Breydon Flounder Fishing
Or in Norfolk dialect “goin up Breydon arter Butts”
A couple o’ autumns since, you might r’member that Steve and me wer messin about th’ Breydon flats in my big owd punt SHOVELER, you might also r’call me mentionin that we was fare flumuxt concernin th’ sandy torpedo tracks that shot away from th’punts snout like one o’clock as we paddled up th’ channels an drains an how we thought rightly as how these might’nt be Flounders, or what the owd Breydoners call Butts.
I hiv finally got hold o’ some butt-darts so thought as how I might describe this here fishery, relyin once agin heavily on our owd mate Johny Knowlittle for most o’ the information.
The Breydoners reckon the Flounder an Dab, tho’ they fair to look alike, to be two seprate species, the fust preferin muddy river bottoms, an the last, a sandy bottom an tha’s why tha’s a lighter colour.
Butts is what th’ owd Breydon pirates call Flounders tho no one seem to fare why, the’re flat fish, simlar to a plaice but when young swim about upright suffin like a normal fish only slowly rollin over onto their sides as they grow, an as they does so one eye sorter slide acrost ther hid, kinder like th’owd wherryman “Skew eyed Tyrell” must ha looked.
In the 1870’s afore Breydon growed up huge numbers of Butts swum upriver huntin shrimp an feedin on molluscs an water cabbage.
Th’owd chaps used stake-nets to capture Butts, but by the time we’r talkin on that wer’nt thought worth th’ trouble for the paltry return, tho when large catches had bin made th’ Butts was sent away on th’ twice weekly carrier carts to either Sherringham or Cromer to be used as bait in th’ crab pots or most likely at that time, hoop nets. Few town folks want’d t’ eat Butts tho the riverside fraternity found em uncommonly good eatin an wern’t so particlar.
Shall we hiv a squint at an owd Butt-net, tha’s a trammel net, nigh on seventy yard long, an four are ginally staked in a line acrost the flats at high water. Trammel nets are triple layered wi’ a fine loose centre mesh encased both sides with a coarser mesh’d net, all about four foot deep.
At high water th’owd Butts spread out acrost th’ flooded flats but as that begun t’ ebb they escape to deeper water down the muddy channels an drains only to be catched by the outer net with th’ fish sorter pushing through to th’ finer centre one, sorter baggin it.
Once caught, th’ Butts fare t’be kept alive in submerged trunks perforated wi’ holes, suffin like an eel box but bigger, until such time as th’ carrier arrived. The goin rate bein half a crown per hundred of six score to th’ hundred, these weren’t half good times for th’owd Breydoners when a livin o’ sorts could be made the year round.
By th’ early 1900’s th’owd chaps dussent Butt-net no more, tho if a Butt wer accidently caught wilst out pickin eels that we’rnt dispised fer th’pan.
Grit fat owd Butts swum upriver to spawn durin December an Janary, an blast arnt they suffin good to eat then, howsomever winter Butt dartin is a long cold owd job wi only small catches bein ginlly made.
Winter darts are suffin like a rake wi seven’or eight barbs on a two foot head, some times th’ barbs are made o’ straightened cod hooks let into a wooden head or they kin be special made metal barbs on a metal frame. Th’ shaft though hetter be nigh on twenty two or four foot long an as th’owd punt drift about on th’ tide th’owd fisherman jab, jab his dart up an down a few inches hopin for the best as th’ Butts obviously sh’ant be sin at that sorter depth.
In frorsty owd weather thas wholly unpleasent cos when the shaft’s held horizontly to knock th’ Butt orf the barbs th’ water runned along it an freeze suffin fierce, tho tha’s better for th’ fish cos th’ cold kinder finish em orf quicker.
Ginlly speakin any sorter work done like that there standin in th’ punt, be it Butt-dartin or eel-pickin fare t’be carried on facin aft, workin acrost or either side on th’ after deck cos that ud be right awkard a tryin to do suffin forard, wot wi’ th’punts grit long snout an all.
Howsomever summer dartin for “grass fed-Butts” fare to be right plesent, an a much shorter ten foot shaft kin be used wi’ a much lighter head consistin o’ mebe only four tines.
Th’ punt drift among the shallers, possibly in suffin like ony two foot o’ thickened water, tha’s silty water drawed orf th’ flats durin th’ ebb, so th’ Butts cant see th’ punt cos if they do they’d soon be orf like one o’clock leevin them tell tale tracks. On a right good day suffin like a hundred Butts an hour kin be catched.
More than litely a Butt ud be felt on th’ dart end afore it were spotted, then that wer hoisted abord, knocked on th’ hid to kill or stun it an stowed away in a bucket or fish box ready to be fried on th’ houseboat stove in a pan, wi’ a slab o’butter nor yet carted t’home t’thow’d mawther.
There yer go togither.