An Artful Jack, Some true Anecdotes

by Unknown

Along the river Wey, which flows through Hampshire and Surrey, there is much wild scenery still, though some parts have been altered of late years. Many small streamlets, bogs and marshes, ponds and pools, are delightful to the lover of Nature, no less than to the sportsman. Boys with nets chase big dragon-flies, fat-bodied moths, and swift butterflies, and men with guns watch for birds, large or small, which are numerous. The young birds are also in danger from foxes, who leave the woodland to hunt by the waterside.

The fish draw many anglers to the river, for the pools and streams have plenty of fish, not only the small and common kinds, but the trout, which is eagerly followed to its haunts. Besides trout, the ferocious pike or jack is not uncommon, good specimens being taken by various baits, for a jack is not particular what it eats. When cooked, it is a fish generally liked, though it seldom comes into the shops for sale. It is rather a handsome fish, being marked with green and bright yellow.

A clever jack will do much to obtain a choice morsel. Roaming along the banks of the Wey, a man came upon what had once been a good house, in front of which stood a row of fine yews. It was fast going to ruin, and, indeed, only a few rooms were occupied. While he was examining it, the occupier, who knew him slightly, asked him to come in and have some mead, made from his own honey. After talking a little while, the host began to tell him his troubles about his young ducks. They went out for water excursions, as young ducks must, but his wife did not let them stop out late, because of the foxes; but on the way home, some of them had lately disappeared mysteriously. He offered to show the spot, and took his visitor there. The little ducks crossed a broad piece of open water to get upon a sloping board just as they reached the place; down into the stream they went, sometimes two at once. The visitor asked his guide whether he had seen any jack. He said that there were plenty, and that he had caught several; but there was one big fellow he had noticed which would not take the bait offered.

'That is the offender!' cried the man; 'he swims up the stream, picks up a fish here and there till the tiny little ducklings, which are a delicacy to him, are on the water. If there is one the right size to suit him, he has it; if not, he goes back to other food. Afterwards he returns to deep water, but is here again in the evening when the ducks come home.'

What was to be done was the next question. How could this artful jack be caught, if he was too dainty to take ordinary bait? Then they thought of a capital plan. They got a long, straight pole, and fastened to it a strong bit of pike-line. A dead wood-mouse was obtained and secured to the line, and at the proper time gently floated over the place where the ducklings had vanished. The plan answered capitally. Mr. Jack came, seized the mouse, and was hauled out of the water, and no more ducklings were lost.

Another instance of a jack's greed was told in one of the newspapers. A shepherd was passing an ornamental lake one day, when his dog started a stoat, which ran out from some bushes near the water. The stoat, being pursued, at last actually jumped into the lake, and swam away. The shepherd was still watching it, as it swam bravely on, when suddenly the nose of a large pike shot out of the water close by, and the fish was seen making straight for the animal. In a few moments it had seized the wretched stoat, and though the latter struggled hard for its life, all was in vain. The jack forced the animal beneath the water, and neither were seen again.