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KING OF THE CAUVERY - By Nirad Muthanna

Nirad Muthanna with his priced catchI
It was a grey September morning. The jungle was wet with the night's rain and the Cauvery was brown, angry, and swollen. I was camping in the Bheemeshwari area of the cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary hoping to hook fight and attempt to land the world's greatest fighting fish - The Mahaseer.

In the early part of the last century, when Lord Mountbatten landed a 60-pound mahaseer he commented that for a sportsman, the thrill of landing a large mahaseer far exceeded the thrill and challenge of shooting a tiger on foot. It has been established that pound for pound a mahaseer when hooked fights more than any other fish in the world including the shark. Coupled with the fast rapids and shark rocks, landing the mahaseer calls for the ultimate in angling skills. Of course the idea is certainly not to kill or eat the magnificent fish but to weigh, photograph and then release him back to the river, to swim free where he belongs

Based on colour, we have three varieties of mahaseer in the Cauvery, the golden, silver and the black mahaseer. In the 30 kilometers of river that flows between Dodmakhali and Mekedath, conservation efforts and regular patrolling have in recent times shown tremendous positive results. In my capacity as an honorary wildlife warden, I helped capture and imprison the Uppal Shetty gang of poachers - a tough, ruthless gang of 15 men who were dynamiting the river and killing all forms of wildlife.

At 8 a.m. I reached a spot where the river flows in a deep but very narrow channel. I was equipped with a 10ft long crafted graphite rod, a Shimano spinning reel and 40 lb line. The hook was a 2-inch long, single extremely strong and sharp Australian hook. But this international equipment was held by a Kodava angler and fitted with a large ragi ball. I had just cast and was engrossed in observing a beautiful family of river ferns, when suddenly I was thrown off my fishing stool, onto the rocks below and just managed not to be swept into the river. It was like being hit by a freight train. I quickly gathered my wits and using all my strength lifted my rod straight up to drive the hook into the mahaseer's leathery mouth. The freight train continued at a breakneck speed downstream and within seconds my line of the spool was almost over. Jumping into the coracle, I chased the great fish down the river. We soon encountered the first rapid; our boat went crashing into it thrown around like a piece of cork. Miraculously, it did not topple. At the end of 45 minutes, the great monster finally slowed down. By gently lowering and lifting the rod I began the arduous task of landing this fish. Thrice after gaining a lot of line he ran again. But at the end of what seemed an endless hour and a half, there he was an exhausted majestic 99-0pound golden mahaseer - the true king of the cauvery. - Nirad Muthanna


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