Anglers around the world are generally lured by the high altitude streams and lakes which have plenty of trout fish. Kashmir being one of the premier trout fishing destinations in the world has a vast number of streams of hundreds of miles and a huge number of high altitude snow fed lakes full of brown and rainbow trout.
The history of angling is as old as 2nd century but the modern history of trout angling starts around 19th century. The interesting history of angling in Kashmir also revolves around this period of time and is directly related to the history of British in Kashmir. It was at the end of 19th century precisely in the year 1899 when British introduced trout fish in Kashmir a gesture in return of Maharaja of Kashmir's gift a trophy of Kashmir stag which he presented to Duke of Bedford and he in return sent the trout Ova of about 10000 eggs a female reproductive cell which arrived from U.K in 1899 through Sir Adelbert Talbot the then the British resident at Srinagar, unfortunately the first batch perished en-route due to non availability of air transport at that time. The following year in the month of December another shipment of ova which included 1800 fry ova arrived again but this time in a better condition from Scotland, out of this 1000 fry were introduced at Dachigam in the suburbs of Srinagar and rest of 800 fry was reared in the premises of a private carpet factory owner Mr. Frank Mitchell at Baghi Dilawar Khan near Khankahi Moulla in the heart of Srinagar city.
Mr. Frank Mitchell, who is known as father of Kashmir trout fisheries, formed a fishing club with some top British anglers as its members and in the year 1901 he established the first trout hatchery at Harwan and later in the year 1905 he employed two local people Gaffar Mir and Sudama Pandit and trained them to raise trout fish at Harwan. The ponds which were constructed for these trout fish at Dachigam were washed away due to the flash floods and with it the whole lot of little fish were washed down in the Harwan stream. It was only after sometime that people noticed a different kind of fish in the Dachigam stream which had amazingly grown so quick in their size and weight in the open stream that it became possible for the Maharaja of Kashmir to present about 5kg trout to Lord Minto the then British viceroy to India in 1906.
It was after this natural experiment that later on in 1908 trout was introduced in some more areas of south Kashmir at Achabal and Duksum. By 1923 trout was fully introduced in almost all the streams of the Kashmir valley. In about 30 years 24 fishing beats were established and it was during this period a separate fisheries department was established in Srinagar. With the establishment of this department British who used to come on vacations were regularly involved with this sport some of whom were very distinguished sportsmen in angling. It was due to the successful introduction of trout in Kashmir that in the following years the trout ova eggs from Kashmir were sent to as far off places as Kulu in Himachal Pradesh, Gilgat, Kagan, Astore in Pakistan, Bhutan and Nepal.
In the first half of last century angling remained a favourite sport of British during their holidays in Kashmir; it was mainly for this reason that brown and rainbow trout were introduced in the high altitude waters of Kashmir. The brown trout fishing is confined mainly to the streams of Kashmir and as per fishing regulations, dry and wet fly spinning, artificial and natural worms, etc. are the baits which were allowed for trout angling. The artificial spinning bait, however, has been banned in Kashmir waters since 1970.
The big rivers like Lidder, Sindh and Kishenganga in Gurez are foaming torrents during May-July and are said to give the best fishing with wet fly while as in the streams of Bringhi and Erin flies are generally used for best catch. In the spring-fed small streams such as Kokernag and Verinag wet and dry fly both gives excellent results. In Kashmir trout streams are divided into fishing beats, each with a stream length of 3-5 km. The number of anglers to be permitted in each beat is fixed on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis. The fishing season extends from March to September-October every year. The bag limit is 6 fish of 25 cm and above in length per permit per day.
Jammu & Kashmir being a mountainous state has a huge product line which is directly or indirectly related to mountains like horticulture, handicrafts and adventure tourism products such as trekking, mountain climbing, skiing, angling, nature walks etc., the sustainability of these products which includes angling can provide an opportunity to develop the area and its people economically and culturally.
Globally the trend of promoting and developing angling as a recreational sport is increasing with USA, New Zeeland and Australia taking a lead. I was amazed to note that in United States the government has taken the angling activity very seriously which adds a substantial revenue to their economy. Minnesota in US has become one of the most popular areas for angling sport. Dr. Mamie Parker Director, Fisheries and Habitat Conservation in Minnesota proudly says that, "The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."According to a recent study by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation trout fishing alone in the United States is a $76 billion economic activity.
Kashmir is considered one of the best destinations for this most thrilling recreational sport to which nature is providing ample opportunities to grow in its best atmosphere. The sport of angling can further become a popular recreational activity among the locals, tourists and professional anglers if the government and fisheries department adopt a work culture and attitude the people of west have adopted and if given the due attention and care from the all concerned this angling activity can prove money spinning activity for otherwise cash starved state of Jammu and Kashmir.