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Third Day

Chapter 3. HOW TO FISH FOR, AND TO DRESS, THE CHAVENDER, OR CHUB

PISCATOR. The Chub, though he eat well thus dressed, yet as he is usually dressed he does not: he is objected against, not only for being full of small forked bones, dispersed through all his body, but that he eats waterish, and that the flesh of him is not firm, but short and tasteless. The French esteem him so mean, as to call him unvilain; nevertheless he may be so dressed 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 tie him with two or three splinters to a spit, and roast him, basted often with vinegar, or rather verjuice and butter, with good store of salt mixed with it.

Being thus dressed, 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 watery humor with which all Chubs do abound.

But take this rule with you, that a Chub newly taken and newly dressed is so much better than a Chub of a day's 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 lain a day or two in water. But the Chub being thus used and dressed presently, and not washed after he is gutted, — for note, that, lying long in water, and washing the blood out of any fish after they be gutted, abates much of their sweetness, — you will find the Chub, being dressed in the blood and quickly, to be such meat as will recompense your labor, and disabuse your opinion.

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 on the back with your knife, and broil him on charcoal, or wood-coal that is free from smoke; and all the time he is a-broil­ ing, baste him with the best sweet butter, and good store of salt mixed with it; and to this add a little thyme cut exceeding small, or bruised into the butter. The Cheven thus dressed hath the watery taste taken away, for which so many except against him. Thus was the Cheven dressed that you now liked so well, and commended so much. But note again, that if this Chub that you ate of had been kept till to-morrow, he had not been worth a rush. And remember that his throat be washed very clean, — I say very clean, — and his body not washed after he is gutted, as indeed no fish should be.

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 days you will find a dozen or twenty Chevens floating near the top of the water. Get two or three grasshoppers as you go over the meadow; and get secretly behind the tree, and stand as free from motion as is possible. Then put a grasshopper 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. But it is likely the Chubs will sink down towards the bottom of the water at the first 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.

I say, when they lie upon the top of the water, look out the best Chub, which you, setting yourself 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 leather-mouthed fishes, of which a hook does scarcely ever lose its 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.

VEN. Truly, my loving Master, you have offered me as fair as I could wish. I'll go and observe your directions.

Look you, Master, what I have done! that which joys 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'll warrant you.

VEN. But, Master, what if I could not have found a grasshopper?

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 cow-dung, 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 Cod-worm, 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 grasshopper, 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 fly, but especially with a grasshopper,

VEN. 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 the mouth of such fish, does very seldom or never lose its hold: but on the contrary, a Pike, a Perch, 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 your fish, unless he have gorged it.

VEN. 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 worms; in May, 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 grasshopper on the top of a swift stream, nor, at the bottom, the young humble-bee that breeds in long grass, and is ordinarily found by the mower of it. In August, and in the cooler months, a yellow paste, made of the strongest cheese, and pounded in a mortar with a little butter and saffron, so much of it as being beaten small will turn it to a lemon color. And some make a paste for the winter months, — 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, — 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 fished for towards the mid-water, or near 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 meat, and that the head of a large Cheven, the throat being well washed, 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.

But lest you may judge me too nice in urging to have the Chub dressed 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. ni. cap. 17, that the ancients were so curious in the newness of their fish, that that seemed not new enough that was not put alive in the guest's hand; and he says that to that end they did usually keep them living in glass bottles 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 says they took great pleasure to see their Mullets change to several colors, 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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