The Cauvery river is said to be at its best in the months January through to March. Other times of the year are affected by the monsoon floods, and the fishing is consequently prevented by this. Kam, Rashu & Mikey had between them planned this trip for quite some time and I had the good fortune to meet up with them almost by chance alone.
It was a morning that was unusual in that the rain was quite unseasonable; it was as heavy and as persistent as the monsoons themselves. Mikey had been aware of the recent rains, as Kam had previously advised, but I don't think that even Mikey had expected the rains to be so influential on the mighty Cauvery like this. After all, Mikey heralded from the “green and pleasant” English chalk streams and most probably due to this was quite an optimistic fellow; rarely does it flood on a chalk stream he told us, though the Cauvery is not a chalk stream. The Cauvery is in fact a very large spate river that floods once a year, and thereafter drains away until the next year's flood. Anyhow, Mikey was quite convinced that we should be ok and that the dry soils would soak up the water before too much of it ended up in the river channel. Rashu is Bangalorean and relatively new to fishing; he has caught a few fish before, but nothing much. Kam is from the west coast and has done pretty well with his “beginners' luck” as he calls it; but this time they were all hopeful of the big one.
We were under the canopy of the tent's veranda to avoid the terrific rainstorm that was by now flooding over the red soils and making their torrents over the valley sides and pouring their red silts into the Cauvery. Initially I was drawn to the topics of discussion and perhaps that is why I remained to take a seat under the tent's veranda and share the experience of the deluge; I was just grateful for the shelter, I was not expecting too much more. The red soils were not soaking it all up as Mikey had hoped, and the soil seemed to have no capacity to store water at all ~ it was all converging in on the river channel, and bringing in leaves and branches and other debris as it raced over the ground.
It was not too long before the rain persisted for quite some time and there was little else to do besides getting a soaking. After all they were there for the fishing and I too had the same compulsion to stay near the water. Kam poured us all a round of vodka mixed only with water; it was definitely not unpleasant and soon conversation began to flow. It soon became obvious that the angler among the three of them was Mikey. He was enthusiastically discussing the merits of Kam's brand new rod and reel and talking about knots and other aspects that he was sure that Kam would learn from fishing today - Kam was equally enthusiastic to listen and I sensed that Kam was set on becoming an established angler. Rashu was not so keen to learn so much about fishing and to him the essence of it all was the peace and tranquillity of the fishing camp, and the company of good friends.
Watching the three of them like this, I had a sense that they'd all being doing this fishing beside the Cauvery for long enough to have established a comfortable routine. Each of them was perfectly happy and comfortably relaxed in each other's company, this was fairly clear to see; they had their own little fishing club, and that is a nice thing to be part of.
The rain continued for longer than we imagined, but it was rather comfortable under the cover of the veranda, and we continued to sit back on our easy chairs whilst Kam poured us all another round. I couldn't help notice the sheets of water flooding down in torrents beside our tents. They all combined to form a genuine channel that cut into the red soils. Without doubt, there was plenty of sediment being washed into the river, but the question on our minds was whether or not the river would get badly affected. Mikey was being rather optimistic and wondered whether the sheer bulk of the water volume flowing in the Cauvery was enough to resist being discoloured by the rain. Time would tell, we all agreed, for at some time we would eventually be off the veranda and down onto the river to see it at close quarter. Mikey was looking a bit surprised about the soil, and stopped to look at it carefully; he muttered that it was just heavily weathered granite debris, and not really soil at all.
Some time had elapsed. We were still sitting under the veranda, the rain was still falling, but now there was some light coming through the trees, and it was apparent that the dripping water was no longer rainfall but rather water dripping off the tall tamarind trees surrounding the tents. Within ten minutes or so, the sun was out and the torrential rain seemed an age ago. Our minds were back on the immediate fishing soon to be at hand, and we were now watchful for the approach of our ghillie.
Ghillie had a large plastic bag holding a big lump of ragi the size and shape of a melon. We were toting a rod each and both Mikey and Kam were each carrying a small tackle box. Ghillie was quite a tall fellow with a calm demeanour; he spoke little English but knew enough about ghillieing so that this aspect really didn't matter. Fishing in the Cauvery is not at all demanding in quantity of tackle and baits, provided that the rod and reel are sufficiently sturdy of course; Ghillie had a cursory glance at all of our equipment and did not signal any concerns. We were led to a jeep and driven about a thousand yards downstream whereupon Ghillie picked a likely looking spot for us to commence our angling in earnest. The river was definitely showing some colour to it, and there were signs of debris having been washed in; looking at it one could hardly call it in “spate” though, and provided the rains desisted, then this colour in the water would soon wash itself out.
We fished for some time that afternoon and into the evening and we were caught by passing rain; we all got soaked so thoroughly that no item of clothing remained dry. It was not particularly unpleasant to be out in the rain; after all it was not cold.
At night after supper, I vividly remember the noise of the frogs “waaaaak, wak, wak, wak, wak.”. In my mind's eye, I pictured the little green amphibians with their little comical faces, furiously pushing in their bellies to make their throats swell like bubble-gum and produce that rhythmic noise in their countless thousands for most of the night. With a torch we went down to the river after supper to see how the Bengalis were doing; we saw them land a catfish. Whilst we were down by the river beside the small pond there, I thought I'd try to find one of these frogs. My ears were telling me that the particular frog in question was right before my eyes as I was stooped over shining my torch into the shallow water. Try as I might, I couldn't find the frog at all despite it seeming to be no more than one or two feet away. I gave up after a few minutes and returned back to the veranda, for our glasses were being refreshed. The river was packed with these frogs and they called all night long in an almost frenzied way as lustily as they could. Now and then it was possible to hear different frog calls, slower and deeper calls than the frenetic 'waaak, wak, wak, wak, waaak, wak, wak' that was the most dominant call throughout the night. The night time insect and amphibian din was quite almost like a white noise that would easily lull you to sleep soon after your head hit the pillow; sleeping was easy in the tents like this, even if we did hear the odd thunderous rumble coming from upstream as a passing elephant made its way to somewhere.
The noises of the night had just about diminished; though the 'brain-fever' bird was still calling even at this early hour. It was 6 o'clock and I was waking up hearing the sounds of the early morning tea being poured out on my tent's veranda; we were due to fish early this morning, and Ghillie was expected to return to meet us at the camp before sunrise.
Waking up inside the tents is much more different than going to sleep in them. The feeling seems to be echoed by the relative transition between evening and night and night and dawn. Though from a pure lighting transition, each transition ought to be the reverse of the other; the difference seems to be rooted in the chilliness of the early dawn air, and also the dampness caused by the nocturnal cooling of the still air.
The tent feels cool and damp; there is mustiness in the air. The hot tea on the veranda beckons me out of my bed and I wearily get up and go to the bathroom around the back of the tent. The bathroom is a concrete enclosure with rudimentary shower consisting of a pipe poking out of the wall some six feet off the ground. There is a sink and also a “thunder-box”. The water comes from the river, and its chill certainly wakes one up abruptly. Last night and now this morning, the bathroom has been unusually free of the little horrors that are the usual outhouse-creatures here. Over the years in similar riverside bathrooms I have seen allsorts of fearsome creepy-crawlies; usually it is a late night pee that draws one into the bathroom, paraffin lamp held aloft, and into the domain of the nocturnal invertebrates.
By the time I was out of my tent and gulping down the tea left on the veranda for me, I had the time to sit down and reflect in the pre-dawn light. Kenneth Anderson's books always refer to this period as the southern Indian 'false dawn'. I had surmised that possibly the reason why the break of dawn was so lethargic and sombre compared to the transition at dusk was that I being the observer at early dawn was dulled in my senses and therefore incapable of noticing things around me. Whilst sipping my tea, I sought to test this theory out and it didn't take too long for me to realise that the whole camp was listless and dreary; the two camp dogs were still curled up in their night time scrapes they had made in the red sands under the tamarind trees, there were no people or noises to be heard, and there were no birds yet in the trees. The only noise to be heard was that of the river, and of course a distant brain-fever bird.
Kam, Mikey and Rashu were soon out of their tents and very soon all of us were moping around near to the camp main veranda, rods all in hand, all waiting for Ghillie to arrive with the ragi bait and for a day's angling to begin. As we were waiting around, it became obvious that the whole valley was filled with mist, and it was not possible to see the hilltops because of it. After Ghillie arrived, he took us all to the jeep and we set off downstream beyond the giant rocks and to an area that we had not yet been before. I overheard Mikey commenting to Kam that this was 'new water'.
The dawn sky was still dark and misty when we strode off in line following Ghillie to the water's edge. Down there in a small bay was a coracle; it was full of water, but thankfully the water inside the coracle was much higher than the river's water level, and that meant that not only was the coracle reasonably water tight, but also it was presumably yesterday's rain that had filled it up. With the help of Rashu, Ghillie got the coracle reasonably dry and ready for fishing in. Even with the lot of us inside the small circular craft, it seemed quite capable and soon we would be moving towards our first place to fish. There is always on virtually all angling trips a shared sense of optimism as the anglers set out, this might just be the day of one's fishing life, the capture of the one that finally doesn't get away.
The first really noticeable calls in the early dawn are the booming 'whoomp, whoomp' calls of the langur monkeys. It always amazes me just how much noise the little white lanky monkey can make like this. Like most of nature's other loud callers, the langur manages to make this noise by inflating his neck and making the 'whoomp' noise accordingly. The noises echoed over the river valley and the stillness of the dawn air seemed to make the langurs calling reverberate a little from one side of the river to the other. We hadn't started fishing yet, but we were still in early morning torpor, though the new light of the sun's rays were just starting to become noticeable in the valley mists downstream eastwards of us.
Our first spell of fishing was beside a rock near to the main channel. Ghillie had tied the coracle to this, and we fished from our bony perches inside the coracle. The fishing was a fairly standard routine whereby on call of 'ragi gone', Ghillie would re-bait the hook with an enormous ball of the doughy paste, and then cast this into the main channel with a great splash, letting the bait settle and then diligently handing the rod back to the angler. All of us liked Ghillie; he was one of the best they later agreed.
The area that we were fishing in was a long slow glide of water that was between 30 and 100 feet deep depending on who is talking about it. The river is well over 100 yards wide at this point, and the glide itself appears to be a good mile long. At the head of the glide there are some rapids that run down and flatten out into the glide, next to which the camp is located, and the tail of the glide in the distance appears to drop down into another set of rapids. The whole scene is quite breathtaking, as on either side of the river are enormous green leafy trees flanking the whole glide, and beyond these trees there is arid scrub jungle rising steeply on either side of the river to red valley tops approximately 600 800 feet above the river. Both valley sides are quite rugged with rocky outcrops and boulder-strewn slopes. There is a sense of wilderness about the hilltops, and in our minds we were picturing the elusive leopard of today, or of the days when the tiger once ruled here not that long ago. It has been a while since these valleys witnessed the roaring of a tiger, but when this magnificent animal is still here in southern India, there is always the imagination of his being.
The dawns beside the Cauvery are typified in that they do not take long for the suns rays to first deal with the mist, burning it off unrelenting, and then the sun's full power is free to start to beat upon our backs. Kam, Rashu and the Ghillie are all used to the power of the Indian sun. Mikey on the other hand covers himself up and uses a very wide brimmed hat to keep the sun's rays at bay. By 11:00 in the morning, the coracle is now parked up over on the far bank, and the sun is scorching down mercilessly. The wind is unable to get to the anglers due to a lot of vegetation blocking it, and all of the anglers are now suffering in the heat and every one of them are very grateful that there were no tots of whiskey drunk down at dawn. All they can think about is water and lots of it.
