NEFFP – Chao Phraya Catfish bite #2 (10.09.17)

Back, for the third time in as many weeks ….! The target for this trip was firmly set on Chao Phraya Catfish. I wanted to see if the previous weeks success was just a lucky one-off or if we could replicate it using the same approach and tactics. No messing around with pelllet mix this trip – it was purely carnivorous catfish fishing with big chunks of fresh dead-bait! Once again we arrived, mid-afternoon and planned to fish until dusk.

I kicked things off with the first strike, and was onto a good fish barely 15 minutes into the session, and I suspected a Chao Phraya Cat. But, I’d lazily tied on a hook-length that I had in my tackle box from the previous session. A few minutes into the fight I felt the line go slack and reeled in to find that the 50lb hook-length section had broken at the swivel (an unusual place to fail) – I suspected it was one of Siôn’s knots (we fish 40lb wind-on leader and a 50lb hook-length – Siôn has been tying his own knots, for the most part well, but had a similar failure the previous week). But I cursed myself for not retying a new section of terminal tackle …!

It was Siôn’s turn next as he brought in the first fish of the day. From the fight it was evident that this wasn’t a Chao Cat, the power and stamina just wasn’t there and he soon had the fish under control and on the bank:

First fish of the session – Amazon Redtail Catfish

It was slow for the next half an hour until Siôn got another big hit. This time it felt like the target species – powerful runs and dogged determination. After a lengthy fight the fish was ready for netting, the first Chao Phraya Catfish of the session:

Chao Phraya Catfish #1

Barely 10 minutes later we were in action again. This time it was my turn to coax and bully another fat Chao Cat to the net:

Fighting Chao Phraya Catfish #2

Ready for netting

Chao Phraya Catfish #2

The action was now steady and consistent. I was soon hooked up again, this time to an obviously smaller and less powerful fish, an Asian Redtail:

Asian Redtail Catfish #1

In-between hook-ups we were also missing a number of fish that we failed to hook-up before Sion set the hook on another powerful fish. After an arduous fight he brought in the biggest Chao Phraya Catfish of the day, another fish estimated to be near the 20kg mark:

Chao Phraya Catfish #3

We then entered a brief period of hiatus – no bites for us and not much action for the adjacent anglers. Then, it was as if a switch had been turned on and the was a sudden flurry of activity. First I hooked-up Chao Cat number 4, another good-sized fish, that pulled my boga scales well past the 30lb limit. After estimating the weight and subtracting 7lb for the net, this fish was around 17kg:

Chao Phraya Catfish #4

In quick succession I added two more Asian Redtail Catfish to my tally:

Asian Redtail Catfish #2

Asian Redtail Catfish #3

I then hooked another Caho Cat and was sledging my son about being top angler when, just after the fish breached to reveal itself, I pulled the hook …. instant karma. We then entered another, more prolonged drought – the bite just switched off.

After almost an hour without a fish we were contemplating packing up early and returning home before the weekend return traffic to KL built up when Siôn got another big strike. Whilst he was fighting this fish, and as I was on stand-by with the camera, my rod buckled and the drag screamed as another good fish took the bait. I had to dash back to my rod and take on the fight. This was a powerful fish and I was convinced that we were onto a double Chao Phraya Catfish hook-up. But my fish, despite making a number of runs and putting up determined resistance, was subdued quicker than Siôn’s fish, and I had it to the net just before he landed his fish, a fat Amazon Cat of about 15 kg:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #2

Siôn’s fish was on the bank – he took a quick photo for me before rushing back to take some pictures of his own catch. I quickly released my fish an returned the favour to Siôn, taking a couple of shots before it was released:

Chao Phraya Catfish #5

After releasing these fish we were just at the end of our time. We quickly packed up and headed off back to KL. It had been a good session – we’d achieved our aim of catching good numbers of Chao Phraya Catfish. The final tally was:

  • 5 Chao Phraya Catfish (to 17 kg)
  • 3 Asian Redtail Catfish 
  • 2 Amazon Redtail Catfish (to 15 kg)
Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Asian Redtail, Catfish - Chao Phraya | Leave a comment

NEFFP – Chao Phraya Catfish bite #1 (03.09.17)

Flushed with success after my Siamese Carp the previous week, and keen to experiment and learn how to effectively mix pellet/ground-bait and flavourings, I made a return visit to the Natural Exotic on Sunday afternoon to fish with my son Siôn. I was hoping for a quiet pond and the chance to catch a Mekong Catfish or possibly another carp. My son on the other hand was going to fish cut dead-baits for the carniverous catfish that are the main residents at this venue.

My plan was to soak a dead-bait whilst I attempted to prepare a satisfactory pellet mix (I had to get the water-pellet hydration mix correct so that the bait would be soft enough to mould onto the hook and the feeder spring, but not too sot that if wouldn’t withstand the force of casting and hitting the water …. a delicate balance indeed). I had pellets, strawberry flavoured ground-bait and a nasty plastic bottle with concentrated strawberry flavouring oil. 

We arrived at 3.30pm and it was relatively busy , so we started off on about 20m along this fishing platform on the right hand side. Me and Siôn set up our respective dead-bait rigs and cast out.  Within a few minutes though, some anglers were leaving so we move further along the platform and re-cast our baits. I then set about preparing the pellet mixture. But almost immediately my rod buckled over under the weight of a good fish. I jumped up and started working the fish. It felt large and was making powerful runs, each time changing direction.

Fighting a powerful unknown adversary

It took a while to bring the fish to the bank, but even then it proved stubborn, staying deep and making repeated powerful surges trying to escape. Finally, after a good 10 minutes the fish broke the surface of the murky water to reveal a sickle shaped dorsal fin – a Chao Phraya Catfish:

Chao Phraya Catfish reveals itself

This was a good sized fish, of around 15 kg+, only my third ever of this species and a very welcome catch:

Chao Phraya Catfish #1

I continued to fish dead-bait as I waited for my pellet concoction to fully hydrate and mature. Suddenly, Siôn got a big strike and started doing battle with another big fish. Just a few minutes in and he lost the fish. When he wound in the line had snapped at his swivel knot connecting his 50lb hook-length. He had only just learnt to tie his own rigs and I suspect that he forgot to moisten the knot as he cinched it tight, hence the failure of the knot in the heaviest line in the rig … A tough but valid lesson to learn ..!! We figured that, given the power of the fight,  this was probably another Chao Phraya Cat, an annoying missed opportunity. An even harsher lesson to take for improper knot tying technique.

Whilst Siôn was ruing his lost fish, I got my second bite of the session, this time a more modest Asian Redtail Catfish that was soon brought in for a picture and release:

Asian Redtail Catfish #1

Siôn re-tied his hook-length, re-baited and cast out, close to the opposite bank wall. I was still tinkering with my pellet mix – I’d over-watered it and wanted to thicken it up with some powdered ground-bait, particularly with a small batch that I was going to use as the hook-bait (the main portion would be ground-bait in the spring feeder). I sent Siôn to go and get me a small bucket to prepare the hook-bait portion. Within minutes of him leaving, his rod took a big strike from another big fish that I had to take on, a good fight on a light spinning rod and Saragosa SW6000 combo:

Fighting Chao Phraya Cat #2

I called to Siôn to come and take the fish but he was too far away and didn’t realise. By the time he returned I was well into the fight, and duly brought in another hard-fighting Chao Phraya Catfish to the net, another good sized fish approaching the 15 kg mark:

Chao Phraya Catfish #2

With 2 good Chao Phraya Cats under my belt, I now turned my attention to fishing pellets for Mekong Catfish / Carp. My bait mix seemed to be of the right consistency and could withstand the rigours of casting. Not too bad for only my second ever attempt at this type of bait mix.

