Where no one has fished before

Posted on July 17th, 2013
At first, it seemed like an angler’s vision of Nirvana.

Pure streams of mountain water as clear as the air, holding so many trout and other more exotic species it’s hard to get a lure in the water without the fish seeing you.

That’s the kind of place a passionate angler dreams about, and 15 years ago Italo Labignan found it in the Himalayan Mountains of India. Now, partnering with an India-based travel agency, he’s selling other rod-and-reel enthusiasts on adventures to a place where sport fishing is almost unknown.

“India doesn’t recognize that it has a potential industry in freshwater sport fishing,” Labignan said in an interview. “So far, the only fishing in these streams has been locals catching fish for domestic consumption.”

For the last three years, Labignan and India-based The Travel Circuit have been hosting fishing tours of the western Himalaya region of India, offering tourists a combination of cultural voyage and exotic fishing expedition.

“We’re aiming this at anglers and people who want to explore India,” said Munir Talib, North American marketing director for The Travel Circuit. “We’re giving people a chance to explore the food and culture of India and still indulge in their sport.”

The tours they’re marketing last 12 to 14 days and cost about $2,300 plus air fare. Regions visited include India’s “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra (site of the iconic Taj Mahal) and Jaipur and the Kashmir region on the India-Tibet border.

“This isn’t your usual fishing trip where you go to a lodge and fish, and fish and fish,” Labignan added. “We want to show people that in addition to all the sights and culture of India, there’s also fishing.”

Although not native to the region, the glacial streams of the Himalayas are rich with trout brought in by the British during their long rule of India.

“We’ve fished these beautiful, pristine rivers 12,000 feet above sea level and caught hundreds of beautiful trout,” Labignan said. “The water is as transparent as the air and the challenge you have is how to cast when the fish can see you as clearly as you see them.”

If trout don’t present enough of a challenge, there’s always the chance of hooking a 100-pound mahaseer, or “big tiger” fish.

While the fishing on these trips is all catch-and-release, Labignan said there’s plenty of opportunity to eat local fish and other dishes in the meals prepared by the bed and breakfast hostels where travellers stay.

For 28 seasons, Labignan has been host of Canadian Sportfishing, a 30-minute TV show taking anglers and armchair fishermen to exotic places.

“We’re always looking for places a little bit out of the ordinary,” he said. “We think there’s amazing potential for these packages, especially in Europe for people who want to pioneer sport fishing and introduce it to the world.

“I like the challenge and novelty of doing this,” Labignan added. “Sometimes I feel a little bit like Captain Kirk, going where no one has fished before.”

By: Steve Arnold

The Hamilton Spectator


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