The seemingly crude technique of whacking fish with a knife as they swim is actually regarded as high sport in Nepal, where it is seen as a measure of one’s wit and skill in manipulating a blade. “No sport is more alluring than this,” writes one Nepalese practitioner.
The khukari, or Nepal knife, is a curved, almost swordlike weapon. Originally khukari fishing in the dark of night was aided by burning chips of wood bathed in tree gum, under the belief that this light source also had an odor that attracted fish. But more recently, lanterns and torches have been used to attract and bewilder potential targets. This fishing is carried out during the dry season, when stream waters are low and clear, and in the darkness if the week before of after the new moon to maximize the shocking effect on the fish of a burst of light. The knife wielder works with a team: two fish collectors and one or two light holders. When a fish is seen, he aims for its head. And when a concentration of fish is found, he slices the sharp knife quickly back and forth to maximize strikes.