Meanwhile, Siôn continued to fish cut-baits and was soon rewarded. First he snagged himself a small Asian Redtail:

Asian Redtail Catfish #2

He then followed up this fish less than 10 minutes later by a much more powerful fish. This fish put up a characteristically dogged fight, with long powerful runs, moving from side-to-side as Sion gradually worked it closer to the bank:

Sion fighting a powerful fish

Once again the unseen fish put up strong resistance and by now we knew the suspect – another good-sized Chao Phraya Catfish. It was another 10 minute fight before the beast was finally on the bank, a big Chao Cat probable approaching the 20 kg mark and a species first for Siôn, although I didn’t do it justice in the pictures: 

Chao Phraya Catfish #3 landed

Chao Phraya Catfish #3 c.20 kg

I’d been fishing pellets for the best part of an hour without as much as a sniff of a take (although Siôn had seen the rod twitch at one point whilst I was busy prepping tackle). It was now evident that we’d encountered a good Chao Phraya Catfish bite, after 3 from 4 landed. Following the old adage to “never leave fish to find fish” I prudently decided to switch back to dead-bait and target another Chao Cat. I was rewarded barely 15 minutes later with another aggressive take, and once again was in battle with a powerful adversary that put a wicked bend in my 15-25lb class spinning rod:

Fighting Chao Phraya Catfish #4 of the session

After another arduous struggle, we slipped the net under Chao Cat number 4. They really do look like pugnacious, snub-nosed sharks:

Chao Phraya Catfish #4

After another brief 15 minute hiatus, we were in action again. Siôn’s turn again to bring in yet another Chao Cat, another large fish north of 15 kg:

Siôn fighting the final fish of the session

Another large Chao Phraya Catfish

Chao Phraya Catfish #5

It was now 6.20pm, and this was our last fish of the session. After this the catfish bite went off. But we’d done very well – 5 Chao Cat’s and 2 Asian Redtails in less than 3 hours fishing. I finished off the session by reverting to pellet baits, but had no further activity.

This had been one of my most enjoyable sessions at this or the old NEFFP. But it raised a question in my mind – did we just luck into a Chao Phraya Catfish bite or would we be able to replicate it using the same tactics?

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Asian Redtail, Catfish - Chao Phraya | 2 Comments

New NEFFP Behrang – Siamese Carp (27.08.17)

Mahfudz (owner of Reelology Reel Workshop) contacted me earlier in the week – he and Noru ( were going to be hitting the new NEFFP at Behrang on the coming Saturday and asked me to join the trip. Mahfudz was planning to target Mekong Catfish using his Matsumoto pellet and groundbait mix recipe. I was interested to fish with him and keen to give the magic bait a try – Mahfudz and Noru had previously had success with Mekong Cats at the old NEFFP:

I also wanted to give Mahfudz the first set of my reels to be service. So, I turned up at 4.20pm on the Saturday with my son Siôn, who was making his first visit to this new venue, my tackle for the day plus a Tekota 700 and a Saltiga Z4500 (after using it for this session) to pass to Mahfudz for servicing.

The session started off slowly – me and Sion started off soaking prawn baits whilst Mahfudz prepared the Matsumoto bait mix. Siôn got the first strike, which he missed. I then followed up with take number two – I set the hook of but it pulled 30 seconds later. 0 from 2. The pond was initially quite busy, but some space became available near the end of the fishing platform so we decamped to the new location. It was still slow going.

Then, after about an hour into the session, Mahfudz got a bite on the pellet bait and set the hook on a decent fish. It didn’t seem to be as powerful as a Mekong though, but still put up a good fight. Unfortunately, after a few minutes, the hook pulled and the unseen adversary was gone. He then followed up with another take on the pellets, but failed to connect.

Encouraged, I then switched baits to the magic pellets, as I was keen to catch a legitimate Mekong (I’d landed a few good fish previously, but always foul hooked). Mahfuda advised me to fish with an open bail to allow the fish time to pick up the bait. As we were about to fit an elastic band line retainer to the handle (and with the bail arm already open) line started to pull slowly but steadily from the reel. I flipped the bail arm but felt noting. I re-opened the bail and after a few seconds line starting peeling from the reel again. I closed the bail and set the hook. At first it didn’t feel like anything significant. But it then made a short run to the tip of the platform and then started jigging violently and making short, powerful runs. It was only a few minutes of intense battle before I had the fish ready for netting – a good sized Siamese Carp, a very welcome new species for me:

Siamese Carp fight

Siamese Carp c.15kg++

Trophy catch

Following this success, I continued to fish the pellets with the hope of another carp or possible a Mekong Cat. Siôn, on the other hand, had moved to the tip of the fishing platform where there were signs of activity on cut baits.

First Siôn got smashed by a large fish that took him under the aerator paddle structure.  Then he went through a crazy half an hour where he landed 3 goood sized Amazon Redtail Catfish in a row. Each providing a brief, but intense battle, as Siôn tried to keep the fish out of the nearby structure (he was fishing prawn baits hard against the aerator structures):

Siôn figting Amazon Cat #1

Amazon Redtail Catfish #1

Amazon Redtail Catfish #2

Sandwiched in-between Siôn’s fish, Noru got his first fish of the session, a spirited Asian Redtail Catfish:

Noru with Asian Redtail

Siôn closed out our session with his third Amazon Redtail:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #3

We packed up after our 4 hour time period was up. The Fishyology boys decided to continue for a couple more hours. It had been a slow session at the pond, but Siôn was happy with his late surge of fish and I was more than content with my lone Siamese Carp. A big thank you to Mahfudz for the invitation and the bait.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Carp, Carp - Siamese, Catfish, Catfish - Asian Redtail | 2 Comments

Kuala Rompin (07-11.08.17)

I started thinking about the possibility of doing a 5 day trip to Rompin whilst on a previous visit here in September last year. I discussed the possibility with a few mates but I realised that it would be difficult to get people together on the same schedule. Then in March of this year I tentatively started scoping out a possible trip to Muscat, Oman with the idea of chasing longtail tuna and dorado with light spinning tackle. That idea also didn’t pan out. Then, a few chance events happened that switched my focus back to a 5 day trip – first I had an awesome 2 day trip to Rompin in mid June, with unexpectedly good fishing:

Secondly, the tuna school didn’t materialise off of Muscat in any numbers worth chasing. Thirdly, I had both of my sons back here in KL for the summer; and finally I got a window of opportunity with my wife’s, work and fishing guides schedules …!! So here we were, me, Siôn and Ceri set for a 5 day sailfish fishing extravaganza at Kuala Rompin. As usual, I was fishing with Anthony Sullivan:

DAY 1 (07.08.17)

We awoke on Day 1 to clear skies, although the forecast all week was for blustery weather every afternoon …! The routine commenced as usual – run offshore, stop at various unjams (FADs) to collect bait and then start the hunt for signs of sailfish feeding activity. We did struggle to get bait and had to head offshore with only a limit supply (in both number and species) of bait. For this trip I was going to keep a fishing log to help me with catches and sequencing for writing this blog entry ……!

