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"The pike, the tyrant of the water plains," as Pope describes him, outlives all other fresh-water fish; but space will not permit me to enter either into his longevity, or to the wonderful stories that have been told of his voracity. Fishermen, like travellers, see wonderful strange sights; and I myself have read of pikes attaining their two hundred and sixtieth year, weighing one hundred and seventy pounds, and devouring enormous carp, a gold watch, ribbon, and seals, a cub fox-an Italian one be it said-and, by a sudden jerk, pulling the clerk of Newport parish into Littleshall Pool, who, according to his account, had some difficulty in escaping the jaws of this voracious monster. Dr. Block (rather an ominous name) relates-" In 1497, at Kaisers Lautern, in the Palatinate, a pike was caught which was nineteen feet in length, and weighed three hundred and fifty pounds; it was drawn and afterwards painted, which is preserved at the Castle of Lautern; the skeleton may be seen at Manheim. Emperor Barterousse had it put into a pond, in 1230, with a gilt ring attached to it, with a spring to enable it to expand according to the growth of the fish: it was caught two hundred and sixty-seven years after, and the ring is still preserved at Manheim in memory of this celebrated fish." M. Kresy, in his treatise on angling as practised in France, suggests the following sport :-" If the angler wishes to amuse himself, let him take six or eight sheep bladders well filled and closed, then tie them to a strong cord, and fasten them to pike-hooks Nos. 1 and 2, baited with a small live fish, the cords about half the depth of the water; when put in, let the wind drive them about; but if the water is spacious, and no boat at hand, they must be fastened together at proper distances. Pike, when large, may be thus speared, or shot by a gun fixed under the fish!" Bravo, Kresy! a bladder battue at pike is quite a new sporting feature.
The pike is a solitary fish, never swimming in shoals: he delights in a still, steady, unfrequented water, and usually lies amongst flags, bull-rushes, stumps of trees, or reeds. In trolling for pike your rod must be a strong one, and ringed, for the line to pass through, and about three yards and a half in length; your line about ninety feet long, wound upon a reel. The best baits upon a dull, cloudy day are small roaches, dace, and bleak; but when the weather is bright and the water clear, you should substitute a gudgeon. Be careful not to suffer weeds to hang on your hook, or the pike will not be tempted to touch it. September and October are the best months for trolling, because the weeds are then rotten, and the fish are become fat with their summer's feed. The pike spawns about the end of February or beginning of March. For the taste, this fish requires a first-rate culinary artist, a good pudding, and some Dutch sauce, making a dish worthy any gourmet's board.
The eels' haunts are chiefly amongst weeds, under roots and stumps of trees, holes and clefts in the earth, and in the "verdant mud;" also about wears, bridges, and floodgates, and old mills. In winter they conceal themselves in the mud, and in summer seldom rove about by daylight; but by night you may take a great number of them by laying lines so leaded as to touch the ground, and baiting
the hook with garden worms, minnows, leaches, small gudgeons, or lobs. There are two ways of taking the "silver eel" by daysnigling and lobbing. The former is thus performed-take a strong line, with the hook baited with a lob worm, and go to such places as above mentioned, dropping the hook into the hole by the help of a cleft stick; if the "slippery gent" is there, he will assuredly bite: it will be necessary to tire him a little before you attempt to land him, or he will break your line. In lobbing for eels you must affix some large lob worms to a strong whip-cord two yards long; then make a knot in the line, about six or eight inches from the worms, running a hollow piece of lead of about three quarters of a pound weight down to the knot; then fix all to a pole, and use it in muddy waters: when the fish tug, give them time to fasten; then draw them gently up, and hoist them quick to shore. A punt is very useful in this kind of fishing.
I now come to pond fishing, and shall commence with the tench, which, by old authorities, is treated with the greatest contempt. It loves to feed in the foulest waters, and thrives but indifferently in a clearer element. It is not usual for the tench to exceed more than four or five pounds in weight, though there are instances of much larger ones. They spawn about the middle of July, and are best in season from the beginning of September until the end of May. They will bite during all hot weather; I should recommend April and May to the tench angler. Among the most attractive baits are the lob and red worm, a gentle, or a paste made of the crumb of bread and honey.
