Fish and flour go together as bye-products of nearly all our large rivers. The combination comes about thus: Wherever there is a water-mill, a mill cut is made to take the water to it. The larger the river, the bigger and deeper the mill cut and dam, unless the mill is built across an arm of the stream itself. This mill-dam, as every trout-fisher knows, holds the biggest fish, and where there are no trout, or few trout, it will be full of big fish, while in the pool below there are perhaps as many more. Of all the food fishes of our rivers the eel is really far the most important. He flourishes everywhere, in the smallest pools and brooks as well as in the largest rivers, and grows up to a weight of 9 lb. or 10 lb., and sometimes, though rarely, more. His price indicates his worth, and never falls below 10d. per lb. Consequently he is valuable as well as plentiful, and the millers know this well. On nearly all rivers the millers have eel-traps, some of the ancient sort being "bucks," made of withes, and worked by expensive, old-fashioned machinery like the mill gear. Another and most paying dodge of the machine-made order is worked in the mill itself, and makes an annexe to the mill-wheel.

I once spent an agreeable hour watching the making of barley meal and the catching of eels, literally side by side. It was sufficiently good fun to make me put my gun away for the afternoon, and give up a couple of hours' walk, with the chance of a duck, to watch the mill and eel-traps working.

They were both in a perfect old-world bye-end of the Thames Valley, in the meads at the back of the forgotten but perfect abbey of the third order at Dorchester, under the tall east window of which the River Thame was running bank full, fringed with giant poplars, from which the rooks were flying to look at their last year's nests in the abbey trees.

The mill was, as might be supposed, the Abbey Mill; but on driving up the lane I was surprised to see how good and large was the miller's house, a fine dwelling of red and grey brick; and what a length of frontage the old mill showed, built of wood, as most of them are, but with two sets of stones, and space for two wheels. Only one was at work, and that was grinding barley-meal - meal from nasty, foreign barley full of dirt; but the miller had English barley-meal too, soft as velvet and sweet as a new-baked loaf. Stalactites of finest meal dust hung from every nail, peg, cobweb, and rope end on the walls, fine meal strewed the floor, coarse meal poured from the polished shoots, to which the sacks hung by bright steel hooks, and on both floors ancient grindstones stood like monuments of past work and energy, while below and beside all this dust and floury dryness roared the flooded waters of the dam and the beating floats of the wheel. "Have you any eels?" I asked. "Come and see," said the miller.

He stopped his wheel, unbolted the door, and we looked up the mill dam, two hundred yards long, straight as a line, embanked by double rows of ancient yews, the banks made and the trees planted by the monks five hundred years ago. Then we stepped into the wheel-house, where the water, all yellow and foaming, was pouring into two compartments set with iron gratings below, on which it rose and foamed. Seizing a long pole with prongs like walrus teeth, the miller felt below the water on the bars. "Here's one, anyway," he said, and by a dexterous haul scooped up a monster eel on to the floor. In a box which he hauled from the dam he had more, some of 5-lb. weight, which had come down with the flood - an easy and profitable fishery, for the eels can lie in the trap till he hauls them out, and sell well summer and winter. It pays as well as a poultry yard. Once he took a 9-lb. fish; 2-1/2 lb. to 4 lb. are common.

The eel-trap on the old Thames mill stream is imitated in other places where there is no mill. Thus at Mottisfont Abbey on the Test an old mill stream is used to work an hydraulic ram, and also to supply eels for the house; the water is diverted into the eel-trap, and the fish taken at any time. Another dodge for taking eels, which is not in the nature of what is called a "fixed engine," is the movable eel-trap or "grig wheel." It is like a crayfish basket, and is in fact the same thing, only rather larger. They can be obtained from that old river hand, Mr. Bambridge, at Eton, weighted, stoppered, and ready for use, for 7s. 6d. each, and unweighted for 5s. They are neat wicker-work tunnels, with the usual contrivance at the mouth to make the entrance of the eels agreeable and their exit impossible. The "sporting" side of these traps is that a good deal of judgment is needed to set them in the right places in a river. Many people think that eels like carrion and favour mud. Mr. Bambridge says his experience is different, and his "advice to those about to fish" with this kind of eel-trap is suggestive of new ideas about eels. He says that "for bait nothing can beat about a dozen and a-half of small or medium live gudgeon, failing these large minnows, small dace, roach, loach, &c., though in some streams about a dozen good bright large lob worms, threaded on a copper wire and suspended inside, are very effective, and should always be given a trial. Offal I have tried but found useless, eels being a cleaner feeding fish than many are aware of; and feeding principally in gravelly, weedy parts, the basket should be well tucked up under a long flowing weed, as it is to these places they go for food, such as the ground fish, loach, miller's thumb, crayfish, shrimps, mussels, &c. When I worked a fishery near here, I made it a rule after setting the basket to well scratch the soil in front of the entrance with the boathook I used for lowering them, and firmly believe their curiosity was excited by the disturbed gravel. Choose water from four feet to six feet deep, and see basket lays flat. Every morning when picked up, lay them on the bank, pick out all weed and rubbish, and brush them over with a bass broom, keeping them out of water till setting again at dusk."

Eel-bucks, of which few perfect sets now remain, are the fixed engines so often seen on the Thames, and are a costly and rather striking contrivance, adding greatly to the picturesqueness of parts of the river. They are very ancient, and date from days when the "eel-run" was one of the annual events of river life. The eels went down in millions to the sea, and the elvers came up in such tens of millions that they made a black margin to the river on either side by the bank, where they swam because the current was there weakest. The large eels were taken, and are still taken, on their downward journey in autumn. It is then that the Thames fills, and at the first big rush of water the eels begin to descend to reach the mud and sands at the Thames mouth, where they spawn. They always travel by night, and it is then that the heavy eel-bucks are lowered. Often hundredweights are taken in a night, all of good size, one of the largest of which there is any record being one of 15 lb., taken in the Kennet near Newbury. In the "grig-wheels" they are taken as small as 3 oz. or 4 oz.; but in the bucks they rarely weigh less than 1 lb. The darkest nights are the most favourable. Moonlight stops them, and they do not like still weather. The upward migration of eels goes on from February till May on the Thames, but the regular "eel-fare" of the young grigs do not assume any great size till May, when as many as 1,800, about three inches long, were seen to pass a given point in one minute. So say the records. But who could have counted them so fast?

A few recent developments of the eel trade elsewhere show how valuable this may be. Quite lately the Danes discovered that the Lim-fiord and some other shallow Broads on the West Danish Coast were a huge preserve of eels. They began trawling there steadily, and have established a large and lucrative trade in them. On the Bann, in Ireland, eel catching is still done in a large way, and the fish shipped to London. But the most ancient and yet most modern of eel fisheries is on the Adriatic, at Comacchio, where lagoons 140 miles in circumference are stocked with eels, and eel breeding and exporting are carried out on a large scale. Even as early as the sixteenth century the Popes used to derive an income of L12,000 from this source.