Sunday, October 31, 2010

India Revisited

In between my guiding in AK and NY I made time this fall to take another trip to India. I'm getting pretty used to the flight over by now. 14 hours from Newark, dulled by a mix of movies, sleeping pills and a lot of sour patch kids.

After hanging out in Delhi for a few days I headed north to Christopher Mitra's trout house again. I arrived to find the river fairly high, and I wasn't too successful in the fishing department, only landing relatively small trout. I did get to fish with some friends and make some more as well. It's a fantastic place to be, regardless of the fishing.

My friend Norman fishing above. Pocket water anyone?

After a week at Christopher's, I spent night on a bus headed back to Delhi, then hopped on a train to Kothgodam for eight hours. I was looking forward to the train ride, but I had my tickets booked rather late, so I was only able to get second class ticket. I was a bit late getting on the train too, and there was a large family taking up the bench seating in my area, so I piled my luggage up into the top bunk and wedged myself in between my bag and rod tube. It wasn't all that comfortable, and the train ride was starting to lose its appeal, but a cute woman climbed into the bunk next to mine and kept me company for the duration of trip, and sparing me from a long boring train ride. So we pulled into Kothgodam around 11 oclock and I was met by a representative of The Himalayan Outback, taken to a hotel and told we have a 10 hour jeep ride starting at 4 in the morning. By the time we get checked in and have dinner I get three hours of sleep before we drive most of the day to the border of Nepal.

The camp I went to was located just upstream from the confluence of the Mahakali and Saryu rivers to fish for Golden Mahseer. The Mahakali forms part of indias border with nepal. I ran into the same conditions as at Christophers, high water and a bit off color, but Misty, the proprietor of the camp assured me the fishing would be fine, and it turned out to be so.

I fished a couple of days with Misty, and the rest of the time with Bobby, an intense young guide that loved to fish. I really enjoyed his enthousiasm. I asked him if he had a girlfriend, he replied that fishing was his girlfriend. So I spent most of my time trying to get Bobby to hit on some of the local girls but he seemed disinterested, despite my insistance. "Wrong village" is all he would reply, usually accompanied by his best "shut up and fish" look. I don't know how the women looked in his village but, I can't image they were better looking than these girls.

Over the course of the week I had failed to land anything of significant size. I caught fish of several pounds on the fly, and many in the five, six pound class on my gear rod, but the big fish hooked on fly came undone, and by the final day I had not hooked anything really large on the spoon. I could tell this was getting Bobby a little frustrated, but he kept at it. So on the last evening, Bobby hatched a plan to go fish right above the temple at the mouth of the Saryu. there was some debate over whether we could fish there, and although our licenses stated we could, the holy men had already run us off earlier in the week before we could cast. Under the cover of evening we waited until nobody could be seen outside the temple and then walked down the beach and started stripping streamers across the pool with the fly rod. I caught a couple of nice fish five pound fish on the fly that evening before full dark, then I started casting rapalas into the pool, and entertained myself by watching some sort of fireflies buzz around. A couple of lure changes and a couple of walks down the run and nothing. I was starting to develop a headache and getting pretty hungry, but we decided to make one go through with a spoon. At the last bit of the run, right before the rapids I had a massive take on the spoon and the fish took off downstream towards the rapids. If the fish made it down the rapids it was gone for sure, as the water was too fast and we couldn't follow it, so I thumbed my baitcaster and held the fish right on the lip of the pool. It was a tense moment for both of us and I remember Bobby screaming something unintelligible, but I was able to slowly start walking the fish back into the pool. I don't know which one of us was happier when the fish came to the beach. We estimated it to be about 25 lb's. Thats by no means a really large mahseer, but it was plenty big for me
The next morning I only had a few hours to fish, but there was a nice run about two miles upstream that was perfect for the fly rod, and I was convinced that a large fish could be taken out of it. We woke up well before light and made the hike in the dark. Right in the middle of the run I had a very large fish take my fly, come to the surface and spit the fly back at me. The hook had been straightened. I was crushed, because I knew that was my one last shot at a big fly caught fish. My hat got thrown around a lot and took a pretty severe beating. I fished without any hope for the next hour, but scheming for another india trip.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Made a trip to the Bahamas last June with my friends Paul and Ryan. We rented a place on Aklins Island. It's a seventy mile long island with about four hundred people on it, and a lot of stupid bonefish. Well maybe not stupid, but relatively unmolested.

The Bahamas had record setting heat for this time of year (already the hot season), so that sapped my energy for wading the flats all day. We also got stuck on a small island in the middle of the flats with lightning all around us for a couple hours. It was all well and fine until it struck within a hundred feet of us. That was sobering.
Pauly with a hookup.

