Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle
aka
How to Fly Fish - Installment No.6

In the mid to late 1400's the first known instruction manual on the art of fly fishing was published, "Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle". The work is generally attributed to Dame Juliana Berners. The text includes instructions on how to make a rod, line, hooks, instructions for twelve fly patterns and hints about how to catch the common varieties of fish. This is the final installment. Pay close attention to the description of the 12 flies that you need for success - enjoy.

Because the salmon is the most stately fish that any one can angle for in fresh water. Therefore I intend to begin with him. The salmon is a noble fish, but he is difficult to catch. For commonly he lies only in deep places of great rivers. And for the most part he keeps to the middle of the water: that a man cannot come at him. And he is in season from March until Michaelmas. In which season you should angle for him with these baits when you can get them. First, with a red worm in the beginning and end of the season. And also with a grub that grows in a dunghill. And especially with an excellent bait that grows on a water dock. And he doesn't bite at the bottom but at the float. Also you may take him: but it is seldom seen with a dubbed hook at such times as he leaps, in the same style and manner as you catch a trout or a grayling. And these baits are well proven baits for the salmon.

The trout, because he is a right dainty fish and also a right fervent biter, we shall speak of next. He is in season from March until Michaelmas. He is on clean gravel bottom and in a stream. You can angle for him at all times with a lying or running ground-line: except in leaping time and then with a dubbed hook; and early with a running ground-line, and later in the day with a float line. You shall angle for him in March with a minnow hung on your hook by the lower nose, without float or sinker: drawing it up and down in the stream till you feel him take. In the same time, angle for him with a ground-line with an red worm as the most sure. In April, take the same baits, and also the lamprey, otherwise named "seven eyes," also the cankerworm that grows in a great tree, and the red snail. In May take the stone fly and the grub under the cow turd, and the silkworm, and the bait that grows on a fern leaf. In June, take a red worm and nip off the head, and put a codworm on your hook before it. In July, take the great red worm and the codworm together. In August, take a flesh fly and the big red worm and bacon fat, and bind them on your hook. In September, take the red worm and the minnow. In October, take the same, for they are special for the trout at all times of the year. From April to September the trout leaps; then angle for him with dubbed hook appropriate to the month these dubbed hooks you will find at the end of this treatise; and the months with them.

The grayling by another name called umber is a delicious fish to man's mouth. And you can catch him just as you can the trout. And these are his baits. In March and in April, the red worm. In May, the green worm: a little ringed worm, the dock canker, and the hawthorn worm. In June, the bait that grows between the tree and the bark of an oak. In July, a bait that grows on a fern leaf and the big red worm. And nip off the head and put a codworm on your hook before it. In August, the red worm, and a dock worm. And all the year afterward, a red worm.

The barbel is a sweet fish, but it is a queasy food and a dangerous one for man's body. For commonly, he introduces the fevers. And if he is eaten raw, he may be the cause of a man's death: which often has been seen. These are his baits. In March and in April, take fair fresh cheese: lay it on a board and cut it in small square pieces the length of your hook. Then take a candle and burn it on the end at the point of your hook until it is yellow. And then bind it on your hook with arrow maker's silk, and make it rough like a welbede. This bait is good for all the summer season. In May and June, take the hawthorn worm and the big red worm and nip off the head and put a codworm on your hook before them and that is a good bait. In July, take the red worm chiefly and the hawthorn worm together. Also the water-dock leaf worm and the hornet worm together. In August and for all the year, take mutton fat and soft cheese, of each the same amount, and a little honey and grind or beat them together a long time, and work it until it is tough. Add to it a little flour and make it into small pellets. And that is a good bait to angle with at the bottom. And see that it sinks in the water, or else it is not good for this purpose.

The carp is a dainty fish, but there are only a few in England, and therefore I will write the less of him. He is an evil fish to take. For he is so strongly armoured in the mouth that no light tackle may hold him. And as regards his baits, I have but little knowledge of it, and I am reluctant to write more than I know and have tried. But well I know that the red worm and the minnow are good baits for him at all times as I have heard reliable persons tell and also found written in books of credence.

The chub is a stately fish and his head is a dainty morsel. There is no fish so greatly armoured with scales on the body. And because be is a strong biter he has the more baits, which are these. In March, the red worm at the bottom for commonly he will bite these and at all times of the year if he is at all hungry. In April the ditch canker that grows in the tree. A worm that grows between the bark and the wood of an oak. The red worm: and the young frogs when the feet are cut off. Also, the stone fly, the grub under the cow turd: the red snail. In May, the bait that grows on the osier leaf and the dock canker together on your hook. Also a bait that grows on a fern leaf: the codworm, and a bait that grows on a hawthorn. And a bait that grows on an oak leaf and a silkworm and a codworm together. In June, take the cricket and the dor; and also a red worm: the head cut off and a codworm before it: and put them on the hook. Also a bait on the osier leaf: young frogs with three feet cut off at the body: and the fourth at the knee. The bait on the hawthorn and the codworm together; and a grub that breeds in a dunghill: and a large grasshopper. In July, the grasshopper and the bumblebee on the meadow. Also young bees and young hornets. Also a great, brindled fly that grows in paths of meadows, and the fly that is among anthills. In August, take caterpillars and maggots until Michaelmas. In September, the red worm: and also take these baits when you can get them: that is to say: cherries: young mice without hair: and the honeycomb.

