The Qualities of an Angler by John Dennys

But ere I further goe, it shall behove
To shew what gifts and qualities of minde
Belongs to him that doth this pastime love;
And what the vertues are of every kinde
Without the which it were in vaine to prove,
Or to expect the pleasure he should finde,
No more than he that having store of meate
Hath lost all lust and appetite to eate.

For what avails to Brooke or Lake to goe,
With handsome Rods and Hookes of divers sort,
Well twisted Lines, and many trinkets moe,
To finde the Fish within their watry fort,
If that the minde be not contented so,
But wants great gifts that should the rest support.,
And make his pleasure to his thoughts agree,
With these therefore he must endued be.

The first is Faith, not wavering and unstable,
But such as had that holy Patriarch old,
That to the highest was so acceptable
As his increase and of-spring manifolde
Exceeded far the starres innumerable,
So must he still a firme perswasion holde.
That where as waters, brookes, and lakes are found,
There store of Fish without all doubt abound.

For nature that hath made no emptie thing,
But all her workes doth well and wisely frame,
Hath fild each Brooke, each River, Lake and Spring
With creatures, apt to live amidst the same;
Even as the earth, the ayre, and seas doe bring
Forth Beasts, and Birds of sundry sort and name,
And given them shape, ability, and sence,
To live and dwell therein without offence.

The second gift and qualitie is Hope,
The anchor-holde of every hard desire;
That having at the day so large a scope,
He shall in time to wished hap aspire,
And ere the Sunne hath left the heav’nly cope,
Obtaine the sport and game he doth desire,
And that the Fish though sometime slow to bite,
Will recompence delay with more delight.

The third is Love, and liking to the game,
And to his friend and neighbour dwelling by;
For greedy pleasure not to spoile the same,
Nor of his Fish some portion to deny
To any that are sicklie, weake, or lame,
But rather with his Line and Angle try
In Pond or Brooke, to doe what in him lyes.
To take such store for them as may suffice.

Then followeth Patience, that the furious flame
Of Choller cooles, and Passion puts to flight,
As doth a skilfull rider breake and tame,
The Courser wilde, and. teach him tread aright:
So patience doth the minde dispose and frame,
To take mishaps in worth, and count them light,
As losse of Fish, Line, Hooke, or Lead, or all,
Or other chance that often may befall.

The fift good guift is low Humilitie,
As when a lyon coucheth for his pray
So must he stoope or kneele upon his knee,
To save his line or put the weedes away,
Or lye along sometime if neede there be,
For any let or chance that happen may,
And not to scorne to take a little paine,
To serve his turne his pleasure to obtaine.

The sixt is painefull strength and courage good,
The greatest to incounter in the Brooke,
If that he happen in his angry mood,
To snatch your bayte, and beare away your Hooke.
With wary skill to rule him in the Flood
Untill more quiet, tame, and milde he looke,
And all adventures constantly to beare,
That may betide without mistrust or feare.

Next unto this is Liberalitie,
Feeding them oft with full and plenteous hand,
Of all the rest a needfull qualitie,
To draw them neere the place where you will stand,
Like to the ancient hospitalitie,
That sometime dwelt in Albions fertile land,
But now is sent away into exile,
Beyond the bounds of Issabellas Ile.

The eight is knowledge how to finde the way
To make them bite when they are dull and slow,
And what doth let the same and breedes delay,
And every like impediment to. know,
That keepes them from their foode and wanted pray,
Within the streame, or standing waters low,
And with experience skilfully to prove,
All other faults to mend or to remove.

The ninth is placabilitie of minde,
Contented with a reasonable dish,
Yea though sometimes no sport at all he finde,
Or that the weather prove not to his wish.
The tenth is thankes to that God, of each kinde,
To net and bayt doth send both foule and Fish,
And still reserve inough in secret store,
To please the rich, and to relieve the poore.

Th’ eleaventh good guift and hardest to indure,
Is fasting long from all superfluous fare,
Unto the which he must himselfe inure,
By exercise and use of dyet spare,
And with the liquor of the waters pure,
Acquaint himselfe if he cannot forbeare,
And never on his greedy belly thinke,
From rising sunne untill a low he sincke.

The twelth and last of all is memory,
Remembring well before he setteth out,
Each needfull thing that he must occupy,
And not to stand of any want in doubt,
Or leave something behinde forgetfully:
When he hath walkt the fields and brokes about,
It were a griefe backe to retvrne againe,
For things forgot that should his sport maintaine.

Here then you see what kind of qualities,
An Angler should indued be with all,
Besides his skill and other properties,
To serve his turne, as to his lot doth fall:
But now what season for this exercise,
The fittest is and which doth serve but small,
My Muse vouchsafe some little ayd to lend,
To bring this also to the wished end.

From: Dennys, John, The Secrets of Angling, 1613: A Reprint, with Introduction, by Thomas Westwood, 1883, W. Satchell & Co: London, pp. 52-55.

Date: 1613 (published)

By: John Dennys (15??-1609)

Note: This is taken from The Secrets of Angling, the first known English poetical treatise on fishing. It is quoted in Izaak Walton’s more famous The Compleat Angler (1653).

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