Mahseer Fishing in India: An English Colonels Experience with the Tiger of the Giri, Daily Racing Form, 1919-03-10


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MAHSEER FISHING IN INDIA An English Colonels Experience with the Tiger of the Giri. Cross Hetvreen Shark ami Salmon and a Battler of Rare Conrapre. The home of the mahseer in Northern India is the clear mountain stream in the lower hills that i. ltetween 2.000 feet and 0,000 feet above the j sea. These streams are fed by the rains and melting snows in the higher mountains. They are generally thick, but in the autumn and spring they become as clear as crvstal and are then fishable. The usual methods adopted are spinning a sihmii or natural dead bait. In either case, iu the smaller streams like the Giri, it is necessary to cast, there being no boats. ,,,,,, t The Giri winds between thickly wooded hills, rising to 2,000 or 3.000 feet on either side, with occasional level patches of stones or grass ut bends. It is a rapid river for the most part, with gravelly stretches, big boulders and deep pools here and there. .... The fish do not run so large as in the more sluggish rivers of Southern India, but they are powerful for their weight and great fighters. A twenty-five pound fish was exactly forty-eight inches long, with a much broader and more powerful tail than a salmon of similar size. The writer found them much stronger for their size than salmon; in fact, the first half-dozen large fish hooked all broke away, smashing hooks, wire traces and treble gut equally easily. The mahseer, when hooked. Is generally in a fast rapid and runs at once downstream. It Is necessary to follow at breakneck sieed over boulders anil rough ground or be broken. I had 250 yards of fine spinning line which would stand twenty-two pounds breaking strain, and even this was nearly run out several times. Wlivn a fish is hooked the two fishermen who are usually in attendance take one under the arms and help one over the boulders. You cannot gaff a mahseer, as the scales are too hard for the point to penetrate, so it is necessary to lead the fish into a shallow; the fishermen then throw a casting net over it. fall on the net, and haul the fish and net out together. ORDINARY TACKLE FAILS UNDER STRAIN. Being a novice at the game, I started with the usual spinners, witli specially strong triangles and gut or wire traces. I found, however, that triangles were nearly always broken and that the ordinary split hook attachment for fastening the spinner to the trace opened out. Also I found that only small fish came after the spoon and that the big fellows would only take the natural. They were shy, too. as several times I saw a fish come after the bait and turn off at the last minute, evidently seeing the hooks. Accordingly I tried the large single hook made by Mr. Luscombe of Allahabad, twisted fine amalgam wire, and specially strong split hooks, and caught all my fish on these. I tested everything with twenty-two-pound dead strain on a spring balance before starting out each day, and even then was broken once. The mahseer has no teeth in the mouth, but has powerful double molars, like a dogs, in the throat; It is therefore clear that the triangles, etc., which are broken by them must be squeezed between the jaws like one cracks a walnut in the door, as the teeth are too far down the throat for the hooks to reach them. ... ... There are no villages along the banks of the river, so it is necessary to camp and take all supplies with one. , In the autumn there are plenty of pheasants and jungle fowl in the woods along the river bank, so that in the evening, after the fishing was done for the dav, the rod was laid aside and the spaniel. Which had dozed on the river bank all day and been bored, suddenly woke up, raced away up the hillsides, and soon put up some birds. The hill pheasant invurlubly flies down, so that as one- walked home in the dusk one got several shots, and, as both the pheasant and jungle fowl are delicious eating, and the fresh mahseer are good, too, one did not fare so badly. It is necessary to wade, but mahseer do not take till the sun is up, so that, though the water Is cold, the sun is hot, and one soon dries and gets warm again. Every day ono inarches three or four miles down the rivers, so waders would be too heavy and cumbersome, and one just wades in ordinary walking kit. , The first big fish I landed took in a rapid .