March 28, 2018, Nagni, Tirthan Valley, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India:
The last time I fished was about 23 years ago and even then it was just about catching something to eat, very crude in method when out on solo treks. Nothing pretty and definitely no art or science or philosophy behind it.
But then today, I think I find myself on the other end of the fishing line.
For the last two days, I have been listening very intently at the breakfast table to some very knowledgeable and pioneering Fly Fishing exponents, couple of them probably legends in their own right when it comes to Fly Fishing in the Himalayas in general and the Tirthan Valley in particular. They don’t say anything much about the fishing that has caught my attention. It is their very approach to life and the manner in which they go about preparing and repairing flies and talking about the weather, the route they will take … you can see they are constantly thinking about what they will do when at the river. It’s fascinating.
Afternoons I have been watching local anglers and instructors tutoring tourists and also watching them fishing themselves.
But none of that actually made me want to pick up a tackle and cast a line to ‘try’ my hand, for experience. Am just not built that way.
But an hour ago, when there seemed to be no fish biting in the middle of the river, I got off my rock (from where I had been staring into the water, willing the fish to come jump out and shake a hello), took a rod from one of the local instructors and tried to cast a line. Failed. Tried again. Failed. Got a verbal step-list on what to do and then kept at it till I got the ‘casting a line’ bit right enough to hang in there. It was about this time that I felt I had been hooked.
After that, I stood there casting line after line, and learning to feel the river and the flow and the energy of the fish and the force of the water, all by the tug on the line and before I knew it the river became a lifeline, and all that was around and inside and within and outside seemed all connected, somehow.
And I started to get an inkling of what Fly Fishing really means to those who pursue it as a calling. It is no less an art and a precise science than any other; but, it’s more a philosophy and one that is very essential to the ecology and ecosystem of the Himalayan mountains- but that’s a different story.
For now, I am elated like a child thanks to some beginner’s luck – I caught a little Rainbow Trout. And released it right back into the river since Trout House has a Catch and Release policy.
A while later, I got a tug on my line from way out in the middle of the river, and I knew it was a big fish from the way it was pulling me off the rock. I called out to Anil, the local instructor from Himalayan Trout House. Guided by him, I slowly reeled it in, relaxing the line now and then since the fish was big and it wasn’t about to come smiling in. Eventually, he tugged the line around a rock and sat there, effectively forcing a stalemate.
Anil then went into the water, tugging at the rock and then trying to budge it and eventually the fish slipped the fly hook and swam free.
I cast a few more times but I have enough learning from the day. Who knows what lies ahead…