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PISCATOR. A good day to you, Sir; I see you will always be stirring before me.
VIAT. Why, to tell you the truth, I am so allured with the sport I had yesterday, that I long to be at the river again; and when I heard the wind sing in my chamber-window, could forbear no longer, but leap out of bed, and had just made an end of dressing myself as you came in.
PISC. Well, I am both glad you are so ready for the day, and that the day is so fit for you. And look you, I have made you three or four flies this morning; this silver-twist hackle, this bear's dun, this light brown, and this dark brown, any of which I dare say will do; but you may try them all, and see which does best: only I must ask your pardon that I cannot wait upon you this morning, a little business being fallen out, that for two or three hours will deprive me of your company; but I'll come and call you home to dinner, and my man shall attend you,
VIAT. O, Sir, mind your affairs by all means. Do but lend me a little of your skill to these fine flies, and, unless it have forsaken me since yesterday, I shall find luck of my own, I hope, to do something.
PISC. The best instruction I can give you, is that, seeing the wind curls the water, and blows the right way, you would now angle up the still-deep to-day; for betwixt the rocks where the streams are you would find it now too brisk; and, besides, I would have you take fish in both waters.
VIAT. I'll obey your direction, and so a good morning to you. Come, young man, let you and I walk together. But hark you, Sir, I have not done with you yet; I expect another lesson for angling at the bottom, in the afternoon.
PISC. Well, Sir, I'll be ready for you.
PISCATOR. O Sir, are you returned? you have but just prevented me. I was coming to call you.
VIAT. I am glad, then, I have saved you the labor.
PISC. And how have you sped?
VIAT. you shall see that, Sir, presently: look you, Sir, here are three* brace of Trouts, one of them the biggest but one that ever I killed with a fly in my life; and yet I lost a bigger than that, with my fly to boot; and here are three Graylings, and one of them longer by some inches than that I took yesterday, and yet I thought that a good one too.
PISC. Why you have made a pretty good morning's work on't; and now, Sir, what think you of our river Dove?
VIAT. I think it to be the best Trout-river in England; and am so far in love with it, that if it were mine, and that I could keep it to myself, I would not exchange that water for all the land it runs over, to be totally debarred from it.
PISC. That compliment to the river speaks you a true lover of the art of Angling; and now, Sir, to make part of amends for sending you so uncivilly out alone this morning, I will myself dress you this dish of fish for your dinner; walk but into the parlor, you will find one book or other in the window to entertain you the while; and you shall have it presently.
VIAT. Well, Sir, I obey you.
PISC. Look you, Sir! have I not made haste?
VIAT. Believe me, Sir, that you have; and it looks so well, I long to be at it,
PISC. Fall to, then. Now, Sir, what say you, am I a tolerable cook or no?
VIAT. So good a one, that I did never eat so good fish in my life, This fish is infinitely better than any I ever tasted of the kind in my life. 'Tis quite another thing than our Trouts about London.
PISC. You would say so, if that Trout you eat of were in right season; but pray eat of the Grayling, which, upon my word, at this time, is by much the better fish,
VIAT. In earnest, and so it is. And I have one request to make to you, which is, that as you have taught me to catch Trout and Grayling, you will now teach me how to dress them as these are dressed; which, questionless, is of all other the best way.
PISC. That I will, Sir, with all my heart; and am glad you like them so well, as to make that request. And they are dressed thus: — Take your Trout, wash, and dry him with a clean napkin; then open him, and, having taken out his guts, and all the blood, wipe him very clean within, but wash him not; and give him three scotches with a knife to the bone, on one side only. After which take a clean kettle, and put in as much hard stale beer (but it must not be dead), vinegar, and a little white wine, and water, as will cover the fish you intend to boil; then throw into the liquor a good quantity of salt, the rind of a lemon, a handful of sliced horse radish root, with a handsome little fagot of rosemary, thyme, and winter-savory. Then set your kettle upon a quick fire of wood, and let your liquor boil up to the height before you put in your fish; and then, if there be many, put them in one by one, that they may not so cool the liquor, as to make it fall. And whilst your fish is boiling, beat up the butter for your sauce with a ladleful or two of the liquor it is boiling in. And, being boiled enough, immediately pour the liquor from the fish; and, being laid in a dish, pour your butter upon it; and, strewing it plentifully over with shaved horse radish, and a little pounded ginger, garnish your sides of your dish, and the fish itself with a sliced lemon or two, and serve it up.
A Grayling is also to be dressed exactly after the same manner, saving that he is to be scaled, which a Trout never is; and that must be done, either with one's nails, or very lightly and carefully with a knife for bruising the fish. And note, that these kinds of fish, a Trout especially, if he is not eaten within four or five hours after he be taken, is worth nothing. But come, Sir, I see you have dined; and, therefore, if you please, we will walk down again to the little House, and there I will read you a lecture of Angling at the Bottom._________________
* Spoke like a South-Countryman.
