Fishing Lines: Hooked on musical bait

EVER since the most respected fisherman of the 20th century insisted that a burst of opera could encourage fish to feed, I've been searching for the definitive song to charm my quarry on to the hook. And I just might have discovered the secret.

I'm sure Richard Walker was not altogether serious when he suggested that La Boheme was just the thing to bring trout on the feed, but even in this he proved prophetic. Research in the Solent recently proved that fish do respond to certain sounds.

I've tried everything from humming Schubert's 'The Trout' to belting out 'Glad All Ova' by the Dave Clark Five. A winter airing of 'My Tiny Hand is Frozen' has proved just as unproductive as 'Dace of Wine and Roses'. Perhaps I need to cater for a new generation, I reasoned.

Then I bought The Book.

Its faded brown leather cover gave no clue to its value. I spotted it in an antiquarian book shop and, with trembling hands, I flicked through its hand-cut, heavily foxed pages. I gladly paid the few pounds asked by the owner and I am convinced that The Angler's Song Book, edited by Robert Blakey in 1855, may be the answer to my quest.

This is not some simple compilation of a night's noisy entertainment, put together by some drunken fisherman after a heavy night at the local tavern. Oh no. The book, with, songs from as far back as 1600, immediately points out to us that Blakey was author of The History of the Philosophy of Mind.

A modest man, I suspect. In his foreword, Blakey describes the work as 'a small volume', even though he has collected more than 200 airs and roundelays. He points out: 'All that can be said for their merits is that they are the production of practical anglers, and are addressed to the feelings and sentiments of those who have a sympathy with them in the prosecution of their common craft.' Now that's what I have been searching for: practical songs written for practical anglers.

As I live in East Anglia I resolved to start with 'The King of the Fen Waters':

Beneath the blue waters his palace is seen,

All fishermen truly aver;

And oft as their boats sail slow on the Nene,

They get a sly peep both at him and his Queen,

And loud are their praises of her.

But hold on] That one won't work. You'll be lucky to see even six inches down into the Nene nowadays. And I soon realised that many other songs were designed just for one location, such as 'The Tench of Thornville House':

The sullion wench,

Did catch a Tench,

Fatter than Berkshire hogs, Sir,

Which, pretty soul,

Had made his hole,

Snug shelt'd by some logs, Sir.

Don't write 'em like that any more, do they? Or like 'A Day By The Side of the Tyne':

Then on will we ramble to Wylam's deep holes,

Where the large heavy trout lie together in shoals,

And we'll hook them, and creel them, and make the glades ring,

As with hearts, like our rods, all elastic, we'll sing.

Finding the right number has been proving more difficult than I thought. Some are unbearably gloomy, such as 'The Angler's Distress':

I've lost my rod, my Flies and knife,

Sav'd only fish and purse;

Yet when I think of human life,

Thank Heaven it is no worse . . .

Others are surprisingly bawdy, such as 'The Loves of the Shell Fishes':

A Crab there was a dashing young blade

And he was in love with a lobster maid;

But the lobster maid was a terrible prude,

And she told her mamma that the crab was rude.

Ri too ral, &c.

Well, you can guess that it's downhill from there.

I'm still very hopeful that I shall find a suitable lay, one to tempt even the wiliest fish. But even when I find it, there remains one problem. Many list the melody to which they should be sung. But how many people nowadays know the tune of 'When We Went a Gipsying', 'All in the Downs' or 'The Cork Leg'? Knowing my luck, they would probably require accompaniment by spinet or dulcimer anyway.

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all