The bream is a noble fish and a dainty one. And you shall angle for him from March until August with an red worm: and then with a butterfly and a green fly. And with a bait that grows among green reeds: and a bait that grows in the bark of a dead tree. And for young bream, take maggots. And from that time forth for all the year afterward, take the red worm: and in the river, brown bread. There are more baits than these, but they are not easy, and I let them pass over.

A tench is a good fish: and heals all sorts of other fish that are hurt if they can come to him. He is the most part of the year in the mud. And he stirs most in June and July: and in other seasons but little. He is a poor biter. His baits are these. For all the year brown bread toasted with honey in the likeness of a buttered loaf: and the great red worm. And for the best bait take the black blood in the heart of a sheep and flour and honey. Work them all together somewhat softer than paste, and anoint therewith the red worm: both for this fish and for others. And they will bite much better thereat at all times.
The perch is a dainty fish and passing wholesome, and a free biter. These are his baits. In March, the red worm. In April, the grub under the cow turd. In May, the sloe-thorn worm and the codworm. In June the bait that grows in an old fallen oak, and the green canker. In July, the bait that grows on the osier leaf and the grub that grows on the dunghill: and the hawthorn worm, and the codworm. In August, the red worm and maggots. All the year after, the red worm is best.

The roach is an easy fish to catch. And if he is fat and penned up, then he is good food, and these are his baits. In March, the readiest bait is the red worm. In April, the grub under the cow turd. In May, the bait that grows on the oak leaf and the grub in the dunghill. In June, the bait that grows on the osier and the codworm. In July, houseflies and the bait that grows on all oak; and the nutworm and mathewes and maggots till Michaelmas. And after that, the fat of bacon.

The dace is a noble fish to take, and if it be well fattened, then he is good eating. In March, the best bait is an red worm. In April, the grub under the cow turd. In May the dock canker and the bait on the sloe thorn and on the oak leaf. In June, the codworm and the bait on the osier and the white grub in the dunghill. In July take houseflies, and flies that grow in anthills: the codworm and maggots until Michaelmas. And if the water is clear, you shall catch fish when others take none. And from that time forth, do as you do for the roach. For commonly in their biting and their baits they are alike.

The bleak is but a feeble fish, yet he is wholesome. His baits from March to Michaelmas are the same as I have written before for the roach and dace, except that, all the summer season, as much as you may angle for him with a housefly: and, in the winter season, with bacon and other bait made as you will know after.
The ruffe is a right wholesome fish. And you shall angle to him with the same baits in all seasons of the year in the same way as I have told you of the perch: for they are alike in fishing and feeding except that the ruffe is smaller. And therefore he must have the smaller bait.

The flounder is a noble fish and a free and subtle biter in his manner: For usually, when he sucks in his food, he feeds at the bottom, and therefore you must angle for him with a lying ground-line. And he has but one manner of bait, and that is a red worm, which is the best bait for all kinds of fish.

The gudgeon is a good fish for his size, and he bites well at the bottom. And his baits for all the year are these: the red worm: codworm: and maggots And you must angle for him with a float, and let your bait be near the bottom or else on the bottom.
The minnow, when he shines in the water, then be is better. And though his body is little yet he is a ravenous biter and eager. And you shall angle to him with the same baits that you do for gudgeon: saving that they must be small.

The eel is a queasy fish, a glutton, and a devourer of the young fry of fish. And as the pike also is a devourer of fish I put them both behind all others for angling. For this eel, you must find a hole in the bottom of the water, and it is blue-blackish. There put in your hook till it be a foot within the hole, and your bait should be a great angle worm or a minnow.
The pike is a good fish, but because he devours so many of his own kind as of others, I love him the less. And to catch him, you shall do thus. Take a codling hook: and take a roach or a fresh herring and a wire with a loop in the end: and put it in at the mouth and out at the tail down by the back of the fresh herring. And then put the line of your hook in after, and draw the hook into the cheek of the fresh herring. Then put a lead weight on your line a yard away from your book, and a float midway between; and cast it in a hole where the pike lie. And this is the best and surest way for catching the pike. Another manner of taking him is this. Take a frog and put it on your hook between the skin and the body on the back half, and put on a float a yard away, and cast it where the pike lies, and you shall have him. Another way. Take the same bait and put it in asafetida and cast it in the water with a cord and a cork, and you shall not fail to get him. And if you wish to have a good sport: then tie the cord to a goose's foot, and you will see a good tussle to decide whether the goose or the pike will have the better of it.

