Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle
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 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 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
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 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.
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.
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:
These figures are put here in example of your hooks:
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.