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And the Loach that I told you of will do the like: no bait is more tempting, provided the Loach be not too big.
And now, scholar, with the help of this fine morning, and your patient attention, I have said all that my present memory will afford me, concerning most of the several fish that are usually fished for in fresh waters.
Venator. But, master, you have by your former civility made me hope that you will make good your promise, and say something of the several rivers that be of most note in this nation ; and also of fish-ponds, and the ordering of them : and do it I pray, good master ; for I love any discourse of rivers, and fish and fishing ; the time spent in such discourse passes away very pleasantly.
Of several Rivers, and some Observations of Fish
Piscator. Well, scholar, since the ways and weather do both favour us, and that we yet see not Tottenham-Cross, you shall see my willingness to satisfy your desire. And, first, for the rivers of this nation: there be, as you may note out of Dr. Heylin's Geography, and others, in number three hundred and twenty-five; but those of chiefest note he reckons and describes as followeth.
The chief is THAMISIS, compounded of two rivers, Thame and Isis; whereof the former, rising somewhat beyond Thame in Buckinghamshire, and the latter near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, meet together about Dorchester in Oxfordshire; the issue of which happy conjunction is Thamisis, or Thames; hence it flieth betwixt Berks, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essex: and so weddeth itself to the Kentish Medway, in the very jaws of the ocean. This glorious river feeleth the violence and benefit of the sea more than any river in Europe; ebbing and flowing, twice a day, more than sixty miles; about whose banks are so many fair towns and princely palaces, that a German poet thus truly spake :
2. The second river of note is SABRINA or SEVERN: it hath its beginning in Plinilimmonhill, in Montgomeryshire; and his end seven miles from Bristol; washing, in the mean space, the walls of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Gloucester, and divers other places and palaces of note.
3. Trent, so called from thirty kind of fishes that are found in it, or for that it receiveth thirty lesser rivers ; who having his fountain in Staffordshire, and gliding through the counties of Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester, and York, augmenteth the turbulent current of Humber, the most violent stream of all the isle. This Humber is not, to say truth, a distinct river having a spring-head of his own, but it is rather the mouth or aestuarium of divers rivers here confluent and meeting together, namely, your Derwent, and especially of Ouse and Trent; and, as the Danow, having received into its channel the river Dravus, Savus, Tibiscus, and divers others, changeth his name into this of Humberabus, as the old geographers call it.
4. Medway, a Kentish river, famous for harbouring the royal navy,
5. Tweed, the north-east bound of England; on whose northern banks is seated the strong and impregnable town of Berwick.
6. Tyne, famous for Newcastle, and her inexhaustible coal-pits. These, and the rest of principal note, are thus comprehended in one of Mr. Drayton's Sonnets :
The floods' queen, Thames, for ships and swans is crown'd;
And stately Severn for her shore is prais'd;
And Avon's fame to Albion's cliffs is raised.
Carlegion Chester vaunts her holy Dee ;
York many wonders of her Ouse can tell ;
And Kent will say her Medway doth excel :
Cotswold commends her Isis to the Tame;
Our northern borders boast of Tweed's fair flood;
And the old Lea brags of the Danish blood.
These observations are out of learned Dr. Heylin, and my old deceased friend, Michael Drayton ; and because you say you love such discourses as these, of rivers, and fish, and fishing, I love you the better, and love the more to impart them to you. Nevertheless, scholar, if I should begin but to name the several sorts of strange fish that are usually taken in many of those rivers that run into the sea, I might beget wonder in you, or unbelief, or both : and yet I will venture to tell you a real truth concerning one lately dissected by Dr. Wharton, a man of great learning and experience, and of equal freedom to communicate it ; one that loves me and my art; one to whom I have been beholding for many of the choicest observations that I have imparted to you. This good man, that dares do any thing rather than tell an untruth, did, I say, tell me he had lately dissected one strange fish, and he thus described it to me:
• This fish was almost a yard broad, and twice that length; his mouth wide enough to receive, or take into it, the head of a man ; his stomach, seven or eight inches broad. He is of a slow motion; and usually lies or lurks close in the mud ; and has a moveable string on his head, about a span or near unto a quarter of a yard long; by the moving of which, which is his natural bait, when he lies close and unseen in the mud, he draws other smaller fish so close to him, than he can suck them into his mouth, and so devours and digests them.'
And, scholar, do not wonder at this ; for besides the credit of the relator, you are to note, many of these, and fishes which are of the like and more unusual shapes, are very often taken on the mouths of our sea rivers, and
on the sea shore. And this will be no wonder to any that have travelled Egypt; where, 'tis known, the famous river Nilus does not only breed fishes that yet want names, but, by the overflowing of that river, and the help of the sun's heat on the fat slime which that river leaves on the banks when it falls back into its natural channel, such strange fish and beasts are also bred, that no man can give a name to; as Grotius in his Sopham, and others, have observed.
But whither am I strayed in this discourse. I will end it by telling you, that at the mouth of some of these rivers of ours, Herrings.are so plentiful, as namely, near to Yarmouth in Norfolk, and in the west country Pilchers so very plentiful, as you will wonder to read what our learned Camden relates of them in his Britannia (p. 178, 186).
Well, scholar, I will stop here, and tell you what by reading and conference I have observed concerning fishponds.
Of Fish-Ponds and how to order them
Doctor Lebault, the learned Frenchman, in his large discourse of Maison Rustique, gives this direction for making of fish-ponds. I shall refer you to him, to read it at large : but I think I shall contract it, and yet make it as useful.
He adviseth, that when you have drained the ground, and made the earth firm, where the head of the pond must be, that you must then, in that place, drive in two or three rows of oak or elm piles, which should be scorched in the fire, or half-burnt, before they be driven into the earth ; for being thus used, it preserves them much longer from rotting. And having done so, lay faggots or bavins of smaller wood betwixt them : and then earth betwixt and above them : and then, having first very well rammed them and the earth, use another pile in like manner as the first were : and note, that the second pile is to be of or about the height that you intend to make your sluice or flood-gate, or the vent that you intend shall convey the overflowings of your pond in any flood that shall endanger the breaking of your pond-dam.
Then he advises, that you plant willows or owlers, about it, or both : and then cast in bavins, in some places not far from the side, and in the most sandy places, for fish both to spawn upon, and to defend them and the young fry from the many fish, and also from vermin, that lie at watch to destroy them, especially the spawn of the Carp and Tench, when 'tis left to the mercy of ducks or vermin.
He, and Dubravius, and all others advise, that you make choice of such a place for your pond, that it may
be refreshed with a little rill, or with rain water, running or falling into it; by which fish are more inclined both to breed, and are also refreshed and fed the better, and do prove to be of a much sweeter and more pleasant taste.
To which end it is observed, that such pools as be large and have most gravel, and shallows where fish may sport themselves, do afford fish of the purest taste.
And note, that in all pools it is best for fish to have some retiring place; as namely, hollow banks, or shelves, or roots of trees, to keep them from danger, and, when they think fit, from the extreme heat of summer ; as also from the extremity of cold in winter. And note, that if many trees be growing about your pond, the leaves thereof falling into the water, make it nauseous to the fish, and the fish to be so to the eater of it.
'Tis noted, that the Tench and Eel love mud; and the Carp loves gravelly ground, and in the hot months to feed on grass. You are to cleanse your pond, if you intend either profit or pleasure, once every three or four years, especially some ponds, and then let it lie dry six or twelve months, both to kill the water-weeds, as water-lilies, candocks, reate, and bulrushes, that breed there; and also