Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mahseer Species

Mahseer is the common name used for the genera Tor, Neolissochilus, and Naziritor in the family Cyprinidae (carps).The name Mahseer is however more often restricted to members of the genus Tor. The taxonomy of the Mahseer is confusing due to the morphological variations they exhibit. In developing strategies for aquaculture and propagation assisted rehabilitation of Mahseer species, there is a need to resolve taxonomic ambiguities.
Mahseer inhabit both rivers and lakes, ascending to rapid streams with rocky bottoms for breeding. Like other types of carps, they are omnivorous, eating not only algae, crustaceans, insects, frogs, and other fish, but also fruits that fall from trees overhead. The first species from this group were scientifically described by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1822, and first mentioned as an angling challenge by the Oriental Sporting Magazine in 1833, soon becoming a favorite quarry of British anglers living in India.
The Hindi name of mahāsir, mahāser, or mahāsaulā is used for a number of fishes of the group. British anglers in India called them the Indian salmon. Several sources of the common name Mahseer have been suggested: It has been said to be derived from Sanskrit, while others claim it is derived from Indo-Persian, Mahi- fish and Sher- tiger or tiger among fish in Persian, alternatively, mahā-śalka, meaning large-scaled, as the scales are so large that Buchanan mentions that playing cards were made from them at Dacca. Another theory by Henry Sullivan Thomas suggests mahā-āsya; great mouth. The name Mahasher is commonly used in Urdu, Punjabi and Kashmiri languages in Pakistan for this fish and is said to be made up of two local words: Maha = big and sher = lion as it ascends in the hilly rivers and streams of Himalaya courageously.
There are 14 major Mahseer species under the Tor Genus and two under the Neolissochilus Genus: 
Humpback Mahseer - Hypselobarbus mussullah (also called Tor mussullah)
Semah Mahseer  - Tor douronensis
Thai Mahseer - Tor Tambroides 
Deccan Mahseer - Tor khudree
Malabar mahseer  - Tor khudree malabaricus
Golden Mahseer - Tor putitora
Soro Mahseer - Tor tambra
Chinese Mahseer or Mekong Red Mahseer - Tor sinensis
Dark Mahseer - Tor chelynoides
Blue Mahseer - Tor Neilli
Redfin Mahseer - Tor tor
Mosal Mahseer or Copper Mahseer - Tor mosal 
Jungha Mahseer - Tor progenius
Zhobi mahseer - Tor zhobensis (also called Naziritor zhobensis)
Chocolate mahseer (also called Copper Mahseer) - Neolissochilus hexagonolepis
Stracheyi Mahseer  - Neolissochilus stracheyi (also called Tor stracheyi)

(There are more species in the Tor and Neolissochilus Genus but most of them are very small species and not of any interest for the fly fisherman.)  

The most interesting Mahseer species for fly the fisherman are the following ones:

Thai Mahseer - Tor Tambroides 
Thai Mahseer is found in clear, clean rivers in the mountains. Reported
from: Chao Phraya and Mekong basins, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and
Borneo, Myanmar (Burma), Salween and Mae Klong rivers. Habitat: Medium to
large rivers with rocky, sandy and leafy bottom. Prefers highly oxygenated
water and dark environment. Adults inhabit pools and runs over gravel and
cobble in rivers flowing through undisturbed forests. Juveniles were most
commonly collected in or near rapids. Found in small rivers and streams
during the dry season. Move downstream at the onset of the rainy season, but
generally avoid turbid waters. Mature individuals migrate upstream after two
months and spawn in July near the mouths of small streams that the young
subsequently ascend. Habits: Stations itself in prime lies where its needs
of security, shelter and food it readily served. May forage in shallow areas
or close to rapids when it is assured of security. A very shy fish.
Omnivorous, feeding on both animal and vegetable matter, at times consuming
toxic fruits in flooded forests, making them temporarily inedible. Max size
is about 100 cm and 27 kg. Scientific research in Malaysia has proved that a 3 kg size Thai Mahseer is approximate 8 years old and a 8-9 kg fish around 30 year old, so it's very important to release the big fish. Common English names for the Thai Mahseer are: Greater Brook Carp and Malaysian Red Mahseer. Common local names are: Pla Wien (Thailand), Kelah (Peninsular Malaysia), Empurau/Semah (Sarawak), Pelian (Sabah). Recommended fly equipment for Thai Mahseer: class 5-7 9ft rods, Large arbor reels with very good brake system holding min 150 meters of 30 lb backing, floating lines, 12-20 lb nylon or fluorocarbon leaders, small streamer flies, popper flies, wet flies, nymphs and large dry flies. Visit or e-mail me at: for Thai Mahseer fly fishing trips in Thailand and Burma.


