Saturday, December 15, 2012

Study to be quiet to seek the mighty pike

Izaak Walton died at the ripe old age of 90, on this day in 1683. His writings show the awe with which "solitary, melancholly" pike were regarded more than 300 years ago.

"The mighty Luce or Pike is taken to be the Tyrant (as the Salmon is the King) of the fresh waters. ’Tis not to be doubted, but that they are bred, some by generation, and some not: as namely, of a Weed called Pickerel-weed, unless learned Gesner be much mistaken; for he sayes, this weed and other glutinous matter, with the help of the Suns heat in some particular Moneths, and some Ponds apted for it by nature, do become Pikes.

"Sir Francis Bacon in his History of Life and Death, observes the Pike to be the longest lived of any freshwater-Fish, and yet he computes it to be not usually above forty years; and others think it to be not above ten years; and yet Gesner mentions a Pike taken in Swedeland in the year 1449 with a Ring about his neck, declaring he was put into the Pond by Frederick the second, more than two hundred years before he was last taken, as by the Inscription of that Ring (being Greek) was interpreted by the then Bishop of Worms.

"All Pikes that live long prove chargeable to their Keepers, because their life is maintained by the death of so many other Fish, even those of his own kind, which has made him by some Writers to be called the Tyrant of the Rivers, or the Fresh-water-woolf, by reason of his bold, greedy devouring disposition; which is so keen, as Gesner relates, a man going to a Pond (where it seems a Pike had devoured all the fish) to water his Mule, had a Pike bit his Mule by the lips, to which the Pike hung so fast, that the Mule drew him out of the water, and by that accident the owner of the Mule got the Pike.

"And the same Gesner observes, that a Maid in Poland had a pike bit her by the foot as she was washing clothes in a Pond. And I have heard the like of a woman in Killingworth Pond, not far from Coventry. But I have been assured by my friend Mr. Seagrave, of whom I spake to you formerly, that keeps tame Otters, that he hath known a pike in extream hunger fight with one of his Otters for a Carp that the Otter had caught, and was then bringing out of the water. I have told you who relates these things, and tell you they are persons of credit, and shall conclude this observation, by telling you what a wise man has observed, It is a hard thing to perswade the belly, because it has no ears.

"But if these relations be disbelieved, it is too evident to be doubted that a pike will devour a Fish of his own kind, that shall be bigger than his belly or throat will receive, and swallow a part of him, and let the other part remain in his mouth till the swallowed part be digested, and then swallow that other part that was in his mouth, and so put it over by degrees; which is not unlike the Oxe and some other beasts, taking their meat, not out of their mouth into their belly, but first into some place betwixt, and then chaw it, or digest it after, which is called Chewing the cud. And doubtless pikes will bite when they are not hungry, but as some think in very anger, when a tempting bait comes near to them.

"And it is observed, that the pike will eat venomous things (as some kinds of Frogs are) and yet live without being harmed by them: for, as some say, he has in him a natural Balsom or Antidote against all poison: and others, that he never eats the venomous Frog, till he have first killed her, and then (as Ducks are observed to do to Frogs in Spawning time, at which time some Frogs are observed to be venomous) so throughly washt her, by tumbling her up and down in the water, that he may devour her without danger. And Gesner affirms, that a Polonian Gentleman did faithfully assure him, he had seen two young Geese at one time in the belly of a pike. And doubtless a pike in his height of hunger will bite at and devour a dog that swimmes in a Pond, and there has been examples of it, or the like; for as I told you, The belly has no ears when hunger comes upon it.

"The pike is also observed to be a solitary, melancholly and a bold Fish: Melancholly, because he alwayes swimmes or rests himself alone, and never swimmes in sholes or with company, as Roach and Dace, and most other Fish do: And bold, because he fears not a shadow, or to see or be seen of any body, as the Trout and Chub, and all other Fish do.

"And it is observed, that the Pike is a fish that breeds but once a year, and that other fish (as namely Loaches) do breed oftner: as we are certain tame Pigeons do almost every month, and yet the Hawk a Bird of Prey (as the Pike is of Fish) breeds but once in twelve months: and you are to note, that his time of breeding or spawning is usually about the end of February, or, somewhat later, in March, as the weather proves colder or warmer; and to note, that his manner of breeding is thus, a He and a She Pike will usually go together out of a River into some ditch or creek, and that there the spawner casts her eggs, and the Melter hovers over her all that time that she is casting her spawn, but touches her not.

"I might say more of this, but it might be thought curiosity or worse, and shall therefore forbear it, and take up so much of your attention, as to tell you, that the best of Pikes are noted to be in Rivers, next those in great Ponds, or Meres, and the worst in small Ponds.