- stream t about four feet deep, just above a big pool. When he felt the hook he rushed down into the pool, which was deep, about fifty yards to 100 yurds across, with a shelving rocky bank on the near side, and a rocky cliff, about a hundred feet high, pn the far side. The line kept running out toward the cliff opposite, and though the cliff Avas not more than eighty yards off. about 200 yards of line went, and he was still running. It was obvious that he had got the line round a sunken rock and was Tunniug down the pool, so the fisherman swam out, dived, and freed the line, which was, fortunately, not ciit. In feverish haste I reeled in, still finding the fish on. -Vs soon as he felt the hook again up he went to . the head of the pool and tried the same thing again. MAHSEER COMELY AND GOOD TO EAT. This time it was necessary to check him going up at all c-Osts or the line woilld surely be cut, so we raced down to the lower end of the pool and held on for all we were worth. He just failed to get up again evidently he was an old stacer, and knew the nool and rocks well, and gradually came In on the" gravelly shallow; the fishermen threw the net over him in shallow water and, after a deal of splashing, rolled him up and brought him in. A masheer fresh out of the water is a lovely fish, olive green on the back, shading off to pink, golden yellow and white. This one was particularly good to eat and a cut from the middle of a big masheer boiled, with mayonnaise sauce, is not to be despised. The whole camp feasted that night. , The river is rapid and some of the crossings are danuerous. It is "necessary to cross the stream constantly or go round by paths, climbing up thousands of feet and down again. At one particular crossing the spaniel was nearly lost. There was a steep elide of water gom straight against a rocky cliff. Tim. stream turned then at right angles along the face of the cliff until a sort of great caldron was reached in the cliff, where there was a huge whirlpool with rocky cliffs round three sides. A short time before two laden mules had been carried down there and had disappeared with their drivers so we were careful to cross well up. The luncheon basket coolie used to take the dog by the collar at these crossings to save him from being carried downstream. In this case he tried to cross too low down and the force of the stream carried the dog down, the collar slipping over his head. He was carried into the swirl and did not appear for several minutes. We thought we had seen the last of him, but after several minutes his head appeared in the whirlpool, being carried round and round. All rushed over to the cliff above the whilrpool. a pugree was undone, and one of the men lowered another to a little ledge on the lip of the whilpool. As the poor dog came around the- second time he managed to struggle near enough to the edge to bo caught, and was soon pulled up the cliff by the pugree, happy, but distended like a football from all the water he had swnllowed. BATTLE WITH AN INDIAN G00NCH. Before leaving the river I had a great fight with an enormous "goonch," a sort of freshwater shark, which ended disastrously after two und a hit If hours fjgfiting. It is necessary to have a raft there, as the Jumna, into which the Giri flows, is a big river. Just at this junction of the two rivers is n favorite place for a big one; so, putting the raft ashore. I threw a largo bait on a spinner about nine inches long into the rough water. There was a rush which took out over 200 yards of line before the raft could be got ua nnd we could follow him. Having got him in hand, he sulked, and nothing would move him from the center of the lwol. After about two hours with little movement he gracluallv cuine up, and I saw he was a big black fish about five or six feet long and about nine inches or ten inches in diameter in the middle. Ik-was rolling over ou the top, and I tried to pull him into, the eddy ut the ton of the. big rapid below this big iKtl in which lie had stayed ull the time. Unfortunately this proved impossible, and he rolled Into the edge of the rapid and was pulled down. This was the time for the raft, and I looked round and called to the men I wa.s then wading. To my horror I saw both men just behind me, greatly excited in the struggle, and having left the raft by itself some fifty wards away. There was no time to get it, so we had to follow as best we could and try to break the fishs pace. He kept rolling over ill . the rapid quite done, hilt the water wis s,p strong there was no stopping him, and before I coiild get down to the iMittom he had got under some floating logs mid the line gave at the knot. It was proli ably, pulled through between two stones, of which the bauk was composed here, as there was no special strain. So I lost the largest fish I have ever seen, or am. ever likely to see, expept a shark. Col. H", rVCbeoney In English Fisljins Gasette,

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