The bream thrives better in ponds than rivers, and the baits recommended for the tench will be equally good for this fish. Gloomy and windy days are the best for this sport. As the bream is a strong and vigorous fish, it is necessary to have strong tackle; you must also be careful not to show yourself, for your prey is both vigilant and cunning. In river fishing it will be as well to bait your ground with boiled barley malt or sweet honey paste. The best season for angling is from the first of May until the end of August. The bream is not much admired in England as a table delicacy, though our continental neighbours, the French, pronounce it to be a dish worthy the attention of the epicure.
I am now reduced to the lowest form of angling, the gudgeon; a sport that must ever remind one of one's boyish days, when we were wont to fish with a crooked pin for tittlebats in a basin of water, and which fully exemplifies the trite old saying of "a fool at one end and a worm at the other :" and yet how often have I witnessed the patience and anxiety of a party of pleasure in a flat-bottomed boat off Richmond Bridge, bobbing for this lilliputian specimen of the finny race. See the resignation of the elderly gentleman, who, like patience upon a monument, or rather like endurance in a punt, sets for hours ruminating over a legendary gudgeon; mark the excitement of the middle-aged "gent" in the fustian coat and planter's hat when he sees the cork dancing on the surface of the waters; watch the eagerness of his betterhalf, when she finds the rod gently quivering in her trembling hand; listen to the half-uttered cry of joy that escapes the lips of the urchin, speedily suppressed by the gruff tone and sullen look of the parent as
the youth lands his long-sought-after, unresisting prize; witness the care with which the young and innocent miss furnishes the hook with a living bait-the tender-hearted damsel, who would probably faint at the sight of a spider upon her dress, feels no compunction in thus torturing the writhing worm. But it is time to take leave of these cockney punters, these gentles and simples, and proceed to the sport; for, as I write for all classes of readers, from the tyro of the Thames to the accomplished fisherman of the rapid Spey, I must enter a little more fully into gudgeon angling. Suffice it then to say that these fish are scattered up and down every river in the shallows during the heat of summer, and that in the autumn, when the weeds begin to rot and the weather becomes cold, they congregate together and get into deeper parts of the water. As this fish is leather-mouthed, when once struck he is seldom lost. The baits are usually gentles, worms, wasps, and cads; the small red worm is reckoned the best.
From the lowest form I now approach the beau ideal of the sporttrout and salmon fishing in the Highlands of Scotland; and so proverbial is the hospitality of the sons of the north, that it only requires an introduction to any proprietor of the soil to procure a good day's fishing. Picture to yourself, then, a morning at daybreak, a cloudy sky, and the wind from the south, which, according to the poet, "blows your fly into the fish's mouth;" your "gilly" and mountain pony are at the door of one of the neatest and cleanest of wayside inns. Start not, English reader; for there is cleanliness in the rural parts of Scotland. Witness the Gordon Arms at Fochabers, near the very river I am about to conduct you. Your breakfast is over, and such a meal that your regular stay-at-home Englishman has no more idea of than a Highlander has of knee buckles. What think you of kipper salmon, trout, fresh from the river, venison and mutton, hams, cold grouse and ptarmigan, oat cakes, milk porridge-none of your London sky-blue or mi-eau, as it is cried about the streets, and has been inaptly translated half water-marmalade, and mountain dew. You mount your pony, and after a rough ride through the most varied and stupendous scenery of mountain, wood, lochs, and burns, you reach your destination. A gigantic craggy cliff, at least five hundred yards high, over-shadows a rapid torrent, which rages likes a cataract, occasionally subsiding into deep holes, and here your "gilly" informs you are the favourite haunts of the salmon. Your tackle is speedily adjusted, and incased in a suit of Macintosh's lower habiliments, with boots to match-and here be it said, that Peal, of Duke-street, Grosvenor-square, is quite the premier of all England for waterproof boots-you plunge in waistdeep. After some little time, in which your patience may be put to the test, you find yourself playing a very heavy fish; your "gilly" enjoins you to "take time and be canny." Now the "fresh-water king" dashes and struggles to break your line; then is the time for the watchful eye or cautious fisherman to come into action: you must play your prey with the nicest judgment, exhausting him by hurrying him rapidly down the stream, keeping his head high up in the current, until his strength is irrecoverably expended, when you lead him gradually into still water. Then is the moment of victory; you fasten
