Dawes and I got some rest this morning, something that’s been unheard of since we arrived three days ago. The reason we had the morning off was because our true mission of finding and catching mahseer started this afternoon. Jon Miceler of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the man in charge of putting this expedition together arrived at 11.
Jon Miceler made his first visit to the Himalaya region in 1988. He came to study abroad in India, Nepal and Tibet. Not only was Jon studying but he was trekking and climbing all the time. So much that soon he became a trekking guide and made it back to the Himalaya every year.
In 1995 Jon made his first visit to Bhutan. He fell in love with the place immediately and moved his guiding career to this tiny country. He quickly realized Bhutan was the last great intact Kingdom and that its incredible biodiversity had to be protected.
In 2008 Jon began working for the WWF in charge of its Himalayan programs. The culmination of his conservation work in Bhutan is an initiative called Bhutan for Life. When completed Bhutan for Life will be a fund that will generate enough yearly interest to cover all of the reoccurring costs of Bhutan’s protected areas-forever, thereby ensuring the last intact Himalayan ecosystem in Asia. Jon has spent a great deal of hands on time working with snow leopards in Bhutan and Nepal and will be returning to Nepal later this year to satellite collar another of the rare cats.
When Jon learned of the golden mahseer he was particularly intrigued by the mahseers migration from the lowlands all the way up the mighty rivers in the Himalayan foothills. Successful migration is an obvious sign of a healthy ecosystem but he became aware of many threats this amazing game fish faced.
In recent years Jon has been doing as much as possible to learn more about the mahseer so he can tackle some of the issues that threaten them. One of the thoughts would be to develop a high end mahseer fishery where funds could be raised to fight these threats. Jon himself is new to fly fishing but he and Dawes have done two trips together to learn how to catch them. Dawes is an expert angler but so far they’ve had zero success. It was Dawes that brought me on board this trip because of my successful experiences mahseer fishing in India. Hopefully in the upcoming days we’ll learn where they are and actually catch some!
After we picked up Jon, as well as our fourth on the trip, Niel Fox of England, we drove to Thimphu for a few errands and lunch. From there we drove four hours over a skyscraping foggy Pass and down to Punakha where we are presently spending the night.
Today’s drive was particularly excruciating because we were stopped for road construction twice. The first stop was for nearly three hours and the second for one hour. When we got word the first stop was three hours Jigme and I walked ahead and told the group to pick us up along the way after they were cleared to drive. We walked about four miles and actually made the top of the Pass before the traffic moved. This was particularly spectacular because on top is a very unique monastery.
After all the car time, we actually got an hour of fishing in on the Mo Chhu (River) upstream of Punakha. Jigme had already contacted an enthusiastic forest service employee friend to take us trout fishing. Unfortunately the river was muddy and though we gave it our best none of us caught anything.
We’ll be continuing our mahseer search first thing I the morning.