1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Angling
ANGLING, the art or practice of the sport of catching fish by means of a baited hook or “angle” (from the Indo-European root ank-, meaning “bend”). It is among the most ancient of human activities, and may be said to date from the time when man was in the infancy of the Stone Age, eking out a precarious existence by the slaughter of any living thing which he could reach with the rude weapons at his command. It is probable that attack on fishes was at first much the same as attack on animals, a matter of force rather than of guile, and conducted by means of a rude spear with a flint head. It is probable, too, that the primitive harpooners were not signally successful in their efforts, and so set their wits to work to devise other means of getting at the abundant food which waited for them in every piece of water near their caves. Observation would soon show them that fish fed greedily on each other and on other inhabitants of the water or living things that fell into it, and so, no doubt, arose the idea of entangling the prey by means of its appetite. Hence came the notion of the first hook, which, it seems certain, was not a hook at all but a “gorge,” a piece of flint or stone which the fish could swallow with the bait but which it could not eject afterwards. From remains found in cave-dwellings and their neighbourhood in different parts of the world it is obvious that these gorges varied in shape, but in general the idea was the same, a narrow strip of stone or flake of flint, either straight or slightly curved at the ends, with a groove in the middle round which the line could be fastened. Buried in the bait it would be swallowed end first; then the tightening of the line would fix it cross-wise in the quarry's stomach or gullet and so the capture would be assured. The device still lingers in France and in a few remote parts of England in the method of catching eels which is known as “sniggling.” In this a needle buried in a worm plays the part of the prehistoric gorge.
The evolution of the fish-hook from the slightly curved gorge is easily intelligible. The ends became more and more curved, until eventually an object not unlike a double hook was attained. This development would be materially assisted by man's discovery of the uses of bronze and its adaptability to his requirements. The single hook, of the pattern more or less familiar to us, was possibly a concession of the lake-dweller to what may even then have been a problem—the “education” of fish, and to a recognition of the fact that sport with the crude old methods was falling off. But it is also not improbable that in some parts of the world the single hook developed pari passu with the double, and that, on the sea-shore for instance, where man was able to employ so adaptable a substance as shell, the first hook was a curved fragment of shell lashed with fibre to a piece of wood or bone, in such a way that the shell formed the bend of the hook while the wood or bone formed the shank. Both early remains and recent hooks from the Fiji Islands bear out this supposition. It is also likely that flint, horn and bone were pressed into service in a similar manner. The nature of the line or the rod that may have been used with these early hooks is largely a matter of conjecture. The first line was perhaps, the tendril of a plant, the first rod possibly a sapling tree. But it is fairly obvious that the rod must have been suggested by the necessity of getting the bait out over obstacles which lay between the fisherman and the water, and that it was a device for increasing both the reach of the arm and the length of the line. It seems not improbable that the rod very early formed a part of the fisherman's equipment.
Literary History.— From prehistoric times down to comparatively late in the days of chronicles, angling appears to have remained a practice; its development into an art or sport is a modern idea. In the earliest literature references to angling are not very numerous, but there are passages in the Old Testament which show that fish-taking with hook as well as net was one of the common industries in the East, and that fish, where it was obtainable, formed an important article of diet. In Numbers (xi. 5) the children of Israel mourn for the fish which they “did eat in Egypt freely.” So much too is proved by the monuments of Egypt; indeed more, for the figures found in some of the Egyptian fishing pictures using short rods and stout lines are sometimes attired after the manner of those who were great in the land. This indicates that angling had already, in a highly civilized country, taken its place among the methods of diversion at the disposal of the wealthy, though from the uncompromising nature of the tackle depicted and the apparent simplicity of the fish it would scarcely be safe to assume that in Egypt angling arrived at the dignity of becoming an “art.” In Europe it took very much longer for the taking of fish to be regarded even as an amusement, and the earliest references to it in the Greek and Latin classics are not very satisfying to the sportsman. There is, however, a passage in the Odyssey (xii. 247) which is of considerable importance, as it shows that fishing with rod and line was well enough understood in early Greece to be used as a popular illustration. It occurs in the well-known scene where Scylla seizes the companions of Odysseus out of the ship and bears them upwards, just as “some fisher on a headland with a long rod” brings small fishes gasping to the shore. Another important, though comparatively late, passage in Greek poetry is the twenty-first idyll of Theocritus. In this the fisherman Asphalion relates how in a dream he hooked a large golden fish and describes graphically, albeit with some obscurity of language, how he “played” it. Asphalion used a rod and fished from a rock, much after the manner of the Homeric angler. Among other Greek writers, Herodotus has a good many references to fish and fishing; the capture of fish is once or twice mentioned or implied by Plato, notably in the Laws (vii. 823); Aristotle deals with fishes in his Natural History; and there are one or two fishing passages in the anthology. But in Greek literature as a whole the subject of angling is not at all prominent. In writers of late Greek, however, there is more material. Plutarch, for instance, gives us the famous story of the fishing match between Antony and Cleopatra, which has been utilized by Shakespeare. Moreover, it is in Greek that the first complete treatise on fishing which has come down to us is written, the Halieutica of Oppian (c. A.D. 169). It is a hexameter poem in five books with perhaps more technical than sporting interest, and not so much even of that as the length of the work would suggest. Still it contains some information about tackle and methods, and some passages describing battles with big fish, in the right spirit of enthusiasm. Also in Greek is what is famous as the first reference in literature to fly-fishing, in the fifteenth book of Aelian's Natural History (3rd century A.D.). It is there described how the Macedonians captured a certain spotted fish in the river Astraeus by means of a lure composed of coloured wool and feathers, which was presumably used in the manner now known as “dapping.” That there were other Greek writers who dealt with fish and fishing and composed “halieutics” we know from Athenaeus. In the first book of his Deipnosophistae he gives a list of them. But he compares their work unfavourably with the passage of Homer already cited, in a way which suggests that their knowledge of angling was not a great advance upon the knowledge of their remote literary ancestors. In Latin literature allusions to angling are rather more numerous than in Greek, but on the whole they are unimportant. Part of a poem by Ovid, the Halieuticon, composed during the poet's exile at Tomi after A.D. 9, still survives. In other Roman writers the subject is only treated by way of allusion or illustration. Martial, however, provides, among other passages, what may perhaps be entitled to rank as the earliest notice of private fishery rights—the epigram Ad Piscatorem, which warns would-be poachers from casting a line in the Baian lake. Pliny the elder devoted the ninth book of his Natural History to fishes and water-life, and Plautus, Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Juvenal, Pliny the younger and Suetonius all allude to angling here and there. Agricultural writers, too, such as Varro and Columella, deal with the subject of fish ponds and stews rather fully. Later than any of these, but still just included in Latin literature, we have Ausonius (c. A.D. 320) and his well-known idyll the Mosella, which contains a good deal about the fish of the Moselle and the methods of catching them. In this poem is to be found the first recognizable description of members of the salmon family, and, though the manner of their application is rather doubtful, the names salmo, salar and fario strike a responsive note in the breast of the modern angler.