"His feeding is usually of fish or frogs, and sometimes a weed of his own, called Pickrell-weed. Of which I told you some think some Pikes are bred; for they have observed, that where none have been put into Ponds, yet they have there found many: and that there has been plenty of that weed in those Ponds, and that that weed both breeds and feeds them; but whether those Pikes so bred will ever breed by generation as the others do, I shall leave to the disquisitions of men of more curiosity and leasure than I professe my self to have; and shall proceed to tell you that you may fish for a Pike, either with a ledger or a walking-bait; and you are to note, that I call that a Ledger bait, which is fixed, or made to rest in one certain place when you shall be absent and I call that a walking bait, which you take with you, and have ever in motion.

"Concerning which two, I shall give you this direction, That your ledger bait is best to be a living bait, whether it be a fish or a frog; and that you may make them live the longer, you may or indeed you must take this course.

"First, for your live bait of fish, a Roach or Dace is, (I think) best and most tempting, and a Pearch is the longest lived on a hook, and having cut off his fin on his back, which may be done without hurting him, you must take your knife (which cannot be too sharp), and betwixt the head and the fin on the back, cut or make an incision, or such a scar, as you may put the arming wier of your hook into it, with as little brusing or hurting the fish as art and diligence will enable you to do, and so carrying your arming wier along his back, unto, or near the tail of your Fish, betwixt the skin and the body of it, draw out that wier or arming of your hook at another scar near to his tail: then tie him about it with thred, but no harder than of necessity you must to prevent hurting the fish; and the better to avoid hurting the fish, some have a kind of probe to open the way, for the more easie entrance and passage of your wier or arming: but as for these time, and a little experience will teach you better than I can by words; therefore I will for the present say no more of this, but come next to give you some directions, how to bait your hook with a frog.

"Put your hook into his mouth, which you may easily do from the middle of April till August, and then the frogs mouth grows up, and he continues so for at least six moneths without eating, but is sustained, none but he whose name is Wonderful, knowes how, I say, put your hook, I mean the arming wyer through his mouth, and out at his gills, and then with a fine needle and silk sow the upper part of his legg with onely one stitch to the arming wire of your hook, or tie the frogs leg above the upper joynt to the armed wire, and in so doing, use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer.

"And now, having given you this direction for the baiting your ledger hook with a live Fish or frog, my next must be to tell you, how your hook thus baited must or may be used: and it is thus. Having fastned your hook to a line, which if it be not fourteen yards long, should not be lesse than twelve; you are to fasten that line to any bough near to a hole where a Pike is, or is likely to lie, or to have a haunt, and then wind your line on any forked stick, all your line except half a yard of it or rather more, and split that forked stick with such a nick or notch at one end of it, as may keep the line from any more of it raveling from about the stick, then so much of it as you intended; and chuse your forked stick to be of that bigness as may keep the fish or frog from pulling the forked stick under the water till the Pike bites, and then the Pike having pulled the line forth of the clift or nick of that stick in which it was gently fastned, will have line enough to go to his hold and powch the bait: and if you would have this ledger bait to keep at a fixt place, undisturbed by wind or other accidents which may drive it to the shore side (for you are to note, that it is likeliest to catch a Pike in the midst of the water), than hang a small Plummet of lead, a stone, or piece of tyle, or a turf in a string, and cast it into the water, with the forked stick, to hang upon the ground to be an Anchor to keep the forked stick from moving out of your intended place till the Pike come. This I take to be a very good way, to use so many ledger baits as you intend to make trial of.

"Or if you bait your hooks thus with live Fish or Frogs, and in a windy day, fasten them thus to a bough or bundle of straw, and by the help of that wind can get them to move crosse a pond or mere, you are like to stand still on the shore and see sport, if there be any store of Pikes, or these live Baits may make sport, being tied about the body or wings of a Goose or Duck, and she chased over a Pond: and the like may be done with turning three or four live baits thus fastened to bladders, or boughs, or bottles of hay or flags, to swim down a River, whilst you walk quietly alone on the shore, and are still in expectation of sport.

"The rest must be taught you by practice; for time will not allow me to say more of this kind of fishing with live baits. And for your dead bait for a Pike, for that you may be taught by one dayes going a fishing with me, or any other body that fishes for him, for the baiting your hook with a dead Gudgeon or a Roach, and moving it up and down the Water, is too easie a thing to take up any time to direct you to do it; and yet, because I cut you short in that, I will commute for it, by telling you that that was told me for a secret: it is this;

"Dissolve Gum of Ivy in Oyle of Spike, and therewith annoynt your dead bait for a Pike, and then cast it into a likely place, and when it has lain a short time at the bottom, draw it towards the top of the water and so up the stream, and it is more then likely that you have a Pike follow with more than common eagerness."

1 comment:

  1. How calm and quiet a delight is it alone,to read and meditate and write, by none offended and offending none, to walk, ride,sit,or sleep at ones own ease,and pleasing a mans self, none other to displease