Project Canterbury

The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

How to fish for, and to dresse the Chavender or Chub.

PISC. The Chub, though he eat well thus drest, yet as he is usually drest, he does not: he is objected against, not onely for being full of small forked bones, disperst through all his body, but that he eats watrish, and that the flesh of him is not firm, but short and tastelesse. The French esteem him so mean, as to call him Un villain; nevertheless he may be so drest as to make him very good meat; as namely, if he be a large Chub, then dress him thus:

First scale him, and then wash him clean, and then take out his guts; and to that end make the hole as little and near to his gills as you may conveniently, and especially make clean his throat from the grass and weeds that are usually in it (for if that be not very clean, it will make him to taste very sour); having so done, put some sweet herbs into his belly, and then tye him with two or three splinters to a spit, and rost him, basted often with vinegar, or rather verjuice and butter, with good store of salt mixt with it.

Being thus drest, you will find him a much better dish of meat than you, or most folk, even than Anglers themselves do imagine; for this dries up the fluid watry humor with which all Chubs do abound.

But take this rule with you, That a Chub newly taken and newly drest, is so much better than a Chub of a days keeping after he is dead, that I can compare him to nothing so fitly as to Cherries newly gathered from a tree, and others that have been bruised and layen a day or two in water. Being thus used and drest presently, and not washt after he is gutted, (for note that lying long in water, and washing the blood out of the Fish after they be gutted, abates much of their sweetnesse) you will find the Chub to be such meat as will recompence your labour.

Or you may dress the Chavender or Chub thus:

When you have scaled him, and cut off his tail and fins, and washed him very clean, then chine or slit him through the middle, as a salt fish is usually cut, then give him three or four cuts or scotches with your knife, and broil him on Char-coal, or Wood-coal that are free from smoke, and all the time he is a-broyling baste him with the best sweet butter, and good store of salt mixt with it; and to this add a little Time cut exceeding small, or bruised into the butter. The Cheven thus drest hath the watry taste taken away, for which so many except against him. Thus was the Cheven drest that you liked so well, and commended so much. But note again, that if this Chub that you eat of had been kept till tomorrow, he had not been worth a rush. And remember that his throat be very clean, I say very clean, and his body not washt after he is gutted.

Well Scholar, you see what pains I have taken to recover the lost credit of the poor despised Chub. And now I will give you some rules how to catch him; and I am glad to enter you into the Art of fishing by catching a Chub, for there is no Fish better to enter a young Angler, he is so easily caught, but then it must be this particular way.

Go to the same hole in which I caught my Chub, where, in most hot dayes you will find a dozen or twenty Chevens floating near the top of the water, get two or three Grashoppers as you go over the meadow, and get secretly behind the tree, and stand as free from motion as is possible, then put a Grashopper on your hook, and let your hook hang a quarter of a yard short of the water, to which end you must rest your rod on some bough of the tree, and it is likely the Chubs will sink down towards the bottom of the water at the shadow of your Rod (for a Chub is the fearfullest of fishes,) and will do so if but a bird flies over him, and makes the least shadow on the water: but they will presently rise up to the top again, and there lie soaring till some shadow affrights them again: when they lie upon the top of the water, look out the best Chub, which you setting your self in a fit place, may very easily see, and move your Rod as softly as a Snail moves, to that Chub you intend to catch; let your bait fall gently upon the water three or four inches before him, and he will infallibly take the bait, and you will be as sure to catch him: for he is one of the leathermouth’d Fishes, of which a hook does scarce ever lose his hold: and therefore give him play enough before you offer to take him out of the water. Go your way presently, take my Rod, and do as I bid you, and I will sit down and mend my tackling till you return back.

VENA. Truly, my loving Master, you have offered me as fair as I could wish. I’le go and observe your directions.

Look you, Master, what I have done, that which joies my heart, caught just such another Chub as yours was.

PISC. Marry, and I am glad of it: I am like to have a towardly Scholar of you. I now see, that with advice, and practice you will make an Angler in a short time. Have but a love to it and I’le warrant you.

VENA. But Master, What if I could not have found a Grashopper?

