Swedish version

Back to part 1 of article

"Casting a fly at the Himalayan Mahseer"
part 2.

By Misty Dhillon

  Flies for the Mahseer

  The subject of flies is fairly elaborate as there are so many flies that catch Mahseer, depending on the situation. The topic of fly fishing is almost getting re-invented with modern day tackle / techniques and tying materials - it is all very exciting!

  You may have always heard of vague descriptions of Mahseer flies, on various web sites and a few books. I have made an attempt to show a few of my flies that I have field tested and developed over the years. These are flies that I have been tying and using on the Himalayan Rivers in the recent past. I have had many a beautiful fly-fishing experience with these flies and I wish to share them with you.

  The flies I tie are mostly weighted / un-weighted streamer, nymphs of all kinds, some of which are very large too, some small weighted wets, tubes, and a few popper / diver flies.

  Some of the Mahseer flies look like Atlantic Salmon / Steelhead patterns, and I have assembled these flies using ideas given by various experienced anglers that I have had the pleasure to have fished with. The concept of not being able to get the fly to the desired depth is now hardly a concern as you can do that without a problem with today’s precisely tapered and high grain sinking fly lines.

River Side Fly Tying, by Misty Dhillon © 2007
River Side Fly Tying

  There is even an upstream presentation technique I invented in Pancheshwar, where the fly is presented upriver and made to bounce on the bottom with a high grain shooting head using a double handed rod. If you fray a lot of tippet you have to check it perpetually every third cast, though it is very productive when the going is tough.

  I would only seldom fish flies very deep. Some of the effective lures that anglers use when spinning for Mahseer (like the "Rapala J11"), goes to roughly four (4) feet and I know some of the finest anglers will swear by it in the Himalayas. I think it is not hard to get a weighted fly with a light sink tip to roughly that depth in most situations.

  Some of these flies are weighted just about enough for a 10wt rod to handle, so really in many swims one does not even require a sinking line.

  There are a couple of things that you may want to look at, like the action of the fly and depth you want to fish. Mahseer in the post monsoon months (Sept, Oct, Nov) have been seen to take minnow patterns as soon as they hit the water.

  You may even want to try minnow imitations after dark, though you must ensure that you step up on tippet class. I have seen 40 lb fluorocarbon give way a few times. Though remember, safety is first, and glasses and a PFD are strongly advised while fly-fishing after dark.

  I do not think any account to date has shown Mahseer flies, and I wish you all the very best with these flies and hope that you catch some good Mahseer on them.

  I have been fishing since the age of fifteen and decided to take up guiding fishing expeditions as a career at the age of twenty-three. I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time on various Mahseer rivers throughout the Himalayas and spend a lot of my spare time tying flies and fly-fishing different rivers.

  Over the years various guests have tested a lot of my flies and many a double figure Mahseer have been taken on them.

  You must look into minnow patterns and you may hook some good fish. I am working on another feature which will describe and show the minnow patters I use for Mahseer.

  These flies have been compiled with the best of my understanding and experience of the Mahseer and its habitat, extracting some information from books and based on practical experience through the years.

  There is a vast selection on Mahseer flies, which is hard for me to put on in one article. Shown here are some of the earlier inventions that I used in clear water systems and also on glacial rivers.

The Misty’s Perception Mahseer

The Misty’s Perception Mahseer, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  One of my first inventions and a favourite fly. This was invented on the Yamuna River in Himachal Pradesh back in 1998 and a fly that has produced consistently. Over the years I’ve had many guests on our Mahseer expeditions use this fly with success. It is easy to tie and effective. I tie her with a variety of materials - I replace the “body” chenille with floss or dubbing fur, or then sometimes the colour of the Mallard flank tail.
You may or may not add weight to this fly. Though I would recommend you fish it at four (4) to ten (10) feet.
Early mornings and late evenings are the best times of the day for this fly.
This fly could be dressed on # 6 or then a # 8 streamer hook.
I dress her on salmon fly hooks too.

Misty’s Mahseer Spider

Misty’s Mahseer Spider, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  Another killer from my family of Mahseer flies - the fly uses back hackle and a brown body that could be dressed with floss, dubbing fur or then chenille. It is almost the exact replica of the Misty’s perception Mahseer, only a different colour.
You may or may not add weight to this fly.
This fly could be dressed on# 6 or then a # 8 streamer hook.
I dress her on salmon fly hooks too.