So, we commenced fishing for sailfish at Tok Rahmat at 10.20am! It looked good, with birds and abundant sailfish surface feeding activity. Almost immediately Siôn started to get follows on the popper and we had our first hook-up by 11.00am. Ceri took this first fish whilst me an Anthony continued to soak live-baits and Siôn was working hard with the popper:

Sailfish #1

Whilst Ceri was in the final throes of the fight, I had a subtle take on my livie, and set the hook on a fish that stayed deep – it moved deep and close to the boat. I had to navigate it past the engines as it moved from the port stern corner around to the starboard corner, whilst passing under Ceri’s rod and Sailfish that was coming to the boat for landing. I worked it to the surface and wasn’t completely surprise when a large Cobia broke the surface. The fish then pulled me 360 degrees around the boat (a walk-around design) and back to the original hook-up position …. and then back and forth across the stern as it made multiple deep diving runs back to the sea-bed. Finally, after a number of aborted attempts, the captain finally managed to get in a gaff shot and the fish was mine. A nice fat Cobia of 30lbs (14kg), my biggest to-date and another trophy fish on the Stella Sw8000 and another good test of my new “double-lock” FG knot tying technique:

Cobia 14 kg

The full intense fight was all captured on video:

Cobia fight

It was a good start to the day and we were anticipating a really good session. We continued to chase feeding birds and raising fish on popper – Siôn was getting multiple follows and had two brief pulls from Sailfish, but nothing stayed hooked for more than a few seconds. I had a go and also managed to get multiple raises to the lure but no strikes. Frustratingly, we were throwing live-baits at these fish  but they were ignoring our offerings each time.

We then had a comical interlude – Siôn brough in a green-eyed squid. It was attached to, but not hooked, the live-bait. As soon as we made an naive and amateurish attempt to net it it was gone in a flash and a puff of ink!

We stopped for lunch at 12.40 pm and then Anthony made the decision to try to get better baits – we needed more variety and we needed to replenish our live bait stock. We sped off to a near-by unjam, gathered more bait and headed back to the sailfish. We resumed fishing just before 2.00 pm. Once again Siôn was working a popper from the bow and immediately began garnering follows from fired-up sailfish. This time the pop and switch worked – I dropped a live-bait right in-front of a sailfish as it turned away from the popper near the boat and it immediately took my bait. Siôn had raised this fish and he wanted it so I passed him the rod to do battle:

Sailfish #2 – pop & switch

Sailfish #2 c. 30 kg

Shortly after this fish I was in action again – another strange fight, but with an evidently smaller fish ….. another, albeit smaller, cobia:

Cobia #2 – 5 kg

Almost immediately after the cobia, we took a vicious strike on the port rod. Both boys were at the bow, popping and chilling. I took the rod and started to wind rapidly to keep tight to what was probable a good sized tenggiri …… but the inevitable happened as the fish neared the boat, despite my best efforts the bloody thing bit me off ….. arrrgh.

We spend the remainder of the afternoon chasing sailfish, but despite rasing fish to the boat and at one point being in a pack of 4 or 5 sailfish we couldn’t get another take. Then, with a big storm approaching on the horizon, we had to finish fishing early and we left at 4.15 pm to head to port.

It had been a reasonable, if slow and frustrating, first day. We had caught and released two good sailfish and landed two cobia, including a personal best for me. I was looking for an improvement over the coming days.

DAY 2 (08.08.17)

The slow bait-fish fishing continued over from day 1. We’d had information from a sister boat that the fish (on the previous day) were taking small sardine type baits, so we were trying to get a live well full of these, but without much luck. We’d only managed 5 baits in half an hours fishing …! We finally had to commence fishing for sailfish with a limited bait supply and try to pick up more bait as we drift-fished for sails. 

But despite our lack of bait, the sailfish were in a hungry mood and we kicked off the session with a double hook-up at 10.25am on our first drift. I pulled the hook on my fish but Siôn stayed buttoned and after a short skirmish brought in the first fish of the day:

Day 2 – Sailfish #1

Barely 20 minutes later and we were in action again – another double. This time Ceri lost the fish whilst I was able to bring in the second fish of the day, a sailfish well into the 30 kg class:

Sailfish #2

After these two double hook-ups, things went quiet, with little bird or surface activity to chase. We relocated but still found slow going. At 11.42 am the Captain decided to run to a nearby unjam to collect more live bait. After better success with bait gathering we headed back to fish for sailfish with a good stock of sardines.

Ceri and Siôn free-lining live-baits

Once again, the boys put in some effort popping from the bow, getting 3 follows in less than 5 minutes and Siôn manage another, if brief, hook-up on popper. Ceri then raised 3 more fish in the crazy half hour since we re-commenced sailfish fishing at c.1 pm. Finally, at 1.30 pm I got a strike on my live-bait. I set the hook and fought a big sailfish to the boat, a decent fish approaching 40 kg:

Sailfish #3, c.40 kg

Reviving Sailfish #3

Ready for release

We now had 3 from 5 hook-ups landed. We went on the hunt for more. It was Ceri’s turn next and half an hour later he was doing battle with his first sailfish of the day. As the fish came in we could see that it had a large wound on it’s back and damaged pectoral fin – it was either from a squid attach or a shark bite, but it was apparent that it was an old wound and was healing up. We opted for a quick in-water photo before release:

Sailfish #4 with large wound on it’s back

After this fish things went quiet, and that was our lot for the day. We’d improved our sailfish catch, but it was still slow going. I was hoping that things would pick up as the week progressed. Once we got back to port it was apparent that the rest of the fleet had also been struggling. Pretty slow for the time of year.

Day 2 Summary


DAY 3 (09.08.17)

We started the third day with better luck – we made two separate unjam (FAD) stops and quickly filled up the live-well with a good variety of baits including scad, slimy mackerel, kerisi and sardines. We were able to start fishing for sails at the relatively early time of 10 am …!

Following the previous day’s protocol, Siôn and Ceri took to the bow to try to raise sailfish on popper:

Siôn and Ceri casting poppers

I kicked off the day with the first fish. The ratchet screamed on the bait-caster on the starboard ballon rod, I picked up the rod and felt line running out slowly, another cryptic take. I flipped the reel in gear and wound down …. nothing. But as a was retrieving to re-bait I could feel light tension and some jigging on the line. I reeled in yet another cobia, although this was a feeble 1 kg specimen that we released.

