« PreviousContinue »
even fair day once out of a dozen expeditions, he must be satisfied. I still live in hope that some day or other (for I shall still persevere in barbel-fishing on my beloved Thames) I shall have the take of barbel which will be recorded in all future books on angling, and make my name much more famous than I can ever expect it will be as the author of these Notes.
"The broad-side Bream."—Fbancis Quables.
"The treacherous quill in this slow stream
The Bream, or, as the Thames puntsmen call him, "the brim," is another distinguished member of the Cyprinidce family.
I find the word in several languages, br being the distinguishing letters. Thus, the Old High German brahsema, the Dutch braasem, and the French breme; but where the br originally came from, or why the genus was called brama, I cannot make out.
There are three kinds of bream found in Europe—the first, the Pomeranian Bream, or Abramis buggenhagii—a very scarce fish in our waters, as it deserves to be with such a horrid name attached to it; the second the common, or Carp-Bream (sometimes called the Golden Bream), Abramis brama; and the third the White Bream, or Bream-flat, Abramis blicca. The two latter are scattered more or less over the waters of Great Britain, but it is with the carp-bream I shall have here to do. The white bream is a fish hardly worth pens, ink, and paper. It seldom exceeds a pound in weight, and though its colouring is pretty enough, being very silvery, it is covered with an indescribably nasty slime, something like starch, and almost as difficult to get off the fingers as bird-lime. When I used to fish in Dagenham Gulf, which swarmed—as indeed it does now—with these fish, and as a boy had no natural horror of anything nasty, I well remember my dislike to these fish, and was always disappointed when one turned up instead of a roach or perch. I therefore dismiss Abramis blicca, and those who take the trouble to read this Note will kindly remember that when I use the word bream I mean the carp-bream.
There is not much ichthyological interest attaching to the bream. He is not a handsome fish by any means, and though he is called "golden," his gold is of a very dull character, and he is not free from that objectionable slime that distinguishes his cousin the white bream. By the way, was the carp-bream originally a cross between the common carp and the white bream? I should think so, as he seems to get his " golden" colour from the former and his slimy coating from the latter. He grows quickly in suitable water, and when he attains the weight of 3 lbs. or 4 lbs. he is by no means unlike a pair of bellows in shape, being almost as deep as he is long, and hence he is called in some districts the "bellows" fish. In some parts of Europe bream have been known to attain the weight of 20 lbs., and it is recorded that, in 1749, 5000 were taken out of a lake in Sweden at one haul, the aggregate weight of which was 18,000 lbs. In our best waters I question whether a bream of 10 lbs. has ever been taken, but certainly some have approximated to this weight. I have heard that 12 lb. fish have been taken in Loch Erne, and there is a legend that one of 17 lbs. was once taken in the Trent. I have seen a 7lb. fish from the Thames at Datchet; but this is not by any means an extraordinary weight in some of the Bedfordshire waters. In the private water at Blackheath, which I mentioned in my Note on carp, I have caught many scaling between 4 lbs. and 6 lbs.; but, on the whole, an angler may be satisfied if he catches fish over 3 lbs., even in good water. An angler will always remember the day he has the good fortune to take a brace of four-pounders. Bream, like carp, are wonderfully tenacious of life, and I have read that they will bear transporting to a great distance, providing they are carefully packed in straw, with a morsel of bread steeped in alcohol placed in their mouths.
Bream are well distributed over Central Europe, but they are by no means so common in the British Isles as carp and tench. They frequent deep, still waters, where weeds and mud abound, but I think they prefer a slight stream to absolutely stagnant water. Bedfordshire is famous for them, the deep, sluggish streams of that county being exactly to their taste. The Ouse is decidedly the best bream river in England. The Norfolk Broads have of old been one of their most favourite localities. The Pulborough and Amberley waters, so largely resorted to by London anglers, contain many and good fish of this genus. The reservoirs, such as that at the "Welsh Harp," are fairly supplied with them. The Lea produces fine specimens, but not in large quantities; while the prolific Thames, which holds almost every fresh-water fish in this country, also has its bream. But in the last-named river they are distributed sporadically, some districts being entirely without them. They are taken in the tideway as low down as Richmond; but upwards I cannot remember having ever heard of them above Marlow. The best district for them is between Hampton and Chertsey, the Walton and Shepperton waters being the most productive of all. They are a comparatively recent introduction into the river; and my idea is that they originally got into it from some overflowing of the Way, as the carp did, not so many years ago, owing to an overflowing of Virginia Water. Not long ago two consignments of fine bream were brought from the Bedfordshire Ouse and safely deposited in the Thames in the deep water above Boulter's Lock at Maidenhead, through the kindness of the Bedford Angling Club, which in return was presented with some barbel by the Maidenhead fishermen for transportation to the Ouse. This is a movement in the right direction, and might most advantageously be extended. There must, too, be scores of private ponds within easy distance of the Thames overstocked with bream, the owners of which, I am sure, would readily give permission to the Thames Angling and other Associations to take some of the fish and turn them into the river. There are many Thames districts now untenanted by bream, having deep and comparatively slow waters admirably suited for this fish. It might also be advisable to net a few bream in the districts where they already most abound, and transfer them to others not yet so colonized.