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very little Lamprey, which some call a Pride, and may, in the hot months, be found many of them in the river Thames, and in many mud-heaps in other rivers; yea, almost as usually as one finds worms in a dunghill.
Next note, that the Eel seldom stirs in the day, but then hides himself; and therefore he is usually caught by night, with one of these baits of which I have spoken; and may be then caught by laying hooks, which you are to fasten to the bank, or twigs of a tree; or by throwing a string cross the stream, with many hooks at it, and those baited with the aforesaid baits; and a clod, or plummet, or stone, thrown into the river with this line, that so you may in the morning find it near to some fixed place; and then take it up with a drag-hook, or otherwise. But these things are, indeed, too common to be spoken of; and an hour's fishing with any angler will teach you better, both for these and many other common things in the practical part of angling, than a week's dis
I shall therefore conclude this direction for taking the Eel, by telling you, that, in a warm day in summer, I have taken many a good Eel by Snigling, and have been much pleased with that sport.
And because you, that are but a young angler, know not what Snigling is, I will now teach it to you. You remember, I told you, that Eels do not usually stir in the day time; for then they hide themselves under some covert; or under boards or planks about flood-gates, or weirs, or mills; or in holes on the river banks : so that you, observing your time in a warm day, when the water is lowest, may take a strong small hook, tied to a strong line, or to a string about a yard long; and then into one of these holes, or between any boards about a mill, or under any great stone or plank, or any place where you think an Eel may hide or shelter herself, you may, with the help of a short stick, put in your bait, but leisurely, and as far
as you may conveniently; and it is scarce to be doubted, but if there be an Eel, within the sight of it, the Eel will bite instantly, and as certainly gorge it; and you need not doubt to have him if you pull him not out of the hole too quickly, but pull him out by degrees; for he, lying folded double in his hole, will, with the help of his tail, break all, unless you give him time to be wearied with pulling, and so get him out by degrees, not pulling too hard.
And to commute for your patient hearing this long direction, I shall next tell you how to make this Eel a most excellent dish of meat.
First, wash him in water and salt; then pull off his skin below his vent or navel, and not much further : having done that, take out his guts as clean as you can, but wash him not: then give him three or four scotches with a knife; and then put into his belly and those scotches, sweet herbs, an anchovy, and a little nutmeg grated or cut very small; and
herbs and anchovies must also be cut very small, and mixt with good butter and salt: having done this, then pull his skin over him, all but his head, which you are to cut off, to the end you may tie his skin about that part where his head grew, and it must be so tied as to keep all his moisture within his skin: and having done this, tie him with tape or packthread to a spit, and roast him leisurely; and baste him with water and salt till his skin breaks, and then with butter; and having roasted him enough, let what was put into his belly, and what he drips, be his sauce.
S. F. When I go to dress an Eel thus, I wish he were as long and as big as that which was caught in Peterborough river, in the year 1667 ; which was a yard and three quarters long. If
go one of the coffee-houses in King-street, in Westminster.
But now let me tell you, that though the Eel, thus
and see at
drest, be not only excellent good, but more harmless than any other way, yet it is certain that physicians account the Eel dangerous meat; I will advise you therefore, as Solomon
says of honey, Prov. xxv. “ Hast thou found it, eat no more than is sufficient, lest thou surfeit, for it is not good to eat much honey.” And let me add this, that the uncharitable Italian bids us give Eels and no wine to our enemies."
And I will beg a little more of your attention, to tell you, that Aldrovandus, and divers physicians, commend the Eel very much for medicine, though not for meat. But let me tell you one observation, that the Eel is never out of season; as Trouts, and most other fish, are at set times ; at least, most Eels are not.'
(1) The haunts of the Eel are, weeds, under roots, stumps of trees, holes, and clefts of the earth, both in the banks and at the bottom, and in the plain mud, where they lie with only their heads out, watching for prey. They are also found under great stones, old timber, about food-gates, weirs, bridges, and old mills. They delight in still waters, and in those that are foul and muddy; though the smaller Eels are to be met with in all sorts of rivers and soils.