Now you know with what baits and how you shall angle to every kind of fish. Now I will tell you how you shall keep and feed your live baits. You shall feed and keep them all together, but each kind by itself with such things in and on which they breed. And as long as they are alive and fresh, they are fine. But when they are sloughing their skin or else dead they are nothing. Out of these are excepted three kinds: That is, to wit of hornets, bumblebees, and wasps. These you must bake in bread, and after dip their heads in blood and let them dry. Also except maggots: which, when they are grown large with their natural feeding, you must feed further with mutton fat and with a cake made of flour and honey; then they will become larger. And when you have cleansed them with sand in a bag of blanket, kept hot under your gown or other warm thing for two hours or three, then they are best and ready to angle with. And of the frog cut off the leg at the knee, of the grasshopper the legs and wings at the body.

These baits are made to last all the year. The first are flour and lean meat from the thigh of a rabbit or a cat: virgin wax, and sheep's fat: and bray them in a mortar: and then temper it at the fire with a little purified honey: and so make it up into little balls, and bait your hooks with it according to their size. And this is a good bait for all manner of fresh fish.
Another, take the suet of a sheep and cheese in equal amounts: and bray them together for a long while in a mortar. And take then flour and temper it therewith, and after that mix it with honey and make balls of it. And that is especially for the barbel.
Another for dace and roach and bleak: take wheat and seethe it well and then put it in blood for a whole day and a night, and it is a good bait.
For baits for great fish, keep specially this rule: When you have taken a great fish, open up the maw, and whatever you find therein, make that your bait, for it is best.

These are the twelve flies with which you shall angle for the trout and grayling; and dub them like you will now hear me tell:

March: The dun fly the body of dun wool and the wings of the partridge. Another dun fly, the body of black wool; the wings of the blackest drake; and the jay under the wing and under the tail.
April: The stone fly, the body of black wool, and yellow under the wing and under the tail; and the wings, of the drake. In the beginning of May, a good fly, the body of reddened wool and lapped about with black silk; the wings, of the drake and the red capon's hackle.
May: The yellow fly, the body of yellow wool; the wings of red cock hackle and of the drake dyed yellow. The black leaper, the body of black wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock's tail: and the wings of the red capon with a blue head.
June: The dun cut: the body of black wool, and a yellow stripe after either side; the wings of the buzzard, bound on with barked hemp. The maure fly, the body of dusky wool, the wings of the blackest male of the wild drake. The tandy fly at St. William's Day, the body of tandy wool; and the wings contrary either against the other, of the whitest breast feathers of the wild drake.
July: The wasp fly, the body of black wool and lapped about with yellow thread: the wings of the buzzard. The shell fly at St. Thomas' Day, the body of green wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock's tail: wings of the buzzard.
August: The drake fly, the body of black wool and lapped about with black silk: wings of the breast feathers of the blackest drake, with a black head.

These figures are put here in example of your hooks:



Here follows the order made to all those who shall have the understanding of this aforesaid treatise and use it for their pleasures.

You that can angle and catch fish for your pleasure, as the aforesaid treatise teaches and shows you: I charge and require you in the name of all noble men that you to not fish in any poor man's private water: as his pond: stew: or other necessary things to keep fish in without his license and good will. Nor that you use not to break any man's engines lying in their weirs and in other places due to them. Nor to take the fish away that is taken in them. For after a fish is taken in a man's trap, if the trap is laid in the public waters: or else in such waters as he hires, it is his own personal property. And if you take it away, you rob him: which is a right shameful deed for any gentle man to do, that the thieves and robbers do, who are punished for their evil deeds by the neck and otherwise when they can be found and captured. And also if you do in like manner as this treatise shows you: you will have no need to take other men's fish, while you will have enough of your own catching, if you wish to work for them. It will be a true pleasure to see the fair, bright, shining-scaled fishes deceived by your crafty means and drawn upon the land. Also, I charge you, that you break no man's hedges in going about your sports: nor open any man's gates but that you shut them again. Also, you must not use this aforesaid artful sport for covetousness to increasing or saving of your money only, but principally for your solace and to promote the health of your body and specially of your soul. For when you propose to go on your sports in fishing, you will not desire greatly many persons with you, which might hinder in letting you at your game. And then you can serve God devoutly by earnestly saying your customary prayers. And thus doing, you will eschew and avoid many vices, such as idleness, which is the principal cause to induce man to many other vices, as is right well known. Also, you must not be too greedy in catching your said game as taking too much at one time, which you may easily do if you do in every point as this present treatise shows you in every point. Which could easily be the occasion of destroying your own sport and other men's also. As when you have a sufficient mess you should covet no more as at that time. Also you shall help yourself to nourish the game in all that you may, and to destroy all such things as are devourers of it. And all those that do as this rule shall have the blessing of God and St. Peter. Which he grants them that with his precious blood he bought.
And so that this present treatise should not come into the hands of every idle person who would desire it if it were printed alone by itself and put in a little pamphlet, therefore I have compiled it in a greater volume of diverse books concerning gentle and noble men, to the end that the aforesaid idle persons which should have but little measure in the said sport of fishing should not by this means utterly destroy it.