PISC. Then I may tell you, that a black snail, with his belly slit, to show his white; or a piece of soft cheese, will usually do as well: nay, sometimes a worm, or any kind of fly, as the Ant-fly, the Flesh-fly, or Wall-fly, or the Dor or Beetle (which you may find under a Cow-tird) or a Bob, which you will find in the same place, and in time will be a Beetle, it is a short white worm, like to, and bigger than a Gentle, or a Codworm, or a Case-worm, any of these will do very well to Fish in such a manner. And after this manner you may catch a Trout in a hot evening: when as you walk by a Brook, and shall see or hear him leap at flies, then if you get a Grashopper, put it on your hook, with your line about two yards long, standing behind a bush or tree where his hole is, and make your bait stir up and down on the top of the water; you may, if you stand close be sure of a bite, but not sure to catch him, for he is not a leather-mouthed Fish: and after this manner you may fish for him with almost any kind of live flie, but especially with a Grashopper.

VENA. But before you go further, I pray good Master, what mean you by a leather-mouthed Fish?

PISC. By a leather-mouthed Fish, I mean such as have their teeth in their throat, as the Chub or Cheven, and so the Barbel, the Gudgeon and Carp, and divers others have; and the hook being stuck into the leather or skin of such Fish does very seldom or never lose its hold: But on the contrary, a Pike, a Pearch, or Trout, and so some other Fish, which have not their teeth in their throats, but in their mouths (which you shall observe to be very full of bones, and the skin very thin, and little of it): I say, of these Fish the hook never takes so sure hold, but you often lose the Fish, unless he have gorg’d it.

VENA. I thank you good Master for this observation; but now what shall be done with my Chub or Cheven, that I have caught?

PISC. Marry Sir, it shall be given away to some poor body, for I’ll warrant you I’ll give you a Trout for your supper: and it is a good beginning of your Art to offer your first fruits to the poor, who will both thank God and you for it, which I see by your silence you seem to consent to. And for your willingness to part with it so charitably, I will also teach you more concerning Chub-Fishing: you are to note, that in March and April he is usually taken with wormes; in May, and June, and July he will bite at any fly, or at cherries or at Beetles with their legs and wings cut off, or at any kind of Snail, or at the black Bee that breeds in clay walls; and he never refuses a Grashopper on the top of a swift stream, nor at the bottom the young bumble-bee that breeds in long grasse, and are ordinarily found by the Mower of it. In August, and in the cooler moneths a yellow paste, made of the strongest cheese, and pounded in a Morter with a little butter and saffron (so much of it as being beaten small will turn it to a lemon colour). And some make a paste for the Winter moneths, at which time the Chub is accounted best, for then it is observed, that the forked bones are lost or turned into a kind of gristle, especially if he be baked with a paste made of Cheese and Turpentine; he will bite also at a Minnow or Penk as a Trout will: of which I shall tell you more hereafter, and of divers other baits. But take this for a rule, that in hot weather he is to be fisht for towards the mid-water, or nearer the top; and in colder weather nearer the bottom. And if you fish for him on the top, with a Beetle or any fly, then be sure to let your line be very long, and to keep out of sight. And having told you that his Spawn is excellent, and that the head of a large Cheven, the Throat being well washt, is the best part of him, I will say no more of this Fish at the present, but wish you may catch the next you Fish for.

And now my next observation and direction shall be concerning the Trout (which I love to angle for above any Fish) but lest you may judge me too nice in urging to have the Chub drest so presently after he is taken, I will commend to your consideration how curious former times have been in the like kind.

You shall read in Seneca his natural Questions (Lib. 3, cap. 17.) that the Ancients were so curious in the newnesse of their Fish, that that seemed not new enough that was not put alive into the guests hand; and he sayes that to that end they did usually keep them living in glass-bottels in their Dining-rooms; and they did glory much in their entertaining of friends to have that Fish taken from under their table alive, that was instantly to be fed upon. And he sayes, they took a great pleasure to see their Mullets change to several colours, when they were dying. But enough of this, for I doubt I have stayed too long from giving you some observations of the Trout, and how to fish for him, which shall take up the next of my spare time.

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