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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
football
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
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

Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Salary: £16k - £20k Dependant o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot