Saturday 31 October 2015

Trick Or Treat?

James and I headed down to the Haunted River (The Stour), the plan was to chase fearsome pike in the morning and spooky chub in the afternoon/evening...

But the water was as red as blood, boiling like a witch's cauldron and as fast as a bat out of hell - basically flooded and rising like mad...

And the fish were ghostly in their absence - they weren't feeding...

Just two small jacks added 4½lb to the challenge - better than a blank - and a last minute monster perch (below) saved the trip...

Happy Halloween.

Monday 26 October 2015

Back To Reality

How do you go back to catching river fish in the English winter, when you've experienced those monsters in fishing paradise?

The truth is I'm just as happy creeping about on small rivers or heading out into a frosty morning in search of a pike.

Thailand offered fantastic exotic species that I normally wouldn't get to fish for, but I'm under no illusion, they have been put there to be caught - they still try to pull your arms off and it's an experience every angler should have.

I love trying to find a wild fish, a pike or barbel that was born in the river and is perfectly adapted to thrive - and will often be too clever for me! The ideal situation would be to go and fish for those exotic monsters in their natural environments (and if I won the lottery or invented the new Angry Birds I would).

On Saturday I headed down to the local river for a couple of hours rolling meat. Autumn is here and trees have turned orange, the nights are closing in and it did rain a couple of times. I caught a chub and a small barbel - and I loved it!

Friday 23 October 2015

Fishing Thailand: Day 3

We bounced along the bumpy road, through the iron gates, my third and final day in fishing paradise (for this trip anyway). I'd already caught more fish than I dreamt I would and although I hadn't found an alligator gar it really didn't seem to matter any more.

Time to catch some fish! And I didn't have to wait long, not exactly a run but something was pulling the pellet rod about and a strike was met with resistance - a highly prized goonch. What a start!

Next up the feeder/polly rod was away - a strike was met with a screaming run right across the lake before the line went slack - damn it. When I retrieved it you could see what had happened, the feeder was squashed flat. An arapaima had hit the feeder instead of the hook - I tried to bend it back, no chance, you'd need a vice and a hammer - never put your hand in an arapaima's mouth!!

An hour or so later the deadbait was away - I hit it and it surfaced straight away, I knew what was on the end and it was big. Long powerful runs and at times stationery when you could just feel it's tail beating on the line. I lost all sense of time, might have taken 10 minutes or could have taken an hour - but finally it was in the cage - phew!

The cage: I asked Mike about the cages on the first day - they are pretty ugly things and not so great in photos. He told me that an arapaima would simply rip through a landing net, and on occasion smash their way out of a cage (you couldn't kick a hole in these things). In fact you can't wade or stand in front of one, you always have to walk around the tail end. My previous two had been quite passive.

This one wasn't! It span round and round, smashed into the cage, one angry fish. Seems the fight on the end of the line is just the first half of the battle, I didn't volunteer to hold the head end this time. A 65kg (140lb) arapaima - get in!

Baits were recast and I spotted an alligator gar, then another one - they seemed to be heading for the area I was presenting a deadbait - I crossed my fingers. Then the heavens opened - it pissed down.

When it's that hot the rain feels great, and a run in the rain was even better. I initially hoped it was one of the gar, but soon I realised it was a cat. Then there was thunder and lightning, in England I would have called it quits and pulled for a break (barbless hook) - I asked Bau if I was safe surrounded by cliffs - he didn't understand the question, I didn't understand the answer - he smiled, I kept fighting!

Another Amazon redtail on the books. Fantastic, but no photo this time, the rain would have killed the camera.

Next fish hit on the drop and again I saw it straight away - too big for a gar. The rain lashed down and my fish ripped off - it was {they are yet to invent word}. Again I have no sense of time for this, but long before it was ready it charged into the cage. And I thought the previous one was angry! The rain had stopped and I had a 80kg (180lb) arapaima in the cage - I f*cking love this place!

TC has a lot of skills but photography isn't one of them. She took the photo of the 65kg arapaima above - which is great, really great and the only thing she's ever photographed well apart from her thumb. Ever. It was never going to happen twice - but needn't of worried, I looked round and both her and my camera were gone - I later discovered she had gone round to the other side of the lake to take a photo of her thumb in front of a dog.

