Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Carry on up the Jungle. Mahseer fishing in Coorg March 2012. Part II

In Carry on up the Jungle part II I meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.  Part II takes us into the weekend where Peter and I would be fending for ourselves as Joe returned to Mysore for the weekend and fishing on the golden mile is suspended.  In week 2 I try lure fishing for mahseer with mixed results, battle with Peter in Turtlemania! 2012, and a great time is had by all except Dinesh.

Read part 1 here

Saturday.  Turtlemania!

After a drinky Friday night we arose later than usual as we would not be fishing the golden mile.  Instead Joe was heading back to Mysore for the weekend and Pete & myself would relocate to nearby Kushalnagar until Monday morning.  Fishing was still very much on the menu however.  Saturday morning was the UK regional Turtlemania fishing match.  Turtlemania! began in early 2010 at Saad Bin Jung's Bison resort on the Kabini dam when elite anglers thwarted by the Cauvery fishing ban held a gentleman's fishing match with breakfast.   It was modelled on the Colwyn Bay bass festival where no bass were caught by any of the 100s of competititors and the prize winner decided by a raffle.  This ended in a 0-0 draw between the 6 competitors as no fish were caught.  At all.  After a whole day.  Pete and I must have topped the world turtlemania rankings as we both had a bite.

Photos from Turtlemanias past can be seen on my Flickr here...




The venue for Turtlemania! 2012 regionals was the pool right in front of the cottage.  It turned out to be perfect for the event as it contained very few fish.  It was to be a short match ending at 12:00.  Pete had made some groundbait out of ragi flour, sweetcorn & vanilla essence which he kindly let me use as well.  We got into position, tackled up and started fishing hard.  Pete had I think 2 method feeder rods out and I went with one method setup on carp rod and a light bomb setup on my barbel rod for casting about seeking bites.
Hookbaits used were sweetcorn (real and imaginary), ragi & 10mm boilies.
And it turned out to be a classic Turtlemania! living up to the event's reputation as the hardest fishing match in the world. The world of Turtlemania! was then turned on its head when Peter caught a fish about an hour from the end which, although within the laws, is hardly in the spirit of Turtlemania!  Up until then the contest had proceeded in the usual genteel style with competitors sharing bait, spraying each other's (ragi) balls and blanking together.  With that fish Turtlemania lost its innocence and an era came to an end.

Mahseer about 1.5lb. The fish that sent shockwaves through Turtlemania!.
The excitement didn't end there.  I had a decent bite that I missed on the barbel rod earlier and was lamenting this in the final minutes of the match when my method feeder rod went off in a screaming run.  I struck manfully seeing the prize within my grasp and felt a fish momentarily as my hook length broke at the loop knot.  I'd never had that happen before and this was the worst possible time for it to happen.  The imaginary hooter sounded and Peter Carroll became the first ever Turtlemania! winner, qualifying for International Turtlemania! next morning with Vijay from Bangalore.  I got a wild card into the International on compassionate grounds because I was crying.

Back at the cottage we arranged with Baby for him to bait up today and gillie for us on Sunday morning. packed up our bags and tackle and met up again with Pete's driver Santosh who took us to the posh Amanvana resort to meet up with Pete's mate Vijay from Bangalore who was a recent convert to the joys of fishing and was meeting his cousin/sister in-law(?) who was down on business in the area before competing in World Turtlemania! Sunday morning.


 We enjoyed a few drinks at the bar by the pool and I found Vijay and the lady, who's name I forget, to be very charming.  They even invited us back for dinner which we gratefully accepted.  It turned out not to be quite the paradise on earth as the barman had gone on holiday(?!) on this Holi weekend and nobody could locate any gin.  We eventually joined in drinking Bacardi Breezers amid much joking about exploring our sexualities.  The breezers were lent manly toughness by having actual rum added.
As well as our sexualities we explored where the Cauvery runs at the bottom of the hotel grounds but gave up before finding the river proper.
We were driven to 4 Seasons homestay in Kushalnagar where we had rooms booked for Saturday & Sunday night. It is nicely just off the main street in Kushalnagar far enough to be quiet.  It took a while to find the hotel as Pete had booked and paid for it on the 3G internet dongle that Joe had lent him for use at the cottage but had no record of the address.  Naturally the laptop battery was flat so we had to stop at an internet cafe to plug it in.  Coming down the stairs from the internet cafe I was saddened to see evidence of heroin abuse in Kushalnagar in the form of needles and syringes.
There followed the typical Indian activity of getting lost and following hopeless directions offered by passers by.  I think, In India, it must be considered bad form not to offer directions to a traveller asking for them as you will always get directions of some kind.  Even if the person offering them has absolutely no idea how to get there.


