There bid good morning to next day,
There meditate my time away:
     And angle on, and beg to have
     A quiet passage to a welcome grave.

When I had ended this composure, I left this place, and saw a Brother of the Angle sit under that honeysuckle hedge, one that will prove worth your acquaintance. I sat down by him, and pres­ently we met with an accidental piece of merriment which I will relate to you; for it rains still.

On the other side of this very hedge sat a gang of Gypsies, and near to them sat a gang of beggars. The Gypsies were then to divide all the money that had been got that week, either by stealing linen or poultry, or by fortune-telling, or legerdemain, or, indeed, by any other sleights and secrets belonging to their mysterious government. And the sum that was got that week proved to be but twenty and some odd shillings. The odd money was agreed to be distributed amongst the poor of their own corporation: and for the remaining twenty shillings, that was to be divided unto four Gentlemen-gypsies, according to their several degrees in their commonwealth.

And the first or chiefest Gypsy was by consent to have a third part of the twenty shillings, which all men know is 6s. 8d.

The second was to have a fourth part of the 20s., which all men know to be 5s.

The third was to have a fifth part of the 20s., which all men know to be 4s.

The fourth and last Gypsy was to have a sixth part of the 20s., which all men know to be 3s. 4d.

As, for example,

3 times 6s. 8d. is                           20s.
And so is 4 times 5s.                    20s.
And so is 5 times 4s.                    20s.
And so is 6 times 3s. 4d.              20s.

And yet he that divided the money was so very a Gypsy, that, though he gave to every one these said sums, yet he kept one shill­ ing of it for himself.

As, for example,                           s.      d.

                                                       6       8
                                                       5       0
                                                       4       0
                                                       3       4
make but                                     19       0

But now you shall know, that when the four Gypsies saw that he had got one shilling by dividing the money, though not one of them knew any reason to demand more, yet, like lords and cour­tiers, every Gypsy envied him that was the gainer, and wrangled with him; and every one said the remaining shilling belonged to him: and so they fell to so high a contest about it, as none that knows the faithfulness of one Gypsy to another will easily believe; only we that have lived these last twenty years are certain that money has been able to do much mischief. However, the Gypsies were too wise to go to law, and did therefore choose their choice friends Rook and Shark, and our late English Gusman, to be their arbitrators and umpires. And so they left this honeysuckle hedge; and went to tell fortunes, and cheat, and get more money and lodging in the next village.

When these were gone, we heard as high a contention amongst the beggars, whether it was easiest to rip a cloak, or to unrip a cloak? One beggar affirmed it was all one: but that was denied, by asking her if doing and undoing were all one. Then another said, 'twas easiest to unrip a cloak, for that was to let it alone: but she was answered by asking her how she unripped it, if she let it alone? and she confessed herself mistaken. These and twenty such like questions were proposed, and answered with as much beggarly logic and earnestness as was ever heard to proceed from the mouth of the most pertinacious schismatic; and sometimes all the beggars, whose number was neither more nor less than the poets' nine Muses, talked all together about this ripping and unzipping, and so loud that not one heard what the other said: but at last one Beggar craved audience, and told them, that old Father Clause, whom Ben Jonson in his Beggar's Bush created king of their cor­poration, was that night to lodge at an ale-house, called Catch-her­ by-the-way, not far from Waltham Cross, and in the high-road towards London; and he therefore desired them to spend no more time about that and such like questions, but to refer all to Father Clause at night, for he was an upright judge, and in the mean time draw cuts what song should be next sung, and who should sing it. They all agreed to the motion, and the lot fell to her that was the youngest, and veriest virgin of the company, and she sung Frank Davison's song, which he made forty years ago; and all the others of the company joined to sing the burden with her. The ditty was this, — but first the burden: —

Bright shines the sun: play, beggars, play,

Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.

What noise of viols is so sweet
     As when our merry clappers ring?
What mirth doth want when beggars meet?
     A beggar's life is for a king.
Eat, drink, and play; sleep when we list,
Go where we will, — so stocks be mist.
     Bright shines the sun: play, beggars, play,
     Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.

The world is ours, and ours alone,
     For we alone have world at will;
We purchase not, all is our own,
     Both fields and streets we beggars fill:
Nor care to get, nor fear to keep,
Did ever break a beggar's sleep.
     Bright shines the sun: play, beggars, play,
     Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.

