A bit late in the day here for this but here goes an account of a good time on the banks of the Kaveri. Many thanks to Bops, Alexis and Marcus for everything.
I was in Bangalore, visiting family and managed to get through to Bops. Talked fish for a bit, met up with him and Alexis. Talked some more fish and of course, the itchy question was- Can we go fishing? They came up with the best ever answer- Yes. Where? Some very pleasant headscratching and fantasising later, we decide to hit Sivasamudram, one of the pilgrimages in my long list of 'Mahseer Darshan'. The 'Headworks' was something I'd only read about, the place stuck in my head for the 60lber Paul Boote caught from the canal on a plug. This place I just had to fish.
We set the time for a 4.30am departure from B'lore. At 4.25 am I get the sms- 'Come down'. I do and find Bops pacing outside with Alexis and Marcus and we drive off in Alexis' fully loaded Adventure. I see a landing net, tubes and a cool box in the back. I contribute a flask of tea (which leaked off...) and a bag of sandwiches fixed by Revati and her sis, their contribution in lieu of their presence.
4.32am and we're on the road, pelting through B'lore town. I decide on a photo essay and out comes the camera. Below is the blow by blow account of the tour. Bops and Alexis shot the pics when I wasn't shooting so my contribution can be called the plugged gaps...
5.06 am- we're still pelting through, there's some great tunes lulling Bops and Marcus to sleep. I'd been on the road for a while and no recent music so I enjoy the tunes and the drive. Alexis drives like Mika Hakkinen except that he knows when to slow down too. I can relax, which I do and ask inane questions about the water. "You'll see when we get there".
5.57- We're there and this is what the water looks like- fast canal, a little smaller than the Roorkee canal which I've fished since chilhood but with Kaveri springfed water. There are hints of structure and plenty of vegetation along the banks where the cement ends.
It all empties into a lake loaded with weed with an interesting flow pattern. I could spend so much happytime figuring out the fish plot...
6.05 am- "Hey, photo kheencho na, Indianangler ka!". Bops looking mighty, Marcus looking cold and Alexis, amused. We pick up a gillie, Bops having secured the permits in advance (the norm, as I find out). A bit of powwow and Raju, the gillie, recommends the Headworks. We go.
6.22 am- the Headworks. I see a very impressive sign put up by the WASI. Wish we had something like this up North.
6.23 to 6.47 am- we break out the tackle. I had none, but the brotherhood of anglers looks after it's own and both Bops and Alexis open up their tackle boxes to my eager hands. I take the first rod to come out of the tube, which is a beautiful, heavy, German catfish rod and a Shimano eggbeater loaded with 20, courtesy Alexis. Bops is rigging up and digging around his tackle pack. I notice both these chaps have pulled out lighter gear. Marcus goes- "Do I get the broken rod Alexis?".. "Ummm...."...
I turn to Bops for lures since 'Lexis and Marcus are rigging up. Bops drops his rigging to advise and offer up the entire contents. I settle for a rubberbait. Raju, the gillie goes-" Kuchh bhi lagao Sar, Hathi marne ka, bakri nahi!" I like that. All these guys must be used to big game mahseer shikaris and it shows.
Now I never expect to get lucky, especially on the first visit so I'm determined to just enjoy a great day on a famous piece of water. The fish were equally determined to garner all attention to themselves. First cast brings me a mahseer. It is handled very well by Raju, photo'd by all (except meself). For all intents, my pilgrimage is over- Mother Kaveri has given me Darshan and prasadam. I can get on with checking out what these old hands do.
I am thoroughly delighted at the fact that everything in these guys' tackle boxes is barbless. All three-hook plugs are converted to two-hook jobs to avoid damage to fish and there are no wire leaders. I have never seen anything like it outside of my own tackle. Yes, these guys are as sporting as any 'Phoriner', and would gain Respect from my boys, who are as snooty about sport as we all are.
7.10 am- we flog the bit near the canal staff quarters for a while. Nothing took so we moved to the gates. I bag another fish, same size as the first. It goes back without a photo since the cameras were a bit deep into the kit.
7.11 am- Alexis gets into a fish which is duly landed and picced.
7.14 am- Marcus also bags a fish. He's also an old sporting hand by now, at all of 12 years of age- he wets his hands before handling the fish too, and gets photo'd with remarkable poise.
7.15-9.00 am- Nothing stirs so we shift location to above the gates. Bops moves down while I take a hike along the embankment on the right bank. There's a 'mela' or something happening on the other bank, there's probably a religious shrine or something because all the people are cooking up, bathing and disappearing only to return, cook, eat and throw tons of food into the water just above the gates. The big fish are probably too gorged on the easy pickings to look at our fakes. Bops harasses them for a while while we watch the fish follow every lure before shying off near the bank.
