3 thoughts on “The Scotsman Who Imported ‘Imperial Trout’ To Kashmir

  1. Ah …. thanks for the memory….

    I spent the entire, late spring to end of summer, trout season fishing virtually all the Kashmir rivers and spring creeks in 1980, courtesy of the Indian State’s excellent Director of Fisheries, Dr. Jan.

    Mitchell kept hatched the first batch of imported brown trout ova in a tank in his Srinagar bungalow. Soon a primitive tanks and pools hatchery was built beside the lovely Harwan Stream that flows though a magnificent valley and eventually into Dal Lake close to the world-famous Shalimar Gardens created by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the early 17th Century. Quite a setting.

    From here the fish went into the trout-less streams of the Vale of Kashmir, “The Jewel Set in Pearls” (the pearls being the snowcapped Himalaya).

    Not great fishing, but what an experience.

    Flashback:

    A morning’s fishing on the middle beat of the lovely Bringhi river and its tributary the Ahlan.

    Plenty of trout from 9 to 16 inches taken on soft-hackle Spider flies and nymphs, plus greased Muddlers fished dry when the hoppers appeared on a meadow section, beneath a blazing alpine sun.

    At a notional lunchtime, my girl and I crashed on a patch of grass, a natural goat-grazed lawn, in the shade of some willows beside a rushing 10-foot-wide rivulet, there to drink water from it and eat a sandwich that we had made hours ghours earlier in the dawn.

    Then a little Kashmiri girl appeared and stood there staring fascinated at the sight of an early-20s English girl for a candid, shyly smiling, five minutes before skippiong off.

    Ten minutes later, her father, head man of the tiny village nearby appeared, together with a gaggle of older brothers and sisters and a few bearded farmers from the same.

    the head man father unrolled a huge Kashmiri rug onto the grass twenty yards from us, got a daughter to set up a tea samovar, then two others to remove cloths covering the two baskets they were carrying, one full of apples, the other full of dried fruit of all the home-grown kinds you could ever wish to see in a Deli.

    Original daughter, 5 or 6 no more, was then sent over to us.

    “Please sir and memsahib … food with us….”

    Frank Mitchell, eighty years earlier, doubtless experienced a lot of that.

    I went back in mid-late 1989 to film the place for British television. Still lovely, but during our few weeks stay, an insurrectionist war against India broke out. I was introducing the world by way of the cameras to the elderly owner of a once-grand fishing tackle store on The Bund in Srinagar, the riverside walk that the English memsahibs used to promenade along and shop in the days of The Raj, when just a few hundred yards away along the Bund the first home-made bomb went off in a local market / bazaar.

    Dangerous place to be, let alone fish, the lovely, remoter parts of the Valley, now, but, oh, oh, the memories!

    [Quckly written. No time to edit. Please excuse any syntax fails and typos.]

  2. One quick correction about the Vale of Kashmir, though – “The Emerald Set in Pearls” – a brilliant green, fertile, well-watered valley cupped by the mighty Himalaya…..

    The Emperor Jehangir’s words engraved on a pavilion in the Shalimar Bagh :-

    “If there is a Paradise on Earth, it is here, it is here!”

    He died with the word “Kashmir” on his lips, it is reported too.

    No wonder Led Zeppelin wrote that song.

  3. PS – A pain-in-the-ass fishy pedant comments about the pic of “trout” swimming in the Mattan temple pool in the OCY article linked above.

    No, they are certainly NOT trout, but local, native “Chiroo” and “Choosh” fish species – smooth-skinned, brown- or gray-and-black speckle-backed and cream- or yellow-bellied barbel-like fish that swim all of the Kashmir rivers and are very much full-time riverbed-hooverers. Occasionally taken on a deep-fished nymph or leaded caddis larva pattern. Or accidentally snagged.

    Right. I feel a lot better now…..

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