The Trout Angle

Kashmir has earned a well-deserved reputation as an angler's paradise. With the demise of the great Mahseer, the Trout is the undisputed numero uno game fish of Kashmir.

In 1899 Frank Mitchell, Colonel's Ward and Unwin, and Captain Allan contributed the sum of 50 pounds each to import trout from Scotland to Kashmir. The Duke of Bedford provided a consignment of 10,000 trout ova, but the first batch perished at sea. The second batch of eyed ova travelled by steamer to Bombay, then by rail upto Rawalpindi – and survived an ardous bus journey to reach Srinagar in December 1900. The hatchlings were reared in a pond in Frank Mitchell’s carpet factory at Bagh-i-Dilawar Khan before being transferred to a hatchery established under his supervision at Harwan at the outlet of the Dagwan stream from Dachigam.

Trout thrive in rushing cold streams and the Dagwan running through the Maharaja's shooting preserve proved to be the perfect trout stream. Later aged ova and yearling trout were introduced in other streams in Kashmir like Achabal, Wangat, Veshav, Kishenganga, Liddar, Marwar and Erin among others. Yearlings were also released in the Burzil and Gurez streams, the Gangarbal Lake, and in the Poonch River. In the 1950's, rainbow trout from Denmark were introduced in Kashmir.

The brown (Salmo trutta) and rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss) varieties adapted to Kashmir's rivers and thrived to the extent that they were later introduced in other states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Bhutan.

Anyway, Hermes and not Mammon is my muse when I avow that the sport of trout fishing is addictive to the point of becoming an obsession. There can be no better introduction to the thrill of angling for trout in Kashmir than the first few paragraphs of this article from the New York Times circa 1983. Compare it to the reprint of A Day on a Kashmir Trout Stream from a century earlier.

The Masjid and Yennar beats on the Lidder in Pahalgam remain my favourite beats as I have rarely angled any other stream except for a few unsuccessful casts in the Ferozepur Nallah. A whole day on Tilwan Kol, the little creek that runs through the exquisite untamed Bangus valley proved entirely fruitless while the plop-and-land excess of the Gangabal Lake provided a full bag but little sport. In my experience the trout from high-altitude lakes like Gangabal have bigger heads but smaller bodies, while the farm-reared variety are spongier than the fish caught in streams.

Trout from Kashmir's glacial streams, though smaller than elsewhere, are considered to be among the most delicious in the world. The State Department of Fisheries have a highly-popular sale for farmed trout on Saturdays, but I rarely avail the opportunity. The tastiest trout is the one that satisfies the appetite triggered by the thrill of having landed it with my own Shakespeare. One of the most memorable meals one can have in Kashmir is a trout hooked, gutted and cooked on-the go. This page has a trout recipe fit for a king (quite literally, since the author is the present Maharaja of of Indore)

Nothing finer, anywhere, indeed.

Update: (2019) After 120 years, 2.25 lakh eyed ova have been imported from Denmark to the hatchery set up for the rearing of genetically improved Rainbow Trout at Beerwah Budgam.

Note: The official record holder for Kashmir is a 17+ pounder caught in the Verinag stream.