During my childhood being very close to the water tank, I fell in love with the life in and around the water bodies. Liked to observe fishes, insects in water, water birds, and water-snakes. During Sundays and other holidays, it was very common to see many people fishing with a fishing rod around the water body.
In our water tank, there were many snakehead fishes. They can survive in less oxygen conditions too. Its name is Channa striata or Murrel Fish; the local name is “Korramatta” or “Korrameenu”. It is a sought after fish for its taste and having fewer thorns (prickly bones). There were many other types of fishes, but this fish was in great demand. Because of the presence of two tanks in Ramanthapur, many fishermen are living in the area. They have formed a society called, ‘Gangaputra Sangam.’ The Sangam permitted fishing with the fishing rods. During the summer, the fishermen community used to harvest all the fish in the tank using nets. They replenish the tank with fingerlings in the rainy season.
I got interested in fishing. I asked my mother some money. Went to a small shop near the temple, bought a hook and the fishing wire. For bait earthworms were used. The favorite place to look for earthworms was at the outlet of domestic water left to seepage in an open ground. There we used to dig for earthworms with a small rod. It is easy to find the place where we could find the earthworms, as already the ground is dug by someone else. The earthworms collected were kept in a plastic cover with some wet soil, to keep the earthworms alive.
For the right spot to fish, used to see where the experienced people are sitting. Secondly, the fish loved to wade into the grass grown in the water, so a clear area with water surrounded by tall grass was also a good spot. The depth of the water at that spot is also necessary, considering on how to tie the float for making the bait stand at the desired depth. Because each type of fish prefers a particular depth. The floats are primarily made with the pith of Sorghum plant stalk called locally “Bendu”. By tying a piece of lead wire near the hook, it was stable and easy to throw the hook at the right spot. I hated to pin the live earthworm to the hook. I always took help of someone to do the job for me. After slipping the earthwork over the hook, people spit on it and then throw in the water. Probably the fish also liked the saliva of humans. I tried fishing with wheat flour as bait, but it was not so effective.
For the fishing rod, mostly used to select the long stick of Ipomoea plant which grew abundantly in the water. The most important thing, I liked in this kind of fishing is waiting for the fish to come and find the bait. Watching the water and the bait continuously in hope is like meditation. The float starts dancing when the fish comes and starts biting the earthworm. One imagines the thinking of the fish at the moment. We always consider how intelligent it is because every fish coming to the bait is not caught. Some fish cleanly eat away the bait without swallowing the hook as a whole. I feel that they have also become intelligent with experience gained in life.
After a long wait, finally, the chance comes when the fish swallows the bait and starts running away from the spot. The float moving away from the spot or drowning is an indication that a fish has swallowed the hook. Lifting the rod with a jerk is also an art, the hook needs to be held in its mouth. Otherwise, the fish would slip. The fishing rod with the fish at an end is the final moment of happiness.
Catching two to three big fishes at the end of the day is a great achievement. I remember one Sunday; I could catch three big Murrel fish of about 1.5 kgs in total. It was one of the costly freshwater fishes. On that day our relatives have come home. My mother was happy seeing my catch. Then she cooked them. To remember my catch, I have stored the skin of one of the fishes. During childhood, myself, two sisters and my mother never ate non-vegetarian food.
During another occasion, the water level in the water tank reached its full level. It means the water just touches our compound wall. I saw lots of small fish near the shore. I was not having any fishing hook with me at the moment. I took and allpin and bent it in the shape of a hook. Took a small stick as a fishing rod and with earthworms as bait started fishing. These young fish may not be so intelligent, so started falling into the trap. On that day I caught so many fishes and directly fed them to the hens that we had at that time. The hens were happy and gulped them with competition.
Once I was returning from school. There were no buses as it rained heavily. The tank adjoining the main road at Ramanthapur was full, due to the heavy rain on that day. The excess water from the tank was let out through the culvert underneath the main road. I started walking home along with few friends and saw that many people were doing something under the culvert. They were catching small fish with bare hands. The small fish were flushing out with the flow of the water. I was curious to know how they were able to catch the fish. My friend Mr. Srinivas was with me at that time. We left our bags on the shore asking our brothers and sisters to take care. And got into the flowing water as many others were already there. Someone told the technique to search for small holes or niches on the sides of the channel, where we could find the fish. The water arrived with the recent rains so it was turbid and reddish soil color. By grouping for holes and suddenly clasping with both the hands, we could catch the fish. The sense of tingling made by the fish with the touch of the fish made us catch them. We need to keep all the fish somewhere, so we have used our socks to hold them. We both caught about 25 fishes each and returned home with dangling socks in hand. After reaching home thoroughly wet. I have fed all the fishes to our hens at home.
In the recent past about three years back, once I went to Charminar for shopping. I saw a shop selling all kinds of fishing gear. They were selling the readymade kits. I thought of teaching my two sons how to fish. I bought three fishing rods, hooks, floats and the wire. I asked the shop guy, about the place for fishing around Hyderabad and which is close to my residence. He said that the Edulabad Cheruvu (Tank) is a good option. One next Sunday, I took my family with me for fishing. On the way for bait purchased some wheat flour and the powder of the dry fish. I mixed with water and made a paste for using as bait. Reached the tank, it was winter so fish surface less as compared to summer period. This tank receives water from a canal which channels the drainage water in the upper reaches of Musi River. The domestic sewage also gets mixed in it. The water was not so clear and clean, but the tank was full. There were very few people found fishing. We got on to the tank bund and our whole family – myself, two sons and wife, were engaged in fishing. The whole family enjoyed it, a moment to cherish.
During a field visit, my team and I were returning to Miryalaguda town. The Nagarjuna Sagar water is used for irrigation through a canal network. The water is relatively clean. At one place along the roadside, I was few people were fishing with simple fishing rods. It was about ten kilometers away from Miryalaguda town, and it was evening, I asked my driver to stop the vehicle. I requested the fishing people to give me one of their fishing rods. The puddle of water adjoining the road and paddy fields had lots of fish. Within few minutes I could catch three fishes. It made my day, and I was happy. My colleagues also tried their luck.
The water tank next to our house in Ramanthapur has deteriorated over the years. The residential houses have come up and contaminated with the sewage water. The quality of the water is now completely deteriorated and turned into a cesspool of dark water. The encroachment of the foreshore area and the solid waste dumping in it has shrunk it further. It is heartening to see the death of a lake which has given me so much space to get connected with nature and environment.