Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2007


(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Compleat Angler
Content Page


 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo
(HOME)



Fifth Day

Chapter 17. OF ROACH AND DACE, AND HOW TO FISH FOR THEM; AND OF CADIS

VENATOR. 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 can think 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 recover strength, and grow in season in a fortnight after spawning: the Barbel and Chub in a month; the Trout in four months; 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 that know their difference 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 the Thames, which I believe affords the largest and fattest in this nation, especially below London Bridge. The Roach is a leather-mouthed 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 the best Trout-Anglers be in Deryshire, for the waters there are clear to an extremity.

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 months, 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 months, 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 weir, I mean any deep place where Roaches lie quietly, and then pull your fly 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 fly should fly away from him.

I have seen this done at Windsor and Henley Bridge, and great store of Roach taken; and sometimes a Dace or Chub. And in August you may fish for them with a paste made only of the crumbs of bread, which should be of pure fine manchet; and that paste must be so tempered betwixt your hands till it be both soft and tough too: a very little water, and time and labor, 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 fly, but especially at Ant-flies; concerning which take this direction, for it is very good.

Take the blackish Ant-fly out of the mole-hill or ant-hill, in which place you shall find them in the month of June; or, if that be too early in the year, then doubtless you may find them in July, August, and most of September. Gather them alive, with both their wings, and then put them into a glass that will hold a quart or a pottle: but first put into the glass 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 glass without bruising will live there a month or more, and be always in a readiness 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 grass-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 less 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-hallontide, 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 maggots, and it hath a red head; you may observe in what ground most are, for there the crows 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 counties, 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: these you may keep 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, Carp, or indeed for almost any fish.

And after this manner you may also keep gentles all winter, which are 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 beast's 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 scour themselves, and be always ready for use whensoever you incline to fish; and these gentles may be thus created 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 soft, 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 malt, 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 quantity 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 leisurely 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 black part of the husk off from it, and yet leaving a kind of inward husk on the corn, or else it is marred; 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 hardened in their husks in an oven, after the bread is taken out of it; or hardened on a fire-shovel: and so also is the thick blood of sheep, being half dried on a trencher, that so 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 worse, but better: this is taken to be a choice bait if rightly ordered.

There be several oils of a strong smell that I have been told of, and to be excellent to tempt fish to bite, 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 chemical men, as a great present: it was sent, and received, and used, 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 expressed in my former discourse: but there is a mysterious knack, which though it be much easier than the philosopher's stone, yet is not attainable by common capacities, or else lies locked up in the brain or breast of some chemical man, that, like the Rosicrucians, will not yet reveal it. But let me nevertheless tell you, that camphor, put with moss into your worm-bag with your worms, makes them, if many Anglers be not very much mistaken, a tempt­ ing bait, and the Angler more fortunate. But I stepped by chance into this discourse of oils, 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 rhyme out of an old fish-book, which will prove a part, and but 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 thread, 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 yourself; and to that purpose I will go with you either to Mr. Margrave, who dwells amongst the booksellers in St. Paul's Church-yard, or to Mr. John Stubbs, near to the Swan in Golding Lane; they be both honest men, and will fit an Angler with what tackling he lacks.

VEN. Then, good Master, let it be at — , for he is nearest to my dwelling, and I pray let's meet there the 9th 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,

VEN. 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 then right glad to hear them. And I will, as we walk, 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 fry 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 Grayling: 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.

And you may also note, that the spawn of most fish is a very tempting bait, being a little hardened on a warm tile, and cut into fit pieces. Nay, mulberries and those blackberries which grow upon briers be good baits for Chubs or Carps: with these many have been taken in ponds, and in some rivers where such trees have grown near the water, and the fruit customarily dropped into it. And there be a hundred other baits, more than can be well named; which, by constant baiting the water, will become a tempt­ ing bait for any fish in it.

Yon are also to know, that there be divers kinds of Cadis, or Case-worms, 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 woollen bag with sand at the bottom of it, and the bag wet once a day, will in three or four days 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 Cock-spur, 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 wondered at; but not to be made by man, no more than a kingfisher's nest can, which is made of little fishes' bones, and have such a geometrical interweaving and connection, 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 Straw-worm, 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 hedgehog. These three Cadises are commonly taken in the beginning of sum­ mer; 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 also of turning to be flies later in summer; but I might lose myself 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 after as they be flies, 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.

I'll tell you, Scholar, several countries have several kinds of Cadises, 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 rills or ditches that run into bigger rivers; and, I think, a more proper bait for those very rivers than any other. I know not, or of what, this Cadis receives life, or what colored fly it turns to; but doubtless 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 show 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 any great still hole where a Trout is, and he will presently venture his life for it, 'tis not to be doubted, if you be not espied; and that the bait first touch the water, before the line: and this will do best in the deepest, 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 a little hazel or willow, 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 occasion 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 nobody 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.


Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.