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Fishery owner James Peacock holding a Goonch Catfish caught from the Ramganga River within the Corbett National Park in India

Fishing magazine articles...

by James Peacock

Whiskers Article, A Goonch - by James Peacock (2005)

It all started near the end of a fishing trip as do most of mine, planning one trip before the other is over. Graham Lawrence and I were in the Amazon on a trip ran by Arnout Terlouw, he also had 5 other Dutch friends and one German lad fishing with him. We had been fishing lake Tucurui for Catfish, Rays, Peacock Bass and a few other species when Arnout suggested going upstream on the River Tocantins which flows through the lake. I was straight up for going for more Catfish but some of the group including Graham wanted to stay for more Peacock Bass fishing, so it was agreed that the group was to split. In the morning Arnout and a few of us left upstream for the river and the rest of the group would follow later on. In the boat with me now was a Dutch guy called Will who had a great sense of humour, he had been on a lot of trips with Arnout, one to India. Graham and I had heard the Dutch lads quietly talking about the Goonch but they were not broadcasting it. Will and I had tied our boat to a tree and just cast out one rod each because of the fast flowing currant, now was a good time to probe for information. "So what is this Goonch like?" I asked. Will looked up at me and grinned then he said "Beautiful James, really beautiful" we both burst into laughter. I knew it would just be a matter of time before Graham and I would be fishing for the Goonch. Shortly after I had a run and after a bit of a battle I had a Catfish on the surface, Will netted it and it was a Jau of 24lb. Taking into account my heavy fishing tackle and the weight of the fish it was quite a good fight in the fast flowing river.

Jau Catfish caught from the Tocantins River in the Amazon rain forest

24lb Jau Catfish

After Graham and I had got our lives back on track, we had decided to find out some more information on the Goonch. Graham had found some small chapters on them in some Mahseer Books, and Arnout had sent a lot of information on how he had caught some and how he had lost some which was a massive help, so a big thanks again to him. After a lot of nights on the internet I managed to find some small bits of information and Arnout sent Graham some more tips including a Dutch agents email address and phone number. I think that was the same one he had used. Again Graham sorted most of the plans out and after a lot of phone calls between us we decided to book the fishing trip. We had decided to go to the Ramganga River within the Corbett National Park, the reasons being we knew of some Goonch captures that had come from the area and also the Golden Mahseer lived there.

We had found out a good time to stand a chance to catch both fish which was in April so next was flights and visa. I was in the process of setting up a fishery in France and had been sorting other things out so I had to come back to England for 10 days. Graham had got some forms ready and I went to his for the weekend. We then went to the Indian embassy with our forms and passports which took us all morning, standing in one queue to be moved to another queue to get back our passports with visas. Then the following day there was a fishing show at Thorpe Park, the C.C.G. had a stand there and Graham had promised to help Simon at the show so I also went to help. We all had a good laugh, Richard and Trevor were also helping Simon. It was also a good opportunity to pick up some more tackle for the trip.

After all the usual procedures we had landed at Delhi airport where we were picked up by our driver and taken to the hotel. It was early afternoon and we had to wait until 5am because it was a long dangerous drive to the Park. So we checked into our hotel, it was really plush with a massive marble reception. We then had a walk around outside looking at the market and shops. Then we had something to eat, afterwards returning to the hotel. There was about 9 hours to go which just seemed to drag on and on even though English football was on TV, we had both struggled to sleep. The alarm clock rang and we both got ready, packed and went for breakfast. We then waited, the driver was not on time. Twenty minutes later a man on reception came to ask us if everything was alright, he looked at his watch and told us our watch was an hour fast, so we went back into the restaurant for another coffee. After the driver arrived bang on time our bags and tackle were loaded and we were off. It appeared as if we were in a race with every driver overtaking anything bikes, bison and carts, lorries and minibuses. They were overloaded with people even standing on the step hanging outside of the back door, a car could carry 9 people. On the side of the road was a mass of smashed vehicles almost every kilometre, we did not feel very comfortable at first but our driver was very safe. The only way to describe their driving is organized chaos but in fairness it does work extremely well.

