Hans van Klinken, Gelderland, Netherlands
When I was offered the opportunity to fish for the mighty Golden Mahseer in a very remote part of northeastern India, I jumped at the chance. I knew this special trip was going to be exploratory and a somewhat experimental excursion. I anticipated that I would be fishing in a region where fly fishing would be virtually unheard of—a point that became evident very quickly when dozens of locals appeared from nowhere and stared in amazement as I started casting. They clearly had seen very few, if anyone, use a fly rod before that moment. For me, it only made the trip that much more rewarding.
Our host, Chandan Gupta, and guide, Vidhya Raj Gurung, from Rogue Anglers did a superb job of organizing the trip. They took care of every detail and we had a wonderful experience. Although the size of our catch left something to be desired by my standards, we still enjoyed some excellent fly water in the most breathtaking valleys imaginable. Our success suffered from extreme weather conditions—very heavy thunderstorms higher up in the Himalayan mountains—and the resulting discolored water.
After a great deal of experimentation and using just about every trick in my book, I was finally successful in landing my first Mahseer. Although it wasn’t the big golden Mahseer I had dreamed of fighting here, we did catch our share and it was one of the best fly fishing experiences ever—one I will not soon forget.
While there, I experienced another first in my fly fishing career. One day on the water, I encountered some monks in Sikkim praying at the confluence we were fishing. They allowed me to take some pictures and after their prayers they watched me cast. They asked questions and I explained as best I could who I was, why I was there and what I was doing with this strange equipment. They had seen fisherman on these waters before, to be sure, by not necessarily fly fishermen.
Now, these Monks don’t fish nor do they eat fish. But as they listened to my story about fishing with my hand tied flies, using barbless hooks and observing catch and release principles, they started to understand my passion for fly fishing and the quarry I chase. I described to them how fly fishing for me is actually a deep personal connection between myself and nature—a wildlife meditation, so to speak.
I cannot stretch the truth to say that I actually fished with the monks, but one asked to try a few casts in order that he might get a better sense of what it’s like. That small amount of casting instruction with a real monk surely made my day.
In return, he blessed my Thomas & Thomas rod. About 2 hours later I hooked a very big fish and although it was on-and-off after a short fight, I’m going to attribute the hook-up to the monk’s blessing. Another 30 minutes later, I caught my biggest fish of the entire trip. Far smaller compared to what I had just had on my line earlier, but a beautiful fish and great day nonetheless.