I had been watching my rod tip and was getting mindful of the growing noises emanating from the surrounding hillside jungles; 'eeow', 'eeow', quite distinctly that was the warning call of a chital deer. It had come from the far side of the river, but I couldn't guess the range as the hillsides were distorting the direction of the sound. Very shortly afterwards many more chital started making similar warning calls, and it was obvious that there was a strung-out herd of them somewhere on the far hillside. Scattered amongst the chital calls, we also heard the langurs making their gurgled chattering warning calls too. The obvious conclusion to this was that either there was a large predator afoot on the far side, or the chitals and langurs were somehow mistaken into thinking that there was a predator. The calls persisted for about five to ten minutes, and we were straining our eyes to see what was going on. I don't think any of us saw even the chitals or the langurs, let alone the cause for their alarm. Had they made a false alarm perhaps; it seemed reasonable to imagine that the first calls were made by the chital in error, and that perhaps on hearing this, the other chitals joined in, with the langurs also reciprocating? I was wondering whether or not a chital calls out an alarm merely on seeing or hearing something slightly suspicious? In contrast, smelling the predator did not seem to be the basis of a false alarm, for surely the odour of a leopard is absolutely connected to it alone, and I couldn't see reason in imagining a chital in 'mis-smelling' a leopard? Calling 'wolf' and persistent false alarms are surely not particularly good for the chitals in a long-term survival sense, and I made a mental note to try to check this with someone who knew the chitals and their habits well. This is one of the things that happens when you spend time out fishing; you get to ponder about things in general, especially the sights and sounds around you. Often at times when the angler can be deep in thought, he has no idea as to the passage of time and it is when the Ghillie says “ragi gone”, or you feel a tap on your rod as a fish seizes the bait, that you are drawn out of your mind's world. Mikey says that this is not the case with fly-fishing, and with this type of fishing you are perpetually busy in casting your fly at your trout, and when you are not casting, then you are seeking out the trout, or studying what he is eating, etc.. On a chalk-stream there is no time for pondering. I couldn't decide if he thought this was a good or a bad thing, or maybe he was just simply stating something? Mikey does come from fishing the English chalk-stream, though readily admits that fishing here on the Cauvery like this gives you plenty of scope for pondering. For instance when we were near the enormous rocks strewn about downstream of the camp, Mikey chattered away feverishly about the geological history of these rocks. He was startled at the uniform roundness of the granite rocks, and could only imagine that at sometime in the distant past these rocks had rolled down the hillside by some ancient cause and were later worn smooth by simple water erosion over immense periods of time ~ “there was no ice age here” he repeated in a sort of puzzled way. He couldn't say whether he thought it could be 100,000, 1 million, or 10 million years that these rocks had been here exposed out of the hillside like this. In stark contrast, his chalk-lands back in England were all shaped as they are presently when the last ice age melted 18,000 years ago. Apparently to a geologist like Mikey, 18,000 years ago is simply like 'yesterday'. The more I listened, the more I thought back to the hills in between Bangalore and Mysore, the very large and very smooth and very rounded hills that stick up out of the plains there. They appeared to be of the same colour and shape of these boulders Mikey was busy talking about, and if what Mikey was saying was true, then these hills near Mysore must have been rained on for an unimaginable period of time, far longer than these here boulders next to the river. It was rather horrifying to get a glimpse of Eternity, and I decided that it was now time to reel myself in and busy myself with re-baiting the hook and get back into fishing thinking.
We were all quite glad to get out of the searing heat beside the bank there; even Kam and Rashu were feeling it too. We didn't have to wait for Ghillie to suggest that it was time to reel in and go for lunch; however, half way across the river, Ghillie said 'one more cast' and got out of the coracle mid channel on a sunken island which we had not noticed. Since he was literally anchoring the coracle waist deep in water, it was difficult for him to re-bait our lines, and so it really was 'one more cast'. The wind was running through the river here, and it felt gloriously cooler here than where we had been for the last hour or so. Throughout the time so far, Rashu, who spoke Ghillie's Kannada dialect, had been chatting frequently to Ghillie. One this occasion, Rashu having just spoken about something with Ghillie, then spoke out in English so the rest of us could understand. The crocodiles had killed a buffalo recently, he announced. Mikey was quite taken aback, whilst Kam seemed content only to listen seemingly unperturbed. Mikey asked Rashu whether or not the crocs, if big enough to kill buffalo, would also kill people? Rashu replied that it was the very fact that Ghillie was now so vulnerable to the crocs that the subject had become the present topic of debate. Ghillie didn't want to stand there for much longer, and on hearing this we almost hauled him back into the coracle when the potential toothy prospect dawned on the rest of us! Yes indeed, crocs all right; no more going into the water, and with that we were off back to the camp's side of the river to get ourselves some lunch.