It was Ceri’s turn next. He took the rod on the next strike and soon had a chunky c.30kg sailfish alongside for billing, the first of the day:

Ceri with Sailfish #1 of Day 3

Meanwhile, Siôn was busy working a popper at the bow, repeatedly working the area with the lure and raising a number of fish that he enticed towards the boat. Despite his efforts though he still couldn’t manage a hook-up. He then turned his attentions to live-baiting, attempting to hook-up a sailfish. He had a subtle take that get taking line, but very slowly. I took the rod to see if I could figure out what was going on. I put the reel in gear and wound down. I felt some resistance but it was definitely not a sailfish. I suspected a squid (as we’d encountered on Day 1) and reeled the bait slowly to the boat. Sure enough, a large and aggressive green-eyed squid was on the bait. We let the captain try to net the creature this time. After a number of attempts (the greedy cephalopod repeatedly returned to the bait each time it was spooked by the net), the captain finally managed to get it in the net and it was transferred to the cooler – the starter course for the evenings meal.

Siôn was in action again half an hour later as we hooked-up the second sailfish of the day, another c.30kg fish:

Siôn with Sailfish #2

We re-baited and reset out drift and were bitten again almost immediately, but we failed to hook-up. On retrieving the leader we saw that it was cleanly cut-off above the hook. Another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel) had robbed our bait and escaped once again. I was incensed and grabbed my spinning kit armed with a 40g blue Sotelo casting lure (a Jackson Pintail clone) and cast if off the stern. I only had time for a handful of casts before we had to reset our drift. On the third cast, as I was retrieving the lure near the boat I got a decent strike and set the hook on a small, Spanish Mack that I quickly brought to gaff. Another fish for the ice box and the entree for the evenings dinner:

Spanish Mackerel – olé ….!

It was now noon and the day was shaping up well. We were getting consistent strikes from a variety of species. It wasn’t too long before I was hooked up again, this time a smallish, but feisty, sailfish that I soon had boat-side for Sailfish no.3 for the session:


Sailfish #3 c.20 kg+

It was barely 15 minutes after sail no.3 than we were hooked up yet again. Ceri stepped up to do battle with his second fish of the day. This fish put up a good fight but was hooked near the eye, so we opted for a quick release to minimise damage to the fish:

Sailfish #4

We now had four sailfish and it was still only 1.00 pm. We still had plenty of fishing time left. Ceri and Siôn continued to work poppers from the bow  at the start of each new drift, once gain helping to bring sailfish to the boat, with Siôn yet again having the popper slashed by a fish without hooking-up. Whilst this work was undoubtedly helping us bring sailfish to the boat and increasing our strikes, the fish were still mostly snubbing the live-baits cast at them was the chased down the poppers. Once again, extremely frustrating.

In-between spending time popping at the bow, Siôn was in the stern long enough to take a strike on live-bait and wrangle his first ever cobia, a decent fish of 14 lb (6.4 kg), for another different species for the day:

Siôn with 14 lb Cobia

We then went through a lull with no further activity for about two hours. Then, as the session was drawing to a close there was a sudden increase in sailfish activity. First Siôn was in action with another decent sailfish:

Sailfish #5

And then right at the end of the day, at 4.40pm, I managed to secure one last fish before we had to return to the jetty:

Sailfish #6 

This had been the best day so far – we were on an upward trajectory for sailfish, with 6 landed, plus we’d added a couple of cobia, a spanish mackerel and a fat squid to round off a decent day’s fishing. The weather had also been excellent and the best of the trip so far. We deserved the cold Tigers that we drank on the journey back. 

The days events are summarised in the following video:

Day 3 Summary

DAY 4 (10.08.17)

We were now in to the second half of the trip. The catch rate and the weather had been steadily improving. As usual, we set off with expectations high, and were soon into the familiar routine of collecting live-baits at a number of FAD stops.

We commenced fishing for sailfish at 10.20am, and within 15 minutes had our first hook-up, unfortunately only a “Singapore Marlin” (garfish or todak in local parlance) that we let the captain sort out. Withing the hour we got our first sailfish action, a double hook-up, but pulled the hook on one fish and broke off at the leader knot on the other. Ten minutes later, at 11.30am, I set the hook on another fish only for it to turn and pull the hook again ….. 0/3 to start the day ….!! The tale of woe continued when Ceri missed a possible tenggiri strike on the popper and then Anthony got bitten off by a tenggiri on his live-bait rig.

Finally, 2 hours after we started fishing, we got our first solid hook-up, with Siôn in action bringing in a c.35 kg Sailfish. I followed up half an hour later with a smaller fish of c.25kg:

Sailfish #1 & #2, Day 4

In-between the sailfish, Siôn had raised two cobia that followed his sabiki rig with attached hooked bait-fish to the surface. The were in the area and, sure enough, took one of the sailfish baits. Ceri took the rod and did battle with his first ever cobia, a decent 17lbs fish:

Cobia #1 – 17lbs

Ceri with his first Cobia

Meanwhile Siôn continued to fish for bait withe sabiki rig. He was catching kerisi (a type of red bream) and then snagged a decent grouper of c.1kg, that was retained for dinner that evening.

Next up was Ceri again, almost an hour after his first ever fish, he had another decent cobia of 16lbs. Whilst he was fighting this fish, Siôn set the hook on a Sailfish that eventually jumped and snapped off at the hook as it neared the boat. All action was captured on video:

Day 4 Summary – Sailfish & Cobia

As the afternoon wore on the action started to improve. Anthony was on fire today, hooking up the majority of the fish on his new Stella Sw10000, and once again was able to elicit another good take. I took over the rod to fight sailfish #3 of the session. This was a good sized fish that gave us some good surface action right next to the boat (shown in the video above). We brought this fish on-board for a quick photograph before release:

Sailfish #3

The final fish of the day came, once again, courtesy of Anthony (he’d cetainly earned his fees today). It was Siôn’s turn to take the rod and he enjoyed playing his second sailfish of the day on the luxuriant Stella SW10000:

Sailfish #4

Shortly after this fish we were forced to make a move to a new location, Saga Batu, to avoid an brewing storm. Things though were quiet at the new location, apart from a single follow on popper for Siôn that we failed to convert into a hook-up. We closed up for the day at 4.50pm. Time to break out the tigers and head for home ….

Anthony and me toasting the day

DAY 5 (11.08.17)

The final day of the trip. My first ever 5 day fishing trip. I thought that it may become a bit stale after this length of trip …. but not at all. We left the port for the day’s fishing with the same level of excitement and anticipation as for the previous 4 days.

As per the previous days we had to visit a number of spots until we found good concentrations of bait. At the second FAD today we managed to find a good stock of good bait, tamban – a type of sardine, that was proving successful on sailfish this week. We then haded offshore to the Saga Batu area once again, and started to fish for sails at 10.30am. We searched, soaked live-baits, and waited, and waited ….. and repeated this scenario multiple times. It initially looked quite fishy, with some sailfish and bird activity. And then just went dead, apart from a single sailfish follow to a pencil lure and a small group of garfish attracted to the boat by Siôn chumming chunks of tamban in an attempt to generate some activity. Other boats in the area were all in the same situation.

