The One That Got Away
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Author:  BigMahseer [ Sat Aug 05, 2006 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  The One That Got Away

Note: This story is from 1989. The Ganges River Dolphin is now a protected species but when one is out fishing - even today - you can’t really tell a particular species of fish to not take your bait...

The One That Got Away...
By Patrick Kerr a.k.a. ‘BigMahseer’

Back in August 1989, I was fishing with an eight foot fiberglass rod by DAM with a Daiwa reel strapped on - one of their small reels - at a barrage named Narora - now more famous for its Nuclear Power Station in a seismically active zone - on the River Ganga between Delhi & Barelli when traveling to Barelli via Bulandshar.

This spot also finds mention in Skein Dhu’s book “Mighty Mahseer” where, in the old days, the deep pools were infested with huge Goonch and “Shoot all Goonch” using rifles, was the norm as these huge monsters destroyed tackle & ate all the sporting fish – they are scavengers too. The Goonch are still around & I saw a 50-odd pounder amongst the net catch of the day at the mandi where we stopped by to pick up our shikari earlier that morning.

Later the same evening, I was out on the bank of one of the streams downstream of the barrage - at an open sluice gate - fishing for a small - the 'big ones' are about 14 inches long - but very tasty little fish called the Batchwa. Some call it 'Butter Fish' but I don't know the exact English or its scientific name.

Anyway, the water was crashing out of the open sluice gate 100yrds upstream from us and foaming & churning around where we - maybe 30-odd fishermen - were fishing almost shoulder to shoulder using bamboo rods/sticks/hand lines/fiberglass rods and very small hooks that took a small pea-sized ball of aata... no floats or weights or lead shot... just the line & the hook.

You tossed in the baited hook & instantly yanked out a batchwa.... the aata ball would usually last for maybe 4 or 5 fish before you needed to re-bait - one could keep fishing using the same ball because the action was so fast and the fish didn't get time to swallow all the aata or even take it off the hook.

And then came along this lone Ganges River Dolphin... porpoising - for want of a better word - daintily in the fast water - easy slow & graceful swirls & leaps that only a dolphin can perform and from the far end of the pool the dolphin worked her way closer in. Maybe she just got curious and wondered why we men had gathered where we were…

I had 12 pound line on the reel and maybe about two hundred yards of it on the spool. The dolphin took the tiny bait in the deep water almost at my feet and… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz went the reel....... screaming....... I was left holding on to the rod doubled up in my desperate clutch as I just couldn't do anything else. The dolphin raced downstream and there was no way of stopping her because of her size and power...

My mind racing, adrenal pumping and my body getting into 'fight mode', I began looking downstream along the banks of the river, gathering and weighing all the options on hand. I noticed a line of tall trees along the bank - there was no way that I was going to be able to run after the fish and get my rod & line around the trees without landing up in a right royal mess... and then i saw them.... about 20 boats, lined up neatly, side by side, tied to the bank and just in front of the trees.

"Can we get past the trees if we climb onto the boats?" I screamed the question at my shikari, Lal Singh.

"Yes" he replied but I was already running.

My spool was almost empty - there was 200 yards of line out in front of me connected to the fish. My brother Michael handed his rod to our mom & she & dad sat back to watch the fun as all the rest of the group of local fishermen also dropped their rods and ran after Lal Singh, Michael & I.

I had the fish on a tight line as I, by now, had screwed down the drag to a dangerous level. I was lucky not to lose my footing while scampering and racing along the sandy bank or hopping over the little boats - more like canoes than boats - as I got across in front of the trees.

Here the river had widened out, was much calmer and the current had slowed down. I began pumping the fish in... One slow pump at a time, pulling her in slowly & steadily, retrieving line, concentrating on my fight and trying to shut out the gaggle of a running commentary & advice from the crowd around me... The local fishermen were already dissecting the fish - telling me how much I could sell the bill for, the price of the skin & the oil.... :-)

“It’s a dolphin… you can sell the skin… the oil is very costly… the meat is not very tasty…” and then we saw the fish close up... she was huge! She must have been about 5 feet in length and with a girth like a tree-trunk... I wouldn't even try & guess her weight...

