Project Canterbury

The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Of Roach and Dace, and how to fish for them.
And of Cadis.

VENA. Good Master, as we go now towards London, be still so courteous as to give me more instructions, for I have several boxes in my memory in which I will keep them all very safe, there shall not one of them be lost.

PISC. Well Scholar, that I will, and I will hide nothing from you that I can remember, and may help you forward towards a perfection in this Art, and because we have so much time, and I have said so little of Roach and Dace, I will give you some directions concerning them.

Some say the Roach is so called from Rutilus, which they say, signifies red fins: He is a Fish of no great reputation for his dainty taste, and his Spawn is accounted much better than any other part of him. And you may take notice, that as the Carp is accounted the Water-fox, for his cunning, so the Roach is accounted the Water-sheep for his simplicity or foolishness. It is noted that the Roach and Dace recovers strength, and grow in season in a fortnight after spawning, the Barbel and Chub in a moneth, the Trout in four moneths, and the Salmon in the like time, if he gets into the Sea, and after into fresh-water.

Roaches be accounted much better in the River than in a Pond, though ponds usually breed the biggest. But there is a kind of bastard small Roach that breeds in ponds with a very forked tail, and of a very small size, which some say is bred by the Bream and right Roach, and some Ponds are stored with these beyond belief; and knowing-men know their difference and call them Ruds: they differ from the true Roach as much as a Herring from a Pilchard, and these bastard breed of Roach are now scattered in many Rivers, but I think not in Thames, which I believe affords the largest and fattest in this Nation, especially below London-Bridge: the Roach is a leather-mouth’d Fish, and has a kind of saw-like teeth in his throat. And lastly let me tell you, the Roach makes an Angler excellent sport, especially the great Roaches about London, where I think there be the best Roach-Anglers, and I think that the best Trout-Anglers be in Derbyshire.

Next, let me tell you, you shall fish for this Roach in Winter with Paste or Gentles, in April with worms or Cadis; in the very hot moneths with little white snails, or with flies under-water, for he seldom takes them at the top, though the Dace will. In many of the hot moneths, Roaches may also be caught thus: Take a May-fly or Ant-fly, sink him with a little lead to the bottom near to the piles or posts of a Bridge, or near to any posts of a Weire, I mean any deep place where Roaches lie quietly, and then pull your flie up very leisurely and usually a Roach will follow your bait to the very top of the water and gaze on it there, and run at it and take it lest the flie should flie away from him.

I have seen this done at Windsor and Henly-Bridg, and great store of Roach taken and sometimes a Dace or Chub; and in August you may fish for them with a Paste made onely of the crumbs of bread which should be of pure fine Manchet; and that must be so tempered betwixt your hands till it be both soft and tough too; a very little water and time and labour and clean hands will make it a most excellent paste: But when you fish with it, you must have a small hook, a quick eye, and a nimble hand, or the bait is lost and the fish too (if one may lose that, which he never had); with this paste, you may, as I said, take both the Roach and the Dace or Dare, for they be much of a kind, in matter of feeding, cunning, goodness, and usually in size. And therefore take this general direction for some other baits which may concern you to take notice of. They will bite almost at any flie, but especially at Ant-flies; concerning which, take this direction, for it is very good.

Take the blackish Ant-flie out of the Mole-hill or Ant-hill, in which place you shall find them in the moneth of June, or if that be too early in the year, then doubtlesse you may find them in July, August, and most of September, gather them alive with both their wings, and then put them into a glasse that will hold a quart or a pottle; but first put into the glasse a handful or more of the moist earth, out of which you gather them, and as much of the roots of the grass of the said hillock, and then put in the flies gently, that they lose not their wings, lay a clod of earth over it, and then so many as are put into the glasse without bruising, will live there a moneth or more, and be alwayes in a readinesse for you to Fish with; but if you would have them keep longer, then get any great earthen pot, or barrel of three or four gallons (which is better) then wash your barrel with water and honey; and having put into it a quantity of earth and grasse roots, then put in your flies, and cover it, and they will live a quarter of a year; these in any stream and clear water, are a deadly bait for Roach or Dace, or for a Chub, and your rule is, to Fish not lesse than a handful from the bottom.

I shall next tell you a winter bait for a Roach, a Dace or Chub, and it is choicely good. About All-hollantide (and so till Frost comes) when you see men ploughing up heath-ground, or sandy ground, or greenswards, then follow the plough, and you shall find a white worm as big as two Magots, and it hath a red head, (you may observe in what ground most are, for there the Crowes will be very watchful, and follow the Plough very close) it is all soft, and full of whitish guts; a worm that is in Norfolk, and some other Countries called a Grub, and is bred of the Spawn or Eggs of a Beetle, which she leaves in holes that she digs in the ground under Cow or Horse-dung, and there rests all Winter, and in March or April comes to be first a red, and then a black Beetle: gather a thousand or two of these, and put them with a peck or two of their own earth into some tub or firkin, and cover and keep them so warm, that the frost or cold air, or winds kill them not, and you may keep them all winter, and kill fish with them at any time: and if you put some of them into a little earth and honey a day before you use them, you will find them an excellent bait for Bream or Carp.