VIATOR. So, Sir, now we are here, and set, let me have my instructions for Angling for Trout and Grayling, at the Bottom; which, though not so easy, so cleanly, nor, as 'tis said, so genteel, a way of fishing, as with a fly, is yet (if I mistake not) a good holding way, and takes fish when nothing else will.
PISC. You are in the right, it does so; and a worm is so sure a bait at all times, that, excepting in a flood, I would I had laid a thousand pounds that I killed fish more or less with it, winter or summer, every day throughout the year; those days always excepted that, upon a more serious account, always ought so to be. But not longer to delay you, I will begin: and tell you, that Angling at the Bottom is also commonly of two sorts; — and yet there is a third way of angling with a ground-bait, and to very great effect too, as shall be said hereafter; — namely, by Hand, or with a Cork or Float.
That we call Angling by Hand is of three sorts.
The first: with a line about half the length of the rod, a good weighty plumb, and three hairs next the hook, which we call a running-line, and with one large brandling, or a dew-worm of a moderate size, or two small ones of the first, or any other sort, proper for a Trout, of which my Father Walton has already given you the names, and saved me a labor; or, indeed, almost any worm whatever; for if a Trout be in the humor to bite, it must be such a worm as I never yet saw that he will refuse; and if you fish with two, you are then to bait your hook thus. You are first to run the point of your hook in at the very head of your first worm, and so down through his body till it be past the knot, and then let it out, and strip the worm above the arming (that you may not bruise it with your fingers) till you have put on the other, by running the point of the hook in below the knot, and upwards through his body towards his head; till it be but just covered with the head, which being done, you are then to slip the first worm down over the arming again, till the knots of both worms meet together.
The second way of angling by hand, and with a running-line, is with a line something longer than the former, and with tackle made after this same manner. At the utmost extremity of your line, where the hook is always placed in all other ways of angling, you are to have a large pistol or carabine bullet, into which the end of your line is to be fastened with a peg or pin, even and close with the bullet; and, about half a foot above that, a branch of line, of two or three handfuls long, or more for a swift stream, with a hook at the end thereof baited with some of the forenamed worms; and another, half foot above that; another, armed and baited after the same manner, but with another sort of worm, without any lead at all above: by which means you will always certainly find the true bottom in all depths; which, with the plumbs upon your line above you can never do, but that your bait must always drag whilst you are sounding (which, in this way of Angling, must be continually), by which means you are like to have more trouble, and peradventure worse success. And both these ways of angling at the bottom are most proper for a dark and muddy water; by reason that in such a condition of the stream, a man may stand as near as he will, and neither his own shadow nor the roundness of his tackle will hinder his sport.
The third way of angling by hand with a ground-bait, and by much the best of all other, is, with a line full as long, or a yard and a half longer than your rod; with no more than one hair next the hook, and for two or three lengths above it; and no more than one small pellet of shot for your plumb: your hook little; your worms of the smaller brandlings, very well scoured; and only one upon your hook at a time, which is thus to be baited: the point of your hook is to be put in at the very tag of his tail, and run up his body quite over all the arming, and still stripped on an inch at least upon the hair; the head and remaining part hanging downward. And with this line and hook, thus baited, you are evermore to angle in the streams; always in a clear, rather than a troubled water, and always up the river, still casting out your worm before you with a light one-handed rod, like an artificial fly; where it will be taken, sometimes at the top, or within a very little of the superficies of the water, and almost always before that light plumb can sink it to the bottom; both by reason of the stream, and also that you must always keep your worm in motion by drawing still back towards you, as if you were angling with a fly. And believe me, whoever will try it, shall find this the best way of all other to angle with a worm, in a bright water especially; but then his rod must be very light and pliant, and very true and finely made; which, with a skilful hand, will do wonders, and in a clear stream is undoubtedly the best way of angling for a Trout or Grayling, with a worm, by many degrees, that any man can make choice of, and of most ease and delight to the angler. To which let me add, that if the angler be of a constitution that will suffer him to wade, and will slip into the tail of a shallow stream, to the calf of the leg or the knee, and so keep off the bank, he shall almost take what fish he pleases.
The second way of angling at the bottom is with a cork or float. And that is also of two sorts: with a Worm, or with a Grub or Cadis.
With a Worm, you are to have your line within a foot, or a foot and a half, as long as your rod; in a dark water with two, or, if you will, with three, but in a clear water never with above one hair next the hook, and two or three for four or five lengths above it; and a worm of what size you please: your plumbs fitted to your cork, your cork to the condition of the river (that is, to the swift ness or slowness of it), and both, when the water is very clear, as fine as you can; and then you are never to bait with above one of the lesser sort of brandlings; or, if they are very little ones indeed, you may then bait with two after the manner before directed.
