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The Annual Trout Angling Competition; September 12, 2004

This year, for the first time, a team from the Trout House consisting of Norman and Prof. Bell from Manali and myself formed ( though I was absent from the actual fishing ) to enter the Annual Trout Angling Competition held by the Himachal Angling Association each year. On the morning of the event the team was joined by two visitors , Amit and Zoravar as observers and by the end of the day we had won the 1st Prize with Norman's catch of a 790 gram brownie from under Ropa , higher up the Tirthan, on a caddis fly nymph.
We have his trophy on a shelf.

We entered and we won.
That is the Cherry.
For the rest of the cake read on.

The morning opened to another searing hot day in a year of searing hot days. The delayed monsoon had seemingly past in the last week of August (it poured often in September and even snowed in October!!) and the river had cleared and the trout were biting so fast it was almost obscene to go angling. We shuddered to think of the carnage that 50+ anglers would inflict on the river in the build up to the competition and on the day itself. But then as the days passed, the heat caused the excessive glacial melt to turn the river milky and opaque and the trout elusive and catches were few and far between. As a daily observer of this river for the last four years , let me tell you that all the stuff you read about Himalayan Glaciers, or for that matter any glaciers , melting quickly or receding is true and as some of you already know , the most logical explanation I have found for this phenomena and other strange weather patterns being experienced currently is contained in Gilbert & Cotterell's book - The Mayan Prophesies - published by Element. There are hard days ahead and the time is short….so live and fish while you can . But enough of prophesies.

As I was saying, it was a searing hot day and the river was all milky and opaque.. this had been increasing for the past two or three days, and on that day, time on the river seemed almost entirely pointless. But as Norman put it ` We've come here to go fishing so let's go fishing. There have been many fair weather days when we've come back empty handed….at least today we have something to blame.' And so the team, without me, set off, up the Tirthan from Goshaini , where Norman had guiltily removed 4 fish of 1.2kg+ over two days of angling a month ago. Again using the caddis fly and other nymphs.

So there I was, registered and able but unwilling to go when I was joined by Christian Ehrich and Navin Sarin , both founding members of the Himachal Angling Association. I was happy to see Christian having met him briefly a couple of years ago and were remaking introductions when we were joined by Mr. Mann, the Chairman of the Association. The gathering grew with Justice Mahajan and his son Arjun and their friends, and Association officials, Pappuji and Malhotraji and then some more…all of us sinking our Rs. 450 registration fee into conversation that ranged from the weather to environment to ecology to etymology to entomology to persimmons to tea estates to Trout to Mahseer to the competition to the state of the world in general and the milky river in particular. Arjun , being the only one with four 250gm or so trout seemed like a contender for the prize. The Trout House team hadn't returned till 11 a.m. and in the general gloom of things it didn't seem that they would be any luckier.

And so all the non angling anglers of the competition got into their cars and entered the next leg of the event.. the driving competition to Larji.. a breakneck rally to report in your catch by 12 noon . Larji itself is so sh**ed out by the laborers of the power projects, the river around there is unapproachable but yet due to old habit and lack of alternative infrastructure the competition is continued to be held there. As per the conversation that morning maybe the next time they will hold it at the Trout House…..and we will get more time to fish.( Listening , Navin??) Things being the way they were the anglers and officials left and I settled into a beer when Norman came rushing in…he had what we estimated was a 750 gram brownie.. and since it looked like a winner to me judging from the aforementioned general gloom of the morning, we got into the jeep and joined the rally to Larji.

We arrived at 5 minutes before noon. On the judges table Norman's fish weighed in at 790 and was the clear winner. The second place went to Negi of Manali with a bag of four 400 gram rainbows caught from Nagini!! As the bag was suspect the entrails were opened but the results were judged `river feed' and so the prize held. Though at the prize distribution and lunch , in the general conversation, Norman pointed out that the true prize for the biggest fish caught on the river that morning belonged to a poacher with a 2 kilo brownie that he met coming up from the river on his way down to it. 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…It would have cost the poacher his whole day and Rs.450 registration and maybe the risk of incarceration by the authorities to win.. It's no mystery why he refused to enter and a very clear idea of a conspiracy by which competitions like these might be won.

Our participation in the competition ended with being told that our prize fish had been lost in a freak accident. Apparently other non successful competitors chose to pose with the fish and one of the more ambitious decided to simulate the actual catch by putting the dead fish back onto a spinner and letting it in the water and then `relanding' the fish, all the while on video. What went onto video was the horror of the prize catch coming off the hook and floating away with the current. We skipped the experience of watching the video and with a firm grip on our brass ball, got into our jeep and headed back to the Trout House. In the whole melee of the rally and things we didn't get a photo of the fish ourselves. The brass ball is safe and for all to view.

And so went the Annual Trout Angling Competition.

Contact us at christophermitra@hotmail.com

Created by Manav Agarwal

Joint controller Daniel Abraham (Retd)