This was really not the time to be without a camera. Fortunately Mike came tearing round the corner with his camera - top photo (in both senses).

An hour or so later another hard fighting Amazon redtail rounded off the trip - I love these, photo below - his face says it all...

The day was over, what a trip! OK, no alligator gar - but the way I saw it that just gives me an excuse to come back. I still had exploring, snorkelling, canoeing, drinking and other holiday stuff to do in Thailand - I even managed to chuck a lure about in the clear blue sea a couple of times.

Just remains for me to thank Mike and the team and my guide Bau. I'm going to write a TripAdviser review which I'll stick on here as well, but in the meantime the Exotic Fishing Thailand links are below. Thailand I'm missing you already.

EFT website
Facebook page
Blog / catch report

Jack's Pike #256

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Fishing Thailand: Day 2

Day two and I was up well before my alarm sounded, I had a swim (if I'm paying for a villa with it's own pool I'm damn well swimming in it), got ready and was on route just after 7am. As we bumped through the potholes excitement level was already set to eleven!

Through the iron gates and into Jurassic Park - EFT. By the way; all the photos show smog, this was caused by the fires in Indonesia - it was still incredibly hot (I did get sunburnt) and to me it just added to atmosphere - no pun intended.

TC came along with me today, and even though she doesn't fish she was still blown away by the beauty of the place. A quick chat with Mike, which I kind of cut short - I could see the arapaima swirling and was eager to get going - sorry Mike.

Bau had the gear set up, we had a quick discussion about tactics (even though neither of us could understand what the other was saying) and the rods were baited and cast.

Ten minutes later I was hooked up to an arapaima - they don't jump, they are just pure power, they run and just when you think you've turned them they run again - and after you've worked them into the side they hammer off across the lake and make you do it all over again. An arapaima before breakfast - brilliant!

A bit of breakfast and a few dropped runs later I was in again, another Amazon redtail - in my opinion the hardest fighting pound-for-pound fish I hooked - not as fast as the arapaima but they really don't want to meet you.

The next cast was nailed on the drop - a white gourami. Not a hard fight compared to the bigger species but boy this thing was aware of - and could avoid the net. I thing Bau pretended he wasn't looking to give the fish a false sense of security!

He did an equally good job with the photo - I didn't spot the spikes at the bottom - and dropped it as soon as stuck me, but the photo was on the camera and it wouldn't be me without a bit of blood. Another beautiful fish.

The afternoon was pretty biteless, the arapaima swirled and the cats cruised in close but they weren't feeding. A few hours later, as I tightened up the line on one of the rods it was away - I thought it was a redtail - as it came in range Bau simply smiled and said "ripsaw".

Have I found a new favourite species? Did Wes Craven design a fish? Its pectoral fin was based around a long spike and it had a saw blade for a lateral line - a ripsaw catfish (above and top photo, couldn't decide which one to use) - fantastic looking fish!!

As evening approached I had a bunch of dropped runs, and ones I simply failed to hit - thinking back I wonder how I missed some of those runs. But I added two more hard fighting Amazon redtails to the days tally - another awesome day fishing in Thailand.

I walked back around the lake in the dark to join TC who was already in the lodge. On route I saw a centipede eating a frog - which was pretty cool... Roll on day three...

Monday 19 October 2015

Fishing Thailand: Day 1

On holiday to Thailand and I'd set aside three full days of fishing - and I knew exactly where I was heading. I've been following Exotic Fishing Thailand on Facebook for well over a year now. And even though it involved an extra flight I had to wet a line there. I'm going to do a full post about EFT when I get the chance.

After a bit of a nightmare missing my connecting flight and credit cards not working (took about 2 hours, but new flight booked and cards sorted out) I awoke on day one in paradise. The photo above is where I was staying about 3km from the fishery. I strolled up the road about 7am and a taxi pulled up "you going fishing?"

We bumped along a potholed road, past temples, stray dogs and scarecrows until we drove through the iron gates of EFT, it was like the start of Jurassic Park. Simply beautiful. I was met by Mike, the owner, and we had a chat about the rigs, fish and where I would likely find an alligator gar (my target). From there I wandered around the lake - watching the arapaima rolling - to meet my guide Bau (I hope I've spelt his name right).