When you angle for a Trout, you are to do it as deep, that is, as near the bottom as you can, provided your bait do not drag; or if it do, a Trout will sometimes take it in that posture. If for a Grayling, you are then to fish further from the bottom, he being a fish that usually swims nearer to the middle of the water, and lies always loose; or, however, is more apt to rise than a Trout, and more inclined to rise than to descend even to a ground-bait.
With a Grub or Cadis, you are to angle with the same length of line, or if it be all out as long as your rod, 'tis not the worse; with never above one hair for two or three lengths next the hook, and with the smallest cork or float, and the least weight of plumb you can that will but sink, and that the swiftness of your stream will allow: which also you may help, and avoid the violence of the current, by angling in the returns of a stream, or the eddies betwixt two streams; which also are the most likely places wherein to kill a fish in a stream, either at the top or bottom.
Of Grubs for a Grayling, the Ash-grub, which is plump, milk- white, bent round from head to tail, and exceeding tender, with a red head; or the Dock-worm, or grub, of a pale yellow, longer, lanker, and tougher than the other, with rows of feet all down his belly, and a red head also; are the best, I say, for a Grayling: because, although a Trout will take both these, the Ash-grub especially, yet he does not do it so freely as the other, and I have usually taken ten Graylings for one Trout with that bait; though if a Trout come, I have observed that he is commonly a very good one.
These baits we usually keep in bran, in which an Ash-grub commonly grows tougher, and will better endure baiting; though he is yet so tender, that it will be necessary to warp in a piece of a stiff hair with your arming, leaving it standing out about a straw-breadth at the head of your hook, so as to keep the grub either from slipping totally off when baited, or at least down to the point of the hook, by which means your arming will be left wholly naked and bare, which is neither so sightly, nor so likely to be taken: though, to help that, which will however very oft fall out, I always arm the hook I design for this bait with the whitest horse-hair I can choose; which itself will resemble, and shine like that bait, and consequently will do more good, or less harm, than an arming of any other color. These grubs are to be baited thus: the hook is to be put in under the head or chaps of the bait, and guided down the middle of the belly, without suffering it to peep out by the way (for then, the Ash-grub especially, will issue out water and milk, till nothing but the skin shall remain, and the bend of the hook will appear black through it) till the point of your hook come so low, that the head of your bait may rest, and stick upon the hair that stands out to hold it; by which means it can neither slip of itself, neither will the force of the stream, nor quick pulling out, upon any mistake, strip it off.
Now the Cadis, or Cod-bait, which is a sure killing bait, and, for the most part, by much surer than either of the other, may be put upon the hook, two or three together; and is sometimes, to very great effect, joined to a worm, and sometimes to an artificial fly to cover the point of the hook; but is always to be angled with at the bottom, when by itself especially, with the finest tackle; and is for all times of the year the most holding-bait of all other what ever, both for Trout and Grayling.
There are several other baits, besides these few I have named you, which also do very great execution at the bottom; and some that are peculiar to certain countries and rivers, of which every Angler may in his own place make his own observation; and some others that I do not think fit to put you in mind of, because I would not corrupt you, and would have you, — as in all things else I observe you to be a very honest gentleman, a fair Angler. And so much for the second sort of angling for a Trout at the bottom.
VIAT. But, Sir, I beseech you give me leave to ask you one question. Is there no art to be used to worms, to make them allure the fish, and in a manner compel them to bite at the bait?
PISC. Not that I know of: or did I know any such secret, I would not use it myself, and therefore would not teach it you. Though I will not deny to you that, in my younger days, I have made trial of Oil of Osprey, Oil of Ivy, Camphor, Assafoetida, Juice of Nettles, and several other devices that I was taught by several Anglers I met with, but could never find any advantage by them; and can scarce believe there is anything to be done that way:
though I must tell you, I have seen some men, who I thought went to work no more artificially than I, and have yet with the same kind of worms I had, in my own sight, taken five, and sometimes ten, for one. But we'll let that business alone, if you please. And, because we have time enough, and that I would deliver you from the trouble of any more lectures, I will, if you please, proceed to the last way of angling for a Trout or Grayling, which is in the middle; after which I shall have no more to trouble you with.
VIAT. 'Tis no trouble, Sir, but the greatest satisfaction that can be, and I attend you.
PISCATOR. Angling in the Middle, then, for Trout or Grayling, is of two sorts: with a Penk or Minnow for a Trout; or with a Worm, Grub, or Cadis for a Grayling.
