There are those who follow their passion and then there are a few who take it beyond passion and strive to do more. This two-part article covers a person – Derek Dsouza – who has gone beyond his passion for angling.
Click here for the continuation: Derek Dsouza – Angling Beyond Passion (Part 2)
Meet Derek Dsouza – Angler, Fish conservationist, Angling instructor/promoter, Entrepreneur, Indian Representative for International angling bodies – the titles are many, simply put he also can be said as the face of angling in India. Having been in this passion for about 13 years now, the star angler has also led, very recently, an Indian team of anglers to their first International Competition. Livingit’s Co-founder and CEO, Sandeep Shetty, an avid angler himself, caught up with Derek Dsouza for an interview. Here is an excerpt from the same:
SS: Let’s start from the beginning; all of us would like to know how and when did you start Angling?
DEREK: I started somewhere in 2003 when I got a rod and a reel from the UK and I went to the jungle lodges in Galibore Fishing Camp on the bank of River Kaveri, a few hours from Bangalore. Looking at the rod the lodge guys told me it wouldn’t work as I had bought the cheapest rod and reel, and it turned out that it actually didn’t. However, I did manage to catch a 10-inch Mahseer. But in the very next hookup, the line emptied completely and it broke; I had to wind up. So, on my next trip to the UK, I bought the biggest rod and reel in terms of cost which was a surf casting rod and reel, again the wrong equipment for the Kaveri river. I hooked on to a big Mahseer and the reel broke almost immediately. The Rod I still have, but the reel was rendered useless after that incident. So, this went on and on in multiple trips and I lost some of the best fish of my life as in those times the Mahseer still could be found in big sizes, unlike today.
SS: How did you improve your knowledge and skills after that time?
DEREK: I read a lot on the internet. There was a post by an English Angler in which he had recommended the reel, rod, line and hooks to buy. I managed to procure all of the equipment that I had been reading about from the US when I was travelling there for some work. After returning, I went back to the same Mahseer camp and caught my first twelve pounds Mahseer. Yet, I was still devoid of tactics and skills until I met Owen Bosen who was the first angler to explain things such as the best practices and correct techniques and why should one invest in good equipment and with his advice I started practicing and catching more fish. Realizing the importance of the right knowledge, around 2005, I decided that I would start teaching new anglers, especially children so they start off rightly.
SS: Do you think that one needs a mentor while hitting off as an entrant in a sport like angling?
DEREK: Yes, definitely. I think one needs a mentor when it comes to angling. We have so many variables in angling that knowledge and insights play a big role in the ability to catch fish. What people don’t understand is that the technique and equipment are completely different for different water bodies and surroundings. A person living near a pond and a person living on seashore will require different equipment and techniques of fishing.
SS: Did you join any groups initially or it came in the later phase?
DEREK : Yes, in 2003 I joined a group called Indianangler.com. But in those days anglers were not very forthcoming or open to giving advice and were very secretive, to be honest. The secrecy was not only about the fishing spot but also equipment and techniques. Even today people are secretive about bait or lure if they are very successful with it. Today in our angling training camps, we teach that people need to understand that it’s not a particular lure that can catch fish, but the imitation of the same action as a live bait fish, that can help catch the bigger fish. It’s similar with bait. One must reveal the ‘WHY’ when it comes to bait so that people can experiment per their region. Without guidance, they will end up buying wrong equipment and use wrong techniques and not be successful. So, a helpful group and more importantly a mentor will play a key role in your early investment in angling equipment and also in improving your catch rate.
SS: You have been angling for over 13 years now, which of your catches would make it to the top 3 of your list?
DEREK : My First Mahseer tops this list probably because I didn’t expect the little fellow to do what he did. The second most memorable catch would be the Goonch considering I had read a lot about it in the newspaper and it was being referred to as a monster due to the huge sizes they grew to. My interest peaked in 2004 when I saw the famous angler Jeremy Wade going after the Goonch in one of the episodes of River Monster TV series. I finally got the opportunity to catch it in 2012 in Uttarakhand. I waited 8 days at the same location using a dead bait to attract it. On the eighth day, I ultimately hooked on to one weighing 56 kilos, which I landed after a struggle of 42 minutes. The gear used was a Daiwa Catfish Whisker Rod, Tekota 700 Reel, 180 lb line. My third top catch would be the Shovelmouth Ray, which I caught in Andaman.
SS: The Goonch must have been one tough fight! After so many such encounters, do you think angling is a sport of chance or a sport of skill?