Four hours later we still had not had a single take. Siôn then managed to lose his Ray Bands sunglasses overboard as he bend over the side to wash his hands. He dived in straight after them, banging his nose on an outlet fitting and pushing the glasses deeper. It was frustrating because they were just about neutrally buoyant and it we’d realised we could have got then with the dip net. It was extremely frustrating to watch them disappear …!

Siôn sans Ray Bands ….!

Slowly …. very slowly, the fishing started to come to life. First Ceri scored a garfish of around 2 kg for the first fish of the day (at 2.45pm!). Then, at 3.30pm, completely out of the blue and with no signs of activity, we get a strike from a decent size sailfish that Ceri took on. But as Ceri was show-boating, and the fish started making some leaps in the distance after a long initial run, the line went slack. Ceri reeled in to find that the line had broken above the leader knot – the only one that I hadn’t repleaced after the previous weeks’ fishing. Damn. I cursed myself for not retying the leader – we paid for this lack of attention to detail on a very slow day.

Ceri fighting the solitary Sailfish hook-up of the day

Ten minutes later Anthony hooked-up a small fish that Ceri retrieved – a small Cobia of c.1kg:

Miniature Cobia

And that was it for the day and the trip – a skunk on sailfish and a very poor day. We’d tried hard, despite the lack of fish. I spent hours fishing pintail lures in the vain hope of scoring another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel):

Lure fishing for tenggiri

As well as poor fishing, the weather was also on the turn, as we were on the edge of a big storm:

Impending Storm

Given the poor fishing and developing weather situation we decided to end the day early and started the run back to port at 4.20pm:

Running for port

End of trip beers with Anthony


It had been a very enjoyable trip, with reasonable (but not spectacular) fishing. The catch break-down was as follows:

  • Day 1 – 2 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a personal best 14kg fish for me)
  • Day 2 – 4 Sailfish
  • Day 3 – 6 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species ffirst for Sion), 1 Spanish Mackerel and a squid
  • Day 4 – 4 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species first for Ceri)
  • Day 5 – 1 Cobia …..!

So, 16 Sailfish, 7 Cobia and a mackerel. Not too bad, but certainly slower than expected for the time of year. My personal haul was 6 Sailfish, 3 Cobia and the mackerel. I didn’t achieve my target of 100 billfish and 100 Sailfish (my personal tally now stands at 92 Sailfish and 1 Black Marlin), but that goal will be achievable within the next few trips. I look forward to becoming a centurian!


Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Cobia, Mackerel - Narrow Barred Spanish (Kingfish, Tenggiri), Sailfish | Leave a comment

Pay Pond fishing with the Al Busaidi’s (28.07.17)

My old friend from Oman, Kamal Al Busaidi, and his family had finally managed to pay us a visit in KL. Unfortunately the trip didn’t really allow for many fishing opportunities. I was also hampered by the fact that their visit coincided with an unexpected very busy period at work …! Still, we had two options for an afternoon paypond session in freshwater – going for Amazon Catfish at the NEFFP in Behrang; or chasing Pacu at Fish Valley Semenyih.

The later option was chosen by Kamal – he had a Pacu on his bucket list and this was the best place to go. It was also more scenic than the other option, had a decent restaurant with beer for the apres fishing relaxation. Good choice …!

We stopped en route to collect passed sell-by data flavoured buns, added a few loaves of Gardenia sliced white bread, and were ready to go. 

We arrived to a quiet pond but with a breeze blowing from the south. We therefore opted to fish from the south bank with the wind behind us.  We rigged and baited -up and commenced fishing. It started off very slow, in addition the baits were plagued by lampam. The buns were getting stripped from the hook within minutes of hitting the water. We occasionally caught the larger, or more greedy individual members of these bait-thieves:

Siôn with the first fish of the session

Saif’s Lampam

Mako scored a bait-thief too

As the afternoon wore on the pacu still didn’t make a showing – there were few tell-tale swirls of large pacu attacking the chummed bread, only a frenzy of lampan splashing at the surface. I had one possible pacu bite that failed to hook up and that was it. And time was ticking as the sun slowly dropped in the sky to the west:

Sunset approaching ….!

The situation called for a rethink. I was starting to think that the floating bun baits had been used to exhaustion at this location and that the fish had learnt to be wary of these baits.  I sent Ceri and Siôn off into the nearby treeline to look for palm oil seeds – an alternative and often successful bait for pacu. They had success and returned with a handful of fresh, ripe, seeds:


We now started mixing up the bait – some people fishing palm oil seeds, whilst the others continued with bread baits. Kamal had switched to his fly rod and started picking up lampam on flies tipped with white bread:

Kamal on the fly

Kamal switch to a spinning outfit and baited up with palm oil seed. Suddenly, he was on, hooked-up up to a pacu. It was a small specimen, and Kamal didn’t waste time in bringing it to the net, but it was the target species and I was pleased that he’d achieved his goal:

Pacu in the net …!

Kamal’s Pacu

This catch further inspired Siôn. He moved along the bank to the left and noticed some surface activity. Persisting with palm oil seed bait he was rewarded with a solid hook-up and brought in the second pacu of the session:

Siôn’s Pacu

Once again this was a small fish but still a feisty pacu, and the switch to palm oil seed bait had proved fruitful …. Kamal and his son joined Siôn in the same location but we had no further luck as dusk overtook us:

Dusk at Fish Valley Semenyih

Right in the dying seconds of the session I had a take and managed to hook-up my last fish of the session, a final lampam to close the day.

Final lampam

We quickly packed-up the kit in the dark using the car headligghts for illumination and then retired to the Fish Valley Chinese Restoran for dinner an beers. It had been an unusually slow session and the usual large pacu had failed to show despite us trying a range of baits and (usually productive) locations along the south bank. As mentioned, I suspect bait exhaustion for the flavoured buns. Still, it was still fishing, Kamal had got his fish and it had been an enjoyable afternoon and evening. 

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Java Barb (Lampam), Pacu | Leave a comment

Wales (27th June – 5th May 2017)

A family trip to the UK, a holiday of sorts, to collect my youngest son from boarding school in Monmouth, Wales. I also had to try to help the prodigal elder son, with a view to bringing him home to Kuala Lumpur for help with his issues.

The wife and I flew into Heathrow early morning, collected some cash from the ATM, picked up a hire car and drove down the M4 to Cardiff:

The new with the old – the new five pound note

We travelled in style …..

Cardiff  (27-29th June & 3rd – 5th July)

Novotel, Cardiff Bay

We stayed at the Novotel in Cardiff Bay, just off Tyndall Street. It turned out to be a very nice hotel in a surprisingly convenient location for the city centre. I’d struggled with hotels in organising this trip and was booking places on the fly. This was so good, I booked for our return visit after spending some time in Monmouth. 

We went for a walk along a dock feeder canal, which was a mini wildlife ecosystem:

Nesting coots

Swans with cygnets

The hotel also had its own avian guests:

Herring Gull chick camouflaged against the roof pea shingle

Old docklands buildings (including the hotel intself) have been cleverly restored and integrated into noew developments. The building below used to be a bakery (I think):

Old bakery restored & re-developed into apartments

I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for a beer in the city centre and was surprised to see this brew for sale, named after my home town:

Brain’s Barry Island IPA brew

Despite growing up close by, I don’t know Cardiff very well. I saw some new parts of the city when spending time with my eldest son. Cardiff’s “tube”map helped put locations in context:

Cardiff by “tube” ….!!