A hundred herds of black and white
     Upon our gowns securely feed;
And yet if any dare us bite,
     He dies therefore as sure as creed.
Thus beggars lord it as they please,
And only beggars live at ease.
     Bright shines the sun: play, beggars, play,
     Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.

VEN. I thank you, good Master, for this piece of merriment, and this song, which was well humored by the maker, and well remembered by you.

PISC. But I pray forget not the catch which you promised to make against night; for our countryman, honest Coridon, will ex­pect your catch and my song, which I must be forced to patch up, for it is so long since I learned it that I have forgot a part of it. But come, now it hath done raining, let's stretch our legs a little in a gentle walk to the river, and try what interest our angles will pay us for lending them so long to be used by the Trouts: lent them indeed, like usurers, for our profit and their destruction.

VEN. O me! look you Master, a fish, a fish! O alas, Master, I have lost her!

PISC. Ay, marry, Sir, that was a good fish indeed: if I had had the luck to have taken up that rod, then 'tis twenty to one he should not have broke my line by running to the rod's end, as you suffered him. I would have held him within the bent of my rod, unless he had been fellow to the great Trout that is near an ell long, which was of such a length and depth that he had his picture drawn, and is now to be seen at mine Host Rickabie's, at the George in Ware; and it may be, by giving that very great Trout the rod, that is, by casting it to him into the water, I might have caught him at the long run; for so I use always to do when I meet with an overgrown fish, and you will learn to do so too hereafter: for I tell you, Scholar, fishing is an art, or, at least, it is an art to catch fish.

VEN. But, Master, I have heard that the great Trout you speak of is a Salmon.

PISC. Trust me, Scholar, I know not what to say to it. There are many country people that believe Hares change sexes every year; and there be very many learned men think so too, for in their dissecting them they find many reasons to incline them to that belief. And to make the wonder seem yet less, that Hares change sexes, note that Doctor Mer. Casaubon affirms, in his book "Of Credible and Incredible Things," that Gaspar Peucerus, a learned physician, tells us of a people that once a year turn wolves, partly in shape, and partly in condition. And so, whether this were a Salmon when he came into the fresh water, and his not returning into the sea hath altered him to another color or kind, I am not able to say; but I am certain he hath all the signs of being a Trout, both for his shape, color, and spots; and yet many think he is not.

VEN. But, Master, will this Trout which I had hold of die? for it is like he hath the hook in his belly.

PISC. I will tell you, Scholar, that unless the hook be fast in his very gorge, 'tis more than probable he will live; and a little time, with the help of the water, will rust the hook, and it will in time wear away, as the gravel doth in the horse-hoof, which only leaves a false quarter.

And now, Scholar, let's go to my rod. Look you, Scholar, I have a fish too, but it proves a logger-headed Chub; and this is not much amiss, for this will pleasure some poor body, as we go to our lodgings to meet our brother Peter and honest Coridon. Come, now bait your hook again, and lay it into the water, for it rains again; and we will even retire to the sycamore-tree, and there I will give you more directions concerning fishing, for I would fain make you an artist.

VEN. Yes, good Master, I pray let it be so.

PISC. Well, Scholar, now we are sat down and are at ease, I shall tell you a little more of Trout-fishing, before I speak of the Sal­ mon, which I purpose shall be next, and then of the Pike or Luce.

Yon are to know, there is night as well as day fishing for a Trout, and that in the night the best Trouts come out of their holes; and the manner of taking them is, on the top of the water with a great lob or garden-worm, or rather two, which you are to fish with in a place where the waters run somewhat quietly, for in a stream the bait will not be so well discerned. I say in a quiet or dead place near to some swift, there draw your bait over the top of the water, to and fro, and if there be a good Trout in the hole, he will take it, especially if the night be dark: for then he is bold and lies near the top of the water, watching the motion of any frog or water-rat or mouse that swims betwixt him and the sky; these he hunts after, if he sees the water but wrinkle or move in one of these dead holes, where these great old Trouts usually lie near to their holds: for you are to note, that the great old Trout is both subtle and fearful, and lies close all day, and does not usually stir out of his hold, but lies in it as close in the day as the timorous Hare does in her form; for the chief feeding of either is seldom in the day, but usually in the night, and then the great Trout feeds very boldly.