Although the manner in which Eels, and indeed all fish, are generated, is sufficiently settled, as appears by the foregoing notes; there yet remains a question undecided by naturalists; and that is, Whether the Eel be an oviparous or a viviparous fish? Walton inclines to the latter opinion. The following relation from Bowlker may go near to determine the question :
“ Being acquainted with an elderly woman, who had been wife to a miller near fifty years, and much employed in dressing of Eels, I asked her whether she had ever found any spawn or eggs in those Eels she opened ? She said she had never observed any; but that she had sometimes fouad living Eels in them, about the biggess of a small needle; and particularly, that she once took ou: tep or twelve, and put them upon the table, and found them to be alive; which was confirmed to me by the rest of the family. The time of the year when this happened was, as they informed me, about a fortnight or three weeks after Michaelmas; which makes me of opinion that they go down to the sea, or saltwater, to prepare themselves for the work of propagating and producing their young. To this I must add another observation of the same nature, that was inade by a gentleman of fortune not far from Ludlow, and in the commission of the peace for the county of Salop; who going to visit a gentleman, his friend, was shewn a very fine large Eel that was going to be dressed, about whose sides and belly he observed a parcel of little creeping things, which at first made him suspect it had been kept too long; but, upon nearer inspectiou, they were found co he perfect little Eels, or Elvers : upon this it was immediately opened in the sight of several other gentlemen, and in the belly of it they found a lump about as big as a nutmeg, consisting of an infinite number of those little creatures, closely wrapt up together, which, being put into a bason of water, soon separated, and swam about the bason. This he has often told to several gentlemen of
I might here speak of many other fish, whose shape and nature are much like the Eel, and frequent both the sea and fresh rivers; as namely, the Lamprel, the Lamprey, and the Lamperne: as also of the mighty Conger, taken often in Severn, about Gloucester : and might also tell in what high esteem many of them are for the curiosity of their taste. But these are not so proper to be talked of by me, because they make us anglers no sport; therefore I will let them alone, as the Jews do, to whom they are forbidden by their law.
And, scholar, there is also a FLOUNDER, a sea-fish which will wander very far into fresh rivers, and there lose himself and dwell: and thrive to a hand's breadth, and almost twice so long: a fish without scales, and most excellent meat: and a fish that affords much sport to the angler, with any small worm, but especially a little bluish worm, gotten out of marsh-ground or meadows, which should be well scoured. But this, though it be most excellent meat, yet it wants scales, and is, as I told you, therefore an abomination to the Jews.
credit in his neighbourhood, from some of whom I first received this account: but I have lately had the satisfaction of having it from his own mouth; and therefore I think this may serve to put the matter out of all doubt, and may be sufficient to prove that Eels are of the viviparous kind."
Taking it for granted then that Eels do not spawn, all we have to say iu this place is, that though, as our author tells us, they are never out of season, yet, as some say, they are best in Winter, and worst in May. And it is to be noted of Eels, that the longer they live, the better they are. Angler's Sure Guide,
Of baits for the Eel, the best are, lob-worms, loach, minnows, small pope or pearch, with the fins cut off; pieces of any fish, especially bleak, as being very lucid; with which I have taken very large ones.
As the angling for Eels is no very pleasant amusement, and is always attended with great trouble and the risk of tackle; many, while they angle for other fish, lay lines for the Eel, which they tie to weeds, flags, &c. with marks to find them by. Or, you may take a long packthread line, with a leaden weight at the end, and liooks looped on at a yard distance from each other : fasten one end to the fiags, or on the shore, and throw the lead out, and let the line lie some time. And in this way you may probably take a Pike.
The river Kennet in Berkshire, the Stour in Dorsetshire, Irk in Lancashire, and Ankhan in Lincolushire, are famed for producing excellent Eels; the latter to so great a degree, as to give rise to the following proverbial rhyme :
Ankham Eel, and Witham Pike,
In all England is none sike. But it is said, there are no Eels superior in goodness to those taken in the head of the New River near Islington; and I myself have seen Eels, caught there with a rod and line, of a very large size. Eels, contrary to all other fish, never swim up, but always down the stream,
But, scholar, there is a fish that they in Lancashire boast
very much of, called a Char; taken there, (and I think there only,) in a mere called Winander Mere; a mere, says Camden, that is the largest in this nation, being ten miles in length, and (some say) as smooth in the bottom as if it were paved with polished marble. This fish never exceeds fifteen or sixteen inches in length; and is spotted like a Trout: and has scarce a bone, but on the back. But this, though I do not know whether it make the angler sport, yet I would have you take notice of it, because it is a rarity, and of so high esteem with persons of great note.
Nor would I have you ignorant of a rare fish called a GUINIAD; of which I shall tell you what Camden and others speak. The river Dee, (which runs by Chester,) springs in Merionethshire; and, as it runs toward Chester, it runs through Pemble-Mere, which is a large water : and it is observed, that though the river Dee abounds with Salmon, and Pemble-Mere with the Guiniad, yet there is never any Salmon caught in the mere, nor a Guiniad in the river. And now my next observation shall be of the Barbel.
(1) The taking Flounders with a rod and line is a thing so accidental, that it is hardly worth the mention. The same may be said of Smelts, which, in the Thames, and other great rivers, are caught with a bit of any small fish, but chiefly of their own species. In the month of August, about the year 1720, such vast quantities of smelts came up the Thames, that women, and even children, became anglers for them; and, as I have been told by persons who well remember it, in one day, between London-bridge and Greenwich, not fewer than two thousand persons were thus employed.