Natural Exotic Friday afternoon (30.11.18)

My first visit to the Natural Exotic at Behrang for quite some time. I’d been waiting on a repair to my 45 year old Abu Ambassadeur 7000, and it had finally been completed after sourcing a replacement part. The plan for this trip was to try to test the repair (to the drag system) on some big catfish. 

I was supposed to be meeting Fuz (of Reelyology Reel Workshop, who’d done the repair for me to see the reel in action. Unfortunately, Fuz had to pull out due to high workload at his shop. So it was just me and my friend’s son, Abdullah, who ventured out for an afternoon’s fishing. Once we arrived at the location, the plan was further thwarted by a lack of lampam live-baits – I wasn’t expecting to be able to cast very far with the set-up that I had but I wanted to free-line livies at the end of the central pier. In addition, there were a number of anglers already in the prime spots at the pier ….!

We decided to fish cut dead-baits (keli) together with larger prawns that I’d brought along (I described these as “Amazon Catfish candy” to Abdullah). Well, we started withing at a number of locations, but with very little action. Abdullah finally started getting a succession of tentative takes on the west side of the pier, finally hooking and landing the first fish of the day at c.5.30pm, an hour and a half after we started. And that was it until just after 7.30pm, almost the end of the session when we got a double hook-up, Abdullah taking a large Chao Phraya Catfish of c.15kg and me pulling in a smallish Amazon Redtail. We decided to fish on for an additional hour as the “bite” had started. It did indeed pick up but it was still slow and we finished off with an additional Amazon Redtail each, with Abdullah taking a fish probably approaching 20kg. 

Abdullah got to fight two big fish on his Nasci 4000 reel and gave the new carbontext drag washers a good burn. I will need to try again to test out my vintage Abu. Oh, and the prawn “candy” baits failed to garner even a single bite on this occasion ….!!

Abdullah’s Amazon Redtail Catfish ….

…. and big Chao Phraya Catfish

Amazon Redtail Catfish

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Chao Phraya | Leave a comment

Rompin – Sailfish and Spaniards (27-28.10.18)

After much effort, I finally got all the planets to align and manage to organise a final trip of the season, squeezed in just before the impending monsoon broke. For this trip I was bringing two fishing newbies – Paul Miller and John Pringle – who were coming along to experience game fishing and the food and hospitality of Rompin River Seafood restaurant ….. not to mention the witty repartee of our angling guide and host, the infamous (in Kuala Rompin at least) Anthony Sullivan …!!

We arrived, as usually, just before dusk after our afternoon drive across the peninsular from Kuala Lumpur. Tiger beers, fish (tenggiri) and chips … and more Tigers. We were treated to a spectacular (almost) full moon reflecting off Sungai Rompin:

Moonlit Sungai Rompin 

Day 1 (27.10.18)

Following the usual omelet and baked-beans breakfast, and with slightly groggy heads, we headed out to begin the day’s fishing just after 8.00 am. We were greeted my the usual interesting views of the river and its mangroves:

Sungai Rompin morning scenery

The weather was good, as forecast, and we were soon jigging up live-baits at the FADs, with Paul and JP enjoying themselves catching a miriad of different bait-fish species. One feature of note was the unusually large number of local vessels fishing the waters relatively close to the coast – to me it suggested that there was a Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel (Tenggiri, aka Kingfish, Spaniard) going on ….. the commercial value of these fish send the local fishermen into a frenzy. The presence of tengirri was confirmed when a large fish leapt almost 2m out of the water, with a bait-fish in its jaws, just off the stern of our boat was we were collecting bait.

We decided to head on to the Sailfish grounds. Anthony noted that the bite had been non-existent in the morning to early afternoon over the past few weeks, only coming on from c.2.00pm. So his suggestion was to try the Berhala Island area to see if we could find some feeding sailfish. Unfortunately Berhala was also experiencing a drought – there were signs of feeding fish with periodic bird activity but we had no luck – much of the activity was from schools of small tonggol (mackerel tuna).  I cast a lure at them a couple of times, whenever we got within casing range, but with no luck.

We persevered until after lunch and then decided to return back to where the sailfish had been feeding in the afternoons over the preceding week, which was close to post than out current location. This would allow us to fish on a little later than usual until around 5.00 pm or so.

We arrived at the current hot-spot and joined the rest of the fleet. There were plenty of boats, but only sporadic bird activity. But not long after we arrived an adjacent boat hooked up a fish as a pod of birds passed by, and we quickly followed suit. Paul was up first and, after a short fight, brought in his first ever sailfish. Only a juvenile, but it was good to get off the mark:

Paul with Sailfish #1

We made repeated drifts and periodic movements try to get close to flocks of feeding birds and were eventually rewarded. An hour after our first fish, we were hooked up again. This was John’s turn and he took the rod to do battle with a larger, typically sized Rompin Sailfish, than put on a good display of jumps and runs. Under Anthony’s guidance John did a good job fighting the frisky Sail, eventually working it t the boat for billing, his first ever Sailfish and biggest ever fish at c.30 kg+:

JP with Sailfish #2

It was a good hour and a half until our next fish. We pulled dropped one fish just after hook-up before we were tight on our third fish on the day which was mine to fight. We were now in good shape, with once fish apiece:

