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ISCATOR. Good-morrow, brother Peter, and the like to
you, honest Coridon. Come, my hostess says there is seven shillings to pay : let's each man drink a pot for his morning's draught, and lay down his two shillings, so that my hostess may not have occasion to repent herself of being so diligent, and using us so kindly.
PETER. The motion is liked by everybody, and so, hostess, here's your money. We anglers are all beholden to you ; it will not be long ere I'll see you again ; and now, brother Piscator, I wish you, and my brother your scholar, a fair day and good fortune. Come, Coridon, this is our way. 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.
PISCATOR. 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 ed 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.*
* I know not what Roaches are caught below bridge : but above, I am sure they are very large; for on the 15th of September 1754, at Hampton, I caught one that was fourteen inches and an eighth from eye to fork, and in weight wanted but an ounce of two pounds.
The season for fishing for Roach in the Thames begins about the latter end of August, and continues much longer than it is either pleasant or safe to fish. It requires some skill to hit the time of taking them exactly ; for all the summer long they live on the weed, which they do not forsake, for the deeps, till it becomes putrid, and that is sooner or later, according as the season is wet or dry; for you are to know, that much rain hastens the rotting of the weed. I say it requires some skill to hit the time ; for the fishermen who live in all the towns along the river, from Chiswick to Staines, are, about this time, nightly upon the watch, as soon as the fish come out, to sweep them away with a drag-net : and our poor patient angler is left, baiting the ground and adjusting his tackle, to catch those very fish which, perhaps, the night before had been carried to Billingsgate.
The Thames, as well above as below London Bridge, was formerly much resorted to by London anglers : and, which is strange to think on, considering the unpleasantness of the station, they were used to fish near the starlings of the bridge. This will account for the many fishing-tackle shops that were formerly in Crooked Lane, which leads to the bridge. In the memory of a person not long since living, a waterman that plied at Essex Stairs, his name John Reeves, got a comfortable living by attending anglers with his boat: his method was, to watch when the SHOALS of Roach came down from the country, and, when he had found them, to go round to his customers and give them notice. Sometimes they settled opposite the Temple; at others, at Blackfriars or Queenhithe ; but most frequently about the Chalkhills, near London Bridge. His hire was two shillings a tide. A certain number of persons, who were accustomed thus to employ him, raised a sum sufficient to buy him a waterman's coat, and silver badge, the impress whereof was, “Himself, with an Angler, in his boat;" and he had, anxually, a new coat to the time of his death, which might be about the year 1730.