your gaff into the opening of his gills, "one struggle more" from the captured victim, and the prize, an eighteen pounder, is yours. The salmon is generally to be found in all rivers connected with the sea, passing the winter and fine weather in rapid and clear streams; it spawns in the month of May in rivers with sandy or rocky bottoms. So many works have, however, been written upon salmon and its fishing, that I am unwilling to trespass longer upon the attention of my readers. Much practice and art is necessary in killing a fine "eighteen pounder," and no theoretical knowledge will avail the young beginner; I, therefore, recommend him to place himself under the guidance of some old fisherman, whether in England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, and he will learn more in a few days by the river side than he would in months over the library fire, with all the salmonias in the world before him. While upon the subject of the salmon, I cannot refrain from mentioning that a French author asserts that this fish was the means of discovering the passage of the Caspian Sea into the Black Sea and Gulf of Persia. It was done in the following manner:-A certain number of salmon were caught, and, after their tails were run through with silver or gold rings, they were set at liberty, and some were afterwards found in the Black Sea and Persian Gulf. When salmon is taken for profit, not pleasure, nets are used; they are of a large size, regulated by the depth and breadth of the river, with lead to sink one side and cork to support the other. One end of the net is held by men on the shore, while the other is fastened to the stern of a boat, which is rowed in a circular direction, and finally brought to the landing place; the nets are then hauled on shore, and the fish packed in ice for the London market. The Duke of Richmond has a splendid salmon fishery on the Spey, which brings into his Grace's coffers some thousands per annum; the greatest portion of the fish that are caught are sent to the London markets, while others are packed and hermetically sealed in tin cases, and despatched to every part of the globe. During a ramble through Scotland I found myself at Speymouth, where the process of catching and packing the fish was going on. Through the kindness of the spirited entrepreneur, Mr. Hogath, I was permitted first to catch my salmon, then to put him into a little salt water, and then to seal him down. For nearly a year it remained unopened, and when the seal was broken, as the old nursery song says,
"Was not it a dainty dish to set before a king!" Heliogabalus or George IV. would both have relished it.
After salmon fishing in the Highland rivers, there are few amusements that can come up to "a day with the trout," either in the English or Scotch lakes. At Pooley-bridge Inn, at the foot of Ulswater, boatmen and boats are ever ready to convey the brother of the angle to the lake; and there are few sports in England in which he will procure better sport. The Tweed, Loch Awe-nay, indeed, almost all the rivers and lakes in Scotland will furnish excellent sport. In Loch Awe the salmo ferox or bull trout abound; they sometimes grow to the weight of thirty pounds. In trolling for this monster of the lake you must have strong tackle, with at least a hundred yards of line; the best
bait is a small trout. When the fish is struck you must be careful to give him rope enough, for, as he is a most powerful specimen of the finny tribe, he will unquestionably walk off with his trout, leaving you without yours, and a broken line to boot. The best months for angling are from April to October, and the finest time of the day from four till ten in the morning, and from four in the evening until sunset. A southerly wind with a gloomy lowering sky will suit the fisherman the best, next to that a westerly wind; but be careful to avoid an easterly one, as you will probably catch nothing but a cold, and the rheumatism. Fish will seldom bite in a hoar frost, nor before a shower of rain.
An angler must be a paragon of patience; never dejected with bad sport or elated with good. He should hide himself as much as possible, as his aquatic prey are usually timorous and shy. There is an old saying that "a good workman is always known by his tools," and this is particularly applicable to the fisherman, for if his rod and tackle are not kept in the neatest order, if his baits are not in the greatest state of perfection, if his fly-book is not so nicely arranged that he can select at a moment's glance the feathered hook, his exertions will be futile. The follower of old Izaak ought to avoid all bright or glaring colours in his fishing costume; a dark-tweed shooting jacket and trowsers of invisible green or stone colour, with a hat or cap to match, are the best for the sport. A leaping pole with a spike at the end of it, for the purpose of fording brooks and ditches, a forester's knife, and a well-stored basket of sandwiches and brandy, are very agreeable auxiliaries, and ought to be entrusted to the care of your piscatorial "gilly."
In conclusion, let me add that large fish are to be found in deep water, and all kinds of small fish in clear, brisk-running streams with gravelly bottoms; salmon, trout, and-oh, the fall from the sublime to the ridiculous-gudgeons in clear, rapid-running water with sandy bottom; carp and tench in still, muddy water; barbel, dace, and chub in deep, running water; pike, perch, bream, and roach in deep and lively water; eels and lamprey in quiet, deep