One memorable night on my 2008 trip to the Ramganga River in India we experienced a caddis hatch. Misty Dhillon advised I keep a sharp eye for rising golden mahseer as I was chucking sculpin patterns for big mahseer. He told me that if the rising started than to grab my 6-weight and enjoy a rare feast on small mahseer on dries. The event happened and I enjoyed catching numerous mahseer up to 18” on caddis.
When we got to the confluence of the Saryu to the Mahakali River today, the Saryu was so clear that I could see the mahseer. There were about a dozen of them veering in the current. I swung numerous flies under their noses for hours but nothing. Perhaps it’s the crystal clear water, or because I’ve been bothering them for five days now. Whatever it is, that big fish yesterday appears to have been a miracle.
As I was standing about 75 feet from these mahseer which were literally inches from the safety of the gray Mahakali River, a large leaf floated past me and headed directly over them. To both my and Chris Patterson’s disbelief, a mahseer swam right up and bumped it. Would it be worth throwing a dry fly?
This side of the river was not right for presenting a dry fly to these fish. Instead Chris, Misty and I hiked a mile upstream, crossed the Saryu on the incredible suspension bridge then hiked the mile back down to the river mouth. It was a good move. I could see the mahseer better and cast to them from shore. I rigged the extra 8-weight Ross RX I’d been carrying all week with a floating line and a 12 foot long 12lb leader. I have very few dries for this trip but as always, a big Chernobyl stared at me. On it went.
I crawled across a lot rocks to get in position. I didn’t want to be seen. Along my crawl I grabbed a huge chunk of orange fabric – the actual fabric that floated down from a funeral upstream. I rolled it into a ball and once in position I stuck it under my butt for cushion. My skinny ass has sat on enough painful rocks this week. Naturally the mahseer saw me but they see a few locals at this very spot so they are somewhat used to people. Within minutes they settled and I started my pursuit.
Patience was of the essence here. The mahseer school swerved in and out of my “sitting down” casting range. When they were within 60 feet or so I launched and fed out line. A successful hook set would require a lot of luck with this much line. On about my tenth cast, a half hour or so in the pursuit, about an 8lb mahseer broke away for a look. He almost ate the fly but didn’t. But I knew I was going to get one.
As I waited for my next cast, a funeral broke out across the river on the Nepal side. At a Hindu funeral the body is cremated then sent into the river. It’s an amazingly spiritual event and this one didn’t last long. The body was barely burned yet sent cart wheeling down the Mahakali. Then the family swam and played in a back eddy – interesting I tell you as I waited my next opportunity.
Within minutes a three pack of mahseer cruised near the surface close enough for a cast. I launched, made a huge mend and watched my orange Chernobylenter the zone. My drift was about two feet short but a curious fish came at my fly like a rainbow leaving his lane for a beetle. I froze like a stork and then my years of grass carping skills came into play. As deliberately as imaginable the golden mahseer rose to my fly, let it float in and slowly closed his mouth. He was facing me directly so I couldn’t set until he made a slight turn. It seemed like hours but finally it happened. I set with all my might with the rod while leaping to my feet and even a few steps backwards. Every creature in sight was shocked, me, the mahseer, Chris and Misty but the mahseer was on.
Like most mahseer I’ve hooked this week this one ran straight into the Mahakali. But what’s different is I was on the better side of the river. I was able to run right down along the Mahakali with my fish. And several minutes later, out of the gray murky water came a spectacular 8lb mahseer with my fly solidly in his upper lip – quality mahseer on the dry fly!
To say I went into a frenzy after that would be an understatement. While Chris and Misty headed for the shade and watched from a distance, I worked at those fish under 100º high noon sun for two more hours. I had one more eat but missed him. That fish was about the same as the one I caught. But what really put me in the frenzy was a 20lb mahseer looked at my fly. He didn’t eat it but I was sure he would if I kept after him. But that’s when hoards of sad people filed down to the river, this time on the India side right where I was fishing. A young man of 27 died last night after becoming sick only a week ago. It would be his funeral next. Leaving my perch was the proper thing to do.
Once to the shade with Chris and Misty I realized how hot and tired I was. As I watched the funeral unfold and the wood pile holding the body get torched I fell asleep on an ant hill only to get chewed to pieces. When I woke up the funeral was long over and now a wedding – only in India!
I don’t have many pics for today as Jim Klug has some stomach issues and Chris was filming not taking pics. Also, taking pics of funerals doesn’t seem appropriate. Hopefully you got a taste of the day from my writing. I’ll certainly remember it for a very long time!
Again, please toss my old hotmail email address that I can no longer check and let’s reconnect at email@example.com THANKS!