Project Canterbury

The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Observations of the Gudgion, the Ruffe and the Bleak,
and how to fish for them.

The Gudgion is reputed a Fish of excellent taste, and to be very wholsome: he is of a fine shape, of a silver colour, and beautified with black spots both on his body and tail. He breeds two or three times in the year, and alwayes in Summer. He is commended for a Fish of excellent nourishment: the Germanes call him Groundling, by reason of his feeding on the ground: and he there feasts himself in sharp streams, and on the gravel, He and the Barbel both feed so, and do not hunt for flies at any time, as most other Fishes do: he is an excellent fish to enter a young Angler, being easie to be taken with a small red worm, on or very near to the ground. He is one of those leather-mouthed fish that has his teeth in his throat and will hardly be lost off from the hook if he be once strucken: they be usually scattered up and down every River in the shallowes, in the heat of Summer: but in Autumn, when the weeds begin to grow sowre or rot, and the weather colder, then they gather together, and get into the deeper parts of the water: and are to be Fished for there, with your hook alwayes touching the ground, if you Fish for him with a floate, or with a cork: But many will Fish for the Gudgion by hand, with a running line upon the ground, without a cork, as a Trout is Fished for, and it is an excellent way, if you have a gentle rod and as gentle a hand.

There is also another Fish called a Pope, and by some a Ruffe, a fish that is not known to be in some Rivers; it is much like the Pearch for his shape, and taken to be better than the Pearch, but it will not grow to be bigger than a Gudgion; he is an excellent Fish; no Fish that swims is of a pleasanter taste, and he is also excellent to enter a young Angler; for he is a greedy biter, and they will usually lie abundance of them together in one reserved place where the water is deep, and runs quietly, and an easie Angler, if he has found where they lie, may catch forty or fifty, or sometimes twice so many at a standing.

You must Fish for him with a small red-worm, and if you bait the ground with earth it is excellent.

There is also a Bleak, or fresh-water-Sprat, a Fish that is ever in motion, and therefore called by some the River-Swallow; for just as you shall observe the Swallow to be most evenings in Summer ever in motion, making short and quick turnes when he flies to catch Flies in the aire (by which he lives), so does the Bleak at the top of the water. Ausonius would have him called Bleak from his whitish colour: his back is of a pleasant sad or Sea-water-green, his belly white and shining as the Mountain snow; and doubtless though he have the fortune (which vertue has in poor people) to be neglected, yet the Bleak ought to be much valued, though we want Allamot salt, and the skill that the Italians have to turn them into Anchovis. This fish may be caught with a Pater-noster line, that is, six or eight very small hooks tyed along the line one half foot above the other: I have seen five caught thus at one time, and the bait has been Gentles, then which none is better.

Or this Fish may be caught with a fine small artificial flie, which is to be of a very sad brown colour, and very small, and the hook answerable. There is no better sport than whipping for Bleaks in a boat or on a banck, in the swift water in a Summers evening, with a Hazle top about five or six foot long, and a line twice the length of the Rod, I have heard Sir Henry Wotton say, that there be many that in Italy will catch Swallows so, or especially Martins, (the Bird-angler standing on the top of a Steeple to do it, and with a line twice so long as I have spoken of). And let me tell you, Scholar, that both Martins and Bleaks be most excellent meat.

And let me tell you, that I have known a Hern that did constantly frequent one place, caught with a hook baited with a big Minnow or a small Gudgion. The line and hook must be strong, and tied to some loose staff so big as she cannot file away with it, a line not exceeding two Yards.

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