Post-classical Literature.—As to what happened in the world of angling in the first few centuries of the Christian era we know little. It may be inferred, however, that both fish and fishermen occupied a more honourable position in Christendom than they ever did before. The prominence of fishermen in the gospel narratives would in itself have been enough to bring this about, but it also happened that the Greek word for fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ, had an anagrammatic significance which the devout were not slow to perceive. The initials of the word resolve into what is practically a confession of faith, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour). It is therefore not surprising that we find the fish very prominent as a sacred emblem in the painting and sculpture of the primitive church, or that Clement of Alexandria should have recommended it, among other things, as a device for signet rings or seals. The fisherman too is frequently represented in early Christian art, and it is worthy of remark that he more often uses a line and hook than a net. The references to fish and fishing scattered about in the writings of the early fathers for the most part reflect the two ideas of the sacredness of the fish and divine authorization of the fisherman; the second idea certainly prevailed until the time of Izaak Walton, for he uses it to justify his pastime. It is also not unlikely that the practice of fasting (in many cases fish was allowed when meat was forbidden) gave the art of catching fish additional importance. It seems at any rate to have been a consideration of weight when sites were chosen for monasteries in Europe, and in many cases when no fish-producing river was at hand the lack was supplied by the construction of fish-ponds. Despite all this, however, save for an occasional allusion in the early fathers, there is hardly a connecting link between the literature of Pagan Rome and the literature that sprang up on the invention of printing. One volume, the Geoponica, a Greek compilation concerning whose authorship and date there has been much dispute, is attributed in Bibliotheca Piscatoria to the beginning of the 10th century. It contains one book on fish, fish-ponds and fishing, with prescriptions for baits, &c., extracted for the most part from other writers. But it seems doubtful whether its date should not be placed very much earlier. Tradition makes it a Carthaginian treatise translated into Greek. A more satisfactory fragment of fishing literature is to be found in the Colloquy of Ælfric, written (ad pueros linguae latinae locutionis exercendos) towards the end of the same century. Ælfric became archbishop of Canterbury in A.D. 995, and the passage in the Anglo-Saxon text-book takes honourable rank as the earliest reference to fishing in English writings, though it is not of any great length. It is to be noted that the fisher who takes a share in the colloquy states that he prefers fishing in the river to fishing in the sea. Ascribed to the 13th or 14th century is a Latin poem De Vetula, whose author was apparently Richard de Fournival. It contains a passage on angling, and was placed to the credit of Ovid when first printed (c. 1470). A manuscript in the British museum, Comptes des pêcheries de l'église de Troyes (A.D. 1349–1413), gives a minute account of the fisheries with the weights of fish captured and the expenses of working. There is, however, practically nothing else of importance till we come to the first printed book on angling (a translation of Oppian, 1478, excepted), and so to the beginning of the literature proper. This first book was a little volume printed in Antwerp probably in 1492 at the press of Matthias van der Goes. In size it is little more than a pamphlet, and it treats of birds as well as fish:—Dit Boecxken leert hoe men mach Voghelen . . . ende . . . visschen vangen metten kanden. Ende oeck andersins. . . . (“This book teaches how one may catch birds . . . and . . . fish with the hands, and also otherwise”). Only one copy apparently survives, in the Denison library, and a translation privately printed for Mr Alfred Denison in 1872 was limited to twenty-five copies. At least two other editions of the book appeared in Flemish, and it also made its way, in 1502, to Germany, where, translated and with certain alterations and additions, it seems to have been re-issued frequently. Next in date comes the famous Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, printed at Westminster by Wynkyn de Worde in 1496 as a part of the second edition of The Book of St Albans. The treatise is for this reason associated with the name of Dame Juliana Berners, but that somewhat dubious compiler can have had nothing whatever to do with it. The treatise is almost certainly a compilation from some earlier work on angling (“bokes of credence” are mentioned in its text), possibly from a manuscript of the earlier part of the 15th century, of which a portion is preserved in the Denison collection. This was published in 1883 by Mr Thomas Satchell under the title An Older Form of the Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle. But it is also possible that a still older work was the parent of both books, for it has been held that the manuscript is an independent version. However this may be, it is certain that the treatise itself has been the parent of many other works. Many of the instructions contained in it are handed down from generation to generation with little change except in diction. Especially is this the case with the list of trout-flies, a meagre twelve, which survives in many fishing books until well into the 18th century.
From the beginning of the 16th century the fisherman's library begins to grow apace, as, though books solely devoted to fishing are not yet frequent, works on husbandry and country pursuits almost all contain something on the subject. In Italy the fisherman and his occupation apparently were considered poetically; the word pescatore or its cognates are common on Italian 16th and 17th century title-pages, though in many instances the fulfilment of the implied promise is not adequate, from an angler's point of view. From the pages of Bibliotheca Piscatoria a fairly long list of Italian writers could be gleaned. Among them may be mentioned Sannazaro (Piscatoria, &c., Rome, 1526) and Andrea Calmo (Rime pescatorie, Venice, 1557). A century later was Parthenius, who published a volume of Halieutica at Naples. This writer has an amusing reference to the art of “tickling” trout as practised in Britain. In Germany, as has been shown, the original little Flemish treatise had a wide vogue in the 16th century, and fishing played a part in a good many books on husbandry such as that of Conrad Heresbach (1570). Fish and fish-ponds formed the main topic of a Latin work by Dubravius (1552), while Gesner in the middle of the 16th and Aldrovandi at the beginning of the 17th centuries wrote at length on the natural history of fishes. In France the subject is less well represented, but Les Pescheries of Chris. de Gamon (Lyons, 1599) and Le Plaisir des champs of Cl. Gauchet (Paris, 1604) deserve to be noted. Les Ruses innocentes by François Fortin, first published at Paris in 1600, and several times in later editions, is characterized by Messrs Westwood and Satchell as “on the whole the most interesting contribution made by France to the literature of angling.” England during the most part of the 16th century was evidently well enough served by the original treatise out of The Book of St Albans. It was republished twice by Wynkyn de Worde, six or seven times by Copland, and some five times by other printers. It was also practically republished in A Booke of Fishing by L. M. (1590). L. M. (Leonard Mascall) ranks as an angling author, but he did little more than borrow and edit the treatise. The same may be said of another version of The Book of St Albans “now newly collected by W. G. Faulkener” and issued in 1596.
Modern Literature.—In 1600 appeared John Taverner's Certaine Experiments concerning Fish and Fruite, and after this the period of angling literature proper begins. The Secrets of Angling (1613), by J(ohn) D(ennys), Esq., is one of the most important volumes in the angler's library, both on account of the excellence of the verse in which it is written and also on account of its practical value. Gervase Markham, “the first journalist,” as he has been called, published his first book of husbandry at the same date, and, as in most of his many books on the same subject, devoted a certain amount of space to fishing. But Markham gathered his materials in a rather shameless manner and his angling passages have little originality. Thomas Barker's The Art of Angling (1st ed., 1651) takes a more honourable position, and received warm commendation from Izaak Walton himself, who followed it in 1653 with The Compleat Angler. So much has been written about this treasured classic that it is only necessary to indicate its popularity here by saying that its editions occupy some twenty pages in Bibliotheca Piscatoria (1883), and that since that work was published at least forty new editions have to be added to the list. During Walton's life-time the book ran through five editions, and with the fifth (1676) was incorporated Charles Cotton's second part, the “instructions how to angle for a trout or grayling, in a clear stream.” In some cases too there was added a third book, the fourth edition of The Experienced Angler, by Robert Venables (1st ed., 1662). The three books together bore the title of The Universal Angler. Venables's portion was dropped later, but it is worth reading, and contained sound instruction though it has not the literary merit of Walton and Cotton.
A few other notable books of the century call for enumeration, The Gentleman's Recreation by Nicholas Cox (1674), Gilbert's The Angler's Delight (1676), Chetham's Vade-Mecum (1681), The Complete Troller by Robert Nobbes (1682), R. Franck's Northern Memoirs (1694), and The True Art of Angling by J. S. (1696). Of these Chetham, Nobbes, Franck and J. S. have the merit of considerable originality. Franck has gained some notoriety by his round abuse of Walton. In the 18th century among others we find The Secrets of Angling by C. G. (1705), Robert Howlett's The Angler's Sure Guide (1706), The Whole Art of Fishing (1714), The Compleat Fisherman by James Saunders (1724), The Art of Angling by R. Brookes (1740), another book with the same title by R. and C. Bowlker (Worcester, c. 1750), The Complete Sportsman by Thomas Fairfax (c. 1760), The Angler's Museum by T. Shirley (1784), and A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling by Thomas Best (1787). Of these only Saunders's, Bowlker's and Best's books are of much importance, the rest being for the most part “borrowed.” One volume of verse in the 18th century calls for notice, Moses Browne's Piscatory Eclogues (1729). Among greater names we get angling passages in Pope, Gay and Thomson; the two last were evidently brothers of the angle.
