I met Misty Dhillon back in 2006. We’d both heard of each other prior to that day. I learned of him when I was desperately searching for mahseer info for my first trip to India back in 2002. I found little bleeps about mahseer and this dude named Misty on the internet. I made an effort to seek him out but never got through.
Misty and I kept in touch and built up a friendship. All the while he was fly fishing his butt off for mahseer learning more and more about the tactics for catching them. He also launched his company, The Himalayan Outback, which is now the top outfit in the world for catching a mahseer on the fly. Quite frankly, Misty is perhaps the leading authority on fly fishing for golden mahseer. Like it was meant to be, in 2008 we found ourselves chasing mahseer together on the Ramganga River.
And five years later, here we are again. Early this morning Misty and I hiked directly back to the confluence of the Saryu River to the Mahakali River. We rousted six mahseer here last night so this morning we hoped for more. The Saryu was much clearer than yesterday. And the mahseer were much spookier as well. At least I gather that because despite numerous rolling mahseer we only landed two, Misty landed another small one and I lucked into a 9lber.
My jet lag is gone and my mind is back to normal, normal enough that I can absorb some of the sites around me. The temple at the confluence is fantastic. Colorful flags blow in the wind everywhere. Monkeys own the rooftops and pilgrims trickle in on foot all day long. The baba, (keeper of the temple) is the ultimate character. This man looks rough. In fact this man looks awful. But he’s taken a liking to watching us fly fish and while some of the pilgrims want to kick us out, baba tells them to let us be.
Across from the mouth of the Saryu River, across to the other side of the even grayer Mahakali River is Nepal. The Mahakali is the actual border between Nepal and India. If you look at a map now with this in mind you can see exactly where we are. It’s literally one of the most remote regions on Earth.
I mentioned briefly yesterday that mahseer are good fighters. I’ll reiterate that. Mahseer are one of the toughest fighting fish in freshwater. Not only are they steroid strong, they know where every rock, submerged tree and funky whitewater currents are as well. The 9lb fish I caught today cunningly ran straight out of the Saryu River into the raging Mahakali. Landing him was a chore to say the least and somewhat risky for me as I waded right up to the edge of the roaring gray Mahakali. I had to in order to lean on and steer my hefty mahseer back to me, but one slip or trip on a shifting rock and I’d be on my way down the Mahakali. I’m not sure the end result would be good.
Speaking of falling in and things not being good for me, we named one of our fishing spots today, “Dead Mans Bar”. As Whitney and I were walking along a run on the Saryu we found a body. In the US it would be yellow tape investigation and headline news. Here it’s just some poor sole that must have drown upstream and rolled down. The person is nothing more than a partially clothed mostly decomposed skeleton. It really makes you think for a minute.
Chris and Jim got great footage of today’s mahseer. As for landing a bigger mahseer on camera this week – I doubt it will happen here. About an hour after releasing the 9lber I hooked into a fish that will undoubtedly haunt me to my grave. I’ve been schooled before by big fish, but this beast took “schooling” to a new level. Not once was I in control of this fish and he too ran out and down the Mahakali River. I had no choice but to clamp down with both hands or run out of backing. It will be a nice clip for the film – screaming reel and crackling line leaving. But in my attempt to stop him, the fish straightened a saltwater hook and will not be participating in Waypoints.
In two days we’ve fished and hiked our butts off. I got in shape for this trip but nonetheless it’s punishing. There’s’ no doubt temps surpassed 100° today. And the up and down in a set of heavy wading shoes (definitely necessary) – you’re never in good enough shape. Most importantly however, we got a lot of great footage for the movie and the 9lb mahseer looks fantastic. Tomorrow it’s back after it bright and early.