We did a lot of walking and enjoyed some excellent weather:

Cardiff Cathederal

Cardiff Cathederal & St. David’s Hall

Churchill Way in the sun

Cardiff has changed significantly since my boyhood, particularly over the past decade. Remnants of the old city remain, side-by-side with new buildings and modern street culture:

Old Brain’s Beer Advert 

Modern street art

Monmouth (29th June – 3rd July)

The second part of the trip was a visit to the town of Monmouth near the Welsh-English border to pick up the youngest from boarding school:

Monmouth School

Monmouth School buildings commemorative stonework

We spend one night in Monmouth, but couldn’t get a hotel room over the busy weekend. We found accommodation in Symonds Yat, ath the Paddocks Cottages,  we had a nice bungalow close to the River Wye:


The Paddocks Cottages

Monmouth is on the route of The Wye Valley Walk and my son was keen to take us on a hike up The Kymin, a local landmark hill and National Trust site, with links to the Royal Navy and Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The Wye Valley Walk information sign

The hill makes a pleasant hike and has spectacular views westward over Monmouth Town and beyond into the green hills of Wales. England and the Wye Valley can be seen from the eastern side of the hill. It also boasts a Georgian Round House and a Naval Temple – unfortunately I didn’t do any prior research so didn’t realise the significance of the Round House and didn’t even see the Temple …. hence no pictures ….!! I did, however get plenty of photo’s of the picturesque views:

Views on the ascent

The Kymin

The Kymin – view from the top (Monmouth Town & Wales)

Siôn on The Kymin

Monmouth viewed from The Kymin

Ceri on The Kymin

View looking east towards England and The Wye Valley

We followed up the hike with a return to Monmouth and a stroll through town, which has is’s share of historic buildings:

St Mary’s Priory Church

Historic Building marker plaques

Monmouth Town & Ceri ready for The Summer Ball

For the last day in Monmouth we took a walk down to the River Monnow and it’s surrounds: 

Pan: The Monnow Bridge & The Gate House Inn

Monnow Bridge

Green Dragon Pub

Green Dragon & Monnow Bridge

The Blue Anchor Inn, Aberthaw (3rd July 2017)

After Monmouth we returned to Cardiff for a few more days. Whilst there we paid a visit to my ex brother-in-law and his family, who’d looked after Ceri during half terms and exeat weekends whilst at boarding school, and took them out for a thank you dinner. They’d chosen the excellent (and historic) Blue Anchor Inn in at Aberthaw (established 1380), near to my home town of Barry. I hadn’t been here in a long time and it was a bit of a journey down memory lane …. Not to mention great real ale and traditional home cooked style food. Excellent!

The Blue Anchor Inn, Aberthaw

All too soon, the holiday drew to a close. It was time to drive back to Heathrow and take the big bird back to Kuala Lumpur. A very hot south-east England day, a usual Heahtrow flight delay coupled with a broken air conditioning system on the Malaysian Airlines plane made for an authentic tropical experience as we waited in the aircraft for a full hour before take-off …… the holiday was over …!!

The ride back to Kuala Lumpur

Posted in (7) Wales, UK | Leave a comment

Kuala Rompin – The Perfect 10 [+ 2 leviathans] (17 & 18th June 2017)

My friend and colleague Gareth, soon to be departing from Malaysia, asked me if I could organise a trip to Rompin – he was keen to get a trip in as part of his Malaysia “bucket-list” of things to try. Unfortunately I was just too busy with work and personal matters and was unsure even if I would be able to join the trip. I passed him the details of my fishing guide, Anthony Sullivan (  He organised a trip in mid June and managed to get a boat that could accommodate 5 anglers. I wanted to go too, but still had a lot of outstanding commitments to sort out.

As luck would have it, I managed to get on the trip together with Gareth, Jochen and Tom from work and Gareth’s mate Justin Lewis, who flew in from Oz just for the fishing weekend. I did have some reservations regarding the fishing though – the past season had been unusually poor, me and Jochen had already had a slow trip back in April and June is not usually renowned for it’s fishing quality. In fact, this was my first ever visit during this month of the year. But the real reason for this trip was to give Gareth and bit of a send off and have a boozy lads weekend. Good fishing would be a bonus.

So, the scene was set. Me, Gareth, Justin and Tom headed out from KL just after 2 pm for the long drive to Kuala Rompin on the east coast. It was a luxury for me not to have to drive – I could sit back and relax. Jochen, as usual, was taking the opportunity to have a run on his motorcycle. We arrived in Rompin by 6.30pm, in-time to see the day’s catch come in and start on the Tigers ….! Jochen arrived within half and hour of us and we enjoyed an evening of Malaysian food, beer and banter. I also bumped into my mate Noru, who was there with a couple of Danish anglers. Anthony informed us that the tengirri fishing, which had been good the previous weekend, was tailing off, but we could expect reasonable sailfish fishing (his guys had been getting 5+ sailfish per day). We decided to start off trying for tengirri and then switch to sailfish for the afternoon.

Besides two sailfish virgins (Gareth and Justin), I also had two new bits of kit to blood. I had a Stella SW6000HG that I was going to use to lure fish for mackerel (tenggiri) and a new (but 2008 model) Stella SW8000HG that I was using to live-bait for sails. The SW6000 was on it’s first saltwater outing (it had already proved to be a “lucky” reel on it’s previous freshwater tests) – I was hoping for a mackerel or two on it and was secretly also wanting to try popping for sailfish with it (I’d only brought 2 outfits for this trip). I’d already used the SW8000 in the salt back in April, but had yet to land a fish on it.

Day 1 (17.06.17)

We were met with perfect conditions – clear skies with only a light breeze and flat calm seas as we departed Sungai Rompin:

Sungai Rompin – leaving the jetty

We left the river mouth into the open sea and headed toward our first stop to collect live-bait and commence fishing for tenggiri:

Heading out from the river mouth

We arrived at our first stop and started fishing. Whilst the others started jigging sabiki rigs for live-bait I started casting a Jackson Pintail lure for tenggiri. I had a strike third cast and hooked up to what felt like a good fish. Within a minute my line went slack and I reeled in my braid minus the leader, lost along with a wire trace and expensive pintail lure. Damn – I’d chaffed my mainline the previous week on a large Amazon Catfish and had cut out the damaged line. Whilst tying the leader with an FG knot I notice some more chaffed line but stupidly thought that it would be ok ….. and paid the price with yet another lost tenggiri …. arrrrg ..!!

Meanwhile, the boys were busy filling up the live well with quality baits. Our live baits off the stern had also been attracting some attention. Unfortunately, our single-hook rigs resulted in sancocho’d baits without hook ups. After a couple of hours, with the action slowing and only one further strike on lures we decided to troll for half an hour before moving off to search for sailfish.