I'd recommend it the 4 Season to anyone looking for a place to stay in Kushalnagar.  The lady was really nice and the ensuite rooms were clean and comfortable.  We got cleaned up and changed and then back to Amanvana for a decent dinner with respectably cold beer.  I had my first taste of the dry and very peppery coorg pork curry which was rather good.  In fact it gave us a bit of a thirst and I was glad of the complementary big bottle of water provided back at 4 seasons in the morning after drinking gallons of beer/manly breezers with dinner.
Vijay was a good guy and very keen on his angling and had been learning the british ways from Matt Hayes etc on youtube and from that other celebrity angler Peter Carroll.  To be honest Indian sport fishing is decades behind Europe.  I think the whole concept of fishing as sport or hobby is new.  Decent tackle is almost impossible to come by.  Apparently there is only one tackle shop in Bangalore (population 8.5 million) and that isn't very good.  Dynamite, however is less than a pound a stick, easy to obtain and is used to great effect by those who fish for food/profit.

Sunday.  International Turtlemania! & beer odyssey.

Next day was International Turtlemania and we drove down to Dubare elephant camp where we had arranged to meet Vijay.  He was keen to get started early but in fine India style we arrived about an hour late as we had to pick up Baby who was our guide and had all the bait with him.  We met him and then he disappeared off to his house to get the bait for what seemed like an age leaving us in the car getting frustrated.  If you're one of those people who aren't happy when things don't happen when and how you want them to then India is probably not for you.

Eventually we were all present and correct at Dubare and we made our way to one of the spots Baby had allegedly baited up the previous day.  Pete was installed here with all the tackle and bait he was likely to need - except a landing net.  Vijay, Baby, myself and the 2 drivers made our way round to another swim and I cast in the big rod to where Baby indicated the bait had been introduced.  Vijay did likewise.   And then nothing happened at all for ages.  This was where having driver/servants came in handy as I sent Santosh back a couple times to get extra tackle from the car and ended up fishing the barbel rod as well and casting it around with smaller baits on looking for bites.  I had the feeling that world turtlemania would probably be settled by a small fish rather than a proper mahseer.  We fished all morning and even waded across a shallow part of the river to fish the far bank where we had spotted fish rushing at scraps thrown in from the Jungle Lodges Elephant camp.
Elephant camp is where quite a few of the local wild elephants had escaped from.  Apparently there was a particularly naughty tusker called Jean-Francois (?!) who was a midget about 1/3 the size of a normal bull elephant but with all the hormones.  His lack of size meant he never got any play with lady elephants causing him to become a real bastard who regularly caused trouble for the local people.   A bit like some small men like Napoleon/Phil Collins etc.   I found the presence of naughty elephants slightly worrying but we were protected at the cottage by the regular visits of this dog.

This dog will scrap an elephant.

Apparently he actually goes for elephants and will bite at its legs until it goes away or kills him.  He certainly looked strong and had the teeth for it.  The dog and his mrs would come around at least once a day and usually at mealtimes getting spoiled rotten by Joe.

To cut a long story short it was a return to the classic Turtlemania format of all 3 competitors having masala dosa breakfast, catching absolutely nothing and the contest ending with a 0-0-0 draw.
Baby was not inclined to take us to a secret lake we were trying to find so fishing ended for the day at lunchtime.
Pete and I had a couple beers in the upstairs parlour at the cafe at Dubare and this precipitated us into one of the hardest pub crawls I have been on.  We decided to see Madikeri, the principal town of Coorg (Kodagu) and Santosh drove us there with only one incident.  The road had been steadily rising into the Western Ghats and lorries were moving very slowly.  As we approached Madikeri the road began to level out and it was possible to exceed 40Km hr.  In fact I saw my first ever Indian speed limit sign which indicated that that we shouldn't do that.  The sign looked a bit temporary.  Around the next bend we encountered my first ever cutting edge Indian speed trap.  Just about everybody was getting pulled with Santosh being no exception.  He went off to talk to the police and came back with a demand for 300Rs (about £4) to pay the fine.  I jokingly asked for a receipt and actually got one.  It a much better type of speed trap than the anonymous rubbish ones in the UK.  Santosh got a full colour printout of his crime with speed readings and a photo of the car exceeding 40.