With the 19th century angling literature becomes too big a subject to be treated in detail, and it is only possible to glance at a few of the more important books and writers. Daniel's Rural Sports appeared in 1801; it is a treasure-house of odd facts. In 1828 Sir Humphry Davy published his famous Salmonia, which was reviewed in the Quarterly by Sir Walter Scott. At about this time too were appearing the Noctes Ambrosianae in Blackwood's Magazine. Christopher North (Professor Wilson) often touched upon angling in them, besides contributing a good many angling articles to the magazine. In 1835 that excellent angling writer Thomas Tod Stoddart began his valuable series of books with The Art of Angling as Practised in Scotland. In 1839 he published Songs and Poems, among which are pieces of great merit. During this period, too, first appeared, year by year, the Newcastle Fishers' Gorlands, collected by Joseph Crawhall afterwards and republished in 1864. These border verses, like Stoddart's, have often a genuine ring about them which is missing from the more polished effusions of Gay and Thomson. Alfred Ronalds's The Fly-Fisher's Entomology (1st ed., 1836) was a publication of great importance, for it marked the beginning of the scientific spirit among trout-fishers. It ran through many editions and is still a valuable book of reference. A step in angling history is also marked by George Pulman's Vade-Mecum of Fly-fishing for Trout (1841), for it contains the first definite instructions on fishing with a “dry fly.” Another is marked by Hewett Wheatley's The Rod and the Line (1849), where is to be found the earliest reference to the “eyed” hook. Yet another is marked by W. C. Stewart's The Practical Angler (1857), in which is taught the new doctrine of “up-stream ” fishing for trout. This is a book of permanent value. Among the many books of this period Charles Kingsley's Miscellanies (1859) stands out, for it contains the immortal “Chalk-Stream Studies.” The work of Francis Francis begins at about the same time, though his A Book on Angling, which is still one of the most valuable text-books, was not first published till 1867. Another well-known and excellent writer, Mr H. Cholmondeley Pennell, began in the early 'sixties; it is to him that we owe the admirable volumes on fresh-water fishing in the “Badminton Library.” Among other English writers mention must be made of Messrs William Senior, John Bickerdyke and F. M. Halford, who have all performed signal services for angling and its literature. (See further bibliography ad fin.) In America the latter half of the 19th century produced a good deal of fishing literature, much of it of a high standard. I go a-Fishing by Dr W. C. Prime (1873), Fishing with the Fly by C. F. Orvis, A. Nelson Cheney and others (1883), The American Salmon Fisherman and Fly Rods and Fly Tackle by H. P. Wells (1886 and 1885), Little Rivers and other books by the Rev. H. Van Dyke—these are only a few specially distinguished in style and matter. Germany and France have not contributed so largely to the modern library, but in the first country we find several useful works by Max von dem Borne, beginning with the Handbuch der Angelfischerei of 1875, and there are a good many other writers who have contributed to the subject, while in France there are a few volumes on fishing by different hands. The most noticeable is M. G. Albert Petit's La Truite de rivière (1897), an admirable book on fly-fishing. As yet, however, though there are many enthusiastic anglers in France, the sport has not established itself so firmly as to have inspired much literature of its own; the same may be said of Germany.
Modern Conditions.—In the modern history of angling there are one or two features that should be touched upon. The great increase in the number of fishermen has had several results. One is a corresponding increase in the difficulty of obtaining fishing, and a notable rise in the value of rivers, especially those which are famed for salmon and trout. Salmon-fishing now may be said to have become a pastime of the rich, and there are signs that trout-fishing will before long have to be placed in the same exclusive category, while even the right to angle for less-esteemed fish will eventually be a thing of price. The development is natural, and it has naturally led to efforts on the part of the angling majority to counteract, if possible, the growing difficulty. These efforts have been directed chiefly in two ways, one the establishment of fishing clubs, the other the adoption of angling in salt water. The fishing club of the big towns was originally a social institution, and its members met together to sup, converse on angling topics and perhaps to display notable fish that they had caught. Later, however, arose the idea that it would be a convenience if a club could give its members privileges of fishing as well as privileges of reunion. So it comes about that all over the United Kingdom, in British colonies and dependencies, in the United States, and also in Germany and France, fishing clubs rent waters, undertake preservation and restocking and generally lead an active and useful existence. It is a good sign for the future of angling and anglers that they are rapidly increasing in number. One of the oldest fishing clubs, if not the oldest, was the Schuylkill club, founded in Pennsylvania in 1732. An account of its history was published in Philadelphia in 1830. Among the earliest clubs in London are to be numbered such societies as The True Waltonians, The Piscatorial, The Friendly Anglers and The Gresham, which are still flourishing. A certain amount of literary activity has been observable in the world of angling clubs, and several volumes of “papers” are on the records. Most noticeable perhaps are the three volumes of Anglers' Evenings published in 1880-1894, a collection of essays by members of the Manchester Anglers' Association. The other method of securing a continuance of sport, the adoption of sea-angling as a substitute for fresh-water fishing, is quite a modern thing. Within the memory of men still young the old tactics of hand-line and force were considered good enough for sea fish. Now the fresh-water angler has lent his centuries of experience in deluding his quarry; the sea-angler has adopted many of the ideas presented to him, has modified or improved others, and has developed the capture of sea-fish into a science almost as subtle as the capture of their fresh-water cousins. One more modern feature, which is also a result of the increase of anglers, is the great advance made in fish-culture, fish-stocking and fish-acclimatization during the last half-century. Fish-culture is now a recognized industry; every trout-stream of note and value is restocked from time to time as a matter of course; salmon-hatcheries are numerous, though their practical utility is still a debated matter, in Great Britain at any rate; coarse fish are also bred for purposes of restocking; and, lastly, it is now considered a fairly simple matter to introduce fish from one country to another, and even from continent to continent. In England the movement owes a great deal to Francis Francis, who, though he was not the earliest worker in the field, was among the first to formulate the science of fish-breeding; his book Fish-Culture, first published in 1863, still remains one of the best treatises on the subject. In the United States, where fishery science has had the benefit of generous governmental and official support and countenance and so has reached a high level of achievement, Dr. T. Garlick (The Artificial Reproduction of Fishes, Cleveland, 1857) is honoured as a pioneer. On the continent of Europe the latter half of the 19th century saw a very considerable and rapid development in fish-culture, but until comparatively recently the propagation and care of fish in most European waters have been considered almost entirely from the point of view of the fish-stew and the market. As to what has been done in the way of acclimatization it is not necessary to say much. Trout (Salmo fario) were introduced to New Zealand in the late 'sixties from England; in the 'eighties rainbow trout (Salmo irideus) were also introduced from California; now New Zealand provides the finest trout-fishing of its kind in the world. American trout of different kinds have been introduced into England, and brown trout have been introduced to America; but neither innovation can be said to have been an unqualified success, though the rainbow has established itself firmly in some waters of the United Kingdom. It is still regarded with some suspicion, as it has a tendency to wander from waters which do not altogether suit it. For the rest, trout have been established in Ceylon, in Kashmir and in South Africa, and early in 1906 an attempt was made to carry them to British Central Africa. In fact the possibilities of acclimatization are so great that, it seems probable, in time no river of the civilized world capable of holding trout will be without them.
Methods and Practice
Angling now divides itself into two main divisions, fishing in fresh water and fishing in the sea. The two branches of the sport have much in common, and sea-angling is really little more than an adaptation of fresh-water methods to salt-water conditions. Therefore it will not be necessary to deal with it at great length and it naturally comes in the second place. Angling in fresh water is again divisible into three principal parts, fishing on the surface, i.e. with the fly; in mid-water, i.e. with a bait simulating the movements of a small fish or with the small fish itself; and on the bottom with worms, paste or one of the many other baits which experience has shown that fish will take. With the premise that it is not intended here to go into the minutiae of instruction which may more profitably be discovered in the many works of reference cited at the end of this article, some account of the subdivisions into which these three styles of fishing fall may be given.
Fly-fishing.—Fly-fishing is the most modern of them, but it is the most highly esteemed, principally because it is the method par excellence of taking members of the most valuable sporting family of fish, the Salmonidae. It may roughly be considered under three heads, the use of the “wet” or sunk fly, of the “dry” or floating fly, and of the natural insect. Of these the first is the most important, for it covers the widest field and is the most universally practised. There are few varieties of fish which may not either consistently or occasionally be taken with the sunk fly in one of its two forms. The large and gaudy bunch of feathers, silk and tinsel with which salmon, very large trout, black bass and occasionally other predaceous fish are taken is not, strictly speaking, a fly at all. It rather represents, if anything, some small fish or subaqueous creature on which the big fish is accustomed to feed and it may conveniently receive the generic name of salmon-fly. The smaller lures, however, which are used to catch smaller trout and other fish that habitually feed on insect food are in most cases intended to represent that food in one of its forms and are entitled to the name of “artificial flies.” The dry or floating fly is simply a development of the imitation theory, and has been evolved from the wet fly in course of closer observation of the habits of flies and fish in certain waters. Both wet and dry fly methods are really a substitute for the third and oldest kind of surface-fishing, the use of a natural insect as a bait. Each method is referred to incidentally below.
Spinning, &c.—Mid-water fishing, as has been said, broadly consists in the use of a small fish, or something that simulates it, and its devices are aimed almost entirely at those fish which prey on their fellows. Spinning, live-baiting and trolling are these devices. In the first a small dead fish or an imitation of it made in metal, india-rubber, or other substance, is caused to revolve rapidly as it is pulled through the water, so that it gives the idea of something in difficulties and trying to escape. In the second a small fish is put on the angler's hook alive and conveys the same idea by its own efforts. In the third a small dead fish is caused to dart up and down in the water without revolving; it conveys the same idea as the spinning fish, though the manipulation is different.
