P. A. Mushtaq
SRINAGAR, June 7:A devotional patience and a sixth sense are basic eligibility for the oldest sport of Kashmir valley: angling. The sport has attracted thousands of foreign tourists and locals to dozens of rivers, streams and lakes spread across Kashmir valley. The sport is again picking up in the valley as winters make way to onset of spring, the first season of the fishing calendar.
“Every fisherman truly seduced by the sport, novice or expert, knows the feeling: all awareness, all consciousness focuses on a single point in the water where the strike might come at any instant. Nothing breaks that laser beam of concentration when it is fixed with full intensity, as happens late one sunny afternoon, on a tiny artificial fly that you are working in short jerks against the current of a tumbling white-water river of crystalline clarity at the edge of the Himalayas, hoping to tantalize the trout of the Vale of Kashmir,” wrote William K. Stevens, bureau head of The New York Times in New Delhi in July 17, 1983.
Angling is a centuries old sport of the mankind and Kashmir has always been a favourite spot to fish from fresh waters. “I have served as caddy to many professional anglers. There were hundreds of foreign anglers in Kashmir in 1980s. They would stay in houseboats on Dal Lake and fan out to streams like Lidder, Sindh, Kishenganga, Sukhnag, Doodhganga, Erin, Ferozpur, Bringi, Rambiara, Vishav, Madhumati and Puhru for angling,” Aziz Ahmad, an owner of a shop selling fishing material on Boulevard near the Dal lake. Angling opens from mid-April to mid-September in the valley.
Fishing equipment has a rod, a reel, fishing line, and hooks and lures in it. For anglers, catching a fish has more to it than just sport. “A reason for building a Kashmir vacation around fishing is that quite apart from the basic, visceral thrill of the sport, fishing offers a way to establish a particularly intimate connection with one’s environment. Somehow, you come to feel more in harmony with a place by fishing in it,” says Stevens.
Kashmir has formulated special laws to promote the angling without unbalancing ecology or fish population. “The Directorate of Fisheries on the basis of conditions prevailing issue directions for anglers. Angling is not allowed without a licence or permit and is procured from the Fisheries department. The licence is valid for one day only. The bag limit is six fish only,” said a senior official working with the department.
“A licence or permit has to be kept along during fishing and produced to the departmental officials on demand. No sub-letting, sharing or transfer of fish permit is allowed,” he added.
The government has banned all natural baits, dead or alive. “Only artificial-fly-fishing is allowed. No un-authorised persons are allowed to work as gillies (known as shikaries in local language). Only one rod per angler is allowed,” said the officer.
A special office has been set up at the Directorate of Fisheries, Nehru Park, Srinagar. “The ice-cold, crystal-clear, turbulent streams; mighty springs; high altitude lakes; lofty snow-clad mountains; thick pine forests; lush green meadows; beautiful valleys and hardy fish fauna together with a pleasant climate. That is what makes Kashmir the Anglers’ Paradise. Kashmir offers great scope for sport fisheries,” said the officer.
There are three most favored methods of fishing: bait fishing (the use of live or dead bait placed on a hook), spin fishing (the use of metal or plastic lures), and fly-fishing (the use of feathered lures resembling either insects or small fish). “In all three methods, a fisher chooses a rod, a reel, and line of an appropriate weight and strength. Lures are chosen that imitate the fish’s prey,” said Majid Ahmad, a Kashmiri angler.
Majid says an angler has to be serious about the fishing rod. “A fishing rod is a long, straight, flexible pole that an angler uses to cast bait or lures into the water. Fishing rods can be made of bamboo, fiberglass, or graphite. Bamboo rods range from inexpensive cane poles without reels to finely handcrafted fly-fishing rods,” he said.
Fiberglass rods are the most popular rods with beginners. “They are relatively inexpensive, not easily broken, and require little maintenance. Graphite has become a popular rod material for experienced anglers because it is extremely light yet strong,” said Majid.
The rod length, Majid said, depends upon the fishing an angler intends to do. “Short, flexible rods are often used in locations where overhanging tree limbs and branches limit an angler’s casting area. Long, wispy rods up to 4 m (12 ft) in length may be used for long casts in moderate winds. Shorter, sturdier rods are used for pulling heavy game fish from the depths of large lakes or the ocean,” said Majid.
With sun shining again and glaciers melting up in the hills, trout fishing has already attracted a few in Kashmir. “I have come for fishing and I am bored of mountain tourism. I have identified many spots in north and south Kashmir for fishing. I am yet to apply for permission for angling. But I am dying to start my angling sojourn,” said Amitava Khurana, a nature lover from Delhi.