First Day on the Water Doesn’t Disappoint

by | Apr 14, 2024 | fly fishing for golden mahseer | 5 comments

BhutanTaking in the phenomenal sites of Bhutan have been a true treat the last two days.  Our Yellow Dog Flyfishing (YD) film crew joined with Bryant Dunn and his Himalayan Flyfishing Adventure team has had a blast.  But today we honed our focus to our main goal – catch some fish and film them so we can add Bhutan to the long list of YD trips.  At 7 am we found ourselves on a three hour van ride for the launch where we were about to begin our seven day float trip on a Himalayan mahseer river.

 

golden-mahseerAll drives in Bhutan last longer than expected.  Roads are narrow and winding.  We met few oncoming intimidating supply trucks from India.  We also stopped so Jim and Chris could film and photograph the river and surrounding mountains.  One of the highlight stops was to view a private tributary to this main river that belongs to the King and family.  From high up we witnessed stacks of chocolate and golden mahseer enjoying the crystal clear water from this creek.

 

Bhutan

Photo by Bryant Dunn

The last stop we made, literally ten minutes before our launch was at a roadside market.  Here we grabbed an outside table and enjoyed ice cold cokes and chips and a few other fine snacks.  Meanwhile, Bryant and his crew picked up last minute food supplies for our adventure.  I’m looking forward to indulging on numerous interesting spices.

 

 

 

BhutanWhen we arrived at the launch we met Bryant’s full crew that consists of 13 members from raft runners to cooks and equipment junkies.  They are all very nice and I could see they are as eager for this trip as we are.  I have no doubt that one of their favorite parts was the delicious push-off lunch.

 

 

 

flyfishingI should mention that during our three to four hour drive we dropped several thousand feet of elevation.  One of the amazing facts about Bhutan, a country not much larger than Rhode Island, is that its highest point is barely shy of 25,000 feet and its lowest is 318 feet.  This place is tilted on the side of the Himalayan Mountains like no other.  When we left Punakha this morning it was a cool mountain town.  When we reached the raft launch it was scorching jungle.  Once I had my stuff ready and rigged I took for shade under the back of the van with Chris.

 

BhutanSpeaking of stuff, fly fishing equipment for mahseer in Bhutan varies.  The very common chocolate mahseer rarely obtain sizes more than 8lbs.  The more challenging to find, golden mahseer, get huge.  Bobby holds several world records and his largest is 56lbs!  That is a gigantic freshwater fish to land in the heavy fast water of a Himalayan River.  So while my 9-weight is a little big for chocolates, for me it’s the best all-round rod for mahseer fishing.

 

Lines vary.  Early in the day and just before sunset mahseer hunt in the shallows.  These are good times to prowl with the floating line.  This week I’m using the new SA Magnitude Smooth Infinity Salt Clear Tip.  While drifting down the river I’m fishing a sink tip.  Though I’m by no means fishing ocean surf on this trip, the Sonar Surf 300gr line is and excellent sinking line from a boat.

 

My leader is my typical streamer leader – strong and level.  Because the fish here are rarely fished they are not leader shy.  Just in case I hook a monster, I’m fishing 6 feet of straight 30lb Fluoro.  Not only do I have a chance with a 50lber, I’ll land the smaller fish quickly which is always best for successful release.

 

fly-patternsDespite the immense size of mahseer, they eat relatively small meals.  Mahseer are the largest members of the carp family and feed on a wide range of foods.  Feeding on other fish is a minor part of their diet and they prefer smaller prey over larger.  Some of my best fly patterns are size 4-6 trout streamers in brown and tan colors.  And the fact that these rivers are often slightly off color, I prefer streamers with some flash.

 

Bhutan

Photo by Jim Klug

After Bryant gave us a safety briefing, we pushed off at about 2 PM.  Today Bryant had planned a short float of about three miles that ended at the mouth of a tributary.  As we saw earlier today with the Kings private water, tributaries hold fish.  By camping here there would be ample time to cover it well tonight and tomorrow morning and hopefully bring a few memorable catches into the camera lens.

 

flyfishing

Photo by Jim Klug

The short three mile float was stunning.  Mahseer are spooky fish so only the two fishing boats moved first.  My boat consisted of our oarsman, Kingly, my fishing partner Jigme and our movie maker Chris rode with us.  Bobby and Bryant fished together with their guide Tinley.  Jim rode behind with the crew taking his usual amazing photos.  And in case this photo of Jim’s doesn’t tell it all – this river is absolutely gorgeous!

 

 

Bryant-DunnBryant promised one thing on this float and that was we would have plenty of action from chocolate mahseer.  He wasn’t kidding.  Every good looking bank held chocolate mahseer.  Every angler caught at least one during the first hour.  Here’s Bryant with a dandy.

