Wednesday, May 20, 2009

India part 4: Himalayan trout house

My last week in India I travelled north again to try for trout in the Himalayas. Originally I had planned on returning home after fishing the Cauvery, but I saw some of Apoo's pictures of the Himalayan Trout House, and decided to extend my stay until the beginning of the season up north. I am glad I did. The Trout House sits in the Tirthan valley. Home of the Tirthan river. Home of trout.

Christopher and Shefali Mitra left behind Delhi life to start the Trout House. They have now built numerous cabins ranging from comfortable to too comfortable. The food was excellent. Some of the best Indian food I had, and the continental dishes would have been good anywhere. I just felt comfortable there. It's the kind of place you don't want to leave. For the first time on my trip I wasn't worried or strategizing about the fishing. I could relax and just go catch some trout.

It is a nine hour overnight bus ride from Dehli to the Tirthan valley. The volvo bus's are comfortable, but the roads are sinewy, steep, narrow, mountainous, and horrible for about half the journey. Also, Indian drivers don't really use turn signals as we would. They use the horn. Changing lanes; horn. Need to pass; horn. People by the road; horn. See a cow; horn. Just for fun; horn. Unfortunately our bus driver really liked the horn. All night long. So I doubled up on my sleep pills and dozed off late in the night.

I was dropped off in the middle of a one lane mountain village waiting for a cab. It was about seven in the morning and cold. Cold for just about anywhere, but especially cold for India. I was a bit under dressed. About fifteen minutes later I was in a cab driving up the valley to Christopher's place. Breakfast, introductions and off for this:

It was early in the season when I was there, and the river was late in rising, so the water was especially low and clear. Fun to fish, but it didn't make for the most productive fishing. I assumed that the river would only hold smaller trout, but I heard stories and saw pictures of some pretty impressive fish caught in these waters. While most of the browns I caught were somewhere around 12 in. I did see some larger browns. I also found a couple rainbow escapees from one of the trout hatcheries.

This fish was smoked and turned into a tasty spread. Originally I had asked Viku, my guide, to hold it so I could get a better picture, but he pounced on the fish and started smashing its head on a rock. I didn't have time to explain that I wanted live pictures. Oh well. Just upstream from this fish I lost it's twin after a few jumps. The fishing was particularly good this day. Viku had a friend that had come along and he had told me afterwords that he had been praying all day for the fishing. He told me I had come a long way and deserved to catch some nice fish. It worked.

Christopher's webpage is There is now a plane service between Delhi and within an hour's drive from the lodge. I may try that out next time. I can't wait to get back. Probably the coolest place I've been trout fishing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

India part 3: Cauvery river

After getting brutalized by the Ramganga mahseer for 9 days I flew down to Bangalore to meet with my friend Bopanna and fish the Cauvery at his super secret location. Bopanna runs, a fishing forum that is a great reference for fishing in India.

Bops picked me up from the airport and we drove for several hours straight to the river. Bopanna figured we had just enough time to fish a few hours in the evening before we settled into the cabin. We unpacked a couple rods and as many plugs, borrowed a boat, and set out into the calm water. Just a few casts towards the bank and I hooked into a nice mahseer of eight pounds; landed, photo, release. That felt nice. Fifteen minutes later I repeated the process with its twin. Starting to feel really good. We fish another hour or so and right before dark I hook into a nice size mahseer. My knots hold, I manage to keep the fish out of the snags and it isn't long before the fish is brought up along side the boat. The fish looks to me to be about 20 lbs. This is a respectable mahseer. I slept well that night. Over the next five days, neither Bopanna or I landed a fish over 20 inches.
There is a big difference in color and shape between the mahseer of the north and those of the south. These southern fish are a bit thicker in the middle and have a hump behind their head. A twenty pounder is a good fish. I believe Bopannas best is 43 lbs. Traditionally these fish are caught on large balls of paste bait, but my friend specializes on getting these fish on lures. These fish can get to over a hundred pounds.
Bopanna's cabin sits in the middle of several coffee plantations. It's comfortable, quiet and the river is just out the gate.
It looks like a lake, but this is actually the river. Quite a contrast between fishing in the north. This fishery is more like bass fishing. Your looking to cast around structure and under trees. Once hooked, the big challenge is keeping them out of all the snags, so stout tackle is a must.
In the mornings I experimented with the fly rod a bit. I managed to catch some fish on flys, but all were small. Still fun though. I can't wait to return next year with some proper streamers and a ten weight.
I had to work for this little devil. He took a muddler right off the surface and then came straight for the log I was standing on. I had to dive into the water and untangle the line and pull him out. I wasn't very comfortable up to my neck in muddy crock infested water.