Now I was fighting her off a gently sloping sandy bank and I guess the gradient wouldn't have been more than a few inches for every ten feet into the water.

Lal Singh, my shikari, stepped into the water and quietly circled around to get behind the fish. The fish was about 20 feet away now and in very shallow water so he could creep up on her without scaring her.

There was pin-drop silence on the bank now as Lal Singh stooped down to put his hands under the fish & grab her to his chest & land her.

She tossed her head & swirled around to a loud sigh from the spectators...

I lifted the tip of the rod higher, applying sideways pressure to keep her head pointed towards the shore.

With my hands outstretched over my head holding the rod & the reel handles & the shikari getting ready to attempt another scoop, I started walking backwards...a step at a time… trying to get the fish in closer to shore with my body weight... we could see the hook now, just the tip in the left corner of the 'smile' of the bill, a minute sparkle of silver glinting in the sunlight ... and then it happened....

Ping!!!!! The tightly strung line & possibly me walking backwards or maybe it was meant to happen that way...pulled the hook out of the bill... Lal Singh saw this & in a flash, accompanied by a huge splash, he jumped onto the fish in a desperate attempt to grab her... but she was gone...

We next saw her when she came up for air about a hundred feet away and very soon thereafter, fully recovered & free, she swam away, continuing downstream in her graceful swirls & leaps to disappear into the darkening waters of the evening.

Author:  IndianAngler [ Sat Aug 05, 2006 6:36 pm ]
Post subject: 

Good read Pat, nice ending too.


Author:  Wolf [ Sat Aug 05, 2006 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  fish

Enjoyable read Pat but on another note, the dolphin is a seriously endangered mammal and is not a fish Pat.

No offense intended here but you should have cut your line the moment you realized that it was a gangetic dolphin.

The Gangetic dolphin is a highly threatened species. According to a study by the WWF the freshwater dolphin population in the Ganges has shrunk from 6,000 in the early 1990s to 1,500 in 2005, with a complete absence in some tributaries. which makes it "rarer" than the bengal tiger.

It is listed under Schedule one of the indian wildlife act (1972), the same protection afforded to a tiger or a snow leopard. if a person is caught capturing a Schedule 1 animal there is a mandatory prison term of 1 year extendable to six years. If an individual commits this offence outside a sanctuary or national park there is a sentence of 3 years.

Once again I enjoyed reading your story and mean no offense by stating the above.

Author:  Rustam Bana [ Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

Gripping read, Pat. Thanks a bunch.

Wolfie was it an endangered species in '89?


Author:  BigMahseer [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 1:53 am ]
Post subject: 

Hey Rayan,

Very good points made & taken...

All I can say is;

1. The fish/animal got away
2. I only catch and release - any & every thing I hook
3. In todays world - i.e. post-2001, I would have cut the line...

All the best & tight lines,


Author:  Wolf [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  89

Rustam Bana wrote:
Gripping read, Pat. Thanks a bunch.

Wolfie was it an endangered species in '89?


Yes Rustam . it looks that way. The wildlife act that i read (online) stated that it was written in in 1972, the year of its inception.



Author:  Wolf [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 9:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Thank you Pat . Reply received and appreciated.

tight lines,


BigMahseer wrote:
Hey Rayan,

Very good points made & taken...

All I can say is;

1. The fish/animal got away
2. I only catch and release - any & every thing I hook
3. In todays world - i.e. post-2001, I would have cut the line...

All the best & tight lines,


Author:  Bobby [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 11:07 am ]
Post subject: 

Very nice read, I’m surprised that the dolphin actually tired so soon being a Mammal. You must be an excellent fisherman and a great runner.