We caught a few Barracuda on flies as well. Ryans got a jumper on above. I'm guiding my fish away from a 12 foot shark below.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Malaysian Snakehead

Two years ago I made a trip to Thailand to fish for snakehead, the fish that caused panicked news reports in the US over invasion in eastern waters. My three day trip in a Thai reservoir left me with a couple of destroyed rapalas, wounded pride and only one decent fish to my name. This wasn't due to bad fishing, just poor reflexes and bad luck on my part. I lost some big fish on that trip. It became apparent after my first fish that the 8 weight fly rod I brought would be ridiculously inadequate. It didn't stop me from trying and my first nice fish on the fly had me around a snag and off before I could do anything. The one I finally landed was small, about 12 inches, but a start. While my first fly fishing adventure for snakehead wasn't real productive, it did give me a good idea of what to bring next time.

And the next time came this March. When Jean Francois Helias emailed me pictures of his last Malaysian snakehead trip, and intentions to return this March, I couldn't pass it up.

This was my first trip to Malaysia. Unlike some of the other places I've been, Malaysia seemed a lot more like home. Good roads, not much congestion, sane drivers. Most people even seem to speak english well, and they aren't shy about it. It's obvious that a lot of money is poured into the infrastructure from the state run oil company, Petronas. Pictured above are the massive Petronas twin towers in downtown Kuala Lumpur. At the time of completion these were the tallest buildings in the world, still the tallest twin towers. The bridge connecting the towers can be accessed after standing in line early in the morning and then watching an extended advertisement for Petronas oil. The view of the city below:

Back to the fish. There are many species of snakehead spread throughout asia, but the best sportfish among them is the Giant snakehead. These grow the largest, and fight the hardest. Shaped like a fat snake, these fish are appropriately named. There jaws are very strong and lined with sharp teeth. Pike spreaders won't hold their mouth open, and I wouldn't trust one anyway. The fight is short lived, but intense. They know where the structure is and immediately try and wrap you up in it.
They are air breathers. In calm water you can see them coming up to the surface, then diving back down. During the spawn, the parents protect their young. The small fry need to come up for air a lot more than the adults, so this provides an ideal time to hunt down a nice fish. Once found, every sixty seconds a school of fry will appear and any lure cast into the school has a good chance at a protective mother. Like the one below: This fish was caught using a live catfish cast into the middle of a fry ball. This is a favorite method of the guides, and works on both parents and lone fish coming up for air. It was deadly, but a fishing method I didn't find enjoyable for long periods. It's hard to beat the strike of these fish to a rapala or a topwater bait. I spent the first few day fishing this method, but the next day I had a boat to myself and a fly rod ready to flex.
My goal for the trip was to catch a nice fish on the fly, and I came prepared with one of the new bass rods from sage. These rods are short and very stiff for fly rods, but I found them to cast easily all day. Just a few minutes into the second days fishing, my guide spotted a school of fry. I got up on deck and stripped the line off my reel. The lake was full of sunken timber, and these fry were right in the middle of several trees. I could make the cast, but it was better to wait until they moved. A few minutes passed and the fry surfaced right next to the shore in inches of water. This was perfect as they were very vulnerable in shallow water. I made my cast, landing right in the middle of them with a big streamer. They scattered and a few strips later the mother appeared behind my fly and engulfed it. When she turned I drove the hook in and clamped down on the line. I couldn't stop her from taking taking up the coils of line at my feet and she was under a log in seconds, but with a little maneuvering we got the line free, only to have her dive around another tree five feet away. I thought we would lose her at this point but I worked the rod around until the line came free. A few tussles at the boat and we had her in the net. My guide said it was about four kilos, but just about every fish we caught the week was labeled four kilos. These guys obviously didn't sell coke for a living. This was a small four kilos, but a nice snakehead. (The photo has been cropped as I had a three inch tear in the crotch of my pants. Your welcome)
The next several days I fished with Francois, the organizer. While we caught many fish on gear, we weren't so successful casting flys to the fry we found. If the parents have been caught before they are very wary of any lure. I had a great time fishing with Francois. He is an expert on snakehead and I learned a lot about these fish.
Last evening out with Francois we fished a lot of small coves. Francois worked topwater baits and I cast a popper with my fly rod. I managed to catch a very rare snakehead that lives in south thailand, malaysia and indonisia. Called a bunga, these fish are smaller than the giants and not nearly as toothy.

Blue skys, aquamarine water and the oldest jungles in the world. Montior lizard.