Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Otter Hunt
By Izaak Walton (15931683)
From The Complete Angler
Venator. MY friend Piscator, you have kept time with my thoughts; for the sun is just rising, and I myself just now come to this place, and the dogs have just now put down an Otter. Look down at the bottom of the hill there in what meadow, checkered with water-lilies and lady-smocks; there you may see what work they make. Look! Look! you may see all busy, men and dogs, dogs and men, all busy.
Piscator. Sir, I am right glad to meet you, and glad to have so fair an entrance into this days sport, and glad to see so many dogs and more men all in pursuit of the Otter. Lets compliment no longer, but join unto them. Come, honest Venator, lets be gone, let us make haste; I long to be doing: no reasonable hedge or ditch shall hold me.
Huntsman. Marry, Sir, we found her a mile from this place, a-fishing; she has this morning eaten the greatest part of this trout; she has only left thus much of it, as you see, and was fishing for more. When we came, we found her just at it: but we were here very early, we were here an hour before sunrise, and have given her no rest since we came; sure she will hardly escape all these dogs and men. I am to have the skin if we kill her.
Hunt. Sir, it is not in my power to resolve you. I leave it to be resolved by the College of Carthusians, who have made vows never to eat flesh. But I have heard the question hath been debated among many great clerks, and they seem to differ about it; yet most agree that her tail is fish: and if her body be fish too, then I may say that a fish will walk upon land, for an Otter does so sometimes five, or six, or ten miles in a night, to catch for her young ones, or to glut herself with fish, and I can tell you that pigeons will fly forty miles for a breakfast; but, Sir, I am sure the Otter devours much fish, and kills and spoils much more than he eats: and I can tell you that this Dog-fisher, for so the Latins call him, can smell a fish in the water an hundred yards from him: Gesner says much farther; and that there is an herb, Benione, which being hung in a linen-cloth near a fish-pond, or any haunt that he uses, makes him to avoid the place; which proves he smells both by water and land. And I can tell you there is brave hunting this water-dog in Cornwall; where there have been so many, that our learned Camden says there is a river called Ottersey, which was so named by reason of the abundance of Otters that bred and fed in it.