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"Jungle Hooks - India"

Reviewed by Andrew Kennedy

"The second series of Jungle Hooks – Jungle Hooks: India, exclusive to Discovery Real Time, sees adventure fisherman Jeremy Wade once again tackle extreme fishing as he takes on his biggest challenge yet; to catch a variety of the largest, most bizarre and most dangerous fish he can find."

Intrepid Adventure Angler, Jeremy Wade

Jeremy Wade with a Himalayan Golden Mahseer
I watched the first series of Jungle Hooks in amazement, as Jeremy Wade relocated to the Amazon, in search of a gigantic freshwater fish called the Arapaima. With exciting twist after exciting twist, the series, and the epic journey it chronicled, never failed to surprise me. So, when I heard that the new series of Jungle Hooks was set in the Himalayan region of Northern India, I was more than a little intrigued. Having fished in the region myself, I knew exactly the kinds of scenarios Jeremy would be faced with. It would be a difficult enough task just to film a series out there, but when you consider that the inhabitants of this region's waterways are notoriously difficult to catch, you realise just how much of a challenge Jungle Hooks: India must have been.

In the days of British control of India, the freshwater fish of the country gained a legendary reputation. Many a hardened salmon angler would try, and fail, to catch such species as the awesome Himalayan Golden Mahseer, and the ferocious-looking Goonch Catfish. These fish gained such a reputation for smashing salmon rods, mangling the strongest hooks available and running at speeds previously unheard of, that specialist tackle was invented to allow anglers to cope with such brutes. With the break-up of the Empire, these fish became either forgotten or hunted for food, until the last quarter of the 20th Century when they were re-discovered as sporting species. In this series, Jeremy Wade has set himself the challenge of catching these magnificent fish using modern day tackle. But do fish of the proportions boasted about during the Empire days still exist today? Can modern tackle cope with such legendary fighting prowess? As the series progresses, we're sure to find out.

I have now seen the first two episodes of the series and they didn't disappoint. The drama and excitement which was captured so well in the original Jungle Hooks is equally present here. What sets Jeremy apart from presenters of other fishing shows is his downright honesty. When the fishing is slow, he will tell you. When things aren't going entirely to plan, you will know about it. This really adds to the experience of watching the series. By being immersed in exactly what's going on, you feel more like you're actually there, fishing. Besides the fishing, Jungle Hooks offers a real insight into the lives and cultures of local people. The scenery is also spectacular - and more lush than you might expect from the foothills of the Himalayas. I believe a non-angler could watch this series with great interest, because there is never an over-emphasis on the fishing or on "tackle-talk". Of course there are plenty of shots of big fish, but there is a real emphasis on portraying the whole experience of adventure fishing in distant countries.

In the first episode, Jeremy gets an introduction to the Mahseer by fishing a river pool behind a hotel. The fish here have been protected and fed by the owners for years, but even they are wary. Some breathtaking footage of a huge shoal of Mahseer leaves you wondering how on earth you could fail to catch here, but Jeremy soon finds out it's not quite as easy as it looks! His persistence pays off when a mahseer finally takes his bait and puts up a great account of itself on a light rod. Later in the show, Jeremy fishes for mahseer in some more remote rapids, using lures and taking hints from some local mahseer anglers.

The Mahseer is the undisputed king of the Himalayan rivers.

Episode two sees Jeremy step up his quest for a large mahseer, as he hires a full "Shikar" team to accompany him, consisting of various cooks, camp-hands and gillies! This is the kind of back-up a privileged "sahib" could have expected a century ago. After receiving a tailor-made tweed waistcoat, Jeremy completes the vintage approach by fishing with a bona-fide traditional mahseer rod and reel!

Switching back to more modern tackle, Jeremy and his newly-extended entourage head to a prolific junction, where two rivers meet. Unfortunately, they arrive a couple of days too late. The son of a Maharaja from Delhi, has already set-up fishing camp here - for several weeks! The collection of classic mahseer tackle owned by this man surprises even Jeremy, who can't resist a good rummage around his tackle box, finding curious lures and immensely thick-wired hooks. I can assure you if it's big fish you want to see, there's at least one in this episode. To find out what it is, you'll just have to watch it yourself.

In the remaining three episodes, Jeremy expands his search for Indian fish, tackling a large reservoir for it's mysterious inhabitants. Then, quest turns into obsession, as Jeremy is lured to an area where locals report of a man-eating goonch catfish! These fish are also known as "Devil Catfish". I've seen pictures of them and they are seriously ugly, but fascinating creatures, confined to just a handful of rivers in this region and found nowhere else on earth. With a cavernous mouth full of teeth and reports of huge specimens dating back centuries, the rumours of one of these fish taking a human could well be true! In the final episode, Jeremy visits sections of river which were once illegally dynamite-fished; to see if the fish populations have recovered since then. Later, temptation proves too much and he returns to the now vacant "Junction", in the hope of one last big one.

Jeremy Wade with a huge Goonch Catfish caught whilst filming Jungle Hooks India

The Goonch is without doubt one of the strangest, most ferocious looking freshwater fish in the world

I strongly advise you watch this series. It's as real and exciting as angling programmes get. I'll be watching the remaining shows without fail. If you've never considered fishing in India before, this series may well change your mind!

The episodes are set to screen at 10pm on the following Fridays on Discovery Real Time, SKY channel 250, as follows. Each show is repeated the next day at 12 noon and I'm sure the whole series will be repeated soon:

UK Premiere: Friday 24th February 2006, Episode 1: Mountain Monsters

Friday 3rd March 2006, Episode 2: Fishing the Shikar Way

Friday 10th March 2006, Episode 3: Reservoir Cats

Friday 17th March 2006, Episode 4: The Goonch

Friday 24th March 2006, Episode 5: The Last Pool

Please Note that since this article was published, the series has aired.&nbap; It is periodically repeated on the "Discovery Real Time" channel.  Please check their website for listings.  The series may also be available on DVD.  If I find a reliable source from where to buy this, I shall list it on here.