Trolling for tenggiri

We had no luck trolling, so called it quits at around 12.30 pm and started searching for sailfish. We didn’t have to go far before we spotted bird activity and sailfish feeding at the surface. I clipped a popper onto my light casting rod with the Stella SW6000 and cast towards the sailfish. I was immediately rewarded with a follow, and again with my second cast with a brief pull on the lure. And again a few casts later. The fish were hot and looking to feed. A few casts later I had another follow followed by a good take – my first on popper for a few years. I set the hook and the fish took off on a screaming and prolonged run, taking at least 150m of my 30lb braid. I managed to stop the fish and start regaining line before another run, some brief surface activity, then it turned and the hook pulled. Damn, damn, damn …… lost fish number two. But I knew that we were in for a good day – the sailfish were in a bit of a feeding frenzy and it was just before 1 pm during the usual “mid-day lull” period.

We re-set out drift and put two baits off the stern. We got a take almost instantly – Anthony passed the rod to Gareth to fight his first ever sailfish. After a short fight, and with some coaching from Anthony, Gareth soon had the fish boat-side for a quick picture before release:

Gareth fighting his first ever sailfish

Sailfish #1 – the obligatory picture

Barely 15 minutes after out first fish, we were in action again. This time it was Justin’s turn as he took over the rod to do battle with his first ever sailfish. After a 15 minute fight we had fish number two on the leader:

Justin fighting his first sailfish

Sailfish #2 on the leader

Justin with his first Sailfish

Whilst  Justin was fighting his fish we had another take for a double hook-up. Jochen was up and took on the fight. Jochen is a seasoned sailfish angler and did a good job of bringing the powerful fish under control. This was a good sized fish and the biggest of the day so far, around the 40 kg mark:

Jochen with sailfish #3

4 hook-ups and three fish landed within the hour. Things were shaping up well for a very good day …..!! After these first three fish we moved slightly towards an unjam (FAD) in the distance that had large frigate birds circling overhead like prehistoric pterodactyls. This place was alive with sailfish feeding activity.

We tied up to the unjam and the first set at this new location produced yet another fish, with Tom taking over with only his second ever sailfish. Whilst Tom was fighting this fish, we continued to soak a live-bait off the stern and we soon had a double hook-up, which I proceeded to fight. The problem now was that we had to thread the fish between the floats and ropes of the unjam, which was particularly difficult with two fish on!

Double hook-up in the unjam

My fish managed to run under a line and I was beginning to think that it was going to be a loss, but the captian expertly manoeuvred the boat alongside, the mate picked up the rope with a gaff and the captain cut it clean through with a “chinese chopper” (meat cleaver). The mate freed the line from the encrusting gooseneck barnacles and I was still in the game:

Freeing the fish from the unjam … game still on!

With the line released from the unjam ropes I was free to fight the small, but spirited fish, and soon had it alongside for billing:

Sailfish #4 alongside and billed

Sailfish #4

Tom’s fish was a different story though. It was a much bigger fish and was fighting hard:

Tom concentrating in fight mode

An aerial display near the boat

Slowly but surely, Tom got control of the fish and after a good 20 minute+ fight finally had the fish landed, another good sized and chunky sailfish, probably approaching the 40 kg mark:

Sailfish #5

After reviving and releasing Tom’s fish, we returned to the unjam, tied up and trotted two baits out off the stern. This had been a fantastic hour and a half’s fishing – we now had each landed a sailfish and the pressure was off. But it didn’t take long before we were in action once again. Jochen stepping up to take on sailfish #6. It soon became apparent that this was a decent fish as it was fighting hard and taking a lot of line. The captain had to slip off the unjam once again to get this fish clear of the floats and into open water to chase the fish down.

Jochen doing battle with the hard fighting fish

It was a real tug-o-war fight, with Jochen straining against the big girl. After a number of long and powerful runs the fish eventually came in near to the boat. But it remained tantalisingly off the port stern, refusing to come in the last 10 m or so to be leadered. It was a stalemate for a good 6 or 7 minutes before finally succumbing to the pressure and finally coming to the boat.

Sailfish #6 – remaining stubbornly just outside leadering range

This was a big fish, a true leviathan of the ocean. Certainly the biggest sailfish I’ve ever seen and the biggest that Anthony has seen for at least 3 years. The Captain estimated this fish to be around 65 kg (c.140 lb), a very large sailfish specimen indeed and a great catch:

Monster Sailfish: estimated at c.65 kg

That was now 6 sailfish landed in two hours … extreme sailfish action indeed. But we were not finished yet …….

We had a brief “lull” of all but 15 minutes as we returned to the unjam and re-tied the boat. As soon as we fed live-baits off the back we were in action once again. Gareth was up for this fish – his second and sailfish no.7 for the day. Another decent sized fish, another epic battle, this one caught in detail on video footage:

Gareth in action fighting his second fish of the day

We were now approaching late afternoon, with 7 fish under our belt in about 2.5 hours of fishing. A feeding frenzy was starting to develop – first Tom snagged a fish on a sabiki rig whilst jigging for bait, whilst almost instantaneously both me and Anthony had strikes on free-lined livies. It was chaos, with the sabki hooked fish breaching on the opposite side of the boat before running through the other two line. I broke my fish off well above the leader during the ensuing tangle, meanwhile Justin took over the third hooked fish. It was Justin’s second fish and with his growing confidence following his first fish he made light work of his second, taking only 5 minutes to bring the fish to leader:

Justin working sailfish #8 to the boat

Whilst fighting his fish, we had yet another hook-up for a double, with Tom doing the honours this time:

Tom on sailfish #9

And, whilst Tom was in action we had a further hook-up for a double-double …!! This was my first decent fish on the Stella SW8000 and it tore off on a huge run, leaving my spool dangerously low on line. I started at the stern port corner and ended up going a full circle around the boat (a walk-around design) before pulling the hook …..

Fighting a sailfish on a Stella SW8000, another double hook-up

However, I soon followed up on my lost fish with another, this time solid, hook-up and brought in fish number 10 to the leader:

Sailfish #10 billed

This was another nice sized fish, well into the 30’s kg:

Sailfish #10

It was now approaching the end of the session, almost 4.30 pm. But we still weren’t completely finished. Jochen was hooked-up again at the death only for the fish to throw the hook on a jump after a long powerful run.

What a day it had been, 10 sailfish caught and released (from 13 hook-ups), 2 fish for each angler and one monster sailfish of c. 65 kg. We’d had double and double-double hook-ups. I’d also hooked-up my first sailfish on a popper for quite a few years and also managed to hook (and lose) a tenggiri – both on my new Stella SW6000HG (which is not quite as lucky as I was starting too imagine ….!).

These were great numbers for mid June, particularly given the fact that we didn’t hunt sails until well after noon.  However, it was now time to head back to the dock for food and yet more Tigers …..! We were all looking forward to Day 2 with anticipation.

Day 1 Highlights – sailfish no’s. 1 to 5

Day 1 Highlights – sailfish no’s. 6 to 10

Day 2 (18.06.17)

We awoke to what seemed like reasonable conditions – still air and slightly hazy skies over the Rompin River:

Sungai Rompin and jetty, 7.30 am

After the usual Rompin River Seafood restaurant breakfast of omlet, toast and coffee, we grabbed our gear and set of down the river to begin our second day of fishing. The plan was the same as the previous day – try some unjams (FADs) for baitfish and mackerel (tenggiri) first and, depending on results, continue to pursue mackerel or switch to hunting sailfish. 