Beside the river is a troop of rhesus monkeys. They are crafty little fellows that steal food at any opportunity, even from right under your nose. Whenever the monkeys raid the veranda, there is a great deal of commotion, clanging and banging of cooking pots, shouting, growling of monkeys and barking of dogs. Even the anglers join in and throw stones at the fleeing monkeys ~ a proper ruckus. The little moneys are certainly brave little fellows and cunning too; they show no fear towards people and despite the disparity in size, they bare their teeth in a threatening display. The two resident camp dogs leap into action whenever there is an incident involving the monkeys. They make a brisk trot to the scene of activity, but it seems that always when the two dogs arrive, the monkeys are all back up in the trees by then, and therefore it seems a bit of a charade, except for the fact that the monkeys have managed to get at least something from the veranda's tables. Kam showed me his little Abu rod; he had left it out here one day unattended and the monkeys chewed off all the cork from its handles, seemingly after the salt ingrained in the handle. We were careful with our rods after that and kept our tents closed as matter of routine.
We had been in the vicinity of the tents, and had been stowing tackle away in anticipation of having some lunch. We had the ragi with us, still in its plstic bag. The rhesus monkeys knew what was in the bag, and they followed us. The camp dogs seemed to sense that the monkeys were up to no good, and we had dog escort. The boldest of the monkeys had positioned himself on the edge of Kam's tent roof, and he was being held off by the black dog. The dog was staring up at the monkey, and the monkey repeatedly growled at the dog. All the while, the real focus of the monkey's attention was the platic bag on the veranda table. Kam was sitting on the veranda, and was keeping guard of the ragi. We all knew that if we left the ragi unattended for even thirty seconds, the monkey would be raiding it in a flash. Mikey wandered over to stand next to the dog and assist it in scaring off the monkey. The monkey simply bared its teeth at Mikey quite impudently. Mikey did not like this disrespectful monkey, and started throwing stones at it. This restored the order, and the monkey rapidly re-positioned itself high up in the adjacent tree to take cover from the barrage of stones that Mikey was now deploying! As soon as Mikey gave up on the monkey and went and sat down next to Kam on the veranda, then the monkey was back to the edge of the tent's roof. Kam was quite interested to see what would happen if we thew a piece of ragi ner to the dog. The monkey would see it, and the dogs don't have a like for the taste of ragi, so the ragi would be lying on the floor, effctively guarded by the dog. This was quite interesting and we watched the monkey manoeuvre around the trees so as to get as close as possible to the ragi, but limiting his exposure time on the floor. The dogs owned the floor. After a while, the dog lost interest and trottd off back toards the main
The lunches served up on the camp's main veranda are usually a mixture of curries and chapattis; though should a catfish or a carp be caught by an angler, invariably they end up in here too with a bit of masala sauce. Of course the mahseer are now strictly preserved, yet in Corbett's day, a mahseer made a fine meal. After lunch Rashu decided to find a comfortable spot for a nap, and Kam and Mikey went downstream in the coracle with the Ghillie for the afternoon.
The river after lunch is quite a busy place in terms of bird life; here they are represented by a large number of species and it is as though each has its own area of expertise, and each has its own distinctive calls. At first the noise is a pleasant cacophony of birdcalls, but with attention, one can readily start to identify calls and assign them to specific birds. There are a couple of pairs of fish eagles in this long stretch of water; their calls are quite loud as would be expected, and are very distinctive especially as the bird throws back his head to make the noise. The main kites here are the distinctive white-headed 'brahminy' kites; you see them rather than hear them, their infrequent call is not particularly loud. The brain fever bird is quite the most distinctive of the calling birds, and they must be heard to be believed. The call starts off in a low pitch, and incrementally the pitch rises until it reaches a peak and then terminates. Each song lasts about ten to fifteen seconds and has between three and maybe five increments, each being 3 syllables that do rhyme with 'brain fever', so the song is really quite distinctive. We all heard the brain fever bird so much that we almost stopped noticing it, but none of us ever actually saw one.