And after this manner you may also keep Gentles all winter, which is a good bait then, and much the better for being lively and tough: or you may breed and keep Gentles thus: Take a piece of Beasts liver, and with a cross stick, hang it in some corner over a pot or barrel half full of dry clay, and as the Gentles grow big, they will fall into the barrel and scowre themselves, and be alwayes ready for use whensover you incline to Fish; and these gentles may be thus made till after Michaelmas. But if you desire to keep Gentles to Fish with all the year, then get a dead Cat or a Kite and let it be fly-blown, and when the Gentles begin to be alive and to stir, then bury it and them in moist earth, but as free from frost as you can, and these you may dig up at any time when you intend to use them, these will last till March, and about that time turn to be Flies.

But if you be nice to foul your Fingers (which good Anglers seldom are) then take this Bait: Get a handful of well-made Mault, and put it into a dish of water, and then wash and rub it betwixt your hands till you make it clean, and as free from husks as you can; then put that water from it, and put a small quantitie of fresh water to it, and set it in something that is fit for that purpose over the Fire, where it is not to boil apace, but leasurely and very softly, until it become somewhat soft, which you may try by feeling it betwixt your Finger and Thumb, and when it is soft, then put your water from it, and then take a sharp Knife, and turning the sprout end of the Corn upward, with the point of your Knife take the back part of the husk off from it, and yet leaving a kind of inward husk on the Corn, or else it is marr’d, and then cut off that sprouted end, (I mean a little of it) that the white may appear, and so pull off the husk on the cloven side (as I directed you) and then cutting off a very little of the other end, that so your hook may enter, and if your hook be small and good, you will find this to be a very choice bait either for Winter or Summer, you sometimes casting a little of it into the place where your float swims.

And to take the Roach and Dace, a good Bait is the young brood of Wasps or Bees, if you dip their heads in blood; especially good for Bream, if they be baked or hardned in their husks in an Oven, after the bread is taken out of it, or on a Fire-shovel; and so also is the thick blood of Sheep, being half dried on a Trencher, that you may cut it into such pieces as may best fit the size of your hook, and a little salt keeps it from growing black, and makes it not the worst but better: This is taken to be a choice Bait if rightly ordered.

There be several Oiles of a strong smell that I have been told of, and to be excellent to tempt Fish to bites of which I could say much, but I remember I once carried a small Bottle from Sir George Hastings to Sir Henry Wotton (they were both chimical men) as a great Present; it was sent, and receiv’d, and us’d with great confidence; and yet upon inquiry I found it did not answer the expectation of Sir Henry, which with the help of this and other circumstances, makes me have little belief in such things as many men talk of: not but that I think Fishes both smell and hear (as I have exprest in my former discourse) but there is a mysterious Knack, which (though it be much easiet than the Philosophers Stone, yet) is not attainable by common capacities, or else lies locked up in the brain or breast of some chimical man, that like the Rosicrutians, will not yet reveal it. But I stepped by chance into this discourse of Oiles and Fishes smelling, and though there might be more said, both of it and of Baits for Roach and Dace, and other float Fish, yet I will forbear it at this time, and tell you in the next place how you are to prepare your Tackling: concerning which I will for sport sake give you an old Rhime out of an old Fish-book, which will be a part of what you are to provide.

My Rod and my Line, my Float and my Lead,
My Hook and my Plummet, my whetstone and knife,
My Basket, my Baits both living and dead,
My Net and my Meat, for that is the chief:
Then I must have Thred, and Hairs green and small,
With mine Angling purse, and so you have all.

But you must have all these Tackling, and twice so many more, with which if you mean to be a Fisher, you must store your self; and to that purpose I will go with you either to Charles Brandons (near to the Swan in Golding-lane) or to Mr. Fletchers in the Court which did once belong to Dr. Nowel the Dean of Pauls, he that I told you was a good man and a good Fisher; it is hard by the west end of St. Pauls Church. But if you will buy choice hooks, I will one day walk with you to Charles Kerbyes in Harp-alley in Shoe-lane, who is the most exact and best hook-maker the Nation affords. They be all three honest men, and will fit an Angler with what Tackling he wants.

VENA. Then, good Master, let it be at Charls Brandons, for he is nearest to my dwelling, and I pray let’s meet there the ninth of May next, about two of the clock, and I’ll want nothing that a Fisher should be furnished with.

