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The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Of several Rivers, and some Observations of Fish.

PISC. Well Scholar, since the ways and weather do both favor us, and that we yet see not Tottenham-Cross, you shall see my willingness to satisfie your desire. And first, for the Rivers of this Nation, there be (as you may note out of Dr. Heylins Geography, and others) in number 325 but those of chiefest note he reckons and describes as followeth.

The chief is Thamisis, compounded of two Rivers, Thame and Isis; whereof the former rising somewhat beyond Thame in Buckinghamshire, and the latter in Cyrencester in Glocestershire meet together about Dorcester in Oxfordshire; the issue of which happy conjunction is the Thamisis or Thames. Hence it flyeth betwixt Berks, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essex, and so weddeth himself to the Kentish Medway in the very jaws of the Ocean; this glorious River feeleth the violence and benefit of the Sea more than any River in Europe; ebbing and flowing twice a day, more than sixty miles; about whose banks are so many fair Towns, and Princely Palaces, that a German Poet thus truly spake:

Tot Campos, &c.

We saw so many Woods and Princely bowers,
Sweet Fields, brave Palaces, and stately Towers,
So many Gardens drest with curious care,
That Thames with royal Tiber may compare.

2. The second River of note, is Sabrina or Severn; it hath its beginning in Plinilimmon-Hill in Montgomery-shire, and his end seven miles from Bristol, washing in the mean space the walls of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Glocester, and divers other places and palaces of note.

3. Trent, so called for thirty kind of Fishes that are found in it, or for that it receiveth thirty lesser Rivers, who having his fountain in Stafford-shire, and gliding through the Countries of Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester, and York, augmenteth the turbulent current of Humber, the most violent stream of all the Isle. This Humber is not, to say truth, a distinct River, having a spring head of his own, but rather the mouth or Eustorium of divers Rivers here confluent and meeting together; namely, your Derwent, and especially of Ouse and Trent; and (as the Danow, having received into its channel, the River Dravus, Savus, Tibisnus, and divers others) changeth his name into this of Humberabus, as the old Geographers call it.

4. Medway, a Kentish River, famous for harbouring the Royal Navy.

5. Tweed, the north-east bound of England, on whose northern banks is seated the strong and impregnable Town of Barwick.

6. Tine, famous for Newcastle, and her inexhaustible Coal-pits. These, and the rest of principal note, are thus comprehended in one of Mr. Draytons Sonnets.

The floods queen Thames for ships and swans is crown’d,
And stately Severn for her shore is prais’d,
The Chrystal Trent for fords and fish renown’d,
And Avons fame to Albions cliffs is rais’d,

Carlegion Chester vants her holy Dee,
York many wonders of her Ouse can tell,
The Peke her Dove, whose banks so fertile be,
And Kent will say her Medway doth excell.

Cotswooll commends her Isis to the Tame,
Our Northern borders boast of Tweeds fair Flood.
Our western parts extoll their Willies fame,
And the old Lea brags of the Danish blood.

These observations are out of learned Dr. Heylin, and my old deceased friend Michael Draiton; and because you say, you love such discourses as these of fish and fishing, I love you the better, and love the more to impart them to you; nevertheless, Scholar, if I should begin but to name the several sorts of strange Fish that are usually taken in many of these Rivers that run into the Sea, I might beget wonder in you, or unbelief, or both; and yet I will venture to tell you a real truth concerning one lately dissected by Dr. Wharton, a man of great learning and experience, and of equal freedom to communicate it, one that loves me and my Art, one to whom I have been beholding for many of the choicest observations that I have imparted to you. This good man, that dares do any thing rather than tell an untruth, did (I say) tell me he lately dissected one, and he thus described it to me:

He was almost a yard broad, and twice that length; his mouth wide enough to receive or take into it the head of a man, his stomach seven or eight inches broad: he is of a slow motion, and usually lyes or lurks close in the mud, and has a moveable string on his head about a span, or near unto a quarter of a yard long, by the moving of which (which is his natural Bait) when he lyes close and unseen in the mud, he draws other smaller fish close to him, and then sucks them into his mouth and devours them.

And, Scholar, do not wonder at this; for besides the credit of the Relator, you are to note, many of these, and Fishes which are of the like and more usual shapes, are very often taken on the mouths of our Sea-rivers, and on the Sea-shore; and this will be no wonder to any that have traveled Egypt, where ’tis known the famous River Nilus does not onely breed Fishes that yet want names, but by the overflowing of that River by the help of the Suns heat on that fat slime which that River leaves on the Banks (when it falls back into its natural channel), strange Beasts are also bred, that no man can give a name to, as Grotius (in his Sopham) and others have observed.

But whither am I straid in this discourse? I will end it by telling you, that at the mouth of some of these Rivers of ours, Herrings are so plentiful, as namely, near to Yarmouth in Norfolk, and in the west Country, Pilchers so very plentiful, as you will wonder to read what our learned Cambden relates of them in his Britannia, p. 178, 186.

Well, Scholar, I will stop here, and tell you what by reading and conference I have observed concerning Fish-ponds.

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