Mahseer Viva Minnow

Mahseer Viva Minnow, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  Improvised from the original Viva, this fly may or maynot be weighted, and could be tied with an eye. However, the eye is not essential. A great fly for slightly coloured water and any time of the day.
This fly could be dressed on #2, # 4 or then a # 6 streamer hook.

Misty’s Clearwater Mahseer Nymph

Misty’s Clearwater Mahseer Nymph, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  This is the perfect fly for those crystal clear water bright sunny days and spooky conditions. You may need this fly if you are fishing rivers like the Ramganga / Saryu / Yammuna / Kosi or any other spring fed Himalayan Mahseer river.
I feel that this Fly is best tied on a curve shank # 8 hook as shown in the picture.

Misty’s Clearwater Mahseer Nymph 2

Misty’s Clearwater Mahseer Nymph 2, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  This is another fly for those crystal clear water bright sunny days and spooky conditions.
I feel that the Fly is best tied on a curve shank # 8 hook as shown in the picture.

Mahseer Muddler

Mahseer Muddler, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  I never had an opportunity to stop a Mahseer I hooked on this fly once. A feeling that I long desired to experience, the rod butt cut into my gut, and the Mahseer never stopped running uncontrollably and ever so violently. I never saw her, though the experience was forever embedded in the tables of my memory.

  You may use black, of then other dyed / natural shades of deer / elk hair and use eyes or cone heads on the fly.

  Ever since I have tied her in a variety of types, using the same principle of deer / elk hair and lead eyes with an assortment of materials following the body and tail.

  As shown in the pictures I have used Gamakatsu Salmon hooks in # 1, # 2 and # 4. You could use even smaller hooks. Smaller versions of this fly are also very effective.

  Misty’s Black Mahseer Minnow

Misty’s Black Mahseer Minnow, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  Another “easy tie pattern” you could quickly assemble by riverside. All you need is some black Marabou and some black chenille and lead eyes. You may wrap this around a # 6 or a # 8 streamer hook. This fly has a beautiful action.

  You may have huge number of ideas of new innovations around these patterns of Mahseer flies.
So go right ahead and improvise them.

Woolly Bugger

Woolly Bugger, by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  Weighted or un-weighted woolly Buggers are also successful.
In Black and Olive colours.



  There is a fair amount of pre-independence (1947) literature on the Mahseer, that includes some of the all time classic accounts in the world of the Mahseer fishing, accounts like “The Rod In India” by Henry Sullivan Thomas and “Circumventing the Mahseer” by A. St. J. MacDonald.

  Mentions of captures of monster Mahseer from the turbid Himalayan Rivers and streams have been recorded since the turn of the 20th century. There are mentions of Jim Corbett’s fishing exploits in the early twentieth century in his book, "The Man Eater of Rudraprayag". Jim Corbett spent several months stalking a man eating leopard of Rudraprayag and often went down to the confluence of the Alaknanda River and the Mandakini River to fish.

  The species continued to thrill generations of sportsmen even after the days of the British Raj. Many a angler wanted to live the "Mahseer dream", after having heard so much about these monsters and their power.

  The sporting history of India is very fascinating, and more so with the sporting history of fishing and fly-fishing in the Himalayas has always intrigued me.

  We know that fishing was a popular pastime for the Maharajas who took to it from the British officials and expatriates living in India during the 19th and early to mid 20th century.

  Recently I came across a few "House of Hardies" fly reels that a gentleman picked up at a shop selling antiques in Rajasthan. These reels were probably not functional as they were out of use since a fairly long time and all rusted. However, I am sure whoever owned them, used them for Mahseer as it seemed to me, they were probably designed for heavier fly lines. Similarly I have come across plenty of tackle from antique shops that sell items discarded by the erstwhile Royalty.

  I have encountered some very old Mahseer lures, spoons and plugs - the trebles fitted on them were the kind which was specifically designed for the Mahseer. The trebles still were as sharp as they probably were when they were made and they are probably thicker than today’s 6X gauge used by a few hook makers.