DEREK: It’s completely a sport of skill, but with an element of chance. If you consider being present at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment, then yes, it’s a sport of chance. The skill element comes in with the knowledge acquired about the effect of weather, water temperature, fish species and their feeding habits, the variety of equipment to use for each situation. Knot tying and setting up rigs is another skill that needs to be mastered. All of this needs to come together for consistently improving your catch rate.
SS: Considering there are so many things involved, do you think angling is a rich man’s sport?
DEREK: To begin with there’s a certain investment to be done like in any other hobby. The cost need not be prohibitive at the start, and it may be controlled once you are into it. If you are happy learning one thing and being at the same place, then you can continue to use the same equipment. Today you don’t need a big budget to start angling. However, if you choose to become a species or specimen angler, then you need the right equipment to target each species or specimen. For example, if you want to go popping for Giant Trevally aka GTs of 30-40 kilos in Andamans then the equipment required is expensive. You will need a PE 6-8 Popping rod, reel with a heavy drag and high-quality internal gears, 80-100 lb top quality braid line, 200 lb leader, heavy duty terminal tackle like swivels, split rings, hooks. The investment also depends on the location that you are going to. It is like golf, if you want to tee-off in a certain premium course, the costs will increase.
SS: Could you please tell us about your current collection of gear and what is your favorite among them?
DEREK: (Laughing) I have a huge collection built over years. It is also due to the training events that I conduct so I need lots of sets for the purpose of teaching and then there is my own personal collection. I recently acquired a rod called Venom from Australia for popping which is my current favourite. When it comes to reels, I have many, currently I use the Shimano Stella for big game fishing and I used the Tekota for catching Cat fish. I also like the Valor and the Vigor from ATC for mid-size fishing. I recently got a new reel from Avet for jigging. My terminal tackle has always been Mustad, for the last 6 years. For Carp fishing, I use Agwetor.
SS: After being in this passion for 13-14 years, is there anything left on your bucket list?
DEREK: (Laughing) Oh yea, my bucket list is long, grown to about a 100+ fish species. Basically, I am first a species angler and I get really excited when somebody says that a particular species is available there. The size does not really matter, though. When I am done with the species list in a location, then I want to catch specimens. The specimen should be the mean average of the fish’s heaviest weight. For example, if the Goonch grows to 150 Kilos then I target to catch at least a 70 Kilo Goonch. My 2017 bucket list consists of King Barbus which is found in Iran, in India a Chocolate Mahseer, found in north eastern rivers and in the south I want to go for a specimen of the catfish called the Asian Redtail found in Krishna river and its tributaries and finally the Chana Diplogramma aka Malabar Snakehead found in the waters of the Malabar district in Kerela.
SS: Recently you took part in an International Angling competition. Please share your experience about the same.
DEREK: This October, we took part in the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge, that happens in Malaysia every year. There were two other people in the team, Dineshkumar Ravindran, and Raghuram Gopalakrishnan. Both are experienced anglers and have caught a lot of species and are quick learners. We were all excited and did practice sessions for three days in which we didn’t lose any fish. On the first day of the competition, we were a little anxious and couldn’t land quite a few due to silly mistakes. However, we did manage to land 6 sailfish on that day. On the second day, the weather got the better of us! Our boat was little small and a storm was coming, so we had to turn back. The anglers on the bigger boats continued and they were able to get more fish and go ahead in the competition. Biggest learning in this competition was that I learnt to be anxious and confident, at the same time. We also need to have the right boat and that is what I am working on right now for the next year. It is also an expensive affair as we have to bear all the costs of the trip right from the travel, the equipment, the stay, tournament fees, hiring the boat etc. The sport needs to be more evolved in India for us to get sponsorship.
SS: What would be your advice to someone who is starting today?
DEREK: I would suggest to get a mentor or to read and take informed decisions to take forward what you want to do. You need to know what you need to pick up before you start angling. A mentor could be anyone who knows how to catch fish in the region you live. He need not be a special instructor, but getting the right advice is very important. Advice about right equipment, finding the right location, tying knots, assembling rigs, casting, hooking, the kind of bait you need for the fish you are trying to catch etc. It’s not easy to just get a rod and start fishing, there are a lot of decisions that need to be taken and sound advice will go a long way in helping you learn faster and avoid unnecessary costs.
‘The word is my ocean’ says the caption of the above pic in one of Derek Dsouza’s FB posts. Derek’s world is truly a vast ocean of innumerable angling experiences consisting of exotic locations, big fights, monster catches. But the ocean has more than just angling experiences. As mentioned at the start of this article, Derek is one of those few people who has taken it way beyond. Stay tuned as the second part of the interview with Derek Dsouza is about how he shares his activities in Angling beyond passion.
Go ahead and read the second part of Derek Dsouza’s interview here !