The Indian river terns are a pleasant sight as they wheel around above the river, calling and often dropping down to the water's surface to catch a small fish. The hornbills are not such a river bird, but like other more terrestrial birds, if they want to go to the far side, they must flap over the whole two-hundred yard wide channel to do so, and their undulating flight path is noticeable and quite characteristic of the species. A lot of Indian birds are known by interesting colloquial names relating to their calls, an example being the brain fever bird; another bird that is commonly seen here is the 'did he do it' bird. "Did he, did he, did he, did he do it", this call is quite surreal and almost sounds like a child's toy or strange musical instrument. In fact, the bird seen uttering these calls is a kind of plover that frequents the shores and rocky islands of the river; at this time of the year they are very common. All of these calls seem to echo around the hillsides and reverberate giving an almost magical effect; by late afternoon the river is really alive with birds and this persists right up to the transition between day and night. Of course the anglers are all still out on the river, and as the light starts fading, their hearing now becomes much more sensitive. Whilst it is just still possible to identify the species in the waning light, their calls are still being made. There comes a moment when all of a sudden, one does not hear them anymore, and it is about this time that the call of the nightjar is heard for the first time, and then that seems to be the signal for the frogs and the insects to start their night calls that will go on and on through the night. The darkness does bring the foreboding sense that wild animals are really the rightful dwellers here, and that is more and more felt as the night gets longer. The reality is that there are only elephants, bears and snakes to fear here; panthers are more afraid of us than we are of them, apparently. Not being able to see in the darkness makes the fear of the unknown cling in all around, and we now also remember that in this river are crocodiles to add to the list.
We had already caught between us a handful of small mahseer and some catfish. The mahseer are all carefully returned, whereas the catfish remained on the floor of the coracle, destined to see the inside of a frying pan. The catfish in the Cauvery have bodies like ordinary fish, and have a big forked tail, and an adipose fin like a salmonid. They are quite silvery on the flanks and pale blue / grey on their backs; their scales are so small as to appear non-existent. The head of the fish is quite like a catfish without the long whiskers, though the eyes are quite large and unusually low-set for any fish at all. The mouth is small for a catfish, and as for all bottom-feeders is set low down on the fish's head. The dorsal and pectoral fins are quite large, and when caught, the fish holds those fins very erect. Ghillie was very careful when handling the catfish for good reason; those three fins house in each of them a very nasty spine that is sharp along its edge as well as being sharp on the tip. When the fish lying on the coracle floor had stopped moving and looked sufficiently dead enough for me to dare picking it up for close examination, I studied the fins carefully to see just how bad the spines were; they were pretty bad indeed. I guessed that if a crocodile swallowed one of these fish, his gullet and intestinal tract would possibly be seriously lacerated by the effect of the proud spines in the fins.
That night around the veranda table, one of the camp staff brought us a plate holding catfish steaks that had been deep-fried. They were delicious. The meat of the Cauvery catfish is pale, boneless, firm, succulent and tasty. There is of course the main backbone running down the length of the fish, and also bones where the fins connect to the body, but there is not the multitude of bones inside the flesh of the fish like with the various species of carp that inhabit the Cauvery. There are a number of fish in the river called carp. In the upper waters there is an insect eating fish called a silver carp, on the bottom of the riverbeds there are golden carp and black carp. The black carp especially has barbels around its mouth, and they are found in the deeper slower waters. There is also a long thin predatory fish that inhabits the river, but I have never seen one. All of these fish will readily take the ragi bait, and they fight as hard as the mahseer do, pound for pound. The catfish is arguably the best non-mahseer species to catch primarily because of its culinary qualities; fine tasting textured flesh and no irritating bones. On occasions when fish have not been caught for supper, then one of the camp's chickens gets its neck pulled. These chickens are extremely good to eat. The flesh is chewy but not stringy and tough, and the masala barbeque cooking method results in a particularly nice meal indeed.
