I woke at 5:00 and noticed some of the others were already awake and fishing. Chris, Bob and Phil were stoking the embers from last night’s fire. We had a warming cup of tea and then went upstream from the camp to fish a rapid on the Subansiri. Two local line wallahs on the far side of the river eyed us curiously as we fished opposite them. They retrieved a couple of small fish from their lines before rebating them and tossing the lines back into the river. Despite fishing excellent water, none of us hooked or saw a fish so we returned to camp for breakfast.
Rup had caught a 4lb Boca on a silver spate spoon from the eddy pool where the rafts were moored but no-one else had caught anything.
After breakfast, we lazed around the camp while we waited for Arun’s raft to be repaired. He had picked up another puncture during yesterday’s journey so it would have to be repaired before we continued. They’d hauled the raft out of the river last night but it would have to dry out fully before they could apply an adhesive patch.
We fished in the heat of the morning as the repairs were taking forever. I fished down the Kamla to the confluence and lost a couple of small mahseer in impossibly shallow water. The river was very clear yet I couldn’t see the fish as I bobbled a small lure over the riverbed.
We finally set off at about 1p.m. and rafted down to the next camp about five kilometres downstream. En route I hooked and landed a 4lb Boca on a small gold spoon from the raft which we kept for supper to add to Rup’s earlier catch.
We camped on a wide flat beach where a huge slow bend in the river almost forms a complete circle. The added water from the Kamla made the Subansiri over 100 metres wide in places here and its pace now was slowing considerably as it meandered through the foothills before emerging onto the plains of Assam.
After the tents were erected we all split up to go fishing. I wandered a couple of kilometres downstream and cast into very good water but caught nothing all evening. I fished two lovely small confluences, where warm stream water fell into the main river, convinced I would catch a fish at any moment as the light was fading. At one point, I heard a distant cry and glanced back to see lots of people rushing across the beach at the camp upstream from me. I figured someone was into a good fish.
The light had all but gone now so, fishless, I turned from the river and made my way back upstream to camp. The moon was up and there was just enough light for me to clamber over the rocks without the aid of my headtorch. It was a pleasant warm evening and I was enjoying being alone in the moonlight. I walked into camp to hear much merriment from around the roaring campfire. A whisky bottle was being handed around which produced very animated conversation. I soon found out the reason why I’d earlier seen people dashing across the beach from where I’d been fishing downstream.
Sanjay had decided to fish near the camp in a calm area of water around some boulders that were lying in the river about 10 or 15 metres out from the shore. He’d cast over and over around these rocks, convinced that a good fish lay amongst them. After 20 or so casts, his rod suddenly locked up and bent over as a really big fish took his lure. The fish tore away into the river and he hung on and played the fish for 20 minutes or so, shouting for assistance as he soon realized he was going to need help. His cries for help and the sight of him bent into a fish had brought everyone running from the camp. There was much excitement and confusion as everyone was trying to assist or shout at each other while Sanjay tired the fish and slowly brought it into the side. Arun jumped into the river to grab the fish but it was having none of it and thrashed away powerfully. Again Sanjay tired it and slowly dragged it into the side for someone to land. Arun got around the fish once more but again, it powered off, but this time it swam straight through Arun’s legs with Sanjay’s line after it. People screamed at Arun to get away from the line and he narrowly escaped being either cut badly by the nylon or worse, breaking the line and losing the fish for Sanjay. Sanjay was feeling the effects of the battle with the mahseer (his knees had given out on him a few days back during his jungle trek) and everyone was out of the water now so order was restored. Finally, after once again slowly tiring the fish and bringing it into the side, it was held securely and a stringer attached. No-one had any weigh-scales or weigh-sling (because they were with me) so there was a lot of speculation as to its size. This was the lively debate raging at the fireside when I walked in. Nobody was prepared to wait until the morning to see what the fish weighed. Sanjay was also concerned that locals would creep down and steal the fish in the darkness.
I got my weigh-sling and scales and with headtorches we carefully made our way across the rocks to the river. The mahseer was very tired and didn’t struggle much as I held it gently and eased the weigh-sling over its broad shoulders. I slowly lifted the fish out of the water in the weigh-sling and someone took a reading on the weigh-scale as I strained to keep it steady. 38lbs was the agreed weight and it was a female golden mahseer that would probably have weighed more if her belly had been full of spawn. We all shook hands with Sanjay’s and I secured the fish on a longer stringer in deeper water where we hoped she would be safe for the night.
The whisky was soon gone and the remaining few bottles would have to be rationed if we were to have enough to last for the remainder of the trip. Runners were therefore dispatched to a local village to fetch some of the local rice beer so that celebrations could continue. This rice beer is made by fermenting a paste many times in earthenware pots or bamboo tubes. Water is then added a number of times to this potent brew and hopefully a half-decent alcoholic beverage comes out at the other end.
Nino produced a first class supper of Boca (slowly baked on a bamboo grid over the embers of a log fire) with spicy potatoes, rice and chapattis. The local beer (still warm from the fermentation process) arrived shortly after supper. It was hit and miss with this stuff but we were all in the mood to give it a go. It made my eyes bulge ever so slightly when I first tasted it and there was only a stifled choke as I swallowed. We decided to lessen its impact by mixing it with orange Tang. Cocktails by the river, how splendid!
Rup fell asleep sitting up, Chris lost the power of speech and everyone else just giggled and laughed a lot. I crawled into my tent as I was no longer able to stand.
We would just have to wait until the morning to see if we would survive…