Bottom-Fishing.—Bottom-fishing is the branch of angling which is the most general. There is practically no fresh-water fish that will not take some one or more of the baits on the angler's list if they are properly presented to it when it is hungry. Usually the baited hook is on or near the bottom of the water, but the rule suggested by the name “bottom-fishing” is not invariable and often the bait is best used in mid-water; similarly, in “mid-water fishing” the bait must sometimes be used as close to the bottom as possible. Bottom-fishing is roughly divisible into two kinds, float-fishing, in which a bite is detected by the aid of a float fastened to the line above the hook and so balanced that its tip is visible above the water, and hand-fishing, in which no float is used and the angler trusts tohis hand to feel the bite of a fish. In most cases either method can be adopted and it is a matter of taste, but broadly speaking the float-tackle is more suited to water which is not very deep and is either still or not rapid. In great depths or strong streams a float is difficult to manage.
It is practically impossible to classify the fish an angler catches according to the methods which he employs, as most fish can be taken by at least two of these methods, while many of those most highly esteemed can be caught by all three. Sporting fresh-water fish are therefore treated according to their families and merits from the angler's point of view, and it is briefly indicated which method or methods best succeed in pursuit of them.
Salmon.—First in importance come the migratory Salmonidae, and at the head of them the salmon (Salmo salar), which has a two-fold reputation as a sporting and as a commercial asset. The salmon fisheries of a country are a very valuable possession, but it is only comparatively recently that this has been realized and that salmon rivers have received the legal protection which is necessary to their well-being. Even now it cannot be asserted that in England the salmon question, as it is called, is settled. Partly owing to our ignorance of the life-history of the fish, partly owing to the difficulty of reconciling the opposed interests of commerce and sport, the problem as to how a river should be treated remains only partially solved, though it cannot be denied that there has been a great advance in the right direction. The life-history of the salmon, so far as it concerns the matter in hand, may be very briefly summed up. It is bred in the rivers and fed in the sea. The parent fish ascend in late autumn as high as they can get, the ova are deposited on gravel shallows, hatching out in the course of a few weeks into parr. The infant salmon remains in fresh water at least one year, generally two years, without growing more than a few inches, and then about May assumes what is called the smolt-dress, that is to say, it loses the dark parr-bands and red spots of infancy and becomes silvery all over. After this it descends without delay to the sea, where it feeds to such good purpose that in a year it has reached a weight of 2 lb to 4 lb or more, and it may then reascend as a grilse. Small grilse indeed may only have been in the sea a few months, ascending in the autumn of the year of their first descent. If the fish survives the perils of its first ascent and spawning season and as a kelt or spawned fish gets down to the sea again, it comes up a second time as a salmon of weight varying from 8 lb upwards. Whether salmon come up rivers, and, if so, spawn, every year, why some fish are much heavier than others of the same age, what their mode of life is in the sea, why some run up in spring and summer when the breeding season is not till about November or December whether they were originally sea-fish or river-fish—these and other similar questions await a conclusive answer. One principal fact, however, stands out amid the uncertainty, and that is that without a free passage up and down unpolluted rivers and without protection on the spawning beds salmon have a very poor chance of perpetuating their species. Economic prudence dictates therefore that every year a considerable proportion of running salmon should be allowed to escape the dangers that confront them in the shape of nets, obstructions, pollutions, rods and poachers. And it is in the adjustment of the interests which are bound up in these dangers (the last excepted; officially poachers have no interests, though in practice their plea of “custom and right” has too often to be taken into consideration) that the salmon question consists. To secure a fair proportion of fish for the market, a fair proportion for the rods and a fair proportion for the redds, without unduly damaging manufacturing interests, this is the object of those who have the question at heart, and with many organizations and scientific observers at work it should not be long before the object is attained. Already the system of “marking” kelts with a small silver label has resulted in a considerable array of valuable statistics which have made it possible to estimate the salmon's ordinary rate of growth from year to year. It is very largely due to the efforts of anglers that the matter has gone so far. Whether salmon feed in fresh water is another question of peculiar interest to anglers, for it would seem that if they do not then the whole practice of taking them must be an anomaly. Champions have arisen on both sides of the argument, some, scientists, asserting that salmon (parr and kelts excluded, for both feed greedily as opportunity occurs) do not feed, others, mostly anglers, maintaining strongly that they do, and bringing as evidence their undoubted and customary capture by rod and line, not only with the fly, but also with such obvious food-stuffs as dead baits, worms and prawns. On the other side it is argued that food is never found inside a salmon after it has been long enough in a river to have digested its last meal taken in salt water. The very few instances of food found in salmon which have been brought forward to support the contrary opinion are in the scientific view to be regarded with great caution; certainly in one case of recent years, which at first appeared to be well authenticated, it was afterwards found that a small trout had been pushed down a salmon's throat after capture by way of a joke. A consideration of the question, however, which may perhaps make some appeal to both sides, is put forward by Dr J. Kingston Barton in the first of the two volumes on Fishing (Country Life Series). He maintains that salmon do not habitually feed in fresh water, but he does not reject the possibility of their occasionally taking food. His view is that after exertion, such as that entailed by running from pool to pool during a spate, the fish may feel a very transient hunger and be impelled thereby to snap at anything in its vicinity which looks edible. The fact that the angler's best opportunity is undoubtedly when salmon have newly arrived into a pool, supports this contention. The longer they are compelled to remain in the same spot by lack of water the worse becomes the prospect of catching them, and “unfishable” is one of the expressive words which fishermen use to indicate the condition of a river during the long periods of drought which too often distinguish the sport.
Salmon Tackle and Methods.—It is when the drought breaks up and the long-awaited rain has come that the angler has his chance and makes ready his tackle, against the period of a few days (on some short streams only a few hours) during which the water will be right; right is a very exact term on some rivers, meaning not only that the colour of the water is suitable to the fly, but that its height shall be within an inch or two of a given mark, prescribed by experience. As to the tackle which is made ready, there is, as in most angling matters, divergence of opinion. Salmon fly-rods are now made principally of two materials, greenheart and split-cane; the former is less expensive, the latter is more durable; it is entirely a matter of taste which a man uses, but the split-cane rod is now rather more in favour, and for salmon-fishing it is in England usually built with a core of steel running from butt to tip and known as a “steel centre.” How long the rod shall be is also a matter on which anglers differ, but from 16 ft. to 17 ft. 6 in. represents the limits within which most rods are preferred. The tendency is to reduce rather than to increase the length of the rod, which may be accounted for by the adoption of a heavy line. Early in the 19th century anglers used light-topped rods of 20 ft. and even more, and with them a light line composed partly of horse-hair; they thought 60 ft. with such material a good cast. Modern experience, however, has shown that a shorter rod with a heavier top will throw a heavy dressed silk line much farther with less exertion. Ninety feet is now considered a good fishing cast, while many men can throw a great deal more. In the United States, where rods have long been used much lighter than in England, the limits suggested would be considered too high. From 12 ft. 6 in. to 15 ft. 6 in. is about the range of the American angler's choice, though long rods are not unknown with him. The infinite variety of reels, lines, gut collars and other forms of tackle which is now presented to the angler's consideration and for his bewilderment is too wide a subject to be touched upon here. Something, however, falls to be said about flies. One of the perennially fruitful topics of inquiry is what the fish takes a salmon-fly to be. Beyond a fairly general admission that it is regarded as something endowed with life, perhaps resembling a remembered article of marine diet, perhaps inviting gastronomic experiment, perhaps irritating merely and rousing an impulse to destroy, the discussion has not reached any definite conclusion. But more or less connected with it is the controversy as to variety of colour and pattern. Some authorities hold that a great variety of patterns with very minute differences in colour and shades of colour is essential to complete success; others contend that salmon do not differentiate between nice shades of colour, that they only draw distinctions between flies broadly as being light, medium or dark in general appearance, and that the size of a fly rather than its colour is the important point for the angler's consideration. Others again go some way with the supporters of the colour-scheme and admit the efficacy of flies whose general character is red, or yellow, or black, and so on. The opinion of the majority, however, is probably based on past experience, and a man's favourite flies for different rivers and condition of water are those with which he or someone else has previously succeeded. It remains a fact that in most fly-books great variety of patterns will be discoverable, while certain old standard favourites such as the Jock Scott, Durham Ranger, Silver Doctor, and Thunder and Lightning will be prominent. Coming out of the region of controversy it is a safe generalization to say that the general rule is: big flies for spring fishing when rivers are probably high, small flies for summer and low water, and flies medium or small in autumn according to the conditions. Spring fishing is considered the cream of the sport. Though salmon are not as a rule so numerous or so heavy as during the autumn run, and though kelts are often a nuisance in the early months, yet the clean-run fish of February, March or April amply repays patience and disappointment by its fighting powers and its beauty. Summer fishing on most rivers in the British Islands is uncertain, but in Norway summer is the season, which possibly explains to some extent the popularity of that country with British anglers, for the pleasure of a sport is largely increased by good weather.