We arrived at the Corbett National Parks main entrance and kept going for another half an hour along a narrow lane with lots of hairpin bends on the edge of the mountains going up and down, eventually arriving at the Heritage Corbett Ramganga Resort. We were met by Surender Pal who made us very welcome, we had a drink then we were shown our luxury tent. I have never seen a luxury tent before and thought the term sounded funny. Graham and I were sharing the tent so we both walked in to have a look. On entering we could see 2 single beds, a table, 4 chairs, a bedside table and a bathroom door. I opened the door to the bathroom and noticed it was made of concrete with a toilet, sink and shower which sounds right for a bathroom but on the end of a tent to me seemed odd. Outside was a porch with a small table either side of the door with 4 chairs. The main part of the tent was canvas but had a frame with a thick layer of grass on the roof to help keep it cool, it certainly lived up to it's description of a luxury tent. Surender reappeared with another man who was going to be our guide he was called Assah Ram, after meeting us they seemed quite enthusiastic to take us fishing as they were both keen anglers themselves.

We had ten days fishing on the Ramganga River, the main areas to fish were hiking distance from the camp over very rocky terrain. Arnout yet again had told us something very important, make sure you both take felt soled wading boots, as with all the hiking over boulders and river crossings it was a very tough challenge both physically and mentally. One of the days we were taken by our guide in a safari jeep and dropped off at the top of a 1300 foot cliff which we had to descend to reach the river. We then made our way along the banks of the river, stopping at every promising swim. That day we hiked over 9 kilometres crossing the river a dozen times taking us back to camp. We had struggled and caught some Mahseer so Surender asked us if we wanted to try another area 6 hours drive away which we had both agreed on.

Golden Mahseer caught from the Ramganga River within the Corbett National Park in India

Golden Mahseer

At 4:30 the following morning we were awaken by one of the waiters with cups of tea, well that happened every morning as we were fishing very hard. Graham and I had already packed a small backpack and rods as we knew we would be away for one night. Surender drove a safari jeep, with Assah our guide, lots of food, drink and atta flour to make paste. After a long drive up and up into the clouds and then a massive decent though the beautiful mountain ranges we had pulled over on the side of the road. Surender got out and looked over the edge of the mountain and said "Come and see". We all got out and looked over the edge, we were still about 200 foot up looking into the Ramganga River. Some dark shapes were swimming around on the surface these were Mahseer very large ones. Luckily we could drive right down to the river bank, there was even a car park, it was a sacred temple which use to be out of bounds to fishermen but it had been prearranged for us to fish there. Also the Goonch were meant to be in the deep pool but when the monsoons come the rivers rise a lot and when it drops they could be anywhere, so if one had been caught in a pool the previous year it might not be there the following year. Graham got his spinning rod out and went stalking for the Mahseer. I had wanted to try for a Goonch again and spoke to Assah, he said to cast across towards the cliff face into the deep hole. My tackle was an Abu 9000CL multiplier loaded with 35lb mono, I usually prefer braid but was using mono because of the rocks. A Triple X Catfish rod 3.20 metres long with a 150 to 300 gram casting weight that I had just bought from Simon. My end tackle was a simple free running rig but the materials were a little bit different. It was a run ring with a stone tied to it with cotton doubled over 4 times, it was approximately 4 ounces then a large bead and a 250lb class swivel. My choice of hooklink was 100lb steel trace that was passed through the eye twice and then crimped. It was then twisted around the hooklink and then whipped with braid. My hook was a Terry Eustace Penentrator size 8/0, which in my opinion is a very small hook for a 8/0 but a very strong reliable one. We had also been told many stories of people who have had their hooklinks bit through, they had been told to use heavy mono or kevlar which had resulted in them losing good fish. As for baits anything dead or alive but mainly fish, Assah seemed to prefer live fish but my Goonch had been caught on a 5 inch dead fish.

