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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