Dawn was once again soon to be upon us, and the frogs and crickets and cicadas had chirped their last for the night; always it seems that these animals finish their calls in a more gradual way than they do when they start their calls. The early morning air was cool, it was still, and it was misty. I could just about see over to where the camp's main veranda was, and there still curled up in their night scrapes were the two camp dogs patiently waiting out for a new day arising. All else was still in the camp, and I found my customary cup of hot tea and biscuits waiting for me on the veranda table. Beside the table were the remnants of last night's supper and an empty whisky bottle and glasses strewn around the table and chairs positioned as they were left last night when our revelry ended and we all retired back into our tents. The other anglers were stirring, and within ten minutes we were all out and ready to go out fishing once more, rods at hand and hats on.
There appeared to be a bit of morose amongst the anglers as we made our way to the river. This morning we were to fish from the camp beach on the camp-side of the river, and I couldn't help but notice that the anglers did not seem to be as sprightly as they did yesterday on the way down to the river. It might have been the effects of the revelry of the previous night, but I suspect it was more to do with the fact that on each of the anglers' minds there was the issue that in 6 hours time we would all be packing our rods away and leaving the river, our time was coming to an end.
The camp beach is quite a pleasant sliver of sand on which 5 anglers can comfortably fish at the same time. By now, Rashu had shown quite some considerable skills in angling, and though he was using a tiny little spare rod, he was catching small carp and catfish too. Initially he had come to the river for the ambience and the peace and quiet among friends, but now it seemed that he too was bitten by the angling bug, and of the 3 other anglers that morning, he was by far the most enthusiastic. Kam looked pretty sombre, and Mikey was not exactly a bundle of fun; neither of them looked like they particularly wanted to leave the river later that day. Rashu was having a great time, and often it is that he who is having the greatest fun catches the most fish. In addition to small silver carp, Rashu caught a new species of fish; he landed what the Ghillie called a “pink” carp. Sure the fish that Rashu was now holding up for the camera, whilst he beamed from ear to ear, it sure had a pinkish tinge to its flank. It looked very much like a European Barbel though, and even had the same 4 corner barbels and the same tubular mouth and body shape. The fish fought like a demon, and there was a moment when Mikey got quite a shock, for on seeing the fish stripping line from Rashu's reel, he marched over to tighten the drag, suspecting that Rashu had unwittingly released the drag. The fish was pulling against an already tightened drag, and now the interest was on to cheer Rashu on and wait to see how big his fish was!
The river by late March is usually quite low in flow, and as a consequence the sandy margins get quite exposed. The camp beach is formed by the deposition of sand on the leeward side of a prominent rock that juts out into the river channel here, and as the water levels progressively fall, more and more sand is exposed. Interestingly the daily drops in water level are quite clearly shown on the sandy banks all over the river. We studied these and found the reason for it; in the daytime there is a wind running along the river and consequently there are waves lapping on the sandy beaches. These waves create a sorting process whereby the coarser particles of sand remain at the base of the wave's effect, and the lighter particles are pushed upwards by the wave. This process can be seen in the daylight, and it is interesting to note that it is the organic content that is pushed highest up the wave lapping area, and this is becomes noticeable as a black band that repeats itself if you look up and down the sand banks. The daily intervals occur because at night time, there is no wind, and therefore no wave, and so the river water just drops down as the water drains out, and there is no sorting process of the wave action, and so that is why when we see the sands, we can see how high the river was several days ago. We noticed that the level seemed to have dropped by nearly a foot over night, and on the far side of the river, large areas of flat sands were now being exposed by the falling water levels. There are small forked sticks poking out of the sands in various places; at each one perhaps there is a tale to be told of how a mahseer was caught, or how the angler sat for his time beside the water patiently waiting for a bite, and ever watchful of the scenery and wildlife gloriously all around.
Our time was in at last, and all the anglers reluctantly reeled in their lines and stowed their tackle away. Dismantling a rod is like another transition ~ but it is much nicer to be putting a rod together than it is in taking it apart. On their minds was the burning question of when will they be back again, for it is long that the Cauvery remains in the memories. There is always the hope that one day they will be back to have yet another good trip out to try for the big one.