Mahseer Fishing

Often referred to in Asia as the king of the rivers, the mahseer is native only to pristine rivers and lakes stretching from the Himalayan mountains, down to Myanmar, through Thailand, passing peninsular Malaysia, right to the Borneo island where Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan are located.

The traditional fishing method for catching mahseer is bait fishing. Hook your bait (often mixed paste or fruit), cast into the water and wait for a bite.

These days though, many anglers have discovered more fun ways of mahseer fishing – lure casting and fly fishing.

It’s not everywhere though where mahseer will go after artificial bait.

Mahseer are omnivorous and there are certain times when they may feed mostly on fruits, or insects.

Take in the sights and all as the journey is absolutely breathtaking
Big mad barbs in the clear tranquil waters of the lake
Mahseer has large beautiful gold scales
Mahseer has large beautiful gold scales
A nice mahseer taken from skinny water
A nice mahseer taken from skinny water

The Tropical Trout

Many anglers draw similarity of mahseer fishing to trout fishing, me included. And perhaps that is one of the reason, why fly fishing for mahseer is the possibly the most enjoyable way of catching them.

Let’s look at some similarities:

  • Mahseer are only found in pristine rivers with clean water
  • Beautiful undisturbed environment
  • Big strong fish that will take dry flies
  • Easily spooked fish
  • Fish that require good accurate presentation

That’s where the similarity ends. Let’s go back to the environment for a bit – or should I say the ‘atmosphere’?

The beauty of freshwater fishing is surely complemented by the environment. Out fishing in the seas we are often enveloped by water and pretty much nothing else but water most of the time.

In the streams and rivers, and the hills and mountains, it can be magical. You can just stop fishing and take it all in. The sound of the animals, the fresh air, the running cascading waters and as one of my friend like to say, all the negative ions, They’re supposedly good for our health.

And then when you add in good fishing…i think that’s what they call bliss.


What is not similar to trout fishing then?

Well, among the glaring differences when trout fishing are you probably don’t have to worry about charging herd of elephants, stealthy marauding big cats, or mean stinking wild boars rushing at you, among others!

Also, some say pound-for-pound the mahseer is much more stronger than a trout. Well, I’m not sure how does one measure that but the mahseer is a powerful fish for sure.


Mahseer fishing requires you to trudge upstream making as little commotion as possible, and as you make progress keep a lookout upfront for cruising fish, nervous water or fish waiting to feed, plus likely fish holding places such as deep pools, fast waters, structures and sheltered margins along the edges.

Yusaku-San of Drag Free Fly Shop in Osaka chilling and enjoying the boat ride to the river
Looking out from the dining area of the raft house

A fishing guide who is familiar with the river will point you to where the larger fish might be holding, there are no guarantee the fish will be there as mahseer are known to move quite a bit, but definitely a time-saving advantage.

The basic idea here is the further upstream you walk, the bigger the fish gets. That is generally true but from my experience, it is not necessarily always the best strategy.

You could trek 3 to 4 hours each way up and down the river, leaving you 2 hours or maybe even less to work the upper pools. Great if you find/spot big fish but you can never tell – if you don’t, that’s a lot of trekking for very little.

The temptation of catching every fish that you sight along the way may also slow down your progress, which, is not always a bad thing.


Fishing here is pretty much back to pristine nature. You can opt to camp at the rivers in the rainforest or do what most guest do, stay in the raft house “bungalows”. Don’t let the word bungalow fool you, they are very basic.

Contact JW

Tim with his estimated 4kg mahseer

Above: Tim with one of the best mahseer on fly in the river. This one took the hopper fly in explosive fashion. See pictures and post of that trip.

Watch the video of Tim and his huge mahseer
David with a solid mahseer

Above picture: An amazing first trip for David Samuel. Watch the trip video where he encountered lots of big mahseer and caught some.

JW with a nice blue mahseer
A solid blue mahseer

Above: Juan was all alone when he met this hard pulling fish. A grand fight-to-be-remembered ensued, see the action.

OTHER mahseer fishing destinations

2 thoughts on “Mahseer Fishing”

    1. Over here the mahseer regularly feed on insects/bugs, fruits and small fish. We fish for them with hardbody lures and small spoons, and fly fish for them with flies that imitate all the aforementioned natural food.

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