The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation
by Izaak Walton
Observations of the Tench, and advice how to angle for him.
PISC. The Tench, the Physician of Fishes, is observed to love Ponds better than Rivers, and to love pits better than either; yet Cambden observes there is a River in Dorset-shire that abounds with Tenches, but doubtless they retire to the most deep and quiet places in it.
This fish hath very large Fins, very small and smooth Scales, a red circle about his Eyes, which are big and of a gold colour, and that from either Angle of his mouth there hangs down a little Barb; in every Teaches head there are two little stones, which forraign Physitians make great use of, but he is not commended for wholesome meat, though there be very much use made of them, for outward applications. Randeletius sayes, That at his being at Rome, he saw a great cure done by applying a Tench to the feet of a very sick man. This he says was done after an unusual manner by certain Jews. And it is observed, that many of those people have many secrets, yet unknown to Christians; secrets that have never yet been written, but have been since the dayes of their Solomon (who knew the nature of all things, even from the Cedar to the Shrub) delivered by tradition from the Father to the Son, and so from generation to generation without writing, or (unlesse it was casually) without the least communicating them to any other Nation or Tribe: for to do that they accounted a profanation. And yet it is thought that they, or some Spirit worse than they, first told us, that Lice swallowed alive were a certain cure for the Yellow-Jaundice. This and other medicines were discoverd by them or by revelation, for doubtless we attaind them not by study.
Well, this fish, besides his eating, is very usefull both dead and alive for the good of mankind. But, I will meddle no more with that; my honest humble Art teaches no such boldnesse; there are too many foolish medlers in Physick and Divinity, that think themselves fit to meddle with hidden secrets, and so bring destruction to their followers. Ile not meddle with them farther than to wish them wiser; and shall tell you next (for, I hope, I may be so bold) that the Tench is the Physitian of fishes, to the Pike especially, and that the Pike, being either sick or hurt, is cured by the touch of the Tench. And it is observed, that the Tyrant Pike will not be a Wolf to his Physitian, but forbears to devour him though he be never so hungry.
This fish that carries a natural Balsome in him to cure both himself and others, loves yet to feed in very foul water, and amongst weeds. And yet I am sure he eats pleasantly, and, doubtlesse, you will think so too if you taste him. And I shall therefore proceed to give you some few, and but a few directions how to catch this Tench, of which I have given you these observations.He will bite at a Paste made of brown bread and honey, or at a Marsh-worm, or a Lob-worm, he inclines very much to any paste with which Tar is mixt, and he will bite also at a smaller worm, with his head nippd off, and a Cod-worm put on the hook before that worm; and I doubt not but that he will also in the three hot months (for in the nine colder he stirs not much) bite at a Flag-worm, or at a green Gentle, but can positively say no more of the Tench, he being a Fish that I have not often Angled for; but I wish my honest Scholar may, and be ever fortunate when he fishes.