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Fishing Cats








Having just come across a communication made to The Kelso Mail, in
1880, by a correspondent giving the signature of "March Brown," bearing
on the subject to which I have already alluded ("Fishing Cats"), I deem
it worthy of notice, corroborating, as it does, the statement so often
made, and almost as often denied, that cats are adept fishers, not only
for food, but likewise for the sport and pleasure they so derive. The
writer says that "for several years it has been my happy fortune to fish
the lovely Tweed for salmon and trout. From Tweed Well to Coldstream is
a long stretch, but I have fished it all, and believe that though other
rivers have their special advantages, there is not one in Britain which
offers such varied and successful angling as the grand Border stream.
Many have been the boatmen whom I have employed whilst fishing for
salmon, and all were fairly honest, except in the matter of a little
poaching. Some had the complaint more fiercely than others, and some so
bad as to be incurable. One of the afflicted (Donald by name) was an
excellent boatman by day; as to his nocturnal doings I deemed it best
not to inquire, except on those occasions when he needed a holiday to
attend a summons with which the police had favoured him. Now any one who
has studied the proclivities of poachers, knows that they have wonderful
powers over all animals who depend upon them, such as dogs, cats,
ferrets, tame badgers, otters, etc., etc. Donald's special favourite was
a lady-cat, which followed him in his frequent fishings, and took deep
interest in the sport. Near to his cottage on the river-bank was a dam
or weir, over which the water trickled here and there a few inches deep.
In the evenings of spring and summer Donald was generally to be found
fishing upon this favourite stretch with artificial fly for trout, and,
being an adept in the art, he seldom fished in vain. Pretty puss always
kept close behind him, watching the trail of the mimic flies till a fish
was hooked, and then her eagerness and love of sport could not be
controlled, and so soon as the captive was in shoal water, in sprang
puss up to the shoulders, and, fixing her claws firmly in the fish,
brought it to the bank, when, with a caress from Donald, she again took
her place behind him till another trout was on the line, and the sport
was repeated. In this way did puss and her master pass the evenings,
each proud of the other's doings, and happy in their companionship. Such
was the affection of the cat for her master, that she could not even
bear to be separated from him by day. Donald had charge of a ferry
across the river, and no sooner did a bell at the opposite side of the
stream give notice that a passenger was ready to voyage across, than
down scampered puss to the boat, and, leaping in, she journeyed with her
master to the further side, and again returned, gravely watching each
stroke of the oar. Many a voyage did she thus daily make, and I
question, with these luxurious boatings and the exciting fishing in the
evenings, if ever cat was more truly happy. The love of fishing once
developed itself to the disturbance of my own sport. With careful
prevision, my boatman had, in the floods of November and December,
secured a plentiful supply of minnows, to be held in readiness till
wanted in my fishings for salmon in the ensuing February and March. The
minnows were placed in a well two or three feet deep, and the cold
spring water rendered them as tough as angler could desire. All went
well for the first few days of the salmon fishing; the minnows were
deemed admirable for the purpose, and the supply ample for our needs;
but this good fortune was not to last. One morning the boatman reported
a serious diminution of stock in the well, and on the following day
things were still worse. Suspicion fell on more than one honest person,
and we determined to watch late and early till the real thief was
discovered. When the guidwife and bairns were abed, the boatman kept
watch from the cottage window, and by the aid of a bright moon the
mystery was soon solved. At the well-side stood puss, the favourite of
the household; with arched back and extended paw she took her prey. When
an unfortunate minnow approached the surface, sharp was the dash made by
puss, arm and shoulder were boldly immersed, and straightway the victim
lay gasping on the bank. Fishing in this manner, she soon captured
half-a-dozen, and was then driven away. From that evening the well was
always covered with a net, which scared puss into enforced honesty. By
nature cats love dry warmth and sunshine, whilst they hate water and
cold. Who has not seen the misery of a cat when compelled to step into a
shallow pool, and how she examines her wet paw with anxiety, holding it
up as something to be pitied? And yet the passion of destructiveness is
so strong within them as to overcome even their aversion to water."

The following still more extraordinary circumstance of a cat fishing in
the sea, appeared in The Plymouth Journal, June, 1828: "There is now
at the battery on the Devil's Point, a cat, which is an expert catcher
of the finny tribe, being in the constant habit of diving into the sea,
and bringing up the fish alive in her mouth, and depositing them in the
guard-room for the use of the soldiers. She is now seven years old, and
has long been a useful caterer. It is supposed that her pursuits of the
water-rats first taught her to venture into the water, to which it is
well known puss has a natural aversion. She is as fond of the water as a
Newfoundland dog, and takes her regular peregrinations along the rocks
at its edge, looking out for her prey, ready to dive for them at a
moment's notice."--ED.





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Previous: Nursery Rhymes And Stories



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