What is Angling
Angling, or sport fishing, is catching fish by using an ‘angle’, or a fish hook. The hook is fixed to a fishing line, which is attached to a fishing rod (this, typically, is fitted with a fishing reel). To lure fish, the hook is dressed with a bait (often, a ‘bite indicator’ like a float is used). Baits can be natural (fishes’ prey like worms, insects, earthworms and maggots – dead or alive) or artificial (a ‘lure’ can – but doesn’t have to – represent real prey).
There are three types of angling – spinning, fly fishing and bait fishing. Angling can be done with a rod – where the rod is attached to a reel – or by just a line. The classic ‘hook, line and sinker’ technique – the hook, attached to a line, weighed down by a sinker – is every angler’s go-to (and failsafe) fishing practice. Angling is pursued usually for pleasure (recreation) or for food. Anglers also take part in fishing tournaments, winning prizes for the weight or length of the fish caught (the species is determined beforehand) within a specified period of time.
History of Angling
The history of angling (or fishing) is as old as the world. From the time there were fish in the seas and the rivers, people have been catching them for food. The earliest known references to fishing date back to the ancient world. Among the Greeks, philosophers Aristotle and Plato referred to the sport of angling, while historian Plutarch offered advice on fishing lines. From Greece and Rome to the ancient civilizations of India and Egypt, fishing played an important role in the local (and regional) cultures; there is much evidence of this, both pictorially as well as textually (and also through the discovery of fishing equipment). Sport fishing can trace its origins to the late 15th century, but it was only after ‘The Compleat Angler’ came out (1653) did angling really take off. This guide, probably the most significant book on sport fishing, was authored by English angler Izaak Walton, whose reflections on (and love for) recreational angling sit snugly side by side with advice on how to make tackle and suggestions on the best techniques for catching fish. Besides being a classic of English Literature, ‘The Compleat Angler’ is also the seminal book on angling. Since the days of Walton, advances in fishing gear and an increase in knowledge of angling tactics (and also a growing awareness of the habitat of fishes) has seen the sport of grow in popularity, across the world. For many, it is the perfect way to relax, an antidote to the frenzies of modern existence.
Angling in India
Though probably not as popular a pastime as it is in the West, angling has its loyal followers in India, and also a growing tribe of converts. Once ‘hooked’, the ‘bait’ of angling (puns unintended) proves difficult to avoid. Which other sport offers you hours of tranquility and reflection, in the great outdoors (and, at the same time, presents you with the opportunity to catch fish)? If there’s one fish that India is renowned for, it is the Mahseer, a species of carp that inhabits many of the rivers in the Indian Subcontinent. However, the mighty Golden Mahseer (now, unfortunately, endangered) is only resident in the Himalayan region. To catch one of these big beauties is an angler’s dream. The Golden Mahseer is found in rivers fed by glaciers, snow and springs, while the red-finned and yellow-finned Mahseer is only found in spring-fed rivers.
Besides the Mahseer, among the species of fish that can be seen in abundance in Indian rivers are the gargantuan Goonch (catfish) and various species of trout (brown and rainbow – introduced by the homesick British). The Lower Himalayas is regarded as the best spot for sport fishing; the Ramganga and the Sarda (Uttarakhand) both offer fantastic Mahseer fishing (as well as Goonch and trout). Anglers on the lookout for the Mahseer can also try their luck in the rivers of the Indian peninsula – Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna and Mahanadi – almost throughout the year (except during the monsoons). In Karnataka, the lure of the Kaveri proves difficult to resist for anglers – it is probably the best river for sport-fishing (Mahseer) in India. The Indus, Jhelum and Lidder rivers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their tributaries (Bringhi, Aru, Sheshnag), are home to brown trout. Down south, you’ll come across trout in the rivers and streams of the Nilgiri Hills (Tamil Nadu), and also in neighbouring Kerala (especially in the streams around Munnar). In the north, the Ganges and the Yamuna (and their tributaries) are home to the Mahseer, trout and the Goonch. Trout can be found in Himachal Pradesh – brown trout in the many streams in the Larji Valley (Kullu-Manali) that converge in the River Beas, and trout in the Sangla Valley (also known as Baspa Valley). On India’s coasts, you’ll encounter saltwater fish such as mackerel, marlin, perch, sailfish, sea bass, snapper, snook, tripletail and tuna.
Hook, line, sinker; rod, reel, spear, net, trap, gaff, wader, spinner, float, spoon, tackle box, bait/lure (natural or artificial), bite indicator (Also) Rucksack, sunscreen, head torch (with batteries), camera
Best season in India
All through the year (except winter months in the Himalayas) – April to June and October and November offer the ideal windows. For angling, between mid-February and mid-May is the best time.
Angling sites in India
Ramganga River, Uttarakhand (Golden Mahseer, Goonch catfish)
Sangla Valley (Himachal Pradesh) (trout)
Gulmarg, Kashmir (brown trout)
Kaveri River (Karnataka) (Mahseer)
Manali, Himachal Pradesh (trout, brown trout)
Beas Ghat, Uttarakhand (Golden Mahseer)
Pancheshwar, Mahakali and Saryu rivers (Uttarakhand) (Golden Mahseer)
Dakpatthar, Yamuna (red-finned & yellow-finned Mahseer, rare Indian trout, Goonch catfish); [tributaries of the Yamuna] Giri (Mahseer), Tons & Pabbar (brown trout, in upper reaches)
Teesta (North Sikkim)
Ranikhor, Meghalaya (Golden Mahseer, Goonch catfish)
Jia Bhoroli [bordering Nameri National Park, Assam] (Golden Mahseer, Goonch catfish, Indian trout)
Arunachal Pradesh [Brahmaputra and its tributaries] – Tezu, on the Lohit (Brahmaputra); Tipi & Bhalukpong, on the Bhoroli; Pasighat, on the Siang
In these times when the planet’s resources are being stretched to the limit, sustainability is a priority. Over-fishing, marine pollution, fish farming – these are the challenges that face the fishing industry in the 21st century. Another challenge is the balancing act that seeks to guard the livelihoods of those who depend on the sea, while at the same time protecting the delicate aquatic ecosystem. Many fish species are on the endangered list, as supply from the world’s oceans and seas is unable to keep up with the growing demand. To this end, size limits are now applied to a number of species (the law states that fish above and/or below a specified weight must be release back into the water), with most recreational fishermen observing catch-and-release fishing.