When I boarded the passenger train from Kanpur to my native place on a journey of four hours, I was not only anxious but also worried. In reality it was not a fishing trip as I was going to perform the marriage of my youngest sister and I was traveling with my family. The main reason of me being anxious was the heat and I was worried about my children getting sick. As the train left Kanpur station the children started complaining about the overpowering stench, coming from the filth along the track. As we reached Unnao, first stop after Kanpur, I too was feeling giddy and nauseated due to heat and the ever increasing smell. As the train left Unnao and entered the countryside, leaving behind the teeming humanity and foul smell of our urban setting, the atmosphere changed drastically. What at first sight looked like barren and waste land, on close inspection turned out to be teeming with life. The golden fields of wheat, ready for harvesting, swaying with the gentle zephyr as if alive and happy, heard of cattle, sitting and munching ideally in the cool glade beside the ponds, herds of goat and sheep nibbling from thorny trees , half clad boys running beside the train waving and laughing while the dog barking excitedly on there heels. And the smell, but a short while ago, foul and filthy, became as fresh as early morning. Suddenly the mood of all of us changed and my children, who a short while ago were complaining and whining about discomfort, started taking considerable interest in the ever-changing scenery. To amuse them more, I started the game of “spot a bird or animal and earn a point” and till it was dark, we spotted many Egrets, mynas, Seven Sisters, Jungle babblers, Peacocks, Peahens, three Woodpeckers, two Strokes, five pairs of Saurus, many troops of common Monkey, one troop of Langur monkey, seven herds of Blue Bulls and some gray Partridges. What started as a disastrous trip turned out to be a fabulous experience for my self and my children.
Some of the Birds.
After reaching home I was completely taken up by the arrangement of marriage and did not had any time to re explore my old fishing haunts, but buried among my baggage, unknown to even my wife, where some lures and one artificial frog, presented by Santosh, which I wanted to try. Now, my native place is near river Ganges and in the summer, when the river shrinks, the many side streams are isolated from the main streams (Locally known as Setuwa) and those are the ideal place for the snake heads to lurk and get fattened. There were many stories of huge murrels being taken on frog from those waters and I badly wanted to work those waters with the lures mentioned above in hope of catching some of them.
The days passed in a whirlwind of activities and finally the day of my sisters marriage approached. With the grace of god, every thing went smoothly as planned. Few more days were passed in demobilizing and tiding over and suddenly it was time for us to leave for Mumbai again. I had only two days left and despite of every ones sincere advice of “ it is to hot and take rest as you are too tired’, I picked up my rod and the bag of lure and taking some of my childhood angler friends, started on the quest of my first murrel on lure. The best spot, as informed by many was a place approximately four miles away, called as Kaluwa. The only way to reach there was either by tractor or motor bike driving through the many cattle tracks, crisscrossing through the maze of thorny bushes and clump of grass, locally called as sarpat or setha (incidentally the upper part of the stem of this grass is commonly used for making floats) and we reached there without any incident or puncture of our bike tube is testament to our good luck. While passing through this maze, we came face to face with one heard of female blue bulls, chaperoned by one old and rugged bull and took some time to photograph them.
The great Bull and its Family
As we reached the water body, Ideal for Murrels, I was sure that I was going to catch one. Hurriedly our rods were assembled, drag tested, and we systematically started combing the huge water body but with no luck.
I knew that my local friends were laughing at me as they were convinced that no fish will be foolish enough to take an artificial frog or fish. Why should a fish eat rubber or Plastic. Though the water body was huge and very promising, there was no movement of the fish visible. The mystery was soon solved by a local herdsman, who first inspected all my lures and tackles and then pocketing some of my hooks, informed me that all my lures were very good and no fish will resist taking them but I will not be able to catch any fish there.
“Why” I asked.
“Because the water had been poisoned a few days ago and all the fishes were collected to be sold in the market”.
I was aghast and dejected but was inquisitive enough to ask him what kind of fishes was taken and what size were they. He informed me that many fishes were collected, manly Rohu, Murrels and Bams and the biggest murrel was 12 kg. All the excitement and anticipation was drained out from me and I was left fuming with the wanton destruction. Nothing could be done as the other spot was not near and my day was lost. During the conversation the herdsman mentioned that deer (Cheetal), and bluebulls come to drink from the same spot were we were fishing. We crossed the water body and waited patiently, while the locals served us some watermelon which was really refreshing after a tiring day, in hope of capturing some of the deer with our camera, but in vain.
The refreshing Watermelon
While wandering beside the above mentioned water body, I spotted one nest of Red Wattled Lapwing, and as I was taking snaps of the same, I was almost bitten by a scorpion, who I suppose was hiding below some rock and I must have tilted the rock while moving.
The perfect camouflaged Eggs.
The Bane of Anglers.
As the evening approached, my mood was considerably lightened by listening the cry of many Red wattled Lapwing, distracting us from there eggs, Many gray partridges calling each other across the plane and then came, floating above the melodious cacophony of different sounds, the unmistakable call of the black partridge. It was years since I had heard this sound. This was the sound which transported me back to my childhood, when rivers were clean, when the ponds were teeming with fishes, when the wetlands echoed with quack of million of geese and teals and other birds while the air vibrated as thousands of Snipes flew from one corner of the lake to the other, when there was no one to poison our water bodies in hope of making few quick bucks. The sound of this Black Partridge calling was the sound from my past which I was listening in the present. This was the sound of hope and natures way of telling us that all was not lost. This was the sound which totally refreshed me and we at the same spot had a council of war. As I had one more day on my disposal, it was decided to give fishing one more try in a pond situated some distance from our home. This pond was fabled for its huge murrels. I had some work in the morning so it was decided to give it a try in afternoon. Accordingly we reached that spot. To our dismay we find it un-fishable as it was almost dry and otherwise choked with weeds.
Ponds choked with weeds
As we were standing there, dismayed and dejected, one kind soul informed us that there was one other pond nearby which was clean and no body netted there. As we reached the other pond, after a short drive and secured permission to fish there it was almost dark. The pond was surrounded from four side by rows of eucalyptus trees and it was very difficult to cast.
The Dream Pond for Maral
Hurriedly assembling my rod, testing the drag and choosing the red and white frog, given by Santosh, I casted it sideways and landed the frog on some lotus leaf. Just a few turn of the handle and the frog landed in the clear water. Some more reeling it and something moved behind. One jerk of the wrist and some more reeling in and suddenly there was a huge splash and the frog was taken. Lo and behold, my first murrel on lure. Removing the first fish, I casted again on the same spot and using same technique, hooked another but lost it after bringing it close to the shore. In all I did eight casting, Got six strike and landed three fishes in a span of half hour. The second fish lost was a big one as we saw it clearly and as per general opinion it was 6-7 kg murrel. In all it was a wonderful experience. My friends and other skeptics were finally convinced that fishes do eat rubber and plastic.
At Last My Maral
The place I mentioned here is in Rae Bareli (U.P.) and I have a house there, which remain lock when we are not there. If any of you want to brave the extreme heat, mosquito bites, wasp bites, bees bites, occasional Scorpio or snake encounter in the quest of what I have narrated here, then this house is at your disposal.
My Village House
As per me, this episode has not ended yet and very soon I will be going back, alone, without any burden and conclude it by landing some biggies, if not the world record nine k.g. plus murrel.