Our "big day" was a day off from filming. We'd filmed seven straight
days for Chris's TV show, "Reel Outdoors" and although I love to fish and be
filmed, it changes things; most noticeably we were spooking the largest
mahseer before we got to them. It was simple, six people walking up a river
bottom disturb everything. Turned stones grinding under feet, snapped twigs
and shouting all signal to the mahseer that trouble is on the way and
although I had miraculously landed two 15lb mahseer on camera, deep inside I
knew we could do better.
At 5am we began our daily 2-mile trek to the village of Marchula. There
we drank breakfast cokes with some locals while waiting for Misty's 4 x 4
vehicle to come pick us up and take us to a location along the river. Today
we were headed to fish six miles of the Ramganga River's most remote area, a
part bordering Corbett's National Tiger Reserve that never gets fished!
Instead of fishing together, Chris went fishing with his camera crew guided by Misty. I was fishing alone; alone meaning, with my non-English speaking guide Alum. The plan was to fish all six miles. Chris and group would be dropped off at the top and fish down to the bottom, while I would ride the 4 x 4 to the bottom and fish to the top. The jeep would wait at the bottom until Chris arrived at 2pm, then they would drive back up river to get me at the top at 3pm. Somewhere along the way we would cross paths and have lunch together. The beautiful reality was that we each would have three miles of virgin water to fish.
The drive to the river was rugged. By the time we dropped off Chris it was already 7am and because the 4 x 4 track loops well away from the river to my drop off point, it took easily another hour. I'd been chomping at the bit to fish since 3am but unfortunately my stiff body hoisted itself from the back of the 4 x 4 at 8am. Finally I began to stalk my way upstream.
The Ramganga was the clearest it had been since we arrived. I could see bottom 6ft down, which was excellent although many of these pools are more than 10ft deep. I moved cautiously upstream remaining some 50ft back from the river's edge trying to spot a mahseer.
To describe this river, imagine a spectacular trout stream about 50 ft
across, but instead of cold water it's actually hot. Picture a class 1-2
rapid for about 100ft that plunges into a gorgeous deep pool, which then
runs for another 300ft. Then it turns sharply and the same happens again.
Its banks consist of large rocks sheltering bottomless pools. Above them on
both sides of the river is jungle containing vast thickets and tall trees
shooting high into the sky. In most of these trees, red faced and langur
monkeys go about their business while many types of deer and wild boar dig
for fruits and nuts below. On rare occasions, leopards and tigers ruin the
Soon I spotted the first mahseer of the day and it was a good one based on my previous seven days experience, it appeared slightly larger than the 15 pounders I had already caught. I belly-crawled into position just upstream of the fish and cast down and across the current with a size 6 brown sculpin pattern. When the fly landed, the mahseer slid down 10ft from its original location. It didn't appear spooked but instead was studying my fly. In an instant, as the fly barely began to swing, the huge golden fish surged forward and engulfed it. Knowing today was a special day, I was not at all surprised when the fish was on.
My stealthy crawl 50ft across treacherous rocks to get in position to cast to the mahseer had my knees and back burning and now hooked up, I was delighted to stand and relieve my pain. But there was no time for a stretch because my quarry, after a frightening headshake on the surface, was bolting downstream with authority. By now Alum was screaming in Hindu and although I don't know a lick, I knew exactly what he was telling me - "DON'T F. . . UP!"
I didn't plan on it! With the utmost concentration, I battled the huge golden mahseer up and down the pool. For the most part I had the fish under control. It was only for about one minute that my heart dropped as the fish seemed to be sawing my tippet on a rock. Realizing this, I gambled by pulling with maximum pressure against the fish from downstream, lifting his head away from the rock and causing him to do a backward somersault. Twelve minutes into the fight I saw the immense fish; it was well over 20 lbs!
With little fight left, I steered the mighty golden to the shallows. Like I have done with huge fish in the past, I dropped my rod and corralled the impressive animal with a bear hug. He was 47" and topped my Boga grip at 27 lbs!
Northern India - Ramganga River
"Wait till you get a load of this!"
The jungle was noisy at 3am on Friday May 30, 2008 as we were camped on the banks of the Ramganga River in Northern India. Our group consisted of friends, Misty Dhillon, owner of the Himalayan Outback and Chris Bailey and his camera crew from Reel Outdoors TV here in the USA. We also had a camp staff consisting of 11 members. These wonderful folks cooked our meals, maintained our tents, guided us and took charge of our overall safety from May 20 until June 3.
The sounds that woke me were a combination of things. There were falling rocks caused by the neighborhood mountain goats living on a cliff across the river and a nearby herd of barking deer, likely disturbed by a passing leopard on the hillside behind us. But best of all were the splashes of feeding golden mahseer in the camp pool, one easily over 20-pounds!
It was my own animal instincts that told me to go about my business. So even though it was 3am, I did. With my headlamp on, I took my already rigged 8-weight rod and gave it a once over. I replaced its old leader and with a new 10ft for 17.6lb RIO. Then I added 3ft of 13.2lb tippet. This gave me a long leader to approach the largest mahseer in the crystal clear pools of the Ramganga River. I did the same with my 10-weight, organized my flies and by 4:30am, when our daily wake-up call came and the others struggled to open their eyes, I was ready to start fishing.
Instead of messing around camp, I simply grabbed a cup of instant coffee, stuffed my pack with 3 hard boiled eggs and rolled myself 3 chapattis with peanut butter. Then I told the boys to get a move on it because we had a big day planned. I didn't want to be a minute late!