Fishing Lines: 'Trust me, darling, it will be lovely...'
Sunday 19 November 2006
Here's a challenge: how do you persuade a woman that two weeks' fishing for mahseer in India would make a perfect holiday? Here's my sales line. It means travelling to Bangalore (great shopping), and experiencing the vast country's exotic sights and sounds. After a direct flight from Heathrow, it's only a couple of hours' drive to the camp. The fishing takes place in a game park, so you're sure to see lots of wildlife: elephants, monkeys, deer and a rainbow of exotic birds.
Nawabza Saad bin Jung, grandson of the Maharajah of Bhopal, runs the camp. An active landlord, he often fishes with you and tells great stories. A maharajah's offspring doesn't slum it. The view overlooking the river is wonderful, the food is great, there's hot running water (an astounding feat, considering how remote the camp is) and even a masseur on hand.
Best of all, Bush Betta holds giant mahseer. Saad has caught one of 107lb, only 13lb below the world record. This stretch of the Cauvery, one of the sacred Indian rivers, has yielded several 100-pounders. By exotic holiday standards, it's not expensive either: just £1,250 for two weeks.
You might wonder why my wife, Riva, hasn't been pestering me to spend a month there. After all, she had the chance to see just how spectacular it is in the first episode of BBC2's The Accidental Angler, which started last Sunday. But therein lies some of the problem.
The presenter, the amiable Charles Rangeley-Wilson, made it sound like a Boy's Own adventure. I didn't mention that one of the favoured spots is called Crocodile Pool, for a very good reason.
Charles did. Best, then, I don't tell Riva the story of finding pug marks of a large creature and pointing them out to our guide, Suban. He said: "Leopard, sah. Every day, leopard see you. But you not see leopard." Oh.
It had somehow slipped my mind to admit that this is not armchair fishing. You sit on huge granite rocks, on which it's impossible to get comfortable. Even Charles, who is fit and wiry, used much of the hour-long programme to complain about his nether regions.
Then there's the heat. Even Charles, who always looks terribly dapper, was noticeably frazzled. After a quick breakfast, you fish until midday, when it becomes just too hot. Those rocks turn into giant radiators. There is no shade and the temperature climbs to more than 100 degrees.
After lunch, you relax in camp until the heat starts to ease, then fish until dusk. The season runs until April. After that, the valley is just too hot even for the Indians.
And what of the mahseer, called the Indian salmon, and one of the world's great game fishes? Well, sometimes they just aren't hungry. Charles caught a 30-pounder. That's a long way to go for one fish in two weeks when you factor in the sun, the rocks, the scary clambering alongside a wild river and constant worrying about wild elephants. Then there are the scorpions...
Oh, did I forget to mention them, dear?
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