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The trophy itself was a brass ball on three brass struts with a disc atop depicting Olympic sports symbols ranging from ice hockey to badminton to athletics to football to other non recognizables, but no angling and no fish… More

The Annual Trout Report for 2003

Trout Fishing this year in the Tirthan was quite different from the previous years.

To start with none of the fisheries in Himachal had any trout. The buzz doing the rounds was that the growth hormone in the special feed prepared at Patnikhul for all the fisheries had passed its expiry date and no one noticed and by the time they did the fish had begun to die by the tankfuls and it was too late. So the result… no fish in the fisheries except in one new one up in Bathaad , nine kilometers beyond Gushaini , whose owner , in an attempt to cut costs , was using chopped entrails and meat instead of the feed .Last I heard before returning was that he had about 500 fish about 650 grams each and they were going fast to the Cecil Oberoi in Simla at Rs.400-500 a kg.

And so how did this affect the trout fishing in the Tirthan.

For one Local Fishery Officer Mr. Thakur was told to concentrate on breeding rather than policing , having done little justice to either under the burden of both in the past . He began his Ph.D. on Glacial River Fauna and returned from two visits to Norway with a new jacket and a big smile to an empty fishery. The policing was handed over to the officer posted at Larji, 26 kilometres away and so the locals had a field day.

At this stage it might be interesting to divert to a little byword about the local poachers and their effect on the river. Having got to know many of them better after regular meetings on the river and by inspecting their catch, I could see that most were quite primitive and therefore inefficient in their methods ( worm hooks or dabbi with spinner and the occasional net) and that the catch was undersized taken out from along the sides of the river. That's not to say that some others weren't more successful but you could count these on one hand. Now while this may not be very good for the immediate population it does nothing to the general health of the river, the larger breeding stock being quite safe from their machinations. And then though you will meet a poacher along any part of the river their own movements are extremely localized to the river around their villages for two reasons..first they feel safer from the non existent policing ( local panchayats also have powers against poachers, mostly applied to those from other locales) and secondly they just don't believe in making the effort. And then only a small percentage of the locals actually fish , many of them being vegetarians.and of those that do few are even aware that the Calcutta spinner is available in Banjar under their very noses for just 40 bucks.

But coming back to the angling…the second ,more important result of the fisheries debacle was that there was no fish available anywhere in the Manali Simla region. The daily news reported Prime Minister Vajpayee was unable to find trout during his annual stay over at Prini . Not so for us….At that time we were up camping beyond Bathhad on the Palachin and Viku and myself caught enough fish to feast a whole group of 26 student campers. Though there was no fish in the fisheries the rivers were safe and healthy and none more so than the Tirthan . And rumours abounded. There was talk in the valley of poachers delivering fish at prices upto Rs. 800 a kg in Manali..but this was not entirely true…I know many of the local poachers and none of them were doing it and this years bountiful fruit crop was keeping most of the locals very busy anyway.

For us the season began in the second week of March with Viku , Richie ( an angler from C'garh) and myself doing the patch under Banjar till Targali Village. In a matter of two hours we had more than 5 kgs of good sized fish ( each 300 gm+) and the Trout House freezers were stocked. The last fishing day on the 31st of October ended on the same stretch. Norman ( from Manali) and myself spent a tiring unsuccessful morning on the stretch from Devta Pool to Banjar bridge and in sheer frustration continued in the afternoon till Targali. Our luck changed confirming what we already knew, the river was still full of fish and in a short while we had our catch of 12 in the bag. What was a trifle irritating but then encouraging was the number of small fry ( 100 - 150 gm) that we had to put back. We must have hooked more than twenty, Often we would see one chasing a spinner and reel in quickly to avoid hooking him but many were adamant on getting caught. One actually chased a spinner out of the water and got hooked on in mid air! A fish with a death wish . I put him back after a crash course in survival and a Piscean PH.D. on spinners. One hopes that guy is wiser for his education and will grow to breed and spawn the river for many years to come. So all in all the stretch under Banjar to Targali is very healthy , though we fished it only twice in the season , and both times very successfully.

Only twice in a whole season stretching 7 months. When you have more than 60 kms of licensed river above Larji along the Tirthan and the Palachan ( not counting the Sainj which is a whashout after the last floods) this is not so difficult. Unlike last year when we stuck to known spots this time we spent a lot of time exploring different stretches from both banks of the river. A lot of legwork and many scratches and bruises , a badly twisted ankle ( it's healed now) but luckily no bones broken . We learnt that certain sections are not visited with good reason .The territory was daunting , the path often non existent and the thorns and bushes high ( the good monsoon brought bounty all around). And very often when you get to the river you only had access to one or two pools before you were forced to climb all the way back . And though these pools offered good fish ( often 500 gm+) the best catches still came from our old tested territory. Some of the best tested new territory
1. Devta Pool : so named by us because of a little proxy mandir for Shringarishi located on the road next to available parking. A steep roll /bounce/trek down dropping maybe 150 - 200 feet brings you to three wonderful pools. We visited 4 or 5 times and were always successful with 5/6 fish coming through in less than an hour. Well always successful except for the last day with Norman when we got nothing.
2. The S's at Chalogi: this is the stretch for three kilometers under Bali. You can't miss it. The S's make a beautiful view of the river as you cross the corner from Chalogi on the way in. There are two pools on either side of the bridge at Bali and if you are fishing the area it is well worth it to visit these as well. The S's are highly accessible though crossing over from one bend to the next can at times require some mountaineering skill. Some big mothers in there , though we didn't pull out anything larger than 500 gm , but I went down for a looksee when the water was low after the end of the season to say hello the some of them.
3. Upriver from Ropa ; We'd heard about this for the last 3 years but never made the effort. An hour up through the forest brings you to Ropa where you stop for a cup of tea accompanied by gas from Tek Ram and then get down to the river . The left bank not being negotiable it is necessary to cross over. The jhula at Ropa is one of the most dangerous with the landing point on the left bank being at a lower elevation. Pulling yourself up the wire to cross is a strain on every muscle. Coming back is even worse as the cage zooms down the sloping wire( with only your grip on the flimsy rope as brakes) to crash into landing point. The best way is to jump into the river get wet and cross over which we did. And then for an hour three kilometers up the river which again, we did…and nothing. Disgusted we worked our way down the same bank casting lethargically and magic. The trout couldn't stop jumping at us and we had ten good sized trout in the bag when we returned to Tek Rams chai shop.
4. Bathaad to Tila and beyond: Up river from Tila gaon on the Palachan , an hour beyond Bathaad has always been a favourite. (See last years article on the fishing expedition and the earlier mention in this one of the school group ). Though we'd always been skeptical of the river just up from Bathaad , with our own self made theories on why there were no good catches there,. but this year we decided to try it just for kicks on the way up to Tila. So we crossed over to the right bank by the bridge went under it and it started from the very first cast.. a 250 gram which we kept . (it turned out to be the smallest at the end of the day and we had let go many larger fish by then). A golden No.2 , silver No.1 and a colored Agia No,2 brought in about 19 fish weighing close to 8 kgs between three anglers.

