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"Maybe a swim, now?" suggested the lieutenant.
We selected a short-barreled Mannlicher rifle and climbed into a deep ravine below camp. The trail crossed the ravine on a slender three-log bridge. Eighty feet below in the shadows, a stream flowed—still and swimming-pool green. Its bottom was bedrock and pebbles. The lieutenant jacked a cartridge into the rifle chamber and checked the pool for cobras. There were none, only a few big lizards clinging to its mossy walls.
Tiny baitfish nibbled at our toes. "Mahseer," said the lieutenant. "Those are baby mahseer."
The stream was surprisingly cold. The temperature was more than a 100� in our camp and in the river gorge below, but the dark ravine cooled and refreshed us. The narrow pool was about 10 feet in the deepest place, and 10 to 20 feet wide. It was long enough for several lazy strokes, and we played like dolphins until we heard voices. Several Jumli porters and their women had stopped high on the three-log bridge. They were chattering like parrots and pointing down into the ravine.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
The lieutenant treaded water and grinned. "You're the matter," he said. "They're talking about you."
"Why me?" I said.
He backstroked into the shallows. "They heard you were an American," he said. "You're the first American these people have ever seen."
That evening I hooked and lost a wild 20-pounder in the gorge when it sliced my nylon on a rock and took off with my marabou. Just as the fish passed behind the rock, the district warden hooked another. His heavy line melted off the spinning reel and he frantically screwed down the drag. The huge mahseer did not slow at all. It jumped twice far down the gorge and wallowed across the rapids. The warden was helpless. The fish forced him downstream from rock to rock. He followed through the chest-deep shallows to the last gravel bar before the walls of the gorge dropped straight into the heavy current. The big mahseer jumped and jumped again in the rapids, threatening to snap the rod. The warden retreated to the gravel shoal below the cliffs and waded out shoulder deep into the current, raising the lashing rod high above his head. The mahseer raked the heavy nylon against an underwater ledge and the rod snapped back. The warden waded ashore.
"It looked huge," I said.