When spinning from shore in and around Bombay, we come across porpoise several times. At times they have come dangerously close to our lures but never will take/touch, they just seem to know that this is something they should not touch.

Have any of you seen David Attenborough’s " The Trials of Life", where Killer Whales beach themselves hunting seals take one and then waddle their way back into the water? It’s quite amazing.

There is a place where I go fishing, where dolphins to the same thing to Mullets i.e. 3 – 4 of them herd mullets, trap them against the shore and then swim almost out of the water to pick the desperate ones that have jumped out of the water to escape, its one thing seeing it in real life.

Many years ago fishing in Bombay (Manori) with spoons, a friend of mine actually fowl hooked a porpoise by accident, before he could do a thing the porpoise had him spooled in one very fast run.

Author:  BigMahseer [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 12:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

[quote="Bobby"]Very nice read, I’m surprised that the dolphin actually tired so soon being a Mammal. You must be an excellent fisherman and a great runner.

Thanks Bobby - but there's another element that figures and this needs to be factored in... the wagging of the 'tale' ;-)

While I still pride myself in being pretty fit @ 2 score + nearly ten... I busted my left calf muscle while running the 4x100 meters relay as the 3rd runner of the Old Girls Team (I volunteered as the old girls had only 3 runners at a reunion at skool in July this year.)

Hower, (ahem!) this happenned after I was awarded places in the shot-put, discus & 100m sprint - all against the kids who figure amongst the best athletes in the Nilgiris... not bad huh?

The bigest fish I've ever landed is a Golden Mahseer that tipped the scales @ 29 Lbs. On the River Kali, halfway between Pancheahwar & Boom, a float (rafting) trip. The fish was hooked, landed, weighed & released at about 6.30 in the evening. She took a Rapala Blue Mullet...

The biggest Mahseer bust-off I've ever had? I'll post the story in a while and try and add in some pics of the area and the fish...

Till then, tight lines


Author:  Bobby [ Sun Aug 06, 2006 12:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

I'm waiting for the next story Pat.

Tight Lines

Author:  Mighty Marlin [ Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi BigMahseer,

While out in the Andamans we often cam across huge pods of dolphins while out trolling. Always cringed at the idea of hooking one of them, but they never came close to our lures. I guess they might be tempted to take a livebait but luckily they weren't interested in our lures.
Looking forward to hearing more tales from you.

Mighty Marlin.

Author:  Owen [ Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Pat,
Good read mate! Somehow i missed this one.

Author:  BigMahseer [ Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:46 am ]
Post subject:  The One That Got Away

Here's some pics of the water & the men at Narora...

1. The Nuke Factory on the horizon
2. The Sluice Gates wide open
3. 3 Generations of Fishermen. L to R; Dayaram, Lal Singh my shikari & Dayaram's old man, Dayaram's son

a.k.a 'Big Mahseer' ... 046tg0.jpg ... 047qv4.jpg

Author:  perazzi [ Mon Sep 04, 2006 9:20 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi Pat ,

Remember going to Naurora coupla years ago and we had the same shikari ( The old man ).
We caught nothing and the locals also raised quite a shindy bcos they either had the nets out or were planning on getting them out some time soon and were worried that our casting wud disturb the fish.

Had gone along with my father and his friend Mr KK Singh ( Joey Mansher's dad. )

Cheers Rohit.

Author:  BigMahseer [ Mon Sep 04, 2006 11:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Rohit,

Yeah... when the Thekedars want to act tough they do.

You've got to hit Narora right though - I guess right now would be a good time as with the riven in full flow, the local fishermen have hassles putting out & managing the nets.

Joey is a buddy of mine & KK was my Dad's classmate in St. Colambas' Skool - many years ago.

Servi was my brother Mike's boss for many years.

And over the years, we've all had some very good times together

It's a small world.



Author:  perazzi [ Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:47 am ]
Post subject: 

Hey Pat ,
Small world indeed.
Joey just finished shooting Trap in sin city and has done quite well.

Cheers Rohit.

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