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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 in 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, fags, &c. with marks to find them by. Or, you may take a long packthread line, with a leaden weight at the end, and hooks looped ou at a yard distance from each other : fasten one end to the flags, 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 Aukhan, in Lincolushire, are famed for producing excellent Eels : the latter to so great a degree, as to give rise to the following proverbial rhyme :
Abkham Eel, avd 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, vever 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 bardly 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.
Observations on the BARBEL, and Directions how to fish for him.
Piscator. The Barbel is so called, says Gesner, by reason of his barb or wattles at his mouth, which are under his nose or chap3. He is one of those leathermouthed fishes that I told you of, that does very seldom break his hold if he be once hook’d: but he is so strong, that he will often break both rod and line, if he proves to be a big one.
But the Barbel, though he be of a fine shape, and looks big, yet he is not accounted the best fish to eat, neither for his wholesomeness nor his taste; but the male is reputed much better than the female, whose spawn is very hurtful, as I will presently declare to you.
They flock together like sheep, and are at the worst in April, about which time they spawn; but quickly grow to be in season. He is able to live in the strongest swifts of the water: and, in summer, they love the shallowest and sharpest streams; and love to lurk under weeds, and to feed on gravel, against a rising ground; and will root and dig in the sands with his nose like a hog, and there nests himself: yet sometimes he retires to deep and swift bridges, or flood-gates, or weirs; where he will nest himself amongst piles, or in hollow places; and take such hold of moss or weeds, that be the water never so swift, it is not able to force him from the place that he contends for. This is his constant custom in summer, when he and most living creatures sport themselves in the sun: but at the approach of winter, then he forsakes the swift streams and shallow waters, and, by degrees, retires to those parts of the river that are quiet and deeper ; in which places, and I think about that time he