Two methods of using the fly are in vogue, casting and harling. The first is by far the more artistic, and it may be practised either from a boat, from the bank or from the bed of the river itself; in the last case the angler wades, wearing waterproof trousers or wading-stockings and stout nail-studded brogues. In either case the fishing is similar. The fly is cast across and down stream, and has to be brought over the “lie” of the fish, swimming naturally with its head to the stream, its feathers working with tempting movement and its whole appearance suggesting some live thing dropping gradually down and across stream. Most anglers add to the motion of the fly by “working” it with short pulls from the rod-top. When a fish takes, the rise is sometimes seen, sometimes not; in any case the angler should not respond with the rod until he feels the pull. Then he should tighten, not strike. The fatal word “strike,” with its too literal interpretation, has caused many a breakage. Having hooked his fish, the angler must be guided by circumstances as to what he does; the salmon will usually decide that for him. But it is a sound rule to give a well-hooked fish no unnecessary advantage and to hold on as hard as the tackle will allow. Good tackle will stand an immense strain, and with this “a minute a pound” is a fair estimate of the time in which a fish should be landed. A foul-hooked salmon (no uncommon thing, for a fish not infrequently misses the fly and gets hooked somewhere in the body) takes much longer to land. The other method of using the fly, harling, which is practised on a few big rivers, consists in trailing the fly behind a boat rowed backward and forwards across the stream and dropping gradually downwards. Fly-fishing for salmon is also practised on some lakes, into which the fish run. On lakes the boat drifts slowly along a “beat,” while the angler casts diagonally over the spots where salmon are wont to lie. Salmon may also be caught by “mid-water fishing,” with a natural bait either spun or trolled and with artificial spinning-baits of different kinds, and by “bottom-fishing” with prawns, shrimps and worms. Spinning is usually practised when the water is too high or too coloured for the fly; trolling is seldom employed, but is useful for exploring pools which cannot be fished by spinning or with the fly; the prawn is a valuable lure in low water and when fish are unwilling to rise; while the worm is killing at all states of the river, but except as a last resource is not much in favour. There are a few waters where salmon have the reputation of not taking a fly at all; in them spinning or prawning are the usual modes of fishing. But most anglers, wherever possible, prefer to use the fly. The rod for the alternative methods is generally shorter and stiffer than the fly-rod, though made of like material. Twelve to fourteen feet represents about the range of choice. Outside the British Islands the salmon-fisher finds the headquarters of his sport in Europe in Scandinavia and Iceland, and in the New World in some of the waters of Canada and Newfoundland.
Land-locked Salmon.—The land-locked salmon (Salmo salar sebago) of Canada and the lakes of Maine is, as its name implies, now regarded by scientists as merely a land-locked form of the salmon. It does not often attain a greater size than 20 lb, but it is a fine fighter and is highly esteemed by American anglers. In most waters it does not take a fly so well as a spinning-bait, live-bait or worm. The methods of angling for it do not differ materially from those employed for other Salmonidae.
Pacific Salmon.—Closely allied to Salmo salar both in appearance and habits is the genus Oncorhynchus, commonly known as Pacific salmon. It contains six species, is peculiar to the North Pacific Ocean, and is of some importance to the angler, though of not nearly so much as the Atlantic salmon. The quinnat is the largest member of the genus, closely resembles salar in appearance and surpasses him in size. The others, sockeye, humpback, cohoe, dog-salmon and masu, are smaller and of less interest to the angler, though some of them have great commercial value. The last-named is only found in the waters of Japan, but the rest occur in greater or less quantities in the rivers of Kamchatka, Alaska, British Columbia and Oregon. The problems presented to science by salar are offered by Oncorhynchus also, but there are variations in his life-history, such as the fact that few if any fish of the genus are supposed to survive their first spawning season. When once in the rivers none of these salmon is of very much use to the angler; as, though it is stated that they will occasionally take a fly or spoon in fresh water, they are not nearly so responsive as their Atlantic cousin and in many streams are undoubtedly not worth trying for. At the mouths of some rivers, however, where the water is distinctly tidal, and in certain bays of the sea itself they give very fine sport, the method of fishing for them being usually to trail a heavy spoon-bait behind a boat. By this means remarkable bags of fish have been made by anglers. The sport is of quite recent development.
Sea-Trout.—Next to the salmon comes the sea-trout, the other migratory salmonid of Europe. This is a fish with many local names and a good deal of local variation. Modern science, however, recognises two “races” only, Salmo trutta, the sea-trout proper, and Salmo cambricus or eriox, the bull-trout, or sewin of Wales, which is most prominent in such rivers as the Coquet and Tweed. The life-history of sea-trout is much the same as that of salmon, and the fish on their first return from the sea in the grilse-stage are called by many names, finnock, herling and whitling being perhaps the best known. Of the two races Salmo trutta alone is of much use to the fly-fisher. The bull-trout, for some obscure reason, is not at all responsive to his efforts, except in its kelt stage. Then it will take greedily enough, but that is small consolation. The bull-trout is a strong fish and grows to a great size and it is a pity that it is not of greater sporting value, if only to make up for its bad reputation as an article of food. Some amends, however, are made by its cousin the sea-trout, which is one of the gamest and daintiest fish on the angler's list. It is found in most salmon rivers and also in not a few streams which are too small to harbour the bigger fish, while there are many lakes in Scotland and Ireland (where the fish is usually known as white trout) where the fishing is superb when the trout have run up into them. Fly-fishing for sea-trout is not a thing apart. A three-pounder that will impale itself on a big salmon-fly, might equally well have taken a tiny trout-fly. Many anglers, when fishing a sea-trout river where they run large, 5 lb or more, and where there is also a chance of a salmon, effect a compromise by using a light 13 ft. or 14 ft. double-handed rod, and tackle not so slender as to make hooking a salmon a certain disaster. But undoubtedly to get the full pleasure out of sea-trout-fishing a single-handed rod of 10 ft. to 12 ft. with reasonably fine gut and small flies should be used, and the way of using it is much the same as in wet-fly fishing for brown trout, which will be treated later. When the double-handed rod and small salmon-flies are used, the fishing is practically the same as salmon-fishing except that it is on a somewhat smaller scale. Flies for sea-trout are numberless and local patterns abound, as may be expected with a fish which has so catholic a taste. But, as with salmon-fishers so with sea-trout fishers, experience forms belief and success governs selection. Among the small salmon-flies and loch-flies which will fill his book, the angler will do well to have a store of very small trout-flies at hand, while experience has shown that even the dry fly will kill sea-trout on occasion, a thing that is worth remembering where rivers are low and fish shy. July, August and September are in general the best months for sea-trout, and as they are dry months the angler often has to put up with indifferent sport. The fish will, however, rise in tidal water and in a few localities even in the sea itself, or in salt-water lochs into which streams run. Sea-trout have an irritating knack of “coming short,” that is to say, they will pluck at the fly without really taking it. There are occasions, on the other hand, in loch-fishing where plenty of time must be given to the fish without tightening on it, especially if it happens to be a big one. Like salmon, sea-trout are to be caught with spinning-baits and also with the worm. The main controversy that is concerned with sea-trout is whether or no the fish captured in early spring are clean fish or well-mended kelts. On the whole, as sea-trout seldom run before May, the majority of opinion inclines to their being kelts.
Non-migratory Salmonidae.—Of the non-migratory members of the Salmonidae the most impotant in Great Britain is the brown trout (Salmo fario). Its American cousin the rainbow trout (S. irideus) is now fairly well established in the country too, while other transatlantic species both of trout and char (which are some of them partially migratory, that is to say, migratory when occasion offers), such as the steelhead (S. rivularis), fontinalis (S. fontinalis) and the cut-throat trout (S. clarkii), are at least not unknown. All these fish, together with their allied forms in America, can be captured with the fly, and, speaking broadly, the wet-fly method will do well for them all. Therefore it is only necessary to deal with the methods applicable to one species, the brown trout.
Trout.—Of the game-fishes the brown trout is the most popular, for it is spread over the whole of Great Britain and most of Europe, wherever there are waters suited to it. It is a fine sporting fish and is excellent for the table, while in some streams and lakes it grows to a very considerable size, examples of 16 lb from southern rivers and 20 lb from Irish and Scottish lakes being not unknown. One of the signs of its popularity is that its habits and history have produced some very animated controversies. Some of the earliest discussions were provoked by the liability of the fish to change its appearance in different surroundings and conditions, and so at one time many a district claimed its local trout as a separate species. Now, however, science admits but one species, though, to such well-defined varieties as the Loch Leven trout, the estuarine trout and the gillaroo, it concedes the right to separate names and “races.” In effect all, from the great ferox of the big lakes of Scotland and Ireland to the little fingerling of the Devonshire brook, are one and the same—Salmo fario.