These new stretches though rewarding and exciting in their newness , the best and largest sized catches still came from our old tested spots in the stretch between Deori and Goshaini past the Trout House. Early in the season on the right bank of Rainbow pool under the GHNP rest house had Pankaj (an artist with the student programme) holding up his rod and yelling ~ I am a fishing God ' repeatedly.. and his excitement was somewhat justified. He'd learnt to handle the rod and line with little success on the river last year. This year he followed Viku and myself one evening and at Rainbow pool hit a jackpot with a trial cast. Both of us stopped to watch him as he pulled out five good sized trout on a silver No.1 within fifteen minutes. Though in the general scheme this sort of thing was to be expected and we are used to referring to this stretch as well as the stretch under Rajus place at Goshaini as our larder.

The largest catch of the season was a bit of a fluke. We were conducting an amateur session at Freshman's pool ( trainee pool where spinner retrieval is easier) for around 5 rods and were mainly occupied in desnagging and sorting out knots. Sanjeev , who the previous night had devastating luck in cards , was trying his hand. He'd picked up the use of the rod and line that very morning and down at the river on his first cast had a small rainbow. A quick lesson on unhooking and the little fellow was on his way. A few casts later and Sanjeev was snagged ( or so he thought) onto a rock and after calling out to Viku was waiting helplessly for help. By the time Viku was free enough to get to him his `rock' had moved and Viku realizing what had happened soon had a huge flapping monster on the bank. 1.75 kgs.. the largest of the season. Half the size of Atuls 3.5 last year from the Tirthan above Ropa, but impressive nevertheless. And from the river right under our noses .

And now about the one that got away. If the 1.75 at Freshman's pool made it as the largest catch of the year it would have fallen a far second to another monster mother I had an encounter with. It was about dusk and I was heading back from a session at Devta's pool with Rainer from Goa. Rainer continued onto Manali from there and I was returning to a houseful of friends all eagerly awaiting the days catch. And so a quickie under Rainbow Pool from the roadside bank of the river. In minutes I had the expected 300 gm+ and was making a last few casts for another when Bang. A huge weight on the line. I was using a tiny size 0 silver that Dr. Ish had given me ( the weight was in the shape of a fishhead with a tiny black eye). I then realized that in my hurry to get one last 300+ in the failing dusk I had overlooked the two cardinal rules ..first being you always expect to hook a big one with every cast,, and rule number one being followed brings up rule two which is you always know where you're going to land it once your expectation is realized. I was atop a huge rock , eight feet above the river with a monster on the line and no landing spot and fading light. Just besides was a slippery red rock with moss growing on it sloping into the pool under the rock I was standing on. I negotiated the fish onto this rock and had most of him out of the water..a last four inches of his tail still in the water. I then gingerly got off the rock holding him in the same position and reeling in slowly till I had only six inches of line left off the tip. Then jamming one foot in to prevent me slipping in , with the rod in my left hand I reached down with the right and pressed his middle against the rock ( he was so broad my fingers could not go all around him to grip him.). As I did he made a go as to bite my hand and in this the spinner got released. Now there I was , precariously perched on this slippery red rock , my left hand holding a now free rod and my right palm pressing down this monster. The odds were against me and as I tried to put down the rod behind me he made a sudden flap and broke my press on him and was gone. And that was it. I have heard stories from the locals of a huge chappie in this stretch. Some of them say he has hair..a closer look at my friend and I could see that the dorsal fin was shredded and maybe this is what they meant by hair. They swear he must be in excess of 7 kgs. I would estimate the fish in my encounter must have been about 5 kg and 21/2-3 feet long and about 9 inches wide . Had I encountered the same one they were talking about or did I meet his cousin ? There's no way of telling.

And that is about the short on the fishing season at the Himalayan Trout House this year. There were many regular days that kept the grills ablaze and freezers full , many known anglers and some others that dropped by for the first time, some more that got freshly hooked at the Trout House, some new recipes in the Trout Cookbook and some other details that would go into the long of it. But the best way to get into the long and short of things is to come down and spend a few days with me fishing my river.


Post Note:
Mr. Thakurs fishery has picked up over the year and we might get some fish out of it next season. They're upping the price to Rs. 200 per kg.

Contact us at christophermitra@hotmail.com

Created by Manav Agarwal

Joint controller Daniel Abraham (Retd)