On our last day Bopanna arranged some fishing in a nearby reservoir for murrel (or snakehead). Originally I had planned on fishing most of the week for murrel, but he had some access issues with his normal murrel fishery. It turned out to be an enjoyable day and I caught numerous small snakehead on lures and flys. While I was taking the above picture, Bopanna was working on catching the below. This is a really big snakehead. I don't remember our final guess as to the weight, but it was monstrous.
If you are interested in fishing for mahseer in India, definitely look up Bopanna at

Monday, May 18, 2009

India part 2: Ramganga river

My next stop was the Ramganga river in the lesser Himalayas, just outside of Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. I booked a trip through a flyfishing outfitter for nine days. Unfortunately the service was not what I paid for, and apparently the timing was off on the trip. The water was still to cold for the fish to be aggressively feeding. I had a few chances at some really nice fish, but could not connect with a big mahseer on the fly. Another angler in camp landed a 25 lb. plus fish the first evening's fishing, and then he struggled to land anything of size the rest of the trip as well.

There is a lot of wildlife around the park. It can be a little difficult to concentrate on the fishing when there are a few dozen monkeys on the opposite bank jumping from tree to tree and making apes of themselves. Pictured is a Langur.

There were definitely plenty of fish. The pool this picture came from held at least a hundred mahseer. Between another angler and I we caught two of them. Not good odds. Also note how clear the water was. It is at least four feet deep right here.
This one was caught on bait. Would have felt a lot better on my fly rod.

This was like the majority of the fish we caught. Small, but really pretty fish. With a five weight these would be great sport. Some days we couldn't even tempt the little guys. Statistically I don't think the little fish were any easier to hook than the bigger fish, but there were a lot more of them, and landing them was a whole lot easier.
This is a steel spike collar they attached to the dogs in camp to protect from tiger bites. These dogs were fearless and there were plenty of tigers around. The first night at camp we could hear a tiger growling in the dark right across the river. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Another morning we found wet pug marks in the ground on out walk upriver. The picture below shows a really big print that stretched about ten feet in between marks.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

India part 1: Assam

Here are a few pictures from my first leg of last winters India trip. My first stop after a brief rest in New Delhi was the eastern state of Assam. I met my friend Apoo, shared some whiskey with his friends and family, then left in the morning for Nameri eco camp on the river Bhorelli. The camp was comfortable with tents under thatched roofs.

We spent three days floating the Bhorelli in Apoo's inflatable raft. The river is wide and slow in some areas, and swift in others. The fishing was a bit slow, but we managed to find my first Indian fish.

This was the first fish of the trip. The fish is a Chocolate Mahseer, or Boka of average size. Unfortunately Apoo hooked this fish on his first cast and jinxed us for the rest of the day. We hooked nothing else. These are beautiful fish and don't put up a great fight on heavier tackle, but I think these would be a lot of fun on a fly rod.

This is my first Indian fish. A snakehead that struck a jointed Rapala in shallow water.

Fish number two was what I came for. A Golden Mahseer. These are really beautiful fish that I have yet to see any photo do justice to. The colors on these just light up in the sun. This isn't a particularly big specimen, but it was enough to keep me happy.

A forest ranger on patrol by elephant.

Spinning rod on elephant tracks