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Chapter 12. OBSERVATIONS OF THE PEARCH, AND DIRECTIONS HOW TO FISH FOR HIM
PISCATOR. The Pearch 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 Pearch is of great esteem in Italy, saith Aldrovandus; and especially the least are there esteemed a dainty fish. And Gesner prefers the Pearch and Pike above the Trout, or any fresh-water fish: he says the Germans have this proverb, "More wholesome than a Pearch of Rhine": and he says the River-Pearch is so whole some, 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 Pearch: yet they commend the Sea-Pearch, 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 Pearch grows slowly, yet will grow, as I have been credibly informed, to be almost two foot 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 Pearch will set up his fins, much like as a turkey-cock will sometimes set up his tail.
But, my Scholar, the Pearch is not only valiant to defend him self, 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 Pearch's biting.
But bite the Pearch 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 what soever, — 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 Pearch with a minnow, then it is best to be alive, you sticking your hook through his back fin; or a minnow with a 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 Pearch, 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 Pearch 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.
VEN. Nay, good Master, one fish more, for 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.
PISC. 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?
VEN. Yes, Master, I will speak you a copy of verses that were made by Doctor Donne, and made to show the world that he could make soft and smooth verses, when he thought smoothness worth his labor; 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,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.
There will the river whispering run,
Warmed by the eyes more than the sun;
And there the enamel'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.
When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Most amorously to thee will swim,
Gladder to catch thee than thou him.
If thou to be so seen be'st loath,
By sun or moon, thou dark'nest both;
And if mine eyes have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.
Let others freeze with angling-reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds;
Or treacherously poor fish beset
With strangling snares, or windowy net:
Let coarse, bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks outwrest;
Let curious traitors sleave silk flies,
To 'witch poor fishes' wandering eyes:
For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish that is not catch't thereby
Is wiser far, alas! than I.
PISC. 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.