PISC. Well, and I’ll not fail you God willing, at the time and place appointed.

VENA. I thank you, good Master, and I will not fail you: and, good Master, tell me what Baits more you remember; for it will not now be long ere we shall be at Tottenham-high-Cross, and when we come thither I will make you some requital of your pains, by repeating as choice a copy of Verses, as any we have heard since we met together; and that is a proud word, for we have heard very good ones.

PISC. Well, Scholar, and I shall be right glad to hear them; and I will tell you whatsoever comes in my mind, that I think may be worth your hearing. You may make another choice Bait thus, Take a handful or two of the best and biggest Wheat you can get, boil it in a little milk (like as Frumity is boiled), boil it so till it be soft, and then frie it very leisurely with Honey and a little beaten Saffron dissolved in milk, and you will find this a choice Bait, and good I think for any Fish, especially for Roach, Dace, Chub, or Greyling: I know not but that it may be as good for a River-carp, and especially if the ground be a little baited with it.

You are also to know, that there be divers kinds of Cadis, or Caseworms, that are to be found in this Nation in several distinct Counties, and in several little Brooks that relate to bigger Rivers, as namely, one Cadis called a Piper, whose husk or case is a piece of reed about an inch long or longer, and as big about as the compass of a two pence; these worms being kept three or four days in a woolen bag with sand at the bottom of it, and the bag wet once a day, will in three or four dayes turn to be yellow, and these be a choice Bait for the Chub or Chavender, or indeed for any great Fish, for it is a large Bait.

There is also a lesser Cadis-worm, called a Cockspur, being in fashion like the spur of a Cock, sharp at one end, and the case or house in which this dwells is made of small husks and gravel, and slime, most curiously made of these, even so as to be woundred at, but not to be made by man no more than a Kingfishers nest can, which is made of little Fishes bones, and have such a Geometrical inter-weaving and connexion, as the like is not to be done by the art of man: This kind of Cadis is a choice bait for any float-Fish, it is much less than the Piper-Cadis, and to be so ordered, and these may be so preserved ten, fifteen, or twenty days, or it may be longer.

There is also another Cadis, called by some a Strawworm, and by some a Ruff-coat, whose house or case is made of little pieces of bents, and rushes, and straws, and water-weeds, and I know not what, which are so knit together with condensed slime, that they stick about her husk or case, not unlike the bristles of a Hedg-hog; these three Cadis’s are commonly taken in the beginning of Summer, and are good indeed to take any kind of fish with float or otherwise. I might tell you of many more, which as these do early, so those have their time of turning to be flies later in Summer; but I might lose my self, and tire you by such a discourse, I shall therefore but remember you, that to know these, and their several kinds, and to what flies every particular Cadis turns, and then how to use them first as they be Cadis, and then as they be flyes, is an art, and an art that every one that professes to be an Angler has not leisure to search after, and if he had is not capable of learning.

Ile tell you, Scholar, several Countries have several kinds of Cadisses, that indeed differ as much as dogs do: That is to say, as much as a very Cur and a Greyhound do. These be usually bred in the very little nils or ditches that run into bigger Rivers, and I think a more proper bait for those very Rivers, than any other. I know not how or of what this Cadis receives life, or what coloured flye it turns to; but doubtlesse, they are the death of many Trouts, and this is one killing way.

Take one (or more if need be) of these large yellow Cadis, pull off his head, and with it pull out his black gut; put the body (as little bruised as is possible) on a very little hook, armed on with a Red hair (which will shew like the Cadis-head) and a very little thin lead, so put upon the shank of the hook that it may sink presently; throw this bait thus ordered (which will look very yellow) into a hole where a Trout is, and he will presently venture his life for it, ’tis not to be doubted if you be not espyed; and that the bait first touch the water, before the line, and this will do best in the stillest water.

Next let me tell you, I have been much pleased to walk quietly by a Brook with a little stick in my hand, with which I might easily take these, and consider the curiosity of their composure; and if you shall ever like to do so, then note, that your stick must be cleft, or have a nick at one end of it, by which means you may with ease take many of them in that nick out of the water, before you have any occasions to use them. These, my honest Scholar, are some observations told to you as they now come suddenly into my memory, of which you may make some use: but for the practical part, it is that that makes an Angler: it is diligence, and observation, and practice, and an ambition to be the best in the Art that must do it. I will tell you, Scholar, I once heard one say, I envy not him that eats better meat than I do, nor him that is richer, or that wears better clothes than I do. I envy no body but him, and him only, that catches more fish than I do. And such a man is like to prove an Angler, and this noble emulation I wish to you and all young Anglers.

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