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Bottom fishing

What to Fish for, and where, continued - The Haunts of the Carp, Tench, Barbel, Porch, Eels, and Lampreys.
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The Carp is one of the most difficult fish to catch In the bottom-fisher's repertoire. Patience, skill, ingenuity, and the most delicate and lightsome touch is necessary to hook him, and when hooked difficult of management, he is, however, much esteemed when caught, and furnishes a respectable dish to the cook. It has not fallen to my lot to catch more than three or four carp during my angling experiences, and they were taken in a pond which was fall of them. I have been tolerably successful in capturing most other fish, but the Fates in this instance were against me. The tackle must be that recommended for roach-fishing, fitted to a running line, and the hook should be a No. 8. The difficulty of capturing this gentleman has suggested all kinds of fanciful baits, scented pastes, green peas, green gentles, larvae, grains, and worms, not forgetting a grasshopper or a bluebottle-fly. The difficulty in capturing the carp arises from his sly method of nibbling away the bait without giving the expectant angler notice of his intention; fur this reason I think that boiled wheat or malt would be more likely to entice his lordship to take the hook into his mouth, particularly if the pitch had been well ground-baited. When hooked he will struggle gamely; but beware of the weeds In April or May sweet paste made with honey, with a little scent, is said to entice them to swallow the bait. Later in the year half a ripe cherry, or a green pea boiled in sugar, is recommended. They spawn at the latter end of April or the beginning of May, and are very prolific. They will not bite in cold or windy weather, and in sunny weather they leave the muddy deeps, which they love, for the shallows; and if the angler can keep out of their visual range he may have a better chance of success under these circumstances. The carp, however, do nothing in a hurry; they like to contemplate the bait ere making their meal. You may capture carp in the night, if you like nocturnal sport; and a friend who lives where carp abounds says that he is successful with sweet paste, and he has tried the balsam of Tolu paste mentioned in the second chapter, and found it attractive. In stagnant waters, with deep oozy bottoms, and near floodgates, the carp loves to dwell.

The Tench, with its shining dark olive coat, is one of the best of the carp tribe. Its slimy mucous skin is said to heal the ills of other fish; nay, even the ravenous and cruel pike is said to respect this member of the carp tribe out of respect fur its healing virtues. It is said to be one of the preventives of the plague, that it relieves pains in the head, cures jaundice, and removes inflammation in the eyes. The tench, like the carp, will live a long time out of water. It is no uncommon thing to catch tench of the weight of two or three pounds; sometimes, in very favourable situations, they are found much heavier. The angler should learn the haunts of the tench ere he fishes for him. He should know the depth of the water, and whether the bottom is a clayey, muddy, or gravelly one, for he must fish only an inch or two from the bottom, and suit his ground-bait to the bottom. If the bottom is a gravelly one, a ground-bait of clay, carrion gentles, bullocks' blood, and chopped worms may be thrown in the day before, and the hook baited with a tine red worm, well secured on a No. 6 or 7 hook, and, if not successful, a wasp grub or a caterpillar may be tried. In a muddy or clay bottom, later in the year, gentles and garden slugs will be found good and attractive baits. The sweet honey paste is perhaps the best general bait. If the pitch is well ground- baited for a couple of days with the bread and clay ground bait, and a few small pellets of the sweet paste, thrown in the night before, the angler will assuredly have good sport in the early morning with the sweet paste. They feed morning and evening, and all day in warm showery weather, when they will not refuse a snail. The tackle should be strong; the rod should be long if the banks are much encumbered with weeds, and fitted with running tackle; the foot line should be of gut, about eight or ten feet long, stained a light green. A small cork float should be used. Tench are wary and careful with the bait; they do not gorge it quickly, and require time. When the float lies flat it shows they are rising with it. Then the fish may be struck firmly but gently, and when hooked it will be necessary to prevent the fish from indulging his fancy of seeking the muddy bottom or the sedgy weedy banks. Keep his mouth open, and though he starts spasmodically, as it were, from place to place, lie v, ill soon tire. I have only mat with the tench in a few rivers, except where they were carefully preserved. In ponds, however, they are plentiful enough, and afford good sport from April to October. They spawn in the early summer, and are wonderfully prolific.