Wet-Fly Fishing for Trout.—Fly-fishing for trout is divided into three kinds: fishing with the artificial fly sunk or “wet,” fishing with it floating or “dry” and fishing with the natural insect. Of the two first methods the wet fly is the older and may be taken first. Time was when all good anglers cast their flies downstream and thought no harm. But in 1857 W. C. Stewart published his Practical Angler, in which he taught that it paid better to fish up-stream, for by so doing the angler was not only less likely to be seen by the trout but was more likely to hook his fish. The doctrine was much discussed and criticized, but it gradually won adherents, until now up-stream fishing is the orthodox method where it is possible. Stewart was also one of the first to advocate a lighter rod in place of the heavy 12 ft. and 13 ft. weapons that were used in the North in his time. There are still many men who use the long rod for wet-fly fishing in streams, but there are now more who find 10 ft. quite enough for their purpose. For lake-fishing from a boat, however, the longer rod is still in many cases preferred. In fishing rivers the main art is to place the right flies in the right places and to let them come naturally down with the stream. The right flies may be ascertained to some extent from books and from local wisdom, but the right places can only be learnt by experience. It does not, however, take long to acquire “an eye for water” and that is half the battle, for the haunts of trout in rapid rivers are very much alike. In lake-fishing chance has a greater share in bringing about success, but here too the right fly and the right place are important; the actual management of rod, line and flies, of course, is easier, for there is no stream to be reckoned with. Though there is little left to be said about wet-fly fishing where the fiy is an imitation more or less exact of a natural insect, there is another branch of the art which has been stimulated by modern developments. This is the use of salmon-flies for big trout much in the same way as for salmon. In such rivers as the Thames, where the trout are cannibals and run very large, ordinary trout-flies are of little use, and the fly-fisher's only chance is to use a big fly and “work” it, casting across and down stream. The big fly has also been found serviceable with the great fish of New Zealand and with the inhabitants of such a piece of water as Blagdon Lake near Bristol, where the trout run very large. For this kind of fishing much stronger tackle and a heavier rod are required than for catching fish that seldom exceed the pound.
Dry Fly.—Fishing with the floating fly is a device of southern origin, and the idea no doubt arose from the facts that on the placid south-country streams the natural fly floats on the surface and that the trout are accustomed to feed on it there. The controversy “dry versus wet” was long and spirited, but the new idea won the day and now not only on the chalk-streams, but on such stretches of even Highland rivers as are suitable, the dry-fly man may be seen testing his theories. These theories are simple and consist in placing before the fish an exact imitation of the insect on which it is feeding, in such a way that it shall float down exactly as if it were an insect of the same kind. To this end special tackle and special methods have been found necessary. Not only the fly but also the line has to float on the water; the line is very heavy and therefore the rod (split-cane or greenheart) must be stiff and powerful; special precautions have to be taken that the fly shall float unhindered and shall not “drag”; special casts have to be made to counteract awkward winds; and, lastly, the matching of the fly with the insect on the water is a matter of much nicety, for the water-flies are of many shades and colours. Many brains have busied themselves with the solution of these problems with such success that dry-fly fishing is now a finished art. The entomology of the dry-fly stream has been studied very deeply by Mr F. M. Halford, the late G. S. Marryat and others, and improvements both in flies and tackle have been very great. Quite lately, however, there has been a movement in favour of light rods for dry-fly fishing as well as wet-fly fishing. The English split-cane rod for dry-fly work weighs about an ounce to the foot, rather more or rather less. The American rod of similar action and material weighs much less—approximately 6 oz. to 10 ft. The light rod, it is urged, is much less tiring and is quite powerful enough for ordinary purposes. Against it is claimed that dry-fly fishing is not “ordinary purposes,” that chalk-stream weeds are too strong and chalk-stream winds too wild for the light rod to be efficient against them. However, the light rod is growing in popular favour; British manufacturers are building rods after the American style; and anglers are taking to them more and more. The dry-fly method is now practised by many fishermen both in Germany and France, but it has scarcely found a footing as yet in the United States or Canada.
Fishing with the Natural Fly.—The natural fly is a very killing bait for trout, but its use is not wide-spread except in Ireland. In Ireland “dapping” with the green drake or the daddy-longlegs is practised from boats on most of the big loughs. A light whole-cane rod of stiff build, about 16 ft. in length, is required with a floss-silk line light enough to be carried out on the breeze; the “dap” (generally two mayflies or daddy-longlegs on a small stout-wired hook) is carried out by the breeze and just allowed to touch the water. When a trout rises it is well to count “ten” before striking. Very heavy trout are caught in this manner during the mayfly season. In the North “creeper fishing” is akin to this method, but the creeper is the larva of the stone-fly, not a fly itself, and it is cast more like an ordinary fly and allowed to sink. Sometimes, however, the mature insect is used with equally good results. A few anglers still practise the old style of dapping or “dibbling” after the manner advised by Izaak Walton. It is a deadly way of fishing small overgrown brooks. A stiff rod and strong gut are necessary, and a grasshopper or almost any large fly will serve for bait.
Other Methods.—The other methods of taking trout principally employed are spinning, live-baiting and worming. For big river trout such as those of the Thames a gudgeon or bleak makes the best spinning or live bait, for great lake trout (ferox) a small fish of their own species and for smaller trout a minnow. There are numberless artificial spinning-baits which kill well at times, the Devon being perhaps the favourite. The use of the drop-minnow, which is trolling on a lesser scale, is a killing method employed more in the north of England than elsewhere. The worm is mostly deadly in thick water, so deadly that it is looked on askance. But there is a highly artistic mode of fishing known as “clear-water worming.” This is most successful when rivers are low and weather hot, and it needs an expert angler to succeed in it. The worm has to be cast up-stream rather like a fly, and the method is little inferior to fly-fishing in delicacy and difficulty. The other baits for trout, or rather the other baits which they will take sometimes, are legion. Wasp-grubs, maggots, caterpillars, small frogs, bread—there is very little the fish will not take. But except in rural districts little effort is made to catch trout by means less orthodox than the fly, minnow and worm, and the tendency nowadays both in England and America is to restrict anglers where possible to the use of the artificial fly only.
Grayling.—The only other member of the salmon family in England which gives much sport to the fly-fisher is the grayling, a fish which possesses the recommendation of rising well in winter. It can be caught with either wet or dry fly, and with the same tackle as trout, which generally inhabit the same stream. Grayling will take most small trout-flies, but there are many patterns of fly tied specially for them, most of them founded on the red tag or the green insect. Worms and maggots are also largely used in some waters for grayling, and there is a curious contrivance known as the “grasshopper,” which is a sort of compromise between the fly and bait. It consists of a leaded hook round the shank of which is twisted bright-coloured wool. The point is tipped with maggots, and the lure, half artificial, half natural, is dropped into deep holes and worked up and down in the water. In some places the method is very killing. The grayling has been very prominent of late years owing to the controversy “grayling versus trout.” Many people hold that grayling injure a trout stream by devouring trout-ova and trout-food, by increasing too rapidly and in other ways. Beyond, however, proving the self-evident fact that a stream can only support a given amount of fish-life, the grayling's opponents do not seem to have made out a very good case, for no real evidence of its injuring trout has been adduced.
Char.—The chars (Salvelinus) are a numerous family widely distributed over the world, but in Great Britain are not very important to the angler. One well-defined species (Salvelinus alpinus) is found in some lakes of Wales and Scotland, but principally in Westmorland and Cumberland. It sometimes takes a small fly but is more often caught with small artificial spinning-baits. The fish seldom exceeds 1½ lb in Great Britain, though in Scandinavia it is caught up to 5 lb or more. There are some important chars in America, fontinalis being one of the most esteemed. Some members of the genus occasionally attain a size scarcely excelled by the salmon. Among them are the Great Lake trout of America, Cristivomer namaycush, and the Danubian “salmon” or huchen, Salmo hucho. Both of these fish are caught principally with spinning-baits, but both will on occasion take a salmon-fly, though not with any freedom after they have reached a certain size. An attempt has been made to introduce huchen into the Thames but at the time of writing the result cannot yet be estimated.