For the first; it is with a Minnow, half a foot, or a foot, within the superficies of the water. And as to the rest that concerns this sort of Angling, I shall wholly refer you to Mr. Walton's direction, who is undoubtedly the best Angler with a Minnow in England: only in plain truth I do not approve of those baits he keeps in salt, — unless where the living ones are not possibly to be had (though I know he frequently kills with them, and peradventure more than with any other, nay, I have seen him refuse a living one for one of them), — and much less of his artificial one; for though we do it with a counterfeit-fly, methinks it should hardly be expected that a man should deceive a fish with a counterfeit-fish. Which having said, I shall only add, and that out of my own experience, that I do believe a Bull-head, with his gill-fins cut off, at some times of the year especially, to be a much better bait for a Trout than a Minnow, and a Loach much better than that: to prove which I shall only tell you, that I have much oftener taken Trouts with a Bull-head or a Loach in their throats (for there a Trout has questionless his first digestion) than a Minnow; and that one day especially, having angled a good part of the day with a Minnow, and that in as hopeful a day, and as fit a water, as could be wished for that purpose, without raising any one fish; I at last fell to it with the worm, and with that took fourteen in a very short space; amongst all which there was not, to my remembrance, so much as one that had not a Loach or two, and some of them three, four, five, and six Loaches, in his throat and stomach; from whence I concluded, that, had I angled with that bait, I had made a notable day's work of't.
But, after all, there is a better way of angling with a Minnow than perhaps is fit either to teach or to practise: to which I shall only add, that a Grayling will certainly rise at, and sometimes take a Minnow, though it will be hard to be believed by any one, who shall consider the littleness of that fish's mouth, very unfit to take so great a bait; but 'tis affirmed by many, that he will sometimes do it, and I myself know it to be true; for though I never took a Gray ling so, yet a man of mine once did, and within so few paces of me, that I am as certain of it as I can be of anything I did not see; and, which made it appear the more strange, the Grayling was not above eleven inches long.
I must here also beg leave of your Master, and mine, not to controvert, but to tell him, that I cannot consent to his way of throw ing in his rod to an overgrown Trout, and afterwards recovering his fish with his tackle. For though I am satisfied he has sometimes done it, because he says so, yet I have found it quite otherwise; and though I have taken with the Angle, I may safely say, some thou sands of Trouts in my life, my top never snapped (though my line still continued fast to the remaining part of my rod, by some lengths of line curled round about my top, and there fastened with waxed silk, against such an accident) nor my hand never slacked, or slipped by any other chance, but I almost always infallibly lost my fish, whether great or little, though my hook came home again. And I have often wondered how a Trout should so suddenly dis engage himself from so great a hook as that we bait with a Minnow, and so deep-bearded as those hooks commonly are; when I have seen by the forenamed accidents, or the slipping of a knot in the upper part of the line, by sudden and hard striking, that though the line has immediately been recovered, almost before it could be all drawn into the water, the fish cleared, and was gone in a moment. And yet, to justify what he says, I have sometimes known a Trout, having carried away a whole line, found dead three or four days after, with the hook fast sticking in him; but then it is to be supposed he had gorged it, which a Trout will do, if you be not too quick with him, when he comes at a Minnow, as sure and much sooner than a Pike; and I myself have also, once or twice in my life, taken the same fish with my own fly sticking in his chaps, that he had taken from me the day before, by the slipping of a hook in the arming. But I am very confident a Trout will not be troubled two hours with any hook, that has so much as one handful of line left behind with it, or that is not struck through a bone, if it be in any part of his mouth only: nay, I do certainly know that a Trout, so soon as ever he feels himself pricked, if he carries away the hook, goes immediately to the bottom, and will there root like a hog upon the gravel, till he either rub out, or break the hook in the middle. And so much for this sort of angling in the middle for a Trout.
The second way of angling in the middle is with a Worm, Grub, Cadis, or any other ground-bait for a Grayling; and that is with a cork, and a foot from the bottom, a Grayling taking it much better there than at the bottom, as has been said before; and this always in a clear water, and with the finest tackle.
To which we may also, and with very good reason, add the third way of angling by hand with a ground-bait, as a third way of fish ing in the middle, which is common to both Trout and Grayling; and, as I said before, the best way of angling with a worm of all other I ever tried whatever.
AND NOW, Sir, I have said all I can at present think of concerning Angling for a Trout and Grayling, and I doubt not have tired you sufficiently; but I will give you no more trouble of this kind whilst you stay; which I hope will be a good while longer.
VIAT. That will not be above a day longer; but if I live till May come twelvemonth, you are sure of me again, either with my Master Walton or without him; and in the mean time shall acquaint him how much you have made of me for his sake, and I hope he loves me well enough to thank you for it.
PISC. I shall be glad, Sir, of your good company at the time you speak of, and shall be loath to part with you now; but when you tell me you must go, I will then wait upon you more miles on your way than I have tempted you out of it, and heartily wish you a good journey.