With the worst of the winter weather upon us and snow and ice cold winds bringing most normal fishing all over Europe to a halt, it’s a great feeling to be boarding a plane for the long flight to Bangalore in Southern India, knowing full well its going to be 35 degrees and the mighty mahseer will be feeding.

Its my third trip to the River Cauvery in the last few years, The Cauvery has long held a reputation for big mahseer, a hundred years ago it produced huge mahseer and has continued to do so through the years with 50kg fish not uncommon. My own interest in the mahseer has brewed in my mind as a dream for many years and after working extra hours and saving every spare penny the dream finally came true a couple of years ago.

This year as I left England with the thermometer reading 14 below I felt my time had come and I set myself a goal of a 25kg plus mahseer. My previous 2 visits had seen me land over 200 hundred mahseer with the biggest a fish of 17kgs, the main thing thou was those two previous visits had given me the confidence to believe that I could both hook and land a big fish.

Tackle is simple an uptide rod in the 200/300 gram range coupled with a 7000 or bigger size multiplier reel, fill the reel with 18kg line, a simple home made lead (see diagram) and a size 8/0 owner SSW hook completes the rig. Bait is either the local favorite Ragi paste (millet flour with added spices) or Chilwa (small live fish). The Ragi is made fresh every day and can either be formed into a stiff paste or where small fish can be a nuisance hard balls are used, bigger than a tennis ball these hard balls not unlike a giant carp boilie will resist the constant pecking of small fish for half an hour or so.

For me the fishing got off to a great start this year with a 14KG fish in the first session and another fish just over 14kg the next session, even fish of this size fight very hard, certainly I have never hooked a fresh water fish that fights with the power and speed of a mahseer, a tightly set reel clutch will still yield line and in some cases even a 10kg fish will strip 20 to 30 metres on its first run.

The mahseer is quite cagey in the way it feeds and it often ambushes the bait with a very fast bite as it picks up the bait, if it feels resistance then often the bait is dropped, it takes an angler with patience and what I like to call soft hands to be able to react to the first signs of a bite by gently lowering the rod and attempting to lower the resistance felt by the fish, its far too easy to strike too early and many bites are missed this way.

My first chance of a big fish came about 3 days into the trip when a recently cast large hard boiled Ragi ball was picked up by an unseen fish that stripped several metres of line from the reel, in my nervous excitement I struck hard but met no resistance and missed the fish, feeling sick inside and knowing I had been that little too eager to hit the run was made all the worse by my Indian guide telling me “big fish Sahib”

I have enough experience of The Cauvery to know that every angler gets at least one chance of a big fish and most get two or three, so I still felt confidence my target fish was a possibly. I continued to catch plenty of smaller fish and had some great sport with fish up to 18kg on heavy barbel gear consisting of a 2lb TC Korum Precision rod with a KXi Freespin loaded with 10kg line, in one short 2 hour session I managed 6 mahseer over 10kgs, all fell to a freelined ball of soft paste the size of a golf ball.

After a few days of very low river levels a rise of 30cms or more saw an increase in fish activity, several huge fish were spotted rolling in a deep channel on the far side of the river, my guide Harish felt we had a good chance of a big fish from an area just below the famous Galibore camp.

First cast of the session ended in a small birds nest on the multiplier, soon sorted the cast was retrieved after half an hour or so with the hard Ragi ball hardly marked by the small fish. The rebaited rig was recast but a bit nervously after the birds nest of the previous cast, the bait fell a couple of metres short of the desired spot but still in the deep channel.

Within a few minutes of casting without warning the rod was almost ripped from my hands, as line peeled from the reel against a tightly set clutch it felt like somebody had transferred my hook into an express train at full speed. A full 30 metres of line had been dragged from the reel before as my guide had already ordered me I managed to stand up.

I was obviously hooked to a big fish and with 2 lines of submerged rocks to guide the fish past I knew I was in for a battle and needed some luck on my side if I was going to full fill a lifetimes dream. The fish played hard and deep a couple of times I felt the line rub against an under water obstruction, my response of momentarily reducing the pressure on the line worked and after 10 minutes or so the fish was in the deep channel close to my own bank, not beaten yet but I was winning, until with another surging run the fish was almost back to its starting point. With arms now aching and muscles full of lactic acid and feeling like they are going to burst I continued the pressure and slowly gained line, Harish the guide looked nervous and offered advice as the fight went on.

At last the fish came to the surface and Harish grabbed the line just above the hook, but the fish almost immediately turned and again ripped several meters of line off the reel, at that point had Harish not immediately released the line we would have no doubt lost the fish to a snapped line. The second time the fish surfaced it looked beat and came calmly to the outstretched arm of Harish, who quickly inserted a soft cord stringer into the huge open mouth of the massive fish, the cord was carefully passed out through the gill opening and tied in a loose loop to retain it, the fish was then released to regain some much need oxygen as both angler and guide looked at each other with respect and in acknowledgment of a job well done.

After a good breather the fish was weighed and some fantastic photos and video taken, it was obvious I had broken my 25kg target but at 37.6kgs it had surpassed even my wildest dreams a true fish of a lifetime.

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