Fishing lines: I'm off to see crocs around the rock

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The Independent Online

There is a very large rock in the middle of the Cauvery river in Bangalore. It is one of the world's best places to catch a big mahseer, the "Indian salmon" for which the river is famed. But unless there is a croc chasing me, you won't get me anywhere near that rock - mahseer hotspot or not.

There is a very large rock in the middle of the Cauvery river in Bangalore. It is one of the world's best places to catch a big mahseer, the "Indian salmon" for which the river is famed. But unless there is a croc chasing me, you won't get me anywhere near that rock - mahseer hotspot or not.

The trouble is that it is slap bang in the middle of one of the wildest parts of a wild river. The water boils, bubbles and crashes, racing by as if it has only minutes to reach the sea.

Clambering on to the rock, even with the aid of surefooted guides, is said to be perilous. Getting off is downright life-threatening. These days, my self-preservation gene appears to be overpowering the stupidity gene that once ruled my life. I'm happy to leave Death Rock for those younger, fitter and less concerned with supplying lunch for the crocodiles.

My friend John Bailey, who is on this trip with me, tells the story of being placed on the rock by a guide and left to his own devices. Terrified that a mahseer would pull him straight off and into the maelstrom, John quietly removed the bait and sat there for a couple of hours with a bare hook. He felt that catching nothing was better than hooking something.

But I desperately want to catch a mahseer. Last time I was in India, a few years ago, I travelled to Arunachal Pradesh and didn't bag a thing. It was not a trip for wimps, and every morning I quietly thanked God that I was still alive.

But I didn't catch a mahseer. Hooked one for about five seconds, and it came off. Terrific. Travelling halfway across the world, risking life and limb, spending nearly £2,500 and being skunked is not an experience I want to repeat. That's why I'm heading for the Cauvery.

This is as near a banker as you can get with mahseer fishing. And I'm going with hotelier Peter Smith, who has been fishing the river for more than 10 years.

Peter says: "You're going to catch one of about 40lb. You might get a 70-pounder. And if you're really, really lucky, you could get one of the big ones." He claims there are masses around 20lb. "We don't even count those," he says.

So what's the appeal? Well, mahseer aren't just big and beautiful; they are tough as hell, as you need to be to survive in the Cauvery's white waters. You can't just use ordinary freshwater gear. I've packed a sea rod and 50lb line. You can tow a boat with that. But mahseer fishers say that you don't have a chance with lighter lines.

These are the fish that comprehensively smashed rods, reels and lines when the colonels and the majors tried to use their salmon gear in the days of the Raj. In the end, tackle-makers such as Hardy's were forced to build a new range to cope with mahseer power.

There isn't another freshwater fish like it in the world. Let's hope I don't have to clamber on to the rock to find out.

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