Fishing for Gold in the Subansiri

Lead

Sajeev M. Renjan narrates his tale of conquering the unthinkable in our series Weekend Adventure with Zippo.

Twelve like-minded people embarked on a journey that changed them immensely. Our destination was the Subansiri river in Assam. Known for the most difficult to catch and sought-after freshwater game fish in the world—the Golden Mahseer.

Three cars loaded to full capacity with fishing equipment, rucksacks, a boat and Led Zeppelin. We began our two-day drive from Guwahati to Daporijo in Arunachal Pradesh, traversing 450 km through the beautiful countryside, seeing countless rivers and tasting local food that tantalised our taste buds. With an overnight stop at North Lakhimpur (Assam) we started the second leg of the journey via Kimming. With every passing kilometre it became colder and the frequency of cars passing by dwindled to one an hour.

The next morning the river greeted us in all its beauty and power. Famous for its powerful waves, riding this river is quite arduous and difficult with rapids ranging from grade 1 to 4. After making an offering to the river gods and equipped with our four boats, rations, tents, alcohol and some other bare necessities, 12 men and seven boatmen descended onto the river to cover 80 km of uncharted territory over five days.

We paddled for dear life while perfectly implementing every instruction given by the boatmen to prevent the boat from capsizing. New adventures and issues would befall us at every corner. With the end nearing, the river had one last surprise in store. The infamous grade 3 and 4+ rapids. The roar of the rapid sounded like a Boeing 747 was taking off and its thunder was audible from a kilometre away. Stopping at a reasonable distance from its fury, our skilful and trusted boatmen scouted the section ahead, mapping the route of our final descent. After getting the green light, we all paddled precisely to each command of our boatmen as tumbling here would only result in disaster. As we neared the mouth of the rapids, we saw 15-foot swells. The copious amounts of adrenalin being pumped was not enough and we got sucked in. The large slabs of water that crashed into us felt like punches. After 15 minutes and three kilometres downstream, the rapids slowly rippled into tranquillity but our bodies were still shaking. We shouted at the top of our lungs as we conquered the unthinkable.