The Barbel derives its name from the peculiar beard or wattles which hang about his mouth. Though not one of the best fish for the table, aid in this respect is much inferior to the tench, y et he is much sought after by anglers in consequence of the sport he affords. They swim in shoals, and love the strong current of a deep river, particularly when it runs over a stony bed. Amongst old piles by the side, in the deep currents of bridges, weirs, and locks, they love to lie- and feed on the insects borne down by the current. The strong fins of the barbel enable him to stem the strongest current. In July, August, and September, a day's barbel-fishing on the Trent or Thames is an event to be remembered. London anglers are particularly skilful in capturing barbel. They use worms, tallow greaves, gentles, cheese paste, bullocks' blood, and pike. The best bait is the lob-worm, well scoured and lively, on a No. 8 or 9 hooks, made specially. The best time to fish is at night, or in the early morning. When the lob-worm fails, greaves or gentles may be used. A float is hardly necessary in the fast currents, but as it serves to mark the depth of the water, it may be used; but the angler must learn to depend on his sense of touch if he wishes to become a successful barbel-fisher. the rod should be strong, and the running tackle equal to that used in salmon fishing. He requires time to take the bait, and when struck if, should be done sharply. "When hooked it will be difficult for him to escape, strong as he is in the water. Let him have plenty of line in deep water, as he will sooner be tired, particularly if you keep a tight rein, and the end of your rod well up. Half an hour is not too long to tire a fair sized barbel, and his head should be kept out of the water. Isaak Walton truly says that no one did over-bait the place for barbel. The best ground-bait is that made of greaves, lob-worms, bran, and clay. Near London a punt is generally used, which enables the angler to dispense with a long rod. They keep their noses at the bottom, and their heads up stream. A cockroach, water-snail, cheese, carefully prepared greaves, and salmon roe have been recommended as excellent baits for this fish, which, when caught, is despised by most cooks.

The Perch may be found almost everywhere, and of almost every size. Dashing, bold, and courageous, they afford the angler capital sport; and notwithstanding his humpy back, he is not despicable when the cook has lavished his art on him. It is by no means necessary to be so particular about the nicety and fineness of the tackle in fishing for perch. He is not afraid of a bit of gut, which should be about a yard long, attached to a silk and hair line, and armed with a No. 4 or 5 hook. The size of the hook must, however, depend somewhat on the size of the perch fished for. Even the smallest perch has a large mouth, and will take a large sized bait readily. If a common bottom rod is used, the short top may be fixed. As a rule, running tackle should always be used for perch, though I have noticed that many perch-fishers in the rural districts of England catch a fair basket of perch without running tackle of any kind. There are many ways of fishing for perch, dependent to a great extent on the size of the river, and the size of the fish. If in docks or deep water, the "paternoster" line should be used. This species of line derived its name from the hooks being fixed at regular distances, in the same manner as beads are fastened on a rosary, and used by Roman Catholic devotees. For perch-fishing they may be fastened six or eight inches apart on short stout pieces of gut. In some cases only two hooks are used, the upper one being fastened contrary way to the bottom hook, so as to hold a different kind of bait. When four hooks are used, and the tackle is strong, it is recommended in tidal waters to use a minnow or a gudgeon to bait the lower hook, a fine lob-worm may occupy the next hook, a shrimp the third, and a gentle the upper or fourth hook. When two hooks only are on the line, a large lobworm, or two smaller ones, may be placed on the lower hook, and a shrimp on the higher, and loaded with a plummet or bullet at the bottom. It should always be borne in mind that while perch only feed, as a rule, morning and evening in rivers, in all tidal waters they are on the feed at different times, according to the state of the tide, and on the flow and ebb the predatory perch is on the lookout for prey. In open water perch love to lie about mill pools, locks, and bridges. They have a hankering after barges, shipping, and baulks of timber. In more quiet streams they like deep holes where there is an eddy; backwaters with a sandy or gravelly bottom suit them, and in these places there is no better general bait than the well scoured worm, either red, marsh, or brandling, as described in the table of baits. They do not like bright sunny weather, and the angler will find the forenoons and the evening, even in cloudy weather, more suitable for perch fishing than the midday or sunshine. There is not much trouble to persuade the perch to bite, and as lie hunts in company, when one is captured, there is a great probability of securing his companions also. Excellent sport may be had with perch from a quarter to a pound and a quarter in weight, for though larger perch have been caught, they are by no means common. In the boiling eddies near mill streams you may fish successfully for perch with a paternoster line, loaded with a bullet to keep down the baits: but as a float would be worse than useless, the angler will have to depend on his sense of touch to know when he has a bite. Minnows are an attractive bait for large perch, and in comparatively tranquil waters it is sometimes an irresistible bait. The hook must be inserted behind the back fin, and the line well weighted, about a, foot above the bait., to keep it well down. Gudgeons, stone-loach, and frogs, have been found effective in attracting perch. I recollect many years ago hearing an old perch-fisher describe a plan of putting a few minnows in a clear bottle nearly full of water, and corking it, leaving a small air-hole, and then sinking it in a river, with a cord attached. These act as a decoy to the neighbouring perch, why are curious to know the why and the wherefore of the strange exhibition. I find that Mr Fitzgibbon (Ephemera) mentions the plan as " poaching " for perch, and that the best way of securing the perch is to bait a paternoster line with live minnows, and float it by the bottle. Of all the months for perch-fishing, August, September, and October are the best. Some excellent sport is often obtained earlier in the year. No ground-baiting is necessary when fishing for perch, though a few inferior worms may be thrown in when moving to a fresh spot. Let the perch always have a few seconds to gorge the bait. When live shrimps are used they may be kept alive in damp sand or sandy gravel, or wet grass or hay in a basket.