Eventually we entered the hill station town of Madikeri which was quite nice.  I got this scenic shot of the lovely countryside around about.
Beautiful Coorg.
By this time we had a raging thirst and had to continue the cycle of  beer - driving - thirsty - beer.  Getting a cold beer in Karnataka is not as easy as it should be.  Local alkis frequent 'wine shops' which can be a bit rough so we tried to stick to respectable hotels & restaurants but finding one that served drink necessitated visiting at least 3 before getting served.  Eventually we had beer and lunch at West End restaurant in Madikeri that even had something of a view.  Our waiter was splendid old gentleman who amused me greatly when Pete asked for Kingfisher Strong but he told us they only had Kingfisher 'plain' (Premium)

Pete replete at the West End Madikeri.
The raging thirst that comes on a while after after a few beers can only really be satisfied by more beer so we decided to pub crawl back to Kushalnagar.  This was not easy.  Although there are numerous resorts signposted on the road from Madikeri to Kushalnagar most of them do not serve alcohol.

Find out more about wonderful Coorg here.

When we finally found somewhere to serve us beer and snacks it was a slightly faded resort among the plantations and jungle which I wish I could remember the name of.  It had a few local guests and an ace games room with a 2/3 size snooker table!  The cloth was buggered and the cues had no tips but we managed to have a fun game of billiards which I won.  Revenge for snatching Turtlemania defeat from the jaws of victory.  As we smoked out on the veranda a local family with a couple little girls approached us, introduced themselves and started conversation.  Having a knowledge of cricket is always useful when chatting to Indians and we discussed Rahul Dravid's retirement and the relative merits of England and India's cricket teams among other things.  They were lovely people and the Dad even invited to show us a secret fishing lake & back to their house for a bite to eat but we could see that taking a long time and leaving us in beer withdrawal again so we politely declined.
On with the beer crawl.  It got very difficult indeed and we were forced to resort to a 'wine shop' after driving past several of them.  Naturally the wine shops stopped appearing along the route at this point and we eventually got beers in a less grotty than average one in one of the villages along the route.
Harangi reservoir.

We diverted from the main road looking for another signposted resort and found 'Coorg Jungle Camp' which was quite smart and located on the shores of a sizeable dam (Harangi Reservoir).

  No beer was forthcoming but the guy who had previously held some sort of top job in Bangalore told us of how good the fishing wasn't.  'You'd need a net'.  Was his advice.
After stopping by the Golden Temple Buddhist temple and getting no beer it was getting late, we were lost as usual and I had a severe case of 'Wembley head' where heavy drinking followed by enforced abstinence leaves one feeling wretched hungover and irritable.  We were eventually directed to Parumpara resort where we would be assured of beer.  It took ages to find and when we got there the gates were closed and the armed guard wanted to tax us 1000 just to get in there.  I may have been rude to him at this point but there was no alternative source of refreshment.  It turned out that the 1000Rs was redeemable against the final bill so we entered and made our way through the grounds to the bar/restaurant/cabaret area for an unforgettable evening of song, dance, food and rum.


After a couple of beers our spirits were restored and the amazing local cabaret was beginning in front of a bewildered audience of Peter, myself and two little boys about 7 or 8 years old.  At first I thought it was a Coorg's got Talent type of event but it became evident that these were professional entertainers.  There was a couple of pretty ordinary songs by young men singers accompanied by a backing track and a guy on the keyboard.  The keyboard player was hilarious as he would chip in with a couple of chords at random intervals and then stop and look despairingly heavenwards with a brilliant  'for f%cks sake!'  expression on his face.  It was all a lot like the brilliant auditions at the end of each episode of Peter Kay's fantastic comedy of northern 'clubland' Phoenix Nights.  The show got more elaborate as it went along and a few more guests began to join the audience.  Presumably after charging down a lot of Johnnie Walker Black Label in their cabins in the well-off Indian holiday style.

It aint harf hot mum.

There were comedy skits, more dancing including an attractive (through my jungle fever beer goggles) female actress.  None of this made any sense at all being performed in Kannada (the language of Karnataka) but we were thoroughly entertained and baffled in equal measure. The highlight for me was what I can only describe as a human musical Punch & Judy show.  Some sort of courtship/love story was played out in song and dance with the guys having big bamboo sticks and chasing the lady around or beating each other.
The show finished off with some audience participation as guests of all ages were dragged up on stage for a bit of dancing.  By the end of the show I was full of food, drunk and very happy in stark contrast to how miserable I was when it started.

Monday 12th March.  Domestic problems and I do a Putin.  

