The three men try to wash their clothes in the river, but this only makes them dirtier because the water is not clean. To get it done they take their washing to a washerlady in Streatley, who charges them an exorbitant amount of money for her service, which the men gladly pay.
Even though the men can see that the river water isn’t clean, they don’t stop to think that it isn’t going to wash their clothes effectively. They quickly seek the familiar comfort of paying somebody else to do their chores for them.
J. tells the reader that Streatley is renowned as being a good place to fish. That is, it’s a popular place to try and catch fish, but not necessarily a good place for being successful. J. says that people who fish always exaggerate the size of their catches. J. jokes that there is an official conspiracy between fishermen to pretend they have caught more, and bigger, fish than is the reality.
J. suggests that it is human nature to be boastful and exaggerate (the men have proven this to be the case). Even the humble fishermen, according to J., are concerned with keeping up appearances and saving face by manipulating the facts about their hauls.
J. and George go for a walk in Wallingford, stopping for a drink at an inn afterwards (Harris has gone off for a shave). Here the locals show them a huge trout encased in glass that hangs on the wall. As locals drift in and out of conversation with J. and George, each of them variously claims to have caught the famous fish. They tell stories about how much of a struggle it was to land such a large creature, but, of course, they can’t all have caught it. In fact, as J. reveals at the end of the chapter, it’s not even a real trout—it’s made out of plaster of Paris.
This scene provides further anecdotal evidence J.’s assertion about keeping up appearances. The people that talk to J. and George evidently don’t take the time to look properly at the fish on the wall—if they did they would realize that it isn’t real. The desire to be seen as accomplished again trumps the desire to be truthful.