Yesterday was a confidence crushing day. Ten miles of hiking, at least a thousand casts, 100º temperature and I acquired some sort of respiratory issue and not a damn bite. To make things worse, this respiratory thing advanced last night and has me gasping for air and coughing like I have emphysema. It’s a real bummer and somewhat scary when you think about where we are.
All that said and I have a job to do – catch a big mahseer. Two days ago the 9lber was a huge victory. But I’m never satisfied. Mahseer get a hell of a lot bigger and I want bigger. At 4:45 AM I was up without an alarm re-rigging my Ross rod and reel. I checked my fly line for nicks and put on a new straight 20lb leader and a Misty tied sculpin type fly. The hook was deadly-fresh-sharp and the metal felt sturdy enough it wouldn’t bend. Once rigged, I straightened up to inhale the air. Man was I aching. My hips, back, casting shoulder and the rest of me are wrecked. My vision isn’t its normal eagle-eye self and my skin is tight and cracking under pressure from this intense sun. India is taking its toll.
Nothing will ever stop me from fishing. After we slammed some coffee, Chris Patterson and I began an unhurried two mile hike to the confluence where the Saryu River meets the massive Mahakali. I moved slowly with pain but soon the amazing sites of colorful locals, amazing birds and scenery took it away. Best of all, I felt the presence of a big hungry golden mahseer entering the Saryu.
The Saryu River is now crystal clear and the Mahakali River is roaring five feet higher than when we arrived four days ago. The Mahakali is so gray with sediment you could stand on it. My theory was that the mahseer should be smelling the clear water of the Saryu and moving in with smiles on their faces. If only they would be hungry.
I eased my way into the water 100 yards above the exact confluence. Chris hiked up to the temple and hung with the baba and some pilgrims and set up his tripod to shoot the scene for the movie Waypoints. Cautiously I eased out my casts adding a long strip of line each time. I was methodically fishing every inch of water, especially that close to me to be sure not to spook any nearby mahseer.
An hour of prime time passed and not a bump. Finally, I could reach the mud line where the Saryu and Mahakali meet. It wasn’t an easy cast with sinking running line wavering in the current below me but with a loop around every finger I ripped the long one. Sometimes you just know when it’s going to happen. When the sculpin fly landed I tossed an arms length of slack downstream and let my fly swing. As mahseer often do, one gave my fly a soft touch, then he came back and absolutely crushed it – FISH ON!
Of course two days ago I hooked a big fish upstream 50 feet and he took me down the Saryu into the Mahakali and that was it – bent hook and sad times. Now I had the gall to cast into the Mahakali and hook a fish. When I struck I could feel the weight of the golden fish. He was heavy. Rather then lay the wood to him I took it easy. He was distraught but evidently he didn’t want to enter the Mahakali, instead he started up the Saryu.
Once he was up a ways I started to fight him. I knocked him off balance and he surged further upstream just like I hoped. But then the distressed mahseer had a change in plan, as if he knew his only escape was back into the oversized Mahakali. By now Misty arrived and was charging down to help.
I won’t bore you with five paragraphs about the fight but I’ll tell you this. When this big boy headed down and out into the oversized Mahakali I had a slim to no chance of landing him. But I am determined like no other. Despite Misty’s pleas for me not to go near the mouth of the Saryu, I charged down exactly to the dangerous spot and stood my ground. A slip or a trip and I’d go down the Mahakali with my mahseer most likely never to be seen again.
A miracle happened this morning, one I’ll take. I landed a huge golden mahseer on film. Chris got the cast, the hook up, the fight, the pilgrims who were my audience, me wading brainlessly where no human should stand, underwater stuff and you name it. He’s the best in the business and I guess I’m the luckiest fly fisherman in the world today. Waypoints has a big mahseer in its India segment!
To put the difficulty of this fish in perspective, that was the only bite we had all day. Yes, indeed after I released this fish, I took a short breather and started fishing again. That’s right – I’m never satisfied!