A fairly early start saw Peter and I off with Santosh to return to the cottage for another 4 days of fishing with Joe.  I checked with Joe that he'd be there and he was just arriving from Mysore.  This is how good he was to us.  Only BSNL mobiles work down at the cottage and fishing area and Joe lent one each to me and Pete for the whole stay so we could all keep in touch with home and each other.
As we approached the cottage Joe came out in his 4wd Mahindra Bolero truck to get us as the road was too rough for Santosh's normal car.  The familiar drive back though coffee plantation with the air thick with the smell of the blossoms was spoiled a little by the news that Rajinder & Dinesh, our Nepalese servants, had deserted us.
We got back to find that the cheeky lads had wasted no time after we departed in buggering off for the holiday weekend.  They hadn't even cleared up after lunch or changed the beds.  I had to sweep up our room myself for goodness sake.  This was a bit naughty as they were being paid to stay over the weekend, look after the cottage and continue baiting up the fishing swims with ragi.  Poor old Joe was having to cook up the ragi bait for today's fishing himself.  He was not amused especially with Dinesh who was a useless kid at the best of times.  Poor Dinesh had transgressed for the last time and was now to be fired off if he ever returned.  Not nice but fair considering he was supposed to be the cook and the only person he ever cooked for was himself.  He ate and slept all day letting Raj do all the work & cook for us and then kept Raj up all night talking.  Nobody was looking forward to firing him as he looked pretty hard.  Like a Gurkha but bigger.
Eventually Joe, Pete and I made it out for a morning fishing session without any help apart from Baby.  The session was typically unproductive and we went back to the cottage for lunch intending to head back out about 15:30.
Somehow we managed to get some food together and the 2 miscreants crept back in looking completely knackered at about 14:00.  Dinesh cooked himself some grub and went to sleep leaving a very sheepish Raj to come out for the afternoon session with Baby again.  He looked utterly miserable and I think he was expecting to get fired off himself for deserting us.

The afternoon session was on the 'Forbidden Zone' as usual.  We had settled into a pattern of fishing Croc pool first thing and then Pete would settle down on the comfortable monster pool swim next door for the rest of the session while I would go down to the 'tree' and beach swims for a few casts returning to fish monster and croc at the end.  The last hour between 17-18:00 seemed to produce the most action.
Seeing as I had been getting more fish it was Pete's honour to have first cast into the gap at Crocodile pool.  Raj or Baby (probably Baby as Raj was falling asleep after his big weekend) fired out the balls and Pete cast accurately in onto the baited area.  Sadly the moment of an on-the-drop take has not been filmed but here's a short film of how we do the baiting/casting in part at Croc pool.

First cast in Pete's bait was nailed by a cheeky 18lb mahseer that he hooked and played out expertly.  Raj even woke up to net the fish.

That disturbance meant Croc was not going to be worth fishing again for an hour or so I wandered up with Baby to the tree for a few casts.  It might seems a little dull to those who have never done it but this fishing is always magic for me.  It is exciting to be in such a strange and beautiful place.  Everything is different to fishing  in England.  There are the sounds of strange insects and birds filling the air and the birds are all different to home.  There is a kingfisher the same colour scheme as the european one but they are the size of blackbirds.  I saw birds of paradise, Eagles and Brahminy kites, a hornbill,  parrots and flocks of mynah birds.  On the ground we saw the crocodile, several elephants, mongooses etc.  Best of all. No bastard monkeys.  I saw 3 or four once on the far bank and never any on our side.

Nothing came my way and I ended up back at Croc pool for the last hour.  As I recall it was first cast in over the balls that got me an on-the-drop take which I managed to connect with and a decent fish ran off downstream for a fairly short distance against the strong tackle.  There was a branch in the water a short distance out which caused some worries as, after gaining some line back I could feel the line grating on the wood.  This branch had been dragged out by Joe a week or two previously but had been chucked back in by some mischief maker.

See the fish captured here.

Readers with a strong stomach will notice that I am not wearing a shirt.  This is partly due to the S Indian heat but also as homage to that other topless fishing hard man and international player. Vladimir Putin.
My fish are better but he could have me killed.  Call it a draw.
Here's my fish.  It weighed 28lb and put up a pretty decent scrap.

