« PreviousContinue »
Carp Fishing of eager little perch; and now and then, strange to say, a biggish tench. On those memorable occasions, all the rest took in their rods, and let the fortunate prize-holder play his fish; but, directly he was landed, or boated, in went the nineteen floats over the lucky spot at which he had been hooked, I need not say we never caught two running.
The carp is the shyest of all pond-fish, and requires both fine tackle and careful approach. Strange as it may seem, even in places where they are accustomed to human society—as in a moat around a farmhouse—they distinguish and suspect the angler. He must not only fish for them very early in the morning, but conceal himself while he does so. Creep up behind a bush; then with a short line and unobtrusive float, run your rod quietly out over the bank, and lower your bait without disturbance. There; your hook is neatly covered with a lump of tough, well-kneaded paste, and you have stuck a fresh gentle on its point.
The float stands motionless up, reflected double, without any slack line hanging in the water.
It is a June morning, and very early, for the distant church-clock has just struck four. Man is asleep, breathing the loaded air of
Early Summer Mornings. close chambers, his grimy chin and tumbled hair sunk deep in the suffocating pillow. Meanwhile, nature is awake; while you crouch behind your ambush on the moat's bank, or stand like a rifleman behind that pollard willow, you hear the lark singing as he mounts to meet the sun. See, there is a thrush with a snail in his bill; he is looking for a stone on which to crack his breakfast. Ah, that will suit! How he whacks the shell
it! pausing every now and then to catch a tighter grip of its writhing inmate. Miserable snail ! -your armour will soon be all chipped off, and you will have to slide, naked, down your captor's throat. Any one can find many of these sacrificial spots at the edge of a coppice where thrushes abound, shining as if smeared with gum, but with numerous fragments of snail-shell littered about, and bearing witness to the nature of the varnish with which the stone is covered.
Look, too, at the ants—hurrying about with lots of baggage, like railway-porters five minutes before the express starts : how those pupæ manage to survive such apparently rough and incessant shifting, always surprises me.
Look, too, at the swallows and martins,
Home to Breakfast. breakfasting off the meadow, shaving the grass tops, and whipping up a mouthful at a time, thirty miles an hour.
The rooks, now—I always feel an especial respect for them, they have so much of the good old-fashioned country-gentleman air about them—see what a pleasant conversational meal they are making meanwhile in that soft, newlyploughed field.
But we must be looking after our carp. Ah! I thought we had provided the right victual even for those dainty aristocratic palates, and they have not found us out,—not
Keep low behind the bushwatch your float-see how steadily it sweeps off—how steadily it dives. Yes, a fine fish, I declare. Bait again; you will have another before the homestead turns out, and the yardman stumps up to see, but spoil your sport. Put up your rod; shoulder your fish; and when you get home, and join the lazy sleepers, who by this time have shaved, and come down smug and brisk, “perhaps you won't” breakfast yourself, as young Bailey says in Martin Chuzzlewit, “perhaps not; oh no.”
yet at least.
( 103 )
AM glad to see the cause of the little birds taken up as it is now,
not only by naturalists, periodicals, and the like, but by the Times. The eagle pleads for the wren. It is well known that small birds are very scarce in some parts of the Continent; but their destruction is not so senseless there as it is with us. They are eaten in France and Italy. They are sold in the market by scores. Monsieur brings home his pockets full, after a day's shooting, and Madame has them hung up in the larder. Signor makes, in some places, very ingenious arrangements for the capture of small birds : he spreads a net between two trees, and seats himself high up among the branches of one of them. When the “game” approaches, he Alings a stick down at it; the poor little thing mistakes the missile for an enemy, perhaps a hawk, and, dodging down between the trees to avoid it, pops into Signor's net. This I
Sparrow Clubs. say, is intelligible. Signora plucks the wagtail, and it smokes upon the board; but our English destructives kill under a stupid mistake. The farmer gives so much a dozen for sparrows' heads, or eggs. A sparrow club is formed, at which prizes are awarded to the destroyers of the greatest number.
These thoughtless wholesale executioners are not probably aware of the mischief done, not by their victims, but by themselves. And yet it seems strange, not only that they should be so unobservant as to live in the country and remain thus ignorant of the habits of small birds, but that they should defy the accumulated testimony of naturalists. It does not speak much for the intelligence of our middle country classes when so much popular science is disseminated, and yet a number of farmers can be found to join in a systematic slaughter of some of their best friends. No doubt sparrows eat corn in harvest–indeed, more or less, when they can get it; but they can be easily scared away during the short time that the grain is ripe for their food in the field.
I want, however, to ask the destroyers of little birds, “ What do you think they eat during the greater part of the year, when