CHISWICK FISHERMEN

"Please, sir, a man wants to know if he can see you, and he has brought a very large fish," was the message given me one very hot evening at the end of July, at the hour which the poet describes as being "about the flitting of the bats," plenty of which were just visible hawking over the willows on the eyot. Thinking that it was an odd time for a visit from a fishmonger, I was just wondering what could be the reason for such a request when I remembered a talk I had had at the ferry a week or two before on the subject of the continued increase of fish in the London Thames. It turned out to be as I expected; my visitor was one of the last local fishermen, and brought with him a splendid silver eel, weighing nearly 4 lb., taken in his nets that evening just opposite Chiswick Eyot. It was the largest eel taken so low down for some years, and when held up at arm's length, was a good imitation of one of Madame Paula's pythons in the advertisement. He was anxious that I should come out for an evening's netting and see for myself how clear the water now is, and how good the fish. The previous summer, about the same date, I had asked him to see what he could catch in an evening as specimens; he had returned with over ninety fish, dace, roach, eels, barbel, and smelts, many of which were exhibited alive the next day before a good many people interested in the purification of the Thames. As a further proof I forwarded the big eel to the previous chairman of the London County Council, under whose sceptre the marked improvement in the river began first to be felt, and begged his acceptance of it as a tribute from the river. Then I arranged to be at the old ferry next day at 6.30 p.m.