Tuesday 13th.  Lure fishing day

Morning session we were to try a new spot where local intelligence told of a 50lb fish being taken on a lure recently.  All local intelligence was taken with a pinch of salt but we were up for a change as the 'forbidden zone' didn't seem to fish very well in the morning.
I had read that mahseer are highly predatory and can be taken on lures and had carried spinning tackle on the last 2 expeditions to India without getting an opportunity to try it out on mahseer.  I fish for pike at home only with lures and have a decent range of them in the garage.  We brought the usual bait fishing equipment and I tackled up the Savage Gear Bushwhacker spinning rod with 30lb power pro braid on the Shimano Super-GT 4000 reel.  This is a decent strong outfit capable of dealing with large pike (my best pike) and I thought that I could probably handle mahseer up to 20lb on it.
Joe drove Peter, myself and Raj out to the spot which was very pleasant with a rocky promontory projecting out into the deep water and separating two nice looking pools. As usual there was no discernable flow.  We fired a few balls in and cast out the usual large ragi balls on the big rods.  There were fish rising in both pools and it looked like quite a useful place.  There was also evidence of small bait fish being chased around by predators and this excited the lure fisherman in me such that I quickly abandoned the bait rod into Pete's capable hands and set up my spinning kit.  No need for wire traces for mahseer as they have no teeth in the mouth at all.  I tied on a #5 copper Vibrax spinner and went out to the extremity of the rocky point for an exploratory spin where I could cast into both pools.  Everything you read says that big mahseer destroy the standard hooks that lures are sold with so I naturally left these on the spinner as I was lazy and slightly scared of breaking my rod on a big mahseer.  After a few casts I had a hit but no hookup and was getting more and more sweaty and excited.  Another couple casts and another great pull, this time hooking something  lively about 2 or rod lengths out.  I could tell it was not big but it was strong and fast in its runs.  I got it just close enough to see down into the water through my hideous clip on polaroids and made out that it was a mahseer about 3-4lb and hooked in the side.  It gave a blistering run and the lure pinged back with a hook point bent straight.  Lesson learned I changed the hook for a 4x strong Mustad one.  I had another follow from a 6-8lb fish before moving on round the second pool where I tried spoons and a rubber Dragon Reno Killer on a jighead with a 4x strong stinger hook.  I was casting to fish that showed themselves at the surface but had no more luck.  What with the constant casting and clambering about I was getting very hot and dehydrated in the heat so I began to work back towards where Pete was.  I had a quick drink of water from base camp and then climbed out  to the point once more.  The sun was beating down on the water (and me) but the shadow of the far bank trees was just in casting range from the point.  I have great faith in the Salmo Executor plug (see pic) and have caught several pike to mid double figures on them.  I had a 9cm dace copy and a 12 cm roach version.  I swapped the belly hook on the 9cm plug for a strong mustad hook which had the effect of almost sinking the floating plug so left the flimsy tail hook in place hoping that it might impede the progress of the lure out of a fish's mouth enough for the big hook to get in somewhere.  Normally these plugs run about 3-4 feet down but with the big hook I estimated about 7 foot running depth.  Sometimes attaching a heavy hook can kill the action of a lure but the executor still had plenty of wiggle on a relatively slow retrieve.