To the fishing... Three rods with three rigs; a deadbait, halibut pellet and shoal feeder/polly-pop-up (new to me, great idea and I'll go into detail later). It took about an hour to get a positive run - f*ck me these things fight! Took me all around the lake before the hook pulled - gutted!

But not gutted for long - the other rod was away. I was more cautious this time and ten minutes later an Amazon redtail catfish was in the net (top photo) - the trip was worth it then and there!

After a couple of minutes breather I was in again - a chao phraya catfish, swiftly followed by another Amazon red. Arm ache that is worth flying a quarter of the way around the world for. The next run was even better...

I kind of knew I'd hit one, the fact I didn't see it while I played it in and once it was in front of me - it decided it didn't want to have it's photo taken and belt out further than I'd originally hooked it - an arapaima - brilliant!

After signing a waiver on arrival and swearing to God I wouldn't sue if it broke my arm (Arapaimas are notoriously dangerous to handle) I had my photo taken holding the business end of my first one.

Thanks Mike for the photo. Mike then told me he had a shoal of pacu feeding down the other side of the lake - did I want a go? I hit one as the bait hit the water - the odds were against me - but I got it right to the side before it bit through the braid - then they didn't want to play.

Another Amazon red soon took my mind off it and then a tiger shovelnose catfish was on the books - really fancied one of these - beautiful.

Day was already turning into night - but as you can imagine I couldn't drag myself away - one more cast, one more fish. We had to wait a while before a wallagoo leeri made a mistake. I'm blaming jet lag (and it didn't have a tail) for the fact I didn't get a photo! Next up was a hoven's carp that simply flicked out of my hands before a camera was even pointed in my direction!

Last up was an Asian redtail catfish - as I'd dropped the last two I settled for a photo in the net. The day was done - what a day - with the promise of tomorrow we packed up surrounded by fireflies - magic.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Alligator Gar

Right, I'm off to the jungle in search of an alligator gar, not sure how much internet access I'll get but hopefully I will add updates on here & my Facebook page... Wish me luck...

Saturday 3 October 2015

False Start

October the first, pike time - me and James were on it for a two day trip. First up was the Avon Royalty (and a late start as I set my alarm but left my phone in another room). Just after dawn we were creeping about with lures - and in the clear water we soon found pike, they gave the lures a close inspection before deciding no. I had over a dozen follows, sometimes over and again but they didn't strike.

Moving further upstream I did land a rather beaten-up pike about 8½lb on a ledgered sprat (of all things) - mission accomplished! I followed by a perch about 1¼lb on a livebait before tempting a mid double into the swim with a lure and then convinced her to take a sprat - really looked like she was mine - James called me a jammy bugger as he got the net into position - before the hook pulled - not such a jammy bugger after all!

Throughout the unseasonal midday sun nothing really wanted to play, James got into the chub - I watched the large shoals of mullet. It wasn't until dusk they switched back on - I was only the net-man. James landed three small pike before hitting a low double - how that managed to snag itself right in the side we are both still wondering - but it did. We had both had a chance of a double but they eluded us.

After an uncomfortable night sleeping in the van - we hit The Test, we were early - seriously - between my snoring, James' farting, the upright sleeping positions and the bright street lights - I'm never complaining about a B&B again - not to mention it was cold, really cold!

We watch the sunrise on a day full of new hope, and I had a couple of takes on the lure before the sun got too high. In the bright conditions the pike didn't want to play at all. James switched to chasing the grayling, which was a good call, I'll leave it to his blog - but I 'borrowed' his rod for a couple of trot throughs resulting in a grayling and a 1½lb brown trout before continuing my search for a pike.

We had hoped they would switch on just before dusk but one spectacular take on a surface plug as the light failed was the only sign there were pike in there. I did land a surprise rainbow on a ledgered sprat - at 4lb 0oz a new PB, but we couldn't help thinking the conditions were completely against us.

In the old days, when pike fishing was governed by common sense instead of dates, the basic rule was you don't fish for pike before the first frost. But with the threat of floods I'll wait for a grey sky and head back out...