|This is a big mahseer caught at Galibore by guide Tomraj.|
Mahseer are a family of fish found in Asia. The mahseer of the Cauvery (Kaveri) river in South India are the largest subspecies called tor musallah. During the later years of the empire gentlemen sought out the mahseer as a sporting fish of a size and strength to rival the mighty salmon. The record mahseer was 120lb caught by Mysore taxidermist J deWet vanIngen in 1947 although there is talk of a 130lb fish taken this season. 100lb+ mahseer are very rare as local people eat them and use rather unsporting methods such a poisoning and dynamite to kill them. I heard people fishing with dynamite while visiting a natue reserve near Srirangapattnam last time out. Fishing on the Cauvery used to take place at Saad Bin Jung's Bush Betta camp and Dodamakkali, Bheemeswari & Galibore camps operated by Jungle Lodges & Resorts ltd. http://junglelodges.com/ Sadly last year a numbskull of a 'conservationist' sought and obtained a court ruling that catch 'n return mahseer fishing counts as hunting and should be banned within the conservation area. That has put a stop to fishing at Bush Betta and most of the Bheemeswari beats. This great bit of conservation will probably be disastrous to the mahseer as, without angling, there will not be any motivation to preserve the fish from poachers and many of the guides previously employed by JLR/Saad will be probably forced to return to poaching to make a living.
Prior to the widespread angling ban I had booked to fish 10 days at Bheemeswari in late November 2010 with my pal from the previous India trip Pete Carroll but was contacted by JLR and filled in on the angling ban. All but a couple beats at Bheemeswari were now out of bounds so they offered us a choice to fish Galibore instead. About 2 miles at Galibore were fishable with the far bank being the start of the 'conservation area'. Traditionally early season (season runs November to March) fishes best at Bheemeswari with Galibore coming good at season's end in the low water conditions but we took the offer of a change of venue with a couple days at Dodamakkali upstream when Galibore was full on the weekend.
A mahseer trip requires some preparation for the angler as a Visa must be obtained for India and specialist tackle must be purchased. Due to the potential of hooking a monster mahseer tackle must be strong. An uptide rod and large multiplier reel loaded with at least 200yards of 40-50lb mono is required although people do use large fixed spool reels as well. The main criteria is to be able to hold a lot of line as a big mahseer can empty out a reel with unstoppable runs of 100s of yards. I used a Shakespeare Ugly Stik 510 uptide rod and Daiwa SL40SHx multiplier. Both good kit that I'd recommend for the purpose although the rod is a bit of a brute.
|Me with my mahseer tackle and borrowed cricket hat.|
I'd been keeping a close eye on the weather leading up to the trip and was a bit worried that the river would still be very high after the monsoon. It had not really ever stopped raining although monsoon is supposed to end September/October. As we finally came round a bend to see the Kaveri river for the first time my fears were confirmed. It was a muddy brown colour and did not look at all like the river I had seen in pictures. That was a clear rock-strewn river but what I saw was a brown torrent without any visible rocks at all. I was prepared for disappointment as it does not do to go mahseer fishing expecting to catch one. Many people go for years without getting a large one.
View Galibore fishing camp in a larger map
Upon arriving at Galibore camp (a couple miles up a track from Sangam) at lunchtime I was shown to my accomodation. The camp consists of a few buildings for the functions and numerous staff, a mess tent pagoda type thing and a dozen or so 'tents' which are on platforms with a proper roof above. The camp is pleasantly shaded by large trees and is pretty sympathetic to the environment being hard to see from any distance away.
The camp is along the Kaveri river with a small (bigger under 'normal' conditions) 'beach' at front. I was in number 2 tent one from the end which was basic but adequate with a block at the back with shower/basin and proper sit down flush toilet. Hot water comes from a tank thing with burning logs under it and can be provided by a bloke on request. Once I'd found the log thing I fetched my own to save time. Anybody considering a trip to India needs to be prepared to be flexible as things usually do not happen when/how you expect them to. Much amusement was had over breakfast after each morning's fishing session as we guessed which of the components of breakfast would arrive when or not at all. We kept it simple by having omelette, fried tomatoes, chips and toast every day but only on one magical morning when I was having breakfast alone did all the food arrive at the same time and with the necessary cold bottle of kingfisher beer. Pete and terry did not beleive me when they arrived later and normal service was resumed the following morning as the beer came warm and the other things arrived individually with gaps of up to 30 minutes between 'courses'.
|Chez moi. Number 2 tent at Galibore fishing and nature camp.|
As I was unpacking a man in the JLR uniform of green camo shirt and shorts. came over to the tent accompanied by the camp manager Vasanth. The man was BasavaRaj who was to be my gillie for the duration of my stay. I'd say he was a little older than me but shorter and quite stocky. I later discovered he had quite an impressive turn of speed. Basvaraj helped me unpack all my tackle and set up my rods and spool up my big reel with 40lb Big Game. I asked if we would be fishing the afternoon session and he replied in the affirmative.
|My man BasavaRaj. He's just caught a small mahseer on a slice of tomato and is amused.|
As I was having lunch I met the occupant of number 1 tent next door. It was another englishman and fellow angler Terry Disdale. He'd been coming mahseer fishing since way back in the 80s and was a regular at the Jungle Lodges camps having his own tackle chest which stays in India while he comes back and forth from his HQ in Richmond. Terry designs superyachts for a living and has done all the biggest and best ones for the world's richest supertycoons including Roman Abramovich's Eclipse. See here for some astonishing opulence. http://www.terencedisdale.co.uk/ I particularly like the little Lear jet. Conversation was mainly piscatorial and Terry was a very keen and hugely experienced angler as well as good company. He'd been fishing a couple days already and the news was not good. He'd not had any decent size mahseer but plenty small ones and the nuisance catfish which plague the river.
|Terry Disdale and gillie Renuka with a nice 41lb silver mahseer.|
|My first sortie on the Cauvery river. Looking downstream toward Sangam.|
|My first ever mahseer. Caught on the afternoon of day one.|
Thats about it for part 1 of the mahseer fishing adventure special. The next episode will be informative and entertaining as I describe how to fish for mahseer and relate other stories from the jungle like Rudyard Kipling. Peter Carroll arrives from Manchester with boxes of grog, luncheon meat etc to enter the fray. Difficult mahseer fishing, rum and one jammy angler make for an explosive combination in part 2 of this blockbuster DHFA special. DONT MISS IT.