Casting over to the edge of the shade I cranked the plug down to full depth and WHACK.  It was attacked and the rod bent right round as a fish wrenched line off the clutch.  I gave it a big strike just to set the hook in and started into a fantastic fight which had the fish running all over the place and me laughing dementedly like John Wilson.  I don't know how long the fish was on for but it was tremendous fun and I had to shout out for Raj to wake up and scamper out onto the point to net it for me.  As the fish (estimated 10lb) finally came over the net I saw that it was hooked badly somewhere in the head and this really took the shine off a great capture.  I asked Raj to take it in the net back to where Pete was sat (silently cursing my spawn!).  I got my pliers and forceps out ready to operate to remove the hook and, with some apprehension turned the fish over to see the damage.  I felt awful when I saw the big hook protruding from the fish's eye socket with the small hook nicked in the large lip.  I thought I must have surely blinded the poor thing but, on closer inspection it turned out to be a very lucky fish.  2 points of the big treble were jammed in the eye socket giving an excellent hook hold but neither point had actually penetrated the eye itself.  I carefully removed the hook with pliers and the fish looked none the worse for it and swam off strongly afterwards.
My first mahseer on a lure.  Not big but enormous fun.
Peter was still quite cynical about my lure fishing skills so I immediately waded out half way back to where that fish was hooked and cast in again.  The plug was seized off the top before I even cranked it down to working depth and a dinky 2lb mahseer was quickly subdued and shaken off the hook.
 Tuesday's lunch break was a little fraught as Baby was brought in with his linguistic skills (He spoke Hindi as well as Kannada and some English) to help Joe in the unpleasant business of firing off Dinesh and explaining to him why he was no longer required.  Its never nice to see someone put out of a job but Dinesh should have paid more attention to actually doing his job instead of eating like a horse and sleeping all day.  It wasn't fair that he let Rajinder do all the work.  He did come back the next day, ostensibly to collect his things, but it seemed he hadn't got the message as he made himself some grub and didn't take his stuff when he was ordered off.  His bag was packed for him and presented to him as he trudged all forlorn up the track through the coffee.
The afternoon session was to be back on the golden mile.  Encouraged by the spinning successes of the morning I brought the lure fishing outfit again.   To cut a long story short, not much happened that afternoon with all the usual swims being targeted with bait as normal.  While not getting a bite at 'the tree' I decided to try a larger plug on the spinning outfit and carefully tied on a 12cm Salmo Executor in Real Roach pattern.  I crept out under the overhanging tree and cast out through into the clear water where the sun was on the surface.   Second cast I was about 1/3 of the way through the retrieve when the plug was assaulted by a proper fish.  It was all over in a a split second but luckily Joe was witness to it.  The rod (on which I have easily dealt with a 25lb+ pike) bent double in an instant.  My arm was dragged down towards the water by the most ferocious bite I have ever had and the 30lb braid was snapped like cotton by the force of the take.  For those who are not familiar with fishing line 30lb braid is very strong.  I have straightened out many hooks and dragged out big logs which would take several men to lift with it in the past.  Chastened, I crept back to the heavy bait rod knowing that some pretty specialised spinning tackle & at least 60lb braid would be required to take on proper mahseers in future.  The use of braid is generally frowned upon in the Cauvery due to the many rocks and snags but 50lb monofilament is just no good at all.  I tried using a medium sized Live Target Herring swimbait on Joe's sailfish setup but the heavy mono tied direct completely killed the action of the lure.
Back at camp that evening Joe produced some wild boar meat that he had procured in Mysore and Raj completely redeemed himself by making us a fantastic Coorg pork and pepper curry.  Beer - dinner - rum - bed.

Wednesday 14th March.  Light tackle comedy & a new best mahseer.

Wednesday Morning was another new venue not far from where we had fished the previous morning.  It was a nice swim with water from 7-15 feet and and an island with shallows around immediately downstream.  The bank behind where we set up was a very steep 8 foot drop which Joe had arranged a local guy to cut into steps to make access easier/possible for larger anglers such as Peter.  These were called Saint Peter's steps.
The lack of bites/success we were having in the mornings generally led us both to try fishing a second lighter setup as well as the 'big' ragi rod.  Pete went with a 3lb TC carp rod and 15lb Daiwa sensor line with a smaller blob of ragi for bait on a 4/0 hook and I went with the lures again.  After yesterday's experiences I had loaded on a full 200 yards of brand new 30lb power pro.  First to see action of a sort was me with my lures.  I was using a no2 Mepps Lusox spinner (a terrific pike lure) with an upgraded double strength Owner st41 treble hook.  Casting down towards the island was a high-risk tactic as there were bits of fallen tree showing above the water in places but it looked 'fishy' down there so I did it anyway.  BANG!  Another very strong take bent the rod over but a strike resulted in the lure coming out of the fish and back towards me rather quickly.  The hook had been crushed & looked like this.
heavy hook munched

That was done by the muscles and pharyngeal teeth found at the back of a mahseer's throat (Or possibly a huge murrel).  The force that they generate back there is quite incredible.  I would need two pairs of pliers to produce such deformation in a strong hook like that.   This actually made me feel better about getting smashed up the day before and leaving a big crankbait in that fish.  Whatever it was would have easily munched up the plug & hooks and got rid of it.  I changed the hook on the lusox for one of the 4x strong ones and carried on but soon got snagged on an underwater branch and lost the spinner.
Next up for some light tackle comedy was Pete.  He had a good bite on the carp rod and struck, hooking a decent fish of some kind.  The fish then swam off fairly slowly downstream taking about 100 yards of line off without being in the least inconvenienced by Peter being on the other end of it.  It just went and went and went.  Sadly it got into a snag up some way downstream toward the island and refused to budge.  Rajinder stripped down to his pants and went in after it and so did Joe.  Eventually the hook was freed from the snag but the fish had long gone.  Pete reeled in to find my lost Lusox spinner attached to his hook.  Extraordinary.

Lunch was some excellent things called mo-mos which are a sort of Nepalese ravioli with minced chicken and onions, garlic etc inside.  The pasta was freshly made from scratch by Joe with a proper pasta machine.  They were even nice fried up as a starter at dinnertime.  I had trouble getting out for the afternoon session as I'd eaten so many I could barely move.