And you must fish for him with a strong line, and not a little hook; and let him have time to gorge your hook, for he does not usually forsake it, as he oft will in the day fishing. And if the night be not dark, then fish so with an artificial fly of a light color, and at the snap: nay, he will sometimes rise at a dead mouse, or a piece of cloth, or anything that seems to swim cross the water, or to be in motion. This is a choice way, but I have not oft used it, because it is void of the pleasures that such days as these, that we two now enjoy, afford an Angler.

And you are to know, that in Hampshire, which I think exceeds all England for swift, shallow, clear, pleasant brooks, and store of Trouts, they use to catch Trouts in the night by the light of a torch or straw, which when they have discovered, they strike with a trout-spear or other ways. This kind of way they catch very many; but I would not believe it till I was an eyewitness of it, nor do I like it now I have seen it.

VEN. But, Master, do not Trouts see us in the night?

PISC. Yes, and hear and smell too, both then and in the day-time; for Gesner observes, the Otter smells a fish forty furlongs off him in the water: and that it may be true seems to be affirmed by Sir Francis Bacon, in the Eighth Century of his Natural History, who there proves that waters may be the medium of sounds, by demon­strating it thus: "That if you knock two stones together very deep under the water, those that stand on a bank near to that place may hear the noise without any diminution of it by the water." He also offers the like experiment concerning the letting an anchor fall, by a very long cable or rope, on a rock or the sand within the sea. And this being so well observed and demonstrated, as it is by that learned man, has made me to believe that Eels unbed themselves, and stir at the noise of thunder, and not only, as some think, by the motion or stirring of the earth which is occasioned by that thunder.

And this reason of Sir Francis Bacon, Exper. 792, has made me crave pardon of one that I laughed at for affirming, that he knew Carps come to a certain place in a pond, to be fed, at the ringing of a bell or the beating of a drum: and however, it shall be a rule for me to make as little noise as I can when I am fishing, until Su Francis Bacon be confuted; which I shall give any man leave to do.

And, lest you may think him singular in this opinion, I will tell you, this seems to be believed by our learned Doctor Hakewill, who in his Apology of God's Power and Providence, fol. 360, quotes Pliny to report, that one of the Emperors had particular fish-ponds, and in them several fish, that appeared and came when they were called by their particular names. And St. James tells us, Chap. iii. 7, that all things in the sea have been tamed by mankind.

And Pliny tells us, Lib. ix. 35, that Antonia, the wife of Drusus, had a Lamprey, at whose gills she hung jewels, or earrings: and that others have been so tender-hearted as to shed tears at the death of fishes which they have kept and loved. And these observations, which will to most hearers seem wonderful, seem to have a further confirmation from Martial, Lib. iv. Epigr, 30, who writes thus: —

Piscator, fuge, ne nocens, etc.

Angler, wouldst thou be guiltless? then forbear,
For these are sacred fishes that swim here,
Who know their sovereign, and will lick his hand,
Than which none's greater in the world's command;
Nay, more, th' have names, and when they called are,
Do to their several owners' call repair.

All the further use that I shall make of this shall be, to advise Anglers to be patient, and forbear swearing, lest they be heard and catch no fish.

And so I shall proceed next to tell you, it is certain, that certain fields near Leominster, a town in Herefordshire, are observed to make the sheep that graze upon them more fat than the next, and also to bear finer wool; that is to say, that that year in which they feed in such a particular pasture they shall yield finer wool than they did that year before they came to feed in it, and coarser again if they shall return to their former pasture; and again return to a finer wool, being fed in the fine-wool ground. Which I tell you, that you may the better believe that I am certain, if I catch a Trout in one meadow, he shall be white and faint, and very like to be lousy; and as certainly, if I catch a Trout in the next meadow, he shall be strong, and red, and lusty, and much better meat. Trust me, Scholar, I have caught many a Trout in a particular meadow, that the very shape and the enamelled color of him hath been such as hath joyed me to look on him; and I have then with much pleas­ure concluded with Solomon, "Everything is beautiful in his season" (Eccles. iii. 11).

I should by promise speak next of the Salmon; but I will, by your favor, say a little of the Umber or Grayling; which is so like a Trout for his shape and feeding, that I desire I may exercise your patience with a short discourse of him; and then the next shall be of the Salmon.


* Like Hermit poor.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.