9.00-10.12 am- I try my luck again, this time below the gates, same spot as the first fish but the opposite bank. Alexis and Marcus move down and I wait for Bops to catch up.
Marcus gets a mahseer. Bops hasn't reached us. I bum another lure from Alexis and catch another mahseer. It's bigger, Raju estimates 4.5-5kgs. Alexis runs up with the camera but the fish is too shy and leaps out of my hands into the canal. No problem. Bops has caught a mahseer (finally), above the gates. That's good.
10.13-10.38 am- we decide to move to the lake. Just where the canal empties into the lake, there's a shallow run on ths bank. In this run, we see some mullets (Rhinomugil corsula). These are weird fish, they swim with their eyes above the water and are known not to take any lures. A couple of casts disperses them and I get into another mahseer. It is brat-sized so does not get the honour of a camera capture. The brothers flog some more while the coracle is brought out. Alexis and Marcus pair off and very generously give Bops and I the honour of molesting the murrel, which we do.
11.40 am- Bops hooks and lands the first murrel after several hits.
11.44 am- Raju goes-"Cast madi sar- doddamurrel". I also hook and land a murrel.
The murrel's weedy haunt...
11.45 am-12.00 pm- Bops bags several more murrel, one of them in the 5lb class. It was crazy- we could see the spinner flashing back to us when this long streak raced out from very close to the coracle and slammed into it. I'm not so lucky but I do have the opportunity of watching a good angler at work. Bops is not just an angler, he's also a craftsman- he's using spinners which he makes himself and they're much lethal than what I'm using. He also knows murrel better than I do so it's no shame to lose out to knowledge. I learn, too. We return to the bank by 12.00.
In the meantime, Alexis and Marcus have been spinning for murrel from the bank. Marcus is the luckier one, with a murrel and a mahseer.
12.00 pm- 1.51 pm- Alexis and Marcus have a go in the coracle while I chat up the gillies and Bops catches forty winks. Pics in Bops' post.
By 1.45 pm the brothers are back and Marcus has caught an enormous murrel.
This one had swallowed the spinner. The permit allows 2 murrel of under 2.5 kg weight, so this one was marked for surgery in the kitchen, with an honourable discharge into the curry pan.
2.00pm- 5.00 pm- It Is Hot. We try various things to rest. There is no breeze.
Even the Pheasant-tailed Jacanas were sleeping, in spite of it being the breeding season. The Striated Bayas and the Grey Herons also took a break. The watchers' tent is too hot and too small to crash. I drift around, 'observing' fish 'movement'. Bops tries to crash with his favourite pillow which has made a trip from his lower back in the car to under his head. We give up and devour some of the food and move to the dhabas for some more. Then we run out of water. All 15 liters of it between the three of us- Raju went for the canal water which he was immune to.
We move to this town near the Bluff, score water and cold drinks. There's a bit of a breeze and we elect to have a last go at the murrel.
5.00pm-6.00pm- Alexis wants a rohu so Bops and I commandeer the coracle. Raju brings out ragi for Alexis and Marcus. We go wth the only other gillie who's not so great but may be so in time. Bops bags some more 'Dodda' murrel while I take pics.
6.00 pm- we bid adieu to the water in spite of the remaining fishing light since I'd promised Revati I'd be back by 8pm so she and her sis could go to the movies. The day's bag stood at 11 mahseer and 14 murrel, something to be thrilled about. We didn't get back by 8 so she couldn't go to the movies. I have been recently forgiven and can go fishing again.....
What I took away from the trip-
- That we need something like the WASI up North if we anglers are to stop moaning about declining fishing.
- That we need to be scruplously honest about dropping the fish back and make sure the gillies understand it.
- That there are so many species in the Kaveri system that there's room for all sorts of angling and anglers.
- Everything is not perfect down here- like we have meat collectors from Delhi turning up at prime mahseer spots and carting them away, there are their brothers from Mysore doing the same thing. These are 'loaded' people who can damage the gillies. I heard stories of them carting away 50lbers and spreading a lot of trash..... but I refuse to give up on Utopian dreams.... there's going be a time when we have enough fish.
- That we need to look at bodies of water where our meat collectors can have their fill without us sporting types getting pissed off. This means we have to get a WANI going as El Jefe put it some time ago.
This sprouts from the fact that you can actually take 2 murrel and nothing else for the pot at Forbes Sagar and everything other than mahseer at the other reserved areas like malvalli and Bheemeshwari.
A HUGE thanks, again, which words can't do justice to Bops, Alexis and Marcus for granting me an incomparable day on a beautiful piece of water. Also for opening up their tackle boxes and sharing their fishing with me. If ever you guys are up North....