Afternoon session was back at the 'Forbidden Zone' as usual.  We tried Croc pool without any joy and then moved next door to monster pool for a quick cast.  It was just Pete, Joe, Raj and myself so Raj stayed at Monster to assist Peter while Joe and I made our way down upstream to the tree swim.  We were travelling light so just brought my kit, chairs and one landing net.  The weighing kit was left behind with the plan being that somebody would go back and get it in the unlikely event that I caught anything worth weighing.
Following the usual procedure Joe fired out 4 or 6 hard ragi balls and I cast the hookbait containing the same lucky 8/0 hook that had landed all of my fish accurately among where the balls had landed.  I stopped the line on the spool and closed the bail arm as soon as the ball hit the water.  Fishing with a fixed spool reel is so much easier than handling a multiplier.  You need to cast reasonably accurately in this situation and you really do not want a birds nest on your hands when a big mahseer hits.  I tightened down to the weight and waited anxiously as the bait sank Titanic-like through the water column.  JAWS-like a mahseer hammered it about 10 feet down and, as the line went taught, I struck hard into the fish.  The fish took off strongly downstream fairly predictably and I hung tight on as the line was stripped against the clutch.  Not a long run this time and as it began to slow I struck another couple of times to really set the hook. This fish felt at least as big as the previous 2 40 pounders but was not up for a long run downstream.  This one was a bit more sneaky and started heading into the near bank after a few short bids for freedom, probably to look for a snag in which to divest itself of the hook.  I gained some line but began to feel that awful grating indicating that the line was through, around or under something hard.  I could still feel the fish but neither me nor it could take much line.   God bless Joe.  With no other options to free the fish he got down to his shorts and down the steep and crumbling bank  into the crocodile infested river.  He swam out to where the line was entering the water under the large overhanging tree and began rummaging around with feet and hands while treading water.  It was hooked up around a rock apparently so I kept pressure on to hopefully keep the hook in the fish until Joe managed to free the line and the fish swam free but still attached.  Not a lot of fight remained in the fish and I was able to bring it under control easily with the strong tackle.  I had to clamber down closer to the water myself to hand Joe the busted landing net which he had to use with both hands as one of the arms was coming off the handle.   Soon the fish was subdued and came up on the surface allowing me to guide it towards the net.  At the second attempt it was in and we could see that it was a good fish around the same size as the other two 40s.
We now had the problem of what to do with it.  we couldn't really lift it our or carry it anywhere with the broken net so Joe was to stay in the water and nurse the fish while I ran(!) back to croc pool to fetch the weigh sling and scales.  Given the choice I would have stayed in the river with the fish and taken my chances with the crocodile but Joe was already in there so I had to run.  A distance of about half a mile each way.  This is an awful long way for someone in my condition and with a heavy lunch on board.  I used my own style of  jungle running which is a slightly faster version of a shambling walk.
I arrived at croc very out of breath and gasped out the news of the capture and heard of  before going for the final jog back with the equipment.  The fish was in a lot better shape than me when I collapsed back at the tree where the mahseer was transferred to the secure weigh sling which I wearily carried to the gully swim for weighing and photography after helping Joe up out of the river.
I wasn't looking forward to being in a photo as the beer perspiration was almost spraying off me.  The fish tipped the scales at a new personal best of 43lbs and looked like this.

The author modelling a 43lb mahseer while having a heart attack 
I was very happy indeed with that.  After we had relaxed and dried off in the sun for a few minutes over a smoke we headed back to see how Peter and Raj were getting on.  I think Pete may have had a small fish but the big news was that I was a massive jammy choot.

Thursday 15th March.  A final blank.

