Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fishless in Punakha

I just returned from a 9-days fishing trip to Punakha. Not a productive trip but a very fulfilling one, nonetheless. I am usually considered the man-about-camp, as far as number of catches is concerned. I have always been depended upon to reel in the stew but in seven days of working the frigid river every morning and afternoon, I did not land a single fish. Others in the group had no better luck either - all of their efforts failed to yield a catch. Two of the support team had better luck - they caught a few good-sized Brown Trouts (Salmo truta); one of them (Lungten) even managed to false-hook a local variety called the Snow Trout (Schizothorax richardsonii) a rarity since this specie of fish are bottom feeders and do not normally take baits.

  Snow Trout (Schizothorax richardsonii)

The photo below shows a catch of Brown Trout made by one of the support team members named Chado.

 Brown Trouts (Salmo truta)

Talking of Brown Trouts, you may wish to know that this fish specie is not native to Bhutan. The late Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji imported the fingerlings from Kashmir and introduced them to our rivers and lakes some six decades back.

We fished every inch of the river - we fished from the river banks; we climbed onto boulders and driftwood to cast our baits and spinners and flies. We fished from atop the rubber boat; we wadded waist deep into the freezing water, we spin-cast, we bait-cast and we fly-fished. In desperation, I and a friend even resorted to my signature “dredging operation” which involves sweeping the bottom of the river with multiple flies strung on a leader weighed down by lead split shot sinkers. Simply NOTHING! At the end of the 7th day, we decided that the river must have been severely depleted of fish stock provably caused by last years flooding of the river as a result of huge mud slid in Gasa area.

For those of you who understand fishing, look at the following impressive inventory of fishing gear I used during the trip.

Rod Handle: 
My machined aluminum pistol-grip Bait-Casting rod handle is a vintage model made by Shimano of Japan. It is said that this is the only rod in the whole world for which Shimano designed a specific reel to pair with it. It comes with the distinctive marking engraved on the back of the aluminum reel seat that reads “Designed for Professionals”. I have been using the same rod handle for the past 35 years. During a fishing trip a few years back, a friend slammed the car door on my original rod tip and smashed it out of service. Thus the present rod that slides into the rod handle is a retrofit - custom built for me by a rod builder based in Singapore. My name is inscribed on it - in gold.

Rod Blank:
The rod blank is by Sage of USA. It is a fast action, three-piece design and is 6 ft. in length. All the Guides are made of gunmetal to ensure strength and smooth flow of line.

Bait-casting Reel:
My reel is an open face bait-caster made by Shimano. This premium CALCUTTA model is made of Diecast aluminum frame combined with graphite. With this silky smooth reel, I can cast a #2 bait across the Wangchu.

I use Berkley FireLine Braids - 15 lbs TEST, to fill the deep, deep spool of my Shimano reel. This high technology braided line was a national secret of the US during the cold war era. The line is extremely thin and so strong that CIA issued them to their field agents as standard issue weapon of espionage - to choke KGB agents to death. Only after the end of the cold war, this product was released as a consumer product.

Baits & Lures:
I use Rapala brand of artificial baits. They are the world leader in artificial baits, originating in Finland. Their models such as Fat Rap, Jointed Minnow and Countdown Minnow are my favorites. They are made of Balsa wood. These lures, shaped like fish, mimic the movements of a wounded fish as they cut through the water.

These lures’ success is based on a simple fact of life: Big Fish Eat Small Fish.


  1. lol...the fish got the better of you ! Thanx for the info on different ways of fishing and fish behaviour...local variety are bottom feeders; sensible fellows and of course literally reeling with your data on fishing gear...all that buildup just to bait some poor fish. Anyways, you sure seem to have enjoyed the nine days even without the fish.

  2. finally, the master reveals his secret equipment :)

  3. LOL .... TSN.... as they say, if you cant kill with brawn, kill them with looks :)-

    1. I would like to join in your next fishing trip

  4. Tobgay Sonam NamgyalNovember 14, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    and no one can dispute yr distinction as our top angler for sheer productivity. photographic evidence has been emailed to u to display here for skeptics :) I have the honor to graduate from yr school, CIA fishing line & all, & picked up valuable life lessons along the way. its true, the law of the jungle rules. anyday. wishing u better days ahead :) :) :)

  5. Thanks Guru ... mailed you on the images you sent me ... if you give me a higher resolution image of the Tor putitora, I would like to post it so my readers can see the monsters that populate our rivers.

  6. Om Mane Padme Hum!