We hit the road an hour later than planned, but what the hell we were on holiday, and the lakes only come alive after 10 am.
Stopping only for some steaming iddly’s and dosa’s and a steaming cup of tea, we made good time and were tackling up by 10.
The weather didn’t look too good as the skies were dark with blustery winds, and worse still the water was murky.
For Riaz and Robin, this was a first visit, while the rest of us had done our tour of duty and more or less knew the odds.
The guards brought out a fresh batch of ragi laced with hing and jeera, and Gavin got right into it with a never ending stream of bites in the channel. The problem was that they were from four inch long catfish, with the odd slipper fish thrown in.
Robin got into the act with a small cat and a slipper. They were all being caught on earth worms, so Riaz and I stayed away from the worms and the channel for a while, and ground baited a couple of swims from the coracle, planning to go back to them when the biggies arrived.
We did make a few casts from the coracle from the left side of the lake, near the guards tent, but all the action was happening near the pylon. There were huge splashes in that direction, and nothing happening in our vicinity. After an hour or so we decided to go back for some worms and then give the pylon a go from the coracle. We never made it.
Just as we set out from the channel, this officious looking dude in a white car drove up and asked us what we were up to. What the hell did he think we were up to? Considering we each had a fishing rod in our hand. He shouted at the guard, and that’s when I told him that we were from WASI. He said he didn’t care, and that we were not allowed on the lake in a coracle, and that we were to fish from the banks only.
Rather than get nasty, we decided to humor the fellow, and fished from the banks for a while. Meanwhile calls were made to the WASI office in Bangalore, and we explained the situation. We were told that there was a new executive engineer posted at the Bluff, and that he had not been briefed about WASI’s activities on the lakes. Evidently he had earlier been messing with the fishing at Forbes Sagar and had threatened the guards with dire consequences if they went out onto the lake in a coracle.
The rest of the morning went without a bite for Riaz and i, while Gavin and Jude continued to dominate cat fish alley.
After a quick lunch, we headed out to the head works. Robin & Gavin fished the section before the sluice gates, and the rest of us tried the water just after the sluice gates.
The colour of the water was not encouraging, and we knew that someone would have to be extremely lucky to get a bite under these conditions.
Just then Raju shouted out that Robin had landed a small mahseer. Well that was good news, but the skies were looking pretty dark and the winds had picked up.
Riaz lost his end tackle to a sand bag in mid stream, so I asked him for his rod and tied on a loft lure that resembled a chilwa. I had a few casts and we watched with fascination as it made its way back through heavy water as I reeled it in.
We decided to go down to the channel and try stone 64 as it is well known.
Riaz took over with the lure, and was left stunned when something hit the lure. He lowered the rod tip to strike, and it went slack. He brought in the lure to find the tail piece missing.
By this time it had started to rain a bit, and it looked like it was going to get worse, so we decided to pack it in and head to the falls and see what they looked like. The road, or dirt track I should say got worse by the minute, and as we finally got onto a tar road, we heard this almighty bang under the jeep. At first we could not figure out what had happened as there were no tell tale signs under the rear end of the vehicle, but we soon figured out that one of the rear springs had broken.
I won’t bore you with the details, but we finally made it back to camp.
A few phone calls later and a new spring had appeared from Mallavali.
Meanwhile the catfish boys were at it, but the rest of us decided to call it a day just before dark.
The next morning everyone was out bright an early, but the weather was still not very promising. By lunch we had had our fill of the channel, but there was a ray of hope, as I had missed a take on a ledgered ball of ragi, and more importantly the sun was breaking through the clouds. So while Riaz went to drop Gavin and Jude to the bus stop, Robin and I threw caution to the wind, and went out to the pylon on the coracle. Kumar rowed us out, and I asked him to go as far into the weeds as possible before tying up the coracle to some bushes.
We thought we would make ourselves a little less conspicuous that way.
Rob and I cast in and waited not more than 30 minutes, before we saw Riaz drive back to the cottage. He was about to settle into his swim, when the rod I was holding took on a steep bend. I struck hard, and remained connected to something that refused to budge from the depths of the lake. I readjusted the drag to a softer setting, and while holding the spool gently I bent into the rod. All of a sudden I felt the fish move, and the next thing I knew was that he lept 2 feet out of he water and about 50 feet from the boat. I quickly lowered the rod tip as he entered the water with a big splash. This time he ran for the right side of the lake and the weeds. I let him run, but kept him on a tight leash. I was a little worried about the size 8 hook that I was using, but I needn’t have. After a couple more runs perilously close to the weeds and the edge of the coracle, he finally came into the landing net. He weighed in at 8 and a half kilograms, and was released right away.
Riaz and Robin were sent out to try their luck before it got dark. Robin lost out on a take, and they returned just before dark. We vowed to return to the spot the next morning.
The next morning we fished the channel with little success, but things were looking better than they had on the previous two days. The sun was shining bright when the 3 of us decided to give the pylon a go. As there were no guards around, I was left to do the rowing, and wondered what would happen if we latched onto a fish.
Well a short while later I was into a good fish, but just as we got ready to follow him in the coracle, the hook pulled out. I put it down to using too tight a drag setting. Meanwhile tea and breakfast had arrived, so we headed back to the cottage, just waiting to get back on the water for our last 2 hour session.
From 10 am to 12 noon we boiled away in the heat of the sun, with 3 rods in the water and not a bite. We spoke not a word, but we could feel that something was going to happen. I looked at my watch, and thought to myself, hell this is the end, we have to start packing up now. Almost at that very moment, the rod that was in my left hand (so as to accommodate Riaz and Robins rods) sprang to life without a warning. A long ZZZZZZZZ was all we heard as I struck hard into the fish. By this time Riaz had the coracle out of the weeds, and with me feeling rather guilty having grabbed all the action thus far, I offered the rod to Robin. “Ohhh not me mate” said Robin, “what if I loose it”. I offered the rod in Riaz, who gladly accepted. He was having a tough time rowing the coracle anyway, as the fish towed us towards the weeds.
I tried to swing the coracle back on course, but by that time the fish had twice circled the coracle twice, and Riaz was making circular motions with the fishing rod. It looked more like a merry go round than a fishing rod. The rod which is a 9ft spinning rod was bent in an arch that came dangerously close to going bust as the fish dived deep under the boat. By this time I had the coracle under control, and we pulled away towards the middle of the lake.
The fish made a few more spirited runs while Riaz handled the drag superbly. We finally pulled into the channel, and gently eased the fish into the landing net. He weighed in at 9 and a half kilograms and had an unusual scale pattern near its tail that we are unlikely to forget.
After the customary photographs the fish was released and we got into the act of packing up our gear.
It was a happy ride back, considering that when we arrived we did not have much hope, considering the weather, water conditions and the restrictions put on our fishing.