Let´s rock the goonch!


April 2016 . India . Himalayas

Martin Sack

After two weeks at the river the first shower in the apartment of the safari lodge was feeling unfamiliar. Curiously we had not really missed the common conveniences of the “civilized” world. Quite the contrary, I missed the burbling of the rapids, the noises of the nature and the familiar rhythm of day and night. The water was bubbling over my skin, flushing all sand out of all pores. I looked at the shower bath, watching the murky water getting clearer. What an ingenious tour was just lying behind us! I closed my eyes and sunk is memories…

The night had covered the canyon in deep gloom. In short intervals the rock walls were lightened by flashy white light. Around us lightning was hurling in fascinating formations through the darkness and let the thunder rolling over the small river. The thunderstorm was close and surrounded us, and my feet were moving faster between the rugged grounds of the dry river bed. A fish just had cut the breaking line of our stone rig, and the ratchet of my multy player was running. I pulled hectically the bite alarm off the blank, the rod out of the stone rod pod and set the hook. “I have one! Come on!” Now the thunderstorm was directly over our heads, and I was pulling my opponent as fast as possible to the shore. In the water a smaller Goonch was appearing, which had good power compared to its size. But now it was getting uncomfortable, so we hurried up and put it on a rope at the shallow water of the river bank. As we had been on our way back to our tents, the first drops were crackling down on us, developing in short time into a heavy rain. Phew, this catfish would stay in my memories for long time for sure!

After our first quest of the giant devil catfish two years ago with moderate success, we hoped for this tour to have advantages because of expanded knowledge of the place, ideal conditions of the water and a consequent implementing of modern wells catfish fishing techniques. With Denny I had an excellent fisherman at my side, and I was also very pleased that our not fishing tour companion Tim was enthusiastic about our fishing mania. The expedition was escorted by our Indian team of driver, local guide, cook and two helpers. Without their help we never would have managed all the logistics.

The days were hot, but the mountain water was always inviting for short refreshment. However, in the morning and afternoon hours it was very comfortable, and we displaced most of our works to the colder times of day. Catching small mahseer as baitfish with the spinning rod, exploring the river, bringing out goonch baits and if necessary changing the fishing area. Sometimes we had to manage hard hiking days, at other days we could chill relaxed with a chai tee and a book at the beach, waiting for a goonch. The dragon like catfishes with the big teeth were starting to hunt not before the nightfall. We had every night bites of this rare species, and the fishing was more exciting than expected. But despite all the scary myth around these animals we recognized in short time: The only river monster which was doing mischief here was the human. Sadly we heard frequently detonations of dynamite from local poachers. One demolition charge was detonating in the water twenty meters next to – just as we wanted to bring out our rods! Curiously we caught later at the same pool goonches, but the future of this remarkable catfish species was more than dubious if thinks would develop in the same ways like it did until now.

The last fishing day was starting. Denny and Tim were leaving at the first dawn, trying again to chase the big mahseer around 20kg in the pool at the temple area. Here they were save for dynamite at the “holy river stretch”, but unbelievable clever. Whatever we had tried: Despite thin fluorocarbon leader, all variants of lures, baitfish and bread, the fishes were eating everything but nothing when there was a hook and a line nearby. In the meantime I was looking at our tent camp, as a bite alarm of a heavy catfish rod was sounding. Easygoing I left my tent and checked the rod, which was still on tension and standing stiff in the rocks. Who knows, maybe there was a smaller fish which was not able to cut the breaking line. As I took the rod in my hands, I recognized the resistance – there was a fish on! After the strike I recognized that the heavy goonch after the bite just had stayed at the spot and laid down to the bottom. Now hit started slowly to move and was taking continuously line from my multi player. How beautiful, this fish was not so easy to stop and was stressing the tackle to the limit! At the beginning of the fight I tried to bring as much pressure as possible at my combatant, to keep it away from the danger zone of sharp cliffs. The goonch was starting again and again to short, fast escapes, interrupted by breaks of laying down on the ground. But in the small river it had not much scope of action, and so after around ten minutes a tremendous head was appearing in the shallow and clear water. Quickly I handed over my rod to our Indian guide, which still had arrived for help, jumped in the river and grabbed the catfish at the tail. With joined forces we secured the goonch with a rope trough the mouth. Still the fish had enough power to shake us around by handling it. But then the animal was getting calmer and was laying peacefully in the clear water just in front of us. Unbelievable, this was the most beautiful catfish of my life. The measure tape was showing 1,71m and our guide was estimating 80kg!

After the grand final we wanted to take our chance to face a tiger in the wild. Our guide wanted to drive down a small path through the jungle, because he expected at the river banks some tigers at the hot day. But all came different: A big elephant looking for a bride was coming towards us, forcing us to do a U-turn full of adrenaline. However, this I would call – nature!

On our way back from the mountains to the airport of Delhi we faced the contrasts of India again. Colorful clothing and vehicle were changing with hills of rubbish and polluted water, decayed housings with luxury hotels. Modern cars were driving on the streets next to wagons with horses or bulls, the contemplative Himalayan villages were replaced by mazy small cities and at the end by the impenetrable Delhi, the clean air of the mountains was replaced by biting smog.

At the end we looked back to a great adventure and could rock in total six goonch! And hoped that this awesome river landscape would not collapse one day forever, like so many beautiful thinks of our planet. Because no catfish species had fascinated my so far more than this devilish goonch!


Angler: 2

Fishing days: 10

Goonch: 6

Statistic (length in m):

1.71 – 1.46 – 1.36 – 1.25 – 1.22 – 1.20


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