It was a surprise when we left the river mouth to be met by a stiff offshore breeze. At the first unjam it was decidedly choppy, making lure fishing uncomfortable at the bow. It was also very slow. We made good progress with the baitfish but got zero activity from tenggiri. After about two and a half hours we decided to give up on tenggiri and return to the scene of the previous days sailfishing success.

Choppy conditions, Tioman Island in the background

When we arrived at the sailfish unjam, it was a completely different scenario to the revious day. although the breeze had dropped off and the seas were calming down, there was no bird activity – the frigate birds from the previous day were gone. I though that this might be a bad sign, but as we arrived one of the two boats already in residence was already hooked up to a sailfish: 

Neighbouring boat hooked-up

After scouting the area, we selected our spot and headed into the maze of floats and ropes of the unjam. We tied up right in the middle of the unjam and started fishing, with two live-baits off the stern under balloon floats. Jochen headed to the bow and cast a live-bait out, and it didn’t take long before he had a take and hooked-up the first sailfish of the day.  After a  drawn-out fight which saw him move from the bow port side to finish up at the stern starboard side, he worked Sailfish #1 of the session boat-side for a quick release:

Jochen commences fighting Sailfish #1

We trotted out two new live-baits under balloons and had a double take and hook-ups within five minutes resetting our spread. Tom took one fish, Gareth the other. These were both good fish and a handful whilst still amongst the unjam floats and ropes. Unfortunately, after pulling the anglers around the boat, and with the Captain doing his best to manoeuvre the boat, we eventually ended off losing both fish. One to a pulled hook and the other tangled around an unjam and broke off.

Tom and Gareth, double hook-up

One of the fish that had tangled the unjam and broken-off was sill caught by the line to the unjam rope. Before we could return to the float to try to free the fish we had another strike, which Justin took for sailfish #2 of the day. Luckily, whilst we were fighting this fish another boat came to our aid and freed the sailfish from the rope.

Jochen was keen to catch some table fish to bring home from the trip. He put out a live-bait on a wire trace and two-hook rig for mackerel (tenggiri) on a trike drag setting and was soon rewarded with a decent strike and hook-up. The hoped for tenggiri didn”t materialise however, it was another sailfish. This fish put up dogged resistance and Jochen was in for a prolonged fight. After a good 20 minutes or so he had the fish close to the boat, but it held its position with the leader tantalisingly just beyond reach ….!! This stalemate endured for a good 10 more minutes before Jochen was finally able to bring the fish in. The fish was foul hooked at the top of the head, explaining the difficulty in guiding it to the the boat. 

We had been in constant action since we arrived at the unjam an hour and a half before. We were then treated to the sight of a largish juvenile whale shark that glided gracefully past the boat, only a couple of metres away, with an associated menagerie of remora and cobia in attendance (my first ever whale shark sighting):

Whale Shark

Following this welcome interlude we resumed fishing. I flicked out a live-bait off the port side whilst Anthony set a bait off the stern. I was using my still virginal new Stella Sw8000. I said to Gareth that if I hooked-up I would take the fish on my gear, but that he could take the fish if Anthony got a strike. almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth than I felt my free-lined live bait twitch and then felt a sudden jerked. I watched the line play out from the open-bailed spool, slowly at first then rapidly gathering pace. I flicked the bail shut and set the hook on a decent fish that set off on a powerful run taking at least 150 m of 30lb braid. After the run eventually stopped I started the laborious task of working the fish to the boat – I tried to regain line as quickly as possible (I’d already lost some line in the previous days tangle) and didn’t want to risk getting spooled. I managed to get the fish near the boat within 15 minutes or so, but it was evidently a good sized fish and was difficult to control. It made repeated long pin-wheels, each time swimming under the boat and requiring me to plunge the rod tip deep into the sea until I was sure that the fish had cleared the engines. This happened 3 times before finally snagging on the engine skeg – the captain saw the danger and helped me clear the line. Finally I had the fish on the leader – a big fish and easily my biggest sailfish estimated at around 55 kg. A fantastic first fish on the new reel, and sailfish #4 for the session:

Sailfish c.55 kg

We returned to the unjam and reset out baits. Gareth took the next fish to make it no.5 for the day. The weather was now starting to cause concern –  the day had started breezy and with choppy seas but had been getting calmer all day. Now, storm clouds and heavy rain were evident in the distance:

Storm watch …..

We continued fishing, hoping that the storm would pass us by. Now we’d all caught a fish except top. I cast out a live-bait and garnered another take on my Stella SW8000. I set the hook and past the rod to Tom for fish #6:

Tom fighting Sailfish #6

Everyone had now caught a fish on the day. Justin, however, was particularly keen to hook-up his own fish. He spent the next hour or so trying to set the hook. He missed a couple of takes and then hooked-up, only for the fish to pull the hook within a few minutes. The captain notioned that he’d set the hook too early. Whilst Justin continued with his efforts, Anthony was coaching Gareth to a hook-up, and suddenly he was on for Sailfish #7. Within a few minutes Justin also managed to get a good set an we had yet another double on our hands:

Double hook-up: Sailfish nos. 7 and 8

Justin’s second fish, sailfish #8 being released

One of the fish we caught (I’m not sure which one) had a fresh (unrusted) sabiki rig in its mouth with exactly the same type of sinker that we were using – almost certainly the fish that Tom had snagged with his sabiki rig the previous day ….!!

It was now 4.00 pm and the trip was drawing to a close, with 8 fish under our belts. But there was still time for more. On the next drift we had yet another strike which Gareth took for sailfish #9 and his third of the day. Whilst we chased Gareth’s fish down, with Gareth fighting from the bow, I cast a live-bait off the stern and free-lined it about 100 m back. I soon had another strike for a third fish on the Stella and the 10th and last sailfish of the day …. another perfect 10:

Sailfish #10

It was now 4.30 pm and time to return to port. The storm that had threatened earlier had past us by with just a few spots of rain but now we were heading straight into it:

Into the storm

We were soon right into the storm, with heavy, cold rain and churning seas. We hunkered down for shelter and enjoyed cold Tiger beer, as the rain lashed the deck and blew in from the sides:

Under cover

Then, almost as quickly as is started we were back under clear, warm skies and calm seas and were soon heading back up the Rompin River to the dock. There was time for a quick team photo before we had to rush to pack our gear, shower and grab a quick dinner before the long drive back to KL.

Group Picture (l-r): Jochen, me, Gareth, Tom and Justin

I’d never fished here before in June (traditionally the slowest part of the season) and had come on the trip with no real expectation about the fishing quality. But it had turned out to be one of my best trips here. We’d had great banter, good food and plenty of beers. But the fishing had been awesome, the perfect 10 on both days, with everyone getting their fair share of fish and action. Finally, we’d caught two really big sailfish, true leviathans. A great time – thanks go to Gareth for organising the trip and Anthony Sullivan for putting us in the fish once again.

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