Stracheyi Mahseer - Neolissochilus stracheyi (also called Tor stracheyi)

Stracheyi Mahseer is found in clear, clean rivers in the mountains of Myanmar  
through Thailand and possibly to the Cardamon Range, Cambodia. Known from  
Salween, Maeklong, Chao Phraya, Mekong and Peninsular and Southeast Thailand river systems. They inhabit clear, swift-flowing forested streams and 
rivers. Disappears when human activities degrade aquatic habitats, as seen  
in other members of the genus. Has 9 branched dorsal-fin rays; presence of  
black lateral stripe smooth and non-osseous last simple dorsal ray; large  
patch of tubercles on side of snout and below eye; post-labial groove  
interrupted medially; color in life bronze back and silvery belly  
Habits: Stations itself in prime lies where its needs of security, shelter  
and food it readily served. May forage in shallow areas or close to rapids  
when it is assured of security. A very shy fish. Omnivorous, feeding on both  
animal and vegetable matter, at times consuming toxic fruits in flooded  
forests, making them temporarily inedible. Max size is about 80 cm and 10 kg. Common local names are: Pla Peang (Thailand), Recommended fly equipment for Stracheyi Mahseer:  class 5-6 9ft rods, Large arbor reels with very good brake system holding min 100 meters of 30 lb backing, floating lines, 10-16 lb nylon or fluorocarbon leaders, small streamer flies, popper flies, wet flies, nymphs and large dry flies. Visit or e-mail me at: for Stracheyi Mahseer fly fishing trips in Thailand and Burma.

Golden Mahseer - Tor putitora
Inhabit streams, riverine pools and lakes. Found in rapid streams with rocky
bottom. Omnivorous, feeding on fish, zooplankton, dipteran larvae and plant
matter. Juveniles subsist on plankton while fingerlings feed mainly on algae. Ascend streams to breed over gravel and stones and returns to perennial ponds after breeding. The Golden Mahseer is a very attractive sport fish, with excellent food value. Threatened due to over harvesting and habitat loss in many areas. Found from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kachin state in northern Burma to the Salween river system in eastern Burma and its tributaries in Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand. Max. Published weight: 54.0 kg but fish over 80 kg have been caught in the Himalayas and  reports of fish up to 275cm long! During the spawning run the Golden Mahseer can swim against full blown out rivers in the Himalayas in 20 knots speed! Summary of an Indian caught Golden Mahseer showed the stomach contained: 81,7% insects and larvae, 2,4% fish remains (finfish, bony fish) and 15,9% plant debris. Recommended fly equipment for Golden Mahseer: rods: class 7-10 single hand or switch rods, fly reels with very good drag system and capacity for 300 meters of 30-40 lb backing, floating, intermediate and sinking lines, depending on the river condition, 10-25 lb fluorocarbon or nylon leaders,  streamer flies, wet flies, big nymphs and large dry flies.
Visit or e-mail Bryant Dunn at: for Golden Mahseer fly fishing trips in Bhutan. For fly fishing trips in India for Golden Mahseer contact Misty Dhillon at:
Many of the other Mahseer species listed above will take flies, we have explored some rivers in Laos for Tor sinensis (also called Chinese Mahseer or Mekong red Mahseer) and for Tor Barb (also called Redfin Mahseer) - Tor tor, but most of the rivers were poached and fished out and did not offer any good action, longer expeditions far into the jungle is needed in Laos to find the pristine rivers with healthy Mahseer stocks.
Burma, Nepal and India can become future Mahseer fly fishing destinations for some of the other Mahseer species listed above, time will tell. The Chocolate Mahseer (Neolissochilus hexagonolepis) and the Mosal Mahseer or Copper Mahseer (Tor mosal) are available in large numbers in some of the rivers in Nepal, Bhutan, Kachin state in Burma and in Arunachal Pradesh state in NE India. These two Mahseer species have been caught on fly and grows to a respectable size.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

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Welcome to the Mahseer fly fishing blog

Mahseer Fly fishing is one of the fishing traditions inherited from the British who ruled India and Burma; and in the recent times, has experienced a facelift complements to modern fly fishing tackle, improved fishing techniques and new developed fly patterns. During the last 5 seasons we have guided hundreds of anglers to some of the best Mahseer fly fishing available in the world, on the Thai - Burma (Myanmar) border and in the Cheow Lan area in Southern Thailand. Is casting big dry flies or nymphs to hungry wild native fish in gin-clear mountain streams your call? than you will love Mahseer fly fishing.
Greetings from the Thai jungle!
Fly fishing for Thai Mahseer (Tor Tambroides) and Stracheyi Mahseer (Neolissochilus stracheyi) in some of the most remarkable settings on earth. Jutting thousands of feet straight up from the aquamarine bays below, ancient limestone cliffs cast long shadows across the second oldest jungle on the planet bringing visions of Jurassic Park to mind. As you venture across open water by longboat, eventually settling in to your individual floating bungalow, you will enjoy a refreshing drink before travelling to river systems that offer spectacular angling for Mahseer growing to 20 kilograms. The peak fly fishing season for Thai Mahseer and Stracheyi Mahseer is between mid October and May, but we can fish here all year-around as there are many smaller streams with clear water that fish well even during heavy rains. We are very happy to be able to offer our clients a new luxurious floating resort for this season for the Cheow Lan trips. The brand new resort sets a new standard for Thai floating resorts with nicely decorated air-conditioned superior bungalows and gourmet Thai and western cuisine. You can now stay in style during the trip. We still use the old ranger station as base for the Cheow lan trips, but for those of you who want a high class accommodation during the trip send an e-mail to