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Chapter 15. OBSERVATIONS OF THE GUDGEON, THE RUFFE, AND THE BLEAK, AND HOW TO FISH FOR THEM

PISCATOR. The Gudgeon is reputed a fish of excellent taste, and to be very wholesome: he is of a fine shape, of a silver color, and beautified with black spots both on his body and tail. He breeds two or three times in the year, and always in summer. He is com­ mended for a fish of excellent nourishment: the Germans 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 easy 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 from off the hook if he be once strucken. They be usually scattered up and down every river in the shallows, in the heat of summer; but in autumn, when the weeds begin to grow sour 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 always touching the ground, if you fish for him with a float, or with a cork. But many will fish for the Gudgeon by hand, with a running-line upon the ground, without a cork, as a Trout is fished for, and it is an excel­ lent 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: he is much like the Pearch for his shape, and taken to be better than the Pearch, but will not grow to be bigger than a Gudgeon: 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 easy 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 turns when he flies to catch flies in the air, by which he lives, so does the Bleak at the top of the water. Ausonius would have him called Bleak, from his whit­ ish color: 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 virtue 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 Anchovies. This fish may be caught with a Pater-noster line; that is, six or eight very small hooks tied along the line, one half a foot above the other: I have seen five caught thus at one time, and the bait has been gentles, than which none is better.

Or this fish may be caught with a fine small artificial fly, which is to be of a very sad brown color, and very small, and the hook answerable. There is no better sport than whipping for Bleaks in a boat, or on a bank in the swift water in a summer's evening, with a hazel 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, this 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 gudgeon. The line and hook must be strong, and tied to some loose staff, so big as she cannot fly away with it, — a line not exceeding two yards.


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