Some other tips we had been sent was to keep casting as the Goonch sleeps most of the day and you also have to cast near it's head. Next was if you manage that and are lucky enough to get a bite your rod tip bangs over then goes back as when the bait enters the fishes mouth it then falls asleep. All of the static fishing the rods are positioned by placing rocks around the handles, whilst fishing for Mahseer they were pointing about 45 degrees and Goonch were 90 degrees beach caster style. Shortly after casting and positioning my rod Assah and I were sat back talking when my rod tip slowly bent over and then back as if nothing had happened. We both looked at each other jumped up and I picked the rod up. Then we both pulled gently on the mainline to see if we could feel anything. Nothing was there so I put the rod back beach caster style and sat back down. Assah and I were talking about checking the bait and recasting so as I picked the rod up I carefully wound the line in, just in case I had a fish on. It was a dead weight but it quickly sprung into life running downstream towards the cliff face, luckily it stayed on my side of the river. I ran towards the fish and then up a sand bank that was around 15 foot above the river. This was a good move having better leverage and being higher up, I could see deep into the water and see where the boulders were. I played the fish hard to keep it away from the rocks but when it was in front of me in clear open water there was no need to bully the fish. It fought extremely hard probably never being caught before. In front of me the depth of water was 10 feet deep and crystal clear I could see every move of the fish and when it wanted to dive to the bottom there was no stopping it. This fish could easily get to the bottom, the build of the fish is like a shark with a powerful large forked tail and glided through the water with ease. Graham and I had talked a lot about trying to land a Goonch and these are the problems. Number one is you can't glove the fish in the mouth because of its teeth. Problem number two is that you will struggle to net it because when the fish is under the rod tip it lies vertical. Arnout's method seemed like the only option, which was to pull the fish into the shallows, your guide will run away screaming, then you throw your rod down and then jump on it's back. We were told that it is also possible to tail the fish like Salmon anglers do, but beware of it's teeth. I could see Graham running back, the only problem was he was 300 metres away. Not that far you might think but he had to run another 150 metres upstream then cross a dodgy foot bridge made of stones with planks laid across them, then run back downstream in the boiling hot sun. Assah surprised me as he jumped on the Goonch, wrestled around in the water for a bit, grabbed the fish around the tail and started to pull the fish up the bank. He was brilliant, everything you could want from a guide. He solved the landing the fish problem as I stood in amazement. I also jumped in grabbed around the tail and helped him pull the fish up the sandbank. We then went about getting the hook out of the Goonch's mouth. I carefully pulled the mouth open and held the fish while Assah put a large stone in it's mouth to stop it biting, then he put his hand in and unhooked the fish. Graham came running over and helped weigh it, the scales went around and we settled for 52lb. Then we carried the fish upstream where the water was shallow to take some photo's. As I felt the fish the whole body was very hard, the skin was dry and not slippery at all. When the fish pulled away I could grip the Goonch in front of it's large forked tail. It was a bit daunting getting into the water with this fish because in this country it was called "The freshwater Shark of India". This fish had a serious set of teeth and I did not want to experience a Goonch bite, luckily this fish was very placid but it did try to power away and I managed to stop it from escaping, if it was bigger I might had struggled. After the photo's were taken by Graham I pointed the fish back downstream and released it. Then the Goonch shot off then it swam gracefully towards the deep hole. It is always a great moment watching your prey slowly disappearing. Then the customary handshakes from Surender, Assah and Graham. We carried on fishing for a few more hours with no more action, then we had the long drive back to camp.

52lb Goonch Catfish caught from the Ramganga River within the Corbett National Park in India

52lb Goonch Catfish

Throughout the last few days we had no bites on our Goonch rods even though we fished extremely hard. Both of us managed to catch some Golden Mahseer and Graham deserved his beautiful one that weighted 39lb, but that's another story. It was another great trip in a new country where every person we had met was really helpful and we made plenty of new friends. Also the scenery and wildlife was incredible.

If you fancy going to the Corbett National Park whether you want to go fishing or safari I can definitely recommend Surender Pal.


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Owners profile

With a lifelong interest in fishing, Etang de Azat-Chatenet fishery was set up in 2004 after moving from England to this wonderfully peaceful fishing lake with accommodation in the Creuse area of France. Read more about owner James Peacock...