Pike.—The pike (Esox lucius), which after the Salmonidae is the most valued sporting fish in Great Britain, is a fish of prey pure and simple. Though it will occasionally take a large fly, a worm or other ground-bait, its systematic capture is only essayed with small fish or artificial spinning-baits. A live bait is supposed to be the most deadly lure for big pike, probably because it is the method employed by most anglers. But spinning is more artistic and has been found quite successful enough by those who give it a fair and full trial. Trolling, the method of “sink and draw” with a dead bait, referred to previously in this article, is not much practised nowadays, though at one time it was very popular. It was given up because the traditional form of trolling-tackle was such that the bait had to be swallowed by the pike before the hook would take hold, and that necessitated killing all fish caught, whether large or small. The same objection formerly applied to live-baiting with what was known as a gorge-hook. Now, however, what is called snap-tackle is almost invariably used in live-baiting, and the system is by some few anglers extended to the other method too. Pike are autumn and winter fish and are at their best in December. They grow to a very considerable size, fish of 20 lb being regarded as “specimens”, and an occasional thirty-pounder rewarding the zealous and fortunate. The heaviest pike caught with a rod in recent years which is sufficiently authenticated, weighed 37 lb, but heavier specimens are said to have been taken in Irish lakes. River pike up to about 10 lb in weight are excellent eating.
America has several species of pike, of which the muskelunge of the great lake region (Esox masquinongy) is the most important. It is a very fine fish, excelling Esox lucius both in size and looks. From the angler's point of view it may be considered simply as a large pike and may be caught by similar methods. It occasionally reaches the weight of 80 lb or perhaps more. The pickerel (Esox reticulatus) is the only other of the American pikes which gives any sport. It reaches a respectable size, but is as inferior to the pike as the pike is to the muskelunge.
Perch.—Next to the pikes come the perches, also predatory fishes. The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) has a place by itself in the affections of anglers. When young it is easy to catch by almost any method of fishing, and a large number of Walton's disciples have been initiated into the art with its help. Worms and small live-baits are the principal lures, but at times the fish will take small bright artificial spinning-baits well, and odd attractions such as boiled shrimps, caddis-grubs, small frogs, maggots, wasp-grubs, &c. are sometimes successful. The drop-minnow is one of the best methods of taking perch. Very occasionally, and principally in shallow pools, the fish will take an artificial fly greedily, a small salmon-fly being the best thing to use in such a case. A perch of 2 lb is a good fish, and a specimen of 4½ lb about the limit of angling expectation. There have been rare instances of perch over 5 lb, and there are legends of eight-pounders, which, however, need authentication.
Black Bass.—The yellow perch of America (Perca flavescens) is very much like its European cousin in appearance and habits, but it is not so highly esteemed by American anglers, because they are fortunate in being possessed of a better fish in the black bass, another member of the perch family. There are two kinds of black bass (Micropterus salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu), the large-mouthed and the small-mouthed. The first is more a lake and pond fish than the second, and they are seldom found in the same waters. As the black bass is a fly-taking fish and a strong fighter, it is as valuable to the angler as a trout and is highly esteemed. Bass-fiies are sui generis, but incline more to the nature of salmon-flies than trout-flies. An artificial frog cast with a fly-rod or very light spinning-rod is also a favourite lure. For the rest the fish will take almost anything in the nature of worms or small fish, like its cousin the perch. A 4 lb bass is a good fish, but five-pounders are not uncommon. Black bass have to some extent been acclimatized in France.
The ruffe or pope (Acerina vulgaris) is a little fish common in the Thames and many other slow-flowing English rivers. It is very like the perch in shape but lacks the dusky bars which distinguish the other, and is spotted with dark brown spots on a golden olive background. It is not of much use to the angler as it seldom exceeds 3 oz. in weight. It takes small worms, maggots and similar baits greedily, and is often a nuisance when the angler is expecting better fish. Allied to the perches is the pike-perch, of which two species are of some importance to the angler, one the wall-eye of eastern America (Stizostedion vitreum) and the other the zander of Central Europe (Sandrus lucioperca). The last especially is a fine fighter, occasionally reaching a weight of 20 lb. It is usually caught by spinning, but will take live-baits, worms and other things of that nature. The Danube may be described as its headquarters. It is a fish whose sporting importance will be more realized as anglers on the continent become more numerous.
Cyprinidae.—The carp family (Cyprinidae) is a large one and its members constitute the majority of English sporting fishes. In America the various kinds of chub, sucker, dace, shiner, &c. are little esteemed and are regarded as spoils for the youthful angler only, or as baits for the better fish in which the continent is so rich. In England, however, the Cyprinidae have an honoured place in the affections of all who angle “at the bottom,” while in Europe some of them have a commercial value as food-fishes. In India at least one member of the family, the mahseer, takes rank with the salmon as a “big game” fish.
Carp, Tench, Barbel, Bream.—The family as represented in England may be roughly divided into two groups, those which feed on the bottom purely and those which occasionally take flies. The first consists of carp, tench, barbel and bream. Of these carp, tench and bream are either river or pool fish, while the barbel is found only in rivers, principally in the Thames and Trent. The carp grows to a great size, 20 lb being not unknown; tench are big at 5 lb; barbel have been caught up to 14 lb or rather more; and bream occasionally reach 8 lb, while a fish of over 11 lb is on record. All these fish are capricious feeders, carp and barbel being particularly undependable. In some waters it seems to be impossible to catch the large specimens, and the angler who seeks to gain trophies in either branch of the sport needs both patience and perseverance. Tench and bream are not quite so difficult. The one fish can sometimes be caught in great quantities, and the other is generally to be enticed by the man who knows how to set about it. Two main principles have to be observed in attacking all these fish, ground-baiting and early rising. Ground-baiting consists in casting food into the water so as to attract the fish to a certain spot and to induce them to feed. Without it very little can be done with shy and large fish of these species. Early rising is necessary because they only feed freely, as a rule, from daybreak till about three hours after sun-rise. The heat of a summer or early autumn day makes them sluggish, but an hour or two in the evening is sometimes remunerative. The bait for them all should usually lie on the bottom, and it consists mainly of worms, wasp and other grubs, pastes of various kinds; and for carp, and sometimes bream, of vegetable baits such as small boiled potatoes, beans, peas, stewed wheat, pieces of banana, &c. None of these fish feed well in winter.
Roach, Rudd, Dace, Chub.—The next group of Cyprinidae consists of fish which will take a bait similar to those already mentioned and also a fly. The sizes which limit the ordinary angler's aspirations are roach about 2 lb, rudd about 2½ lb, dace about 1 lb and chub about 5 lb. There are instances of individuals heavier than this, one or two roach and many rudd of over 3 lb being on record, while dace have been caught up to 1 lb 6 oz., and chub of over 7 lb are not unknown. Roach only take a fly as a rule in very hot weather when they are near the surface, or early in the season when they are on the shallows; the others will take it freely all through the summer. Ordinary trout flies do well enough for all four species, but chub often prefer something larger, and big bushy lures called “palmers,” which represent caterpillars, are generally used for them. The fly may be used either wet or dry for all these fish, and there is little to choose between the methods as regards effectiveness. Fly-fishing for these fish is a branch of angling which might be more practised than it is, as the sport is a very fair substitute for trout fishing. Roach, chub and dace feed on bottom food and give good sport all the winter.
Gudgeon, Bleak, Minnow, &c.—The small fry of European waters, gudgeon, bleak, minnow, loach, stickleback and bullhead, are principally of value as bait for other fish, though the first-named species gives pretty sport on fine tackle and makes a succulent dish. Small red worms are the best bait for gudgeon and minnows, a maggot or small fly for bleak, and the rest are most easily caught in a small-meshed net. The loach is used principally in Ireland as a trout bait, and the other two are of small account as hook-baits, though sticklebacks are a valuable form of food for trout in lakes and pools.
Mahseer.—Among the carps of India, several of which give good sport, special mention must be made of the mahseer (Barbus mosal), a fish which rivals the salmon both in size and strength. It reaches a weight of 60 lb and sometimes more and is fished for in much the same manner as salmon, with the difference that after about 10 lb it takes a spinning-bait, usually a heavy spoon-bait, better than a fly.
Cat-fish.—None of the fresh-water cat-fishes (of which no example is found in England) are what may be called sporting fish, but several may be caught with rod and line. There are several kinds in North America, and some of them are as heavy as 150 lb, but the most important is the wels (Silurus glanis) of the Danube and neighbouring waters. This is the largest European fresh-water fish, and it is credited with a weight of 300 lb or more. It is a bottom feeder and will take a fish-bait either alive or dead; it is said occasionally to run at a spinning bait when used very deep.