 

 

 

BhutanChris was filming Jigme and I catching chocolates from the boat and a couple hours in came up with a thought to get out of the boat and walk downstream then film Jigme, Kingly and I floating too him.  Chris has an eye for filming like no other so we dropped him off and out he went.  We waited till he got below and waved us to come.

 

I kid you not, it made sense to cast right towards the camera so I did.  My fly hit the water ten feet in front of Chris and on my first strip a huge gold flash appeared in an explosion of water and I was tight.  I hooked up with a big golden!

 

Golden mahseer are in a league of their own.  In my opinion they are one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish.  They may not have the 30 second power of a peacock bass, but as for an overall battle, its an even match with an Atlantic salmon.  This fish didn’t disappoint.

 

mahseer

Photo by Jim Klug

It took a good minute before my golden knew what was happening.  I literally stripped him to the boat.  We all got a good enough look to be shocked at the size and the fish had enough of a look at us to be scared.  Off he went within seconds well into my backing.

 

I never like to go on and on describing a fish fight but this was a good one.  After numerous drag testing runs, in less than ten minutes I had the fish to the shallows.  I was out of the boat as was Jigme with a net.  A net a bit small with little room for error.

 

I was unaware but Jigme hasn’t netted many big fish.  One should always go for the head but instead Jigme made his first attempt by lunging for the tail.  The second time he went for the middle of the fish and when he lifted, the fish used its strength and didn’t bend at all, only to fall back in the water.  I was doing my best to stay calm all the time explaining to go for the head first, but on Jigme’s third attempt he did everything but knock the fish off the line.

 

golden-mahseerI got uneasy with the last attempt and told Jigme to stop.  My plan now was to try and beach the lunker.  Meanwhile Kingly had taken the net and assured me he could handle it.  Kingly is a big dude and I was confident he could do it.  And in his first attempt he nailed the lengthy mahseer.

 

When filming you continue with the normal procedure.  There was some rejoicing for sure.  I’m certain some high fives.  And we laughed at Jigme and his near disastrous netting attempts.  Most of all though, we admired the massive golden in the net.  It was quite a fish.

 

mahseer-currier

Photo by Jim Klug

While Chris filmed me handling the mahseer, Bryant’s boat came over to watch and see the fish.  Someone called on the radio for Jim.  There’s nothing like catching a big fish, but its even better when Jim Klug is around with his camera!

 

Once done with the footage and photos I released the beauty.  This is always a time when I study the animal and look them in the eye.  What I noticed about this one was it didn’t have the usual golden mahseer mouth which is more up front.  This guy had more of a sucker mouth.  I’ve only caught this one once before.  “They” say it’s still a golden mahseer.  Regardless, it’s an awesome fish.

 

mahseer

Photo by Jim Klug

Chris and Jim jokingly said after it was gone, “We got our film already”.  Then we kicked back and all enjoyed a Druk Beer.  Things were off to a roaring start!

 

We drifted cautiously in to camp around 6 PM.  Cautiously so we didn’t disturb the confluence pool.  While my fishing day was done, the other guys took turns working the hole.  Surprisingly there were no fish volunteering to be caught.

 

golden-mahseer

Photo by Jim Klug

There are fishing regulations in Bhutan and they are strictly enforced.  All rivers have rangers and many of the confluences have full time guards.  For the most part they are patrolling for poachers of these great fish.  They also enforce a fishing hours regulation.  Fishing in Bhutan is only allowed to take place from sunrise to sunset.  We were done fishing at 6:30 tonight.

 

The Himalayan Flyfishing Adventures specializes in these river trips and the way Bryant’s crew set up camp was fantastic.  None of we anglers had to touch a thing.  Bryant’s staff set up our tents, an outhouse and a tarp to eat under.  Its river camping but pretty dang cushy to be quite honest.

 

Himalayan-flyfishing

Photo by Jim Klug

We all kicked back with a couple more Druks while Bryant’s crew made dinner.  It’s a dream setting for any adventurous angler.  Its evening in the jungle and the sounds of birds, frogs and more is mesmerizing.

 

Soon a delicious dinner was served.  Now its time for a nap.  It’s been an amazing first day on the river!

 

Upon return from this wonderful journey, this trip will be available at Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures!

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

5 Comments

  1. Lance Tomar

    Just awesome! Amazing country

  2. Jeff

    It truly is Lance. You might need a visit soon!

  3. Howie

    Way to go Jeff! Awesome Golden!

  4. Tom

    Nice fish Jeff, and great recap!

  5. Jeff

    Thanks Howie and Tom! Thanks for reading. More to come

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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