Thursday was the last day of fishing so we made sure to be up and out early and fish it hard.  Morning was spent at St Peters steps where StPeter himself managed to scratch out a very small mahseer on a waggler.  Poor old Raj had to go in to land even that one as it went through a submerged tree.
Afternoon was business as usual in the forbidden zone.  First chuck at Croc pool we decided to try and show off for the camera and do a video hoping to get simultaneous on the drop mahseers and become internet celebrities.  At the back of our minds we had the issue of how it would work if Pete and I really did hook two and mayhem ensued.  For the sake of the fans we decided to go ahead and cast in simultaneously.  I was stationed nearest to the gap between the islands an decided to try and land it right between them so as to give plenty of room for Pete's bait to land just downstream.  Joe started the camera rolling and on three we both cast in over the top of all the ragi balls that had been hurled in.  It probably looked good on camera up until I swore as I realised mine was way too close to the nearest island.  The bait landed just past it but the breeze took the loose line through the little bush at the tip of the near island.   I tried to reel in quick and whip the hook through but it snagged on the bush.  It was stuck fast and I had to wrap the line round myself and walk backwards to break out of the bush.  No mean feat on 50lb line.  I was very sad to lose that 8/0 Gamakatsu octopus hook as it was my 'lucky hook' on which I had caught all of my fish.  I was looking forward to bringing it home as a souvenir and having it made into a paperweight or something..
All this slapstick effectively cleared the swim of fish so Joe and I went up and fished all the swims up to the beach while Pete set about building up a swim in Monster pool.
The fish just didn't seem to want their ragi that day as, although we saw good fish topping everywhere, I could not get a bite in all the old familiar places.
Ending the session and the whole expedition back at Croc we did fish on about 20 mins past the 6pm close as it was the final day.  Staying later than that would have been cheeky and also meant a dodgy walk back in the dark.  I was on that 'last cast' and really praying for something to happen and actually believing that it could when the only bite of the day for anybody happened.  Without any warning my baitrunner buzzed as the line shot out in a classic and unmissable mahseer bite.  I was so wound up that there was no delay as I pounced like a tiger, picked up the rod, disengaging the baitrunner, and struck like cobra.  - Into thin air.  The fish must have eaten the ragi and spat the hook in about 2 seconds.  With a thrilling finale that pretty much summed up mahseer angling, the fishing was at an end.
I'd had more than my share of luck so was able to look philosophically upon that last miss and reflect upon what a brilliant fishing adventure it had been.  With 3 fish over 40lb to my name I knew that I'd been lucky but I had fished pretty well only missing a few on the drop hits and not losing any fish once hooked.  All of this down to the brilliant help & sage guidance from Joe and the lads.  I'm also very happy to say that all the fish we caught went back in good shape thanks to the excellent fish care practiced by Joe, Baby & Raj.

Back at the bungalow we should have packed up our tackle and bags for the next day but instead we had a final great dinner and got pissed right up.

Friday 16th. Departure.

It was to be a long trip back to Bangalore to stay overnight and me to fly out about 6am Saturday so we were to have reasonably leisurely trip back via Mysore.  This was the end of the fishing season for Joe so we had to pack everything remaining at the bungalow into the jeep.  That included mountains of fishing kit, a fridge and all sorts of stuff.  I donated Joe 200 yards of nice 30lb braid off my 8000 baitrunner as he was off to Sikkim to investigate the mahseer fishing up there for a few days and spinning was on the cards.
We packed up in a fairly leisurely fashion and mid-morning Joe's Coorg opposite number Sharm came round to visit (and get our money).  He was quite charming and we had a pleasant chat before he went into the bungalow to have a business meeting with Joe which didn't go that well.
The plan was to get to Msyore for lunch at Jewel Rock restaurant which Joe recommended before heading to Bangalore.
That plan was duly carried out.  A water leak on the Bolero meant we had to stop, overheating, shortly after entering Mysore to scrounge some water for the radiator but we were soon on our way again.  We unloaded the mountain of gear at Joe's apartment and went to have lunch and meet Santosh for the ride back to Bangalore.
Jewel rock restaurant is upstairs at the Maurya Palace hotel next to the famous Regents park hotel near the Palace in Mysore.   We had an epic lunch with 2 rounds of the huge 'mixed kebab no fish' platter and beers. in the upstairs bar where smoking rules are flouted and we had control of the air con unit.
Peter and I finally took our leave of Joe and dozed back to Bangalore with Santosh at the wheel letting the near death experiences wash over us.
We were booked into a nice serviced apartment place for the night and, after going to 'ladies night' at the sports bar in the huge SPAR shop in Bangalore (an extraordinary event) and a few beers and snack it was off to bed for about 3 hours for me.
IN the wee small hours I knocked Pete up to say goodbye and borrowed Santosh for a lift to the airport.  I'd done all my rupees so I gave him a tip in English notes thus giving Pete the perfect opportunity to flip the script and rip HIM off on exchanging it for rupees.
As I settled down on the plane for a tamazepam timewarp back to Heathrow I reflected on a fantastic trip. For sport, company, food eaten and drink drunk I really couldn't ask for much better.
Joe is probably not going back to Coorg next season but I shall be keeping in touch for news on the KRS dam project among other things.  You can't keep a good man down and I'm sure Mr Joe will be back amongst the big Cauvery mahseer before long.   I aim to be back there too.

No comments:

Post a Comment