Burbot.—The burbot (Lota vulgaris) is the only fresh-water member of the cod family in Great Britain, and it is found only in a few slow-flowing rivers such as the Trent, and there not often, probably because it is a fish of sluggish habits which feeds only at night. It reaches a weight of 3 lb or more, and will take most flesh or fish baits on the bottom. The burbot of America has similar characteristics.
Sturgeon.—The sturgeons, of which there are a good many species in Europe and America, are of no use to the angler. They are anadromous fishes of which little more can be said than that a specimen might take a bottom bait once in a way. In Russia they are sometimes caught on long lines armed with baited hooks, and occasionally an angler hooks one. Such a case was reported from California in The Field of the 19th of August 1905.
Shad.—Two other anadromous fish deserve notice. The first is the shad, a herring-like fish of which two species, allice and twaite (Clupea alosa and C. finta), ascend one or two British and several continental rivers in the spring. The twaite is the more common, and in the Severn, Wye and Teme it sometimes gives very fair sport to anglers, taking worm and occasionally fly or small spinning bait. It is a good fighter, and reaches a weight of about 3 lb. Its sheen when first caught is particularly beautiful. America also has its shads.
Flounder.—The other is the flounder (Pleuronectes flesus), the only flat-fish which ascends British rivers. It is common a long way up such rivers as the Severn, far above tidal influence, and it will take almost any flesh-bait used on the bottom. A flounder of 1 lb is, in a river, a large one, but heavier examples are sometimes caught.
Eel.—The eel (Anguilla vulgaris) is regarded by the angler more as a nuisance than a sporting fish, but when of considerable size (and it often reaches a weight of 8 lb or more) it is a splendid fighter and stronger than almost any fish that swims. Its life history has long been disputed, but it is now accepted that it breeds in the sea and ascends rivers in its youth. It is found practically everywhere, and its occurrence in isolated ponds to which it has never been introduced by human agency has given rise to a theory that it travels overland as well as by water. The best baits for eels are worms and small fish, and the best time to use them is at night or in thundery or very wet weather.
Sea angling is attended by almost as many refinements of tackle and method as fresh-water angling. The chief differences are differences of locality and the habits of the fish. To a certain extent sea angling may also be divided into three classes—fishing on the surface with the fly, at mid-water with spinning or other bait, and on the bottom; but the first method is only practicable at certain times and in certain places, and the others, from the great depths that often have to be sounded and the heavy weights that have to be used in searching them, necessitate shorter and stouter rods, larger reels and stronger tackle than fresh-water anglers employ. Also, of course, the sea-fisherman is liable to come into conflict with very large fish occasionally. In British waters the monster usually takes the form of a skate or halibut. A specimen of the former weighing 194 lb has been landed off the Irish coast with rod and line in recent years. In American waters there is a much greater opportunity of catching fish of this calibre.
Great Game Fishes.—There are several giants of the sea which are regularly pursued by American anglers, chief among them being the tarpon (Tarpon atlanticus) and the tuna or tunny (Thunuus thynnus), which have been taken on rod and line up to 223 lb and 251 lb respectively. Jew-fish and black sea-bass of over 400 lb have been taken on rod and line, and there are many other fine sporting fish of large size which give the angler exciting hours on the reefs of Florida, or the coasts of California, Texas or Mexico. Practically all of them are taken with a fish-bait either live or dead, and used stationary on the bottom or in mid-water trailed behind a boat.
British Game Fishes.—On a much smaller scale are the fishes most esteemed in British waters. The bass (Labrax lupus) heads the list as a plucky and rather difficult opponent. A fish of 10 lb is a large one, but fifteen-pounders have been taken. Small or “school” bass up to 3 lb or 4 lb may sometimes be caught with the fly (generally a roughly constructed thing with big wings), and when they are really taking the sport is magnificent. In some few localities it is possible to cast for them from rocks with a salmon rod, but usually a boat is required. In other places bass may be caught from the shore with fish bait used on the bottom in quite shallow water. They may again sometimes be caught in mid-water, and in fact there are few methods and few lures employed in sea angling which will not account for them at times. The pollack (Gadus pollachius) and coal-fish (Gadus virens) come next in esteem. Both in some places reach a weight of 20 lb or more, and both when young will take a fly. Usually, however, the best sport is obtained by trailing some spinning-bait, such as an artificial or natural sand-eel, behind a boat. Sometimes, and especially for pollack, the bait must be kept near the bottom and heavy weights on the line are necessary; the coal-fish are more prone to come to the surface for feeding. The larger grey mullet (Mugil capito) is a great favourite with many anglers, as it is extremely difficult to hook, and when hooked fights strongly. Fishing for mullet is more akin to fresh-water fishing than any branch of sea-angling, and indeed can be carried on in almost fresh water, for the fish frequent harbours, estuaries and tidal pools. They can be caught close to the surface, at mid-water and at the bottom, and as a rule vegetable baits, such as boiled macaroni, or ragworms are found to answer best. Usually ground-baiting is necessary, and the finer the tackle used the greater is the chance of sport. Not a few anglers fish with a float as if for river fish. The fish runs up to about 8 lb in weight. The cod (Gadus morhua) grows larger and fights less gamely than any of the fish already mentioned. It is generally caught with bait used on the bottom from a boat, but in places codling, or young cod, give some sport to anglers fishing from the shore. The mackerel (Scomber scomber) gives the best sport to a bait, usually a strip of fish skin, trailed behind a boat fairly close to the surface, but it will sometimes feed on the bottom. Mackerel on light tackle are game fighters, though they do not usually much exceed 2 lb. Whiting and whiting-pout (Gadus merlangus and Gadus luscus) both feed on or near the bottom, do not grow to any great size, and are best sought with fine tackle, usually an arrangement of three or four hooks at intervals above a lead which is called a “paternoster.” If one or more of the hooks are on the bottom the tackle will do for different kinds of flat fish as well, flounders and dabs being the two species most often caught by anglers. The bream (Pagellus ceutrodontus) is another bottom-feeder which resembles the fresh-water bream both in appearance and habits. It is an early morning or rather a nocturnal fish, and grows to a weight of 3 lb or 4 lb. Occasionally it will feed in mid-water or even close to the surface. The conger eel (Conger vulgaris) is another night-feeder, which gives fine sport, as it grows to a great size, and is very powerful. Strong tackle is essential for conger fishing, as so powerful an opponent in the darkness cannot be given any law. The bait must be on or near the bottom. There are, of course, many other fish which come to the angler's rod at times, but the list given is fairly complete as representing the species which are especially sought. Beside them are occasional (in some waters too frequent) captures such as dog-fish and sharks, skates and rays. Many of them run to a great size and give plenty of sport on a rod, though they are not as a rule welcomed. Lastly, it must be mentioned that certain of the Salmonidae, smelts (Osmerus eperlanus), sea-trout, occasionally brown trout, and still more occasionally salmon can be caught in salt water either in sea-lochs or at the mouths of rivers. Smelts are best fished for with tiny hooks tied on fine gut and baited with fragments of shrimp, ragworm, and other delicacies.
- As to whether “angling” necessarily implies a rod as well as a line and hook, see the discussion in the law case of Barnard v. Roberts (Times L.R., April 13, 1907), when the question arose as to the use of night-lines being angling; but the decision against night-lines went on the ground of the absence of the personal element rather than on the absence of a rod. The various dictionaries are blind guides on this point, and the authorities cited are inconclusive; but, broadly speaking, angling now implies three necessary factors—a personal angler, the sporting element, and the use of recognized fishing-tackle.
- Trolling is very commonly confused in angling writing and talk with trailing, which simply means drawing a spinning-bait along behind a boat in motion.
- The precise date when silkworm gut (now so important a feature of the angler's equipment) was introduced is obscure. Pepys, in his Diary (1667), mentions “a gut string varnished over” which “is beyond any hair for strength and smallness” as a new angling secret which he likes “mightily.” In the third edition (1700) of Chetham's Vade-Mecum, already cited, appears an advertisement of the “East India weed, which is the only thing for trout, carp and bottom-fishing.” Again, in the third edition of Nobbes's Art of Trolling (1805), in the supplementary matter, appears a letter signed by J. Eaton and G. Gimber, tackle-makers of Crooked Lane (July 20, 1801), in which it is stated that gut “is produced from the silkworm and not an Indian weed, as has hitherto been conjectured” The word “gut” is employed before this date, but it seems obvious that silkworm gut was for a long time used under the impression that it was a weed, and that its introduction was a thing of the 17th century. It is probable, however, that vegetable fibre was used too; we believe that in some parts of India it is used by natives to this day. Pepys' “minikin” was probably cat-gut.