So very wide a subject as this can only be treated generally. Data are scarce and casual. The traveller to foreign parts, however, may be recommended, in making preparations for possible opportunities of sport, to assume that any salt water in which he may cast anchor will be worth a trial. At Singapore I met a young Englishman who had laid down this theory on the chance of what it would bring, and he declared that the unexpected hours of sport he enjoyed well rewarded him for all the trouble he took ; indeed, he said that the miscellaneous angling he had found in eastern and southern seas gave him materials for a big volume, and I besought him to write it for the encouragement of others.
The outfit he had prepared in England on setting out for his round-the-world expedition consisted of a variety of common metal spinners ; assorted hooks, some on gimp, others on gut; indiarubber baits ; a deep-sea line and a light one for harbours ; a telescope gaff, and collapsible landing net. To this, which occupies little space in the baggage, I would suggest, a stiffish ten-foot greenheart rod, in four pieces, making a package of two and a half feet. It should be somewhat like the trolling rod used in pike fishing, of the best workmanship. This might be kept as a reserve ; my Singapore acquaintance was very adroit in whipping bare hooks to any sort of snooding, and in extemporising a rod, but he confessed that he often felt the want of some independent armoury. Such a rod might be serviceable for spinning from a boat, for legering on sandy bottoms, and for the too much neglected practice of pater-nostering. Baits are always to be found ; if not molluscs, then bits of fish, or fresh meat; and there would be the metal spinners and indiarubber worms to fall back upon if small fish were not to be procured. I therefore repeat :—instead of wasting time in the unsatisfactory endeavour to obtain information about fish and fishing in foreign parts, assume that where the sea is it will be inhabited ; nay, that there are better fish in the sea than ever came out of it.
The advice just tendered applies to European waters with as much justification as to more distant seas. In the North Sea, or the poor sporting grounds of the Baltic, the angler will find it best to proceed on the broad principles which serve around the English coasts or the Channel Islands. Expanses of shallow with sandy bottom, rock-bound promontories or inlets, demand their own methods ; but I should imagine no sportsman would visit northern Europe for the express purpose of sea angling. Even the fiords of Norway, as the distance from open water increases, are indifferent grounds for him.
Nor is it much better in the Mediterranean, save in special parts; and notwithstanding that this home of the tunny contains about three-fourths of the species (estimated at 650) inhabiting European seas. The native fishermen who use the rod take their tribute everywhere with more or less primitive tackle, though there are few coasts upon which modern improvements have not begun to supersede the rough-and-ready fashions of past generations. From the fragmentary accounts published in books of travel and the enterprising modern serials, it is evident that the visitor to the seaside resorts of the Continent need not leave his tackle at home. It may be assumed that wherever there are rocks there will be a variety of sporting fish, amongst which must be included mullet, gurnard, wrasses, small conger, and sea breams. The usual fish baits, worms, shell fish, and even paste (the mullet occasionally taking this), are never out of season, and the artificial spinner, here as elsewhere, should be an essential of the equipment.
Though the beautiful line of shore which margins the fashionable Riviera is not a happy hunting ground, the patient sea fisherman with some knowledge of the movements of fish has often opportunities worthy of his attention. The varieties of fish are not as plentiful as they are further east, but even along open shores like that of Nice, fishermen of a humble type may be seen on the beach, opposite the most fashionable part of the Promenade des Anglais, patiently angling for grey mullet. Where better kinds are scarce, this highly respectable food fish is worth catching, since it always commands a good price in the market. Indeed, a mullet fresh from the sea, dressed with sauce à la Provençale, is a coveted dainty in the French, Italian, and even London restaurants when the fish are in season. The native anglers at Nice are a rough and ragged lot, who go to their work bare-legged. They use a stiff two-jointed rod from fifteen to seventeen feet long, a serviceable home-made implement which does not involve them in expenditure at the tackle shop : they have simply to cut the cane almost at their own doors. The bamboo in any part of the world makes an excellent rod, and it is all the better when it can be used in a single piece. The Nice men like a butt about an inch and a half in diameter in the thickest part, lessening to three-quarters of an inch, the second joint being fitted from a younger shoot tapering to a point. The bamboo before use ought to be well seasoned, and in Italy and all the way east the two joints are sometimes connected by a rough ferrule ; but more frequently the cane sections, as in China and Japan, are made to fit into one another. When this is done the transaction is signed, sealed, and delivered by tight whipping with strong wax thread to avoid splitting. This, of course, would not be a rod fit for salmon fishing, and it is deficient in what the connoisseur would call action. But it answers the purpose for which it is used passing well. From the point of the rod a wire, twisted hair, or spunyard loop is bound, and the stout end of the line, like a hunting thong, is attached.
The fisherman at Nice has no bother with a winch, and therefore requires no stand-up rings. With his primitive rod he manages his fifteen or twenty yards of horsehair line, tapering from seven or eight to two or three strands, with considerable efficiency. Small round corks, like the pike fisher's pilot floats, are placed along the line, the first two or three yards from the hook, the rest dotted at intervals of four or five feet. An ordinary sea hook is snooded to the line, and the bait is one of the ragworms found near the mouth of the little stream which runs into the sea a few yards east of the pier. The fishermen must obstinately stick to the old plans, or they would have learned by this time that a finer hook, quite, as strong, would be much more suitable for the inconveniently delicate character of the bait. The anglers stand close together, generally near the point where the little river enters the sea, and the fun is considerably increased by the habit of the sea mullet in feeding close to the shore. The angler, having baited, walks into the sea, hook in hand, and line coiled loosely round the rod. By swishes backwards and forwards the line is gradually released, and the man dexterously lets go at the right time, swings the baited line behind him, and with a neat forward sweep sends it out into the water outside the breakers. No lead is required when the fish cruise close to the surface. To the ordinary observer the cork which acts as a float gives no indication of a bite, but the keen-eyed native knows that the slight tremble signals a mullet at the bait. As the fish is slow in sucking the morsel into its mouth, it is allowed to go clean away with the bait, before striking.