Thursday, April 16, 2015

The road, fish and food!

Road trips are always fun, add fishing to that and we've got a heady mix on our hands. We're addicted to that and yet had been off it for a very long time.
A few phone calls exchanged between Ajay, Vyas and I - we were all set with looking up Google maps to trace the route with the maximum amount of blues showing (blue on the map indicates a water body ;) )

Started off with a group-selfie

The love for the great outdoors, travel and the fantastic camaraderie we share ensured we made short work of the long distances.

The summer sun beat down and the temperatures rose quickly though the day, at times reaching 38-39c. Having made good ground the speeds reduced drastically once the wide highways ended, the snaking roads of the State highway made for some slow progress. It was post noon that we cast the first net - so to speak :)  The yummy Kerala cuisine ensured our energy levels were right up there. The Appam, idiyappam, Puttu, Kadla curry, Motta curry, Chilly beef all helping along the way.

The first stop was along the Periyar river.

Making our way down a set of stairs we noticed the usual suspects - Dawkinsia filamentosus, Pseudosphromenus cupanus, Rasbora daniconius, Salmostoma boopis.

We began to attract a lot of attention from the passersby who were very keen to see what the city-dwelling folk were upto in their river. We'd smile back with a net in our hands with "Meen" (fish in the local language) :)

Ajay's cast net at work!

Exploring the river further with the help of Ajay's cast net we netted many more of the same fish, and then the next draw left our jaws dropped! Sheer beauty with Olive greens and red fins, we had the Pristolepis rubripinnis

We noticed some dashes of red just under the surface of the shimmering water, but then thought it wasn't really the river system the denisonii is found in.
The next couple of casts sprang a further surprise - the Sahyadria denisonii. We had seen them earlier in what was thought of as their only location - Iritty, but here they were way downstream. Had some doubts of these possibly being the Chalakkudiensis but the lack of the black marking on it's dorsal helped remove any ambiguity.

Had carried the snorkeling kit along, and am I glad I did! tried watching these underwater and one of the denisonii swam right in front of me - what an exhilarating experience! Spotting them in the wild and seeing them underwater almost running into your face WHOA :D

A very interesting Garra mullya with small orange specks

Ajay and Vyas checking out a small canal - saw a small Channa gachua and some filamentosus here, a lot of Ambulia and Egeria densa were seen too.

Moving further south the next stop along the Pamba we noticed some nice looking stocky barbs. Stopping to investigate we were soon posed the standard question of what were we upto, and we'd reply with a wide grin on our face "Meen" :D
This turned out to be a very interesting stop with some nice variety of Barbs.

Cirrhinus sp

Puntius punctatus

Puntius mahecola

Puntius parrah

For ID

Pseudetroplus maculatus were found in plenty too! The colors on some showed us why they're commonly referred to as "Orange chromides"

Xenentodon cancila and a few Aplocheilus sp. spotted too around the edges of the aquatic plants

Puffers (Carinotetraodan sp.) were found in good numbers around the plants too

Mystus malabaricus

With the setting sun we dipped our nets to end the day underneath a bridge.

Pseudetroplus maculatus,  Pseudosphromenus cupanus were found in good numbers. Saw this goby in one of the angler's bag - Awaous grammepomus

Scooping in a stagnant pool got us quite a few Horadandia atukorali - brilliant little schooling fish!

Drove down towards Kumarakom to find a place to stop for the night. Tried the local speciality of Karimeen cooked in Banana leaf, Mussels and some chilly beef.

Got to experience a fishing boat coming ashore with the night's catch - full of sardines and mullets

The next morning was a quick dash to the Kumarakom bird sanctuary.

The two sneaking up on me :P

With the humidity levels and the temperature rising the walk within the sanctuary was pretty draining. Opted for a quick boat ride offered by a local.

The Vembanad lake is a brackish system, and is vast! Saw a lot of Pistia aka water lettuce, Salvinia natans, hornwort and Ambulia

Spotted the usual Pond Herons, lesser cormorants and the occasional Purple heron fly by.

This intermediate heron using it's wings to cut down on light and reduce reflection for it to locate fish under the surface

Cattle egret in breeding plumage

A white throated KF

This Little heron was a nice surprise find

The multiple resorts along the water's edge and their unique boat "gates"

The boathouses added a certain amount of charm to the place. Very surprisingly the lake has been kept extremely clean. Hope other tour operators and businesses take note - it is a no-brainer to keep the place which generates all your income clean.

Colorful adornments providing some photographic opportunities

Vyas feeling a little too shy posing for the camera ;)

A small checkered keelback was spotted swimming along

As we began our journey back to home base we stopped at a couple more places.

Some kids doing their best to beat the heat!

A few fun bursts with the enhanced burst rate the 7D brings (thanks much Richa and Bikram!)

Ajay managed to capture this interesting procession from the driver's seat

A few notable observations

Mystus sp - had a very interesting dark coat

Dawkinsia tambraparniei

Pseudetroplus maculatus - with a very interesting red lining around the caudal

Salmostoma boopis

Puntius vittatus

Chanda nama

An interesting looking Awaous/Glossogobius sp.
Interestingly not a single tilapia was seen/netted!

Huge props to Marc for ID'ing the barbs :)
At the very last stop the mandatory question was posed to us by the locals yet again and we answered "MEEN" :)  Most could not wrap their heads around the fact that we had come all the way from Bangalore to catch, photograph and release fish. I tried my best to translate fish-mad to the best of my abilities, and that would bring a chuckle from them. Well "we are like that wonly" :D

For the ones who regularly ask for gear details:
* All wide angle images taken with the Samsung galaxy grand
* Canon 7D + 55-250mm f5.6 used for fishy closeups
* Canon 7D + 400mm f5.6 used for bird images and some boat shots

Till the next ride,