  Mahseer have known to be tough on the hooks, so re-enforcing the hooks, trebles and rings has always been practiced. Though, I will go off the topic, here and say that the so called crushing power of the jaws of the Mahseer seems a little over the edge to me. My feeling is that it is just the simple principle of torque which the fish uses to straighten out weak hooks effortlessly. The mouth of the fish is like leather, and as it takes suddenly and turns into the current, into the deeper water, causing strain on the hooks / rings etc. I have had 3 lb fish on the Ganges before a rapid at Darren’s Point, straighten a 4X treble on the tail of a jointed lure!

  I have observed that the straightening of hooks, while fly-fishing is not that common - perhaps it is tougher to get a good grip of the single fly hook, than it is of the treble as the treble has a larger surface to hold on to.

  I believe specialised Mahseer tackle was something that had to be designed after numerous years of research by anglers fishing for this species in the Indian sub continent. Even the Salmon fishing gear, available in those days, may not have been apt for the larger Himalayan Mahseer.

  At the turn of the 20th century there were a huge number of "rest houses", located in remote areas constructed by the British in the Himalayas. Since hotels were rare in those days, these "rest houses" were used by travelling forest officers, railway officers etc. during their official tours.

  Hunting and Fishing seemed to have been kept in mind while constructing these "rest houses". The British sure had their priorities right – each rest house I visited seemed to be made in the most ideal location, keeping in mind the view, access to the river - the ones which were made in the higher Himalayas, faced the 6000 meter plus snow capped mountains offering spectacular views.

  The year in which the rest house was made is engraved on a piece of slate, and said “Forests 1878” or what ever year they were made in.

  What amazes me is that even today a lot of these rest houses are a good trek from the road head. You can well imagine the logistics involved in getting there a hundred years ago! Most of these are in excellent condition, even today!

  I also noted that the rest houses were made in a sequence; they were constructed approx. nine kilometres (5.7 miles) away from each other, that is a comfortable days walk in the mountains. Looking at these pieces of history one say, “I wish I were born a hundred years ago”!

  The forest rest house of Kaladunga, now being used as a paramilitary post on the border of India and Nepal, on the banks of the Mahakali / Sarda River is a fine example. It was probably a very popular fishing and hunting spot around the times it constructed.

  The Raiwala rest house; another excellent example of a rest house made in the turn of the century by some railways official who had his priorities right! Raiwala is a town close to the junction of the Song and the Ganges River.

  Several anglers from the town of Dehradun which I consider as the Mahseer fishing capital of North India too frequented this confluence and recorded some excellent trophies.

  There are dozens and dozens of such rest houses sitting out there, lost in time. What is even more interesting is that these rest houses had log books / entry registers and it is interesting to go though the entries dating back to the 19th centaury, entries of hunting / fishing exploits, and other precise entries on events at that time.

  I have been fortunate enough to visit some of these fine rest houses and make plans of visiting many others in the years ahead, and it is unfortunate that the Indian government has done very little to preserve these pieces of history.

Photo by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  Trout in the higher Himalayan Streams

  The higher Himalayan streams have taken very well to the Brown and Rainbow trout which still continue to get introduced in the several streams and rivers over an altitude of 3500 ft. The state governments are giving the species a fair amount of importance from the sporting point of view.

  As you may know the Trout were first introduced in the streams of the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir during the turn of the centaury by the English who ruled India. Here the fishery absolutely thrived and within some time became very popular amounts anglers.

  The post independence decades saw this species getting introduced in other regions, where the fishery did very well too.

Photo by Misty Dhillon © 2007

  You can pick up the latest DVD on Fishing for the Himalayan Golden Mahseer from "What A Catch" (www.whatacatch.net) – this has been presented by Kathryn Maroun on TV channels in Canada, US, Europe and Australia.

  I hope to soon update this information with more flies and information, and soon enough I plan updating the following account with “Mahseer Minnow Flies” a feature showing some of the most productive minnow replicas for the species I have used till date.

  Feel free to drop me a line to share your ideas or comments. Let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on any of the above or then if you need some information on fly-fishing trips for the Mahseer.

Tight lines…

Back to part 1 of article

Text and photos by Misty Dhillon 2007 ©




To get the best experience of the Magazine it is important that you have the right settings
Here are my recommended settings

Please respect the copyright regulations and do not copy any materials from this or any other of the pages in the Rackelhanen Flyfishing Magazine.

© Mats Sjöstrand 2007

If you have any comments or questions about the Magazine, feel free to contact me.

Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

Please excuse me if you find misspelled words or any other grammatical errors.
I will be grateful if you contact
me about the errors you find.