"They crush the shellfish in their throats," explained the lieutenant. "When they're hooked deep, their shell-crackers can smash a spoon or treble hook like a vise."
The warden passed me his tackle box. "These are the plugs and lures I use," he said, "but these big spinners are the best."
He handed me a huge handmade lure; its two-inch blade was hammered from copper and polished on rock, its clevises were twisted from heavy brass wire, its shaft was strung with coarse ruby-colored stones, and it hung with a saltwater treble hook.
"They can crush those hooks?"
The warden nodded. "They're made for me by an old man in Katmandu," he explained. "We get the hooks from England."
"Are mahseer only found in the Ganges watershed?" I asked.
"No," said the colonel, "they're in Pakistan and Burma as well, but the best fishing is probably in Kashmir, and here in this Karnali gorge to its junction with the Bheri."
"The spawning runs come upstream like salmon," said the warden, "about five to seven days apart."
"They are a little like salmon," agreed the colonel. "They like the cold water that comes down from the Himalayas—and a spate of discolored water means poor sport."
The current was swifter now, murmuring and sucking at the rocky walls of the gorge, and we reached the bottom of the rapids just before noon. The Raji boatmen beached our dugouts where springs trickled into the river through beds of moss and ferns, and quickly built reed shelters to protect us from the sun.