Eels and Lampreys. - The ordinary bottom-fisher scarcely troubles himself about these troublesome but luscious gentry, which are to be found more or less in every river, ditch, and stream in the United Kingdom. I have seen them when no thicker than thin grass ascending the Shannon and Fergus in myriads in the spring of the year, wriggling their small bodies over the sluice-gate, up the salmon stairs, and over the mill weirs to the tipper and clearer water of the lakes and tributaries. This year also the eel fry, or " eel fare," as it is called, has been seen for the first time for a long period in the Thames. Eel weirs were once common, and ill many places in Ireland and in the fen country they are yet preserved, and form no despicable industry. Every angler knows the haunts of the eel, how he hides under big stones, in holes under a bridge, by half-sunk timbers, under projecting roots of trees, and a host of similar places. lie is caught at night, by " bobbing," that is, by stringing large lob-worms completely through with a needle, and tying them in the l;nks with a stout piece of whipcord, at short intervals. These are thrown into the river, either from a boat, lock, or footbridge, and each end is held by a person who soon feels the sharp nip of the eel, who bites so hard, so tenaciously, that he submits to be pulled out of the water sooner than loose his hold. Another plan is to tie a series of eel hooks, which are made with rings for the purpose, on to a piece of whipcord, some eight inches asunder, bait with lob-worms; tie a piece of lead or a bullet to one end, cast it into the stream in a likely place, and fasten the other end by a peg in the bank, or tie it firmly to the weeds, and leave it all night. Another plan is to bait the hook with the worm, tie a piece of stout line (I prefer the whipcord) to the hook, and then pull the line through the top ring of a trolling or other stout rod, until the bait is tight to the top; hold the cord and rod together, and place the bait near the haunt of the fish. If the worm is a large one, the eel will not refuse it, but bite greedily. The rod may then be withdrawn. The eel is, however, not yet lauded; he has immense muscular force in his tail, which can only be overcome by a steady, strong, but not too strong pull on the line. Gradually he uncurls and permits himself to be pulled out. The moment he is on shore, put your foot on his body, and cut off his head. There is no better way of preventing the thousand contortions and twists of the nimble gentleman round the tackle.

The Lamprey belongs to tire eel tribe, and is caught in a similar manner; the gut of a fowl and other garbage may be substituted in both eases for the worm. A small lam prey makes a good bait for several kinds of fish, if put on the hook like a worm.

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