Sailfish #3

It was now 4.30 pm, and the day was ebbing to a close. But the fish feeding activity had stepped up. More sailfish were starting to be hooked up in the fleet and the bird activity was also increasing in frequency and intensity. We also started to raise sailfish to the popper. After a number of follows in quick succession, Anthony managed to drop a live-bait right in the path of a fish as it veered away from a popper after chasing it clost to the boat. After a flow take, Anthony set the hook and we were in action again. Paul stepped up for his second fish of the day – this was a typically sized fish with the associated increase in strength compared to his first fish. But he was gaining in confidence and experience and soon had the fish under control and ready for release:

Sailfish #4 boatside

Sailfish #4

It was now just after 5.00 pm, but with our location relatively close to port, the excellent weather conditions and the increasing activity, Anthony relented an we fished on until 5.30 pm. I managed to get a last-gasp hook-up after a small group of birds passed close to our port side. I felt my bait twitch and then, after letting the line play out and an increasing , flicked the bail arm shut and set the hook. It was JP’s turn on the rod again but he wasn’t feeling 100% and declined the fish, leaving me to do battle (I didn’t need a second chance – I’ll fight sailfish all day long …!!). This was another reasonable sized fish of c.30 kg+, but it was feisty and put up a strong fight, making me sweat in the late afternoon sunshine. It took me a while to subdue before it was ready for a quick photo before release:

Sailfish #5

With that it was 5.30 pm. Time to call it a day …. and time for some well earned cold Tigers and the trip back to port. We’d had a great day and, later on, learned that we’d were top boat for the day on sailfish landed – even though it had been slow for the time of year, it helped that we’d landed 5 from our six hook-ups, very decent statistics. The day’s action is summarised in the following video:

Day 2 (28.10.18)

Day 2 started with another slightly groggy head. I skipped the fried breakfast and opted instead for a cereal bar. JP had been feeling unwell and decided to skip the second day’s fishing, leaving me and Paul to do catch all the fish. Anthony was also taking the day off – Aziz was going to be the guide for the day. Anthony suggested trying for Spanish Mackerel in the morning, given the artisanal fishing activity of the previous day. 

Once again we started the day by catching live-baits. Whilst we were making one of a number of stops to gather bait we saw a nearby boat of local anglers catch a decent sized tenggiri …. and that was our cue to start fishing for Spanish Macs.

I rigged up two rods for trolling, both utilising a short (15 cm wire leader) – I clipped a 15 cm Storm Deep Thunder white redhead lure on one; and a Halco Sorcerer 125 crazy deep (again a  white redhead pattern) on the other. We played out and set the lines and started to troll in looping patterns around the various FADs that dotted the area. Just as I was voicing that I think we were going to be unsuccessful than the starboard rod, pulling the Halco screamed as a decent fish ran with the lure. I picked up the rod and felt the fish run, but managed to get some slack in the line as the fish turned and ran at the boat –  a rooky mistake – and as I reeled frantically to keep up with the charging fish managed to lose it as it approach the boat. The lure came back with the tell-tale row of tooth-marks from a tenggiri strike. Damn, my curse had struck again (I generally have bad luck with this species)! Still, it was a very good sign, so we reset the lures and continued to troll.

It was another 20 minutes before we got another strike – this time on the big Storm lure. I passed the rod to Paul and told him to keep tight, and he cranked light mad trying to stay tight. Once again this fish managed to create a little slack and I thought we’d lost this fish too, but I saw the rod twitch as Paul caught up with the line and a nice tenggiri flashed it’s silver flanks as it swam past the starboard side of the boat. The mate was ready and made no mistake with the gaff shot and we had out first fish of the day in the boat. A very decent Spaniard that pulled the spring balance down to 11lbs, 5 kg:

 Spanish Mackerel #1

We were off the mark. We re-set and started again. Barely 10 minutes later the Storm Deep Thunder was hit again, another vicious tenggiri strike. I struggled to get the rod out of the holder before cranking like crazy to keep tight to the fish. Once again if flashed by on the right hand side of the boat before turning back to stern, again to be met by a slick gaff move from the deckie, and another gleaming spanish mackerel was swung aboard. This one weighed 13lb, 6 kg:

Spanish Mackerel #2

Once again we reset, hoping for a third fish. Again, another screaming hit on the Storm lure. Paul was up and at it. But this fish was behaving strangely, staying deep, and proving difficult to move. I was thinking that the reel had developed a technical fault as Paul was struggling to regain line. The captain started backing up and it was then we realised that we were snagged. Paul had been doing battle with a submerged rope attached to a fish trap (it may have been full of fish …..) …! We tried to free the lure but eventually had to concede defeat and broke off the successful lure (this pattern has now caught me a number of decent size tenggiri and a sailfish) … fortunately I have a spare. We spend another half an hour trolling without further success, so had to be content with a fish apiece (two fat tenggiri are not to be sniffed at):


It was now time to head further offshore and catch that start of the afternoon sailfish bite. New on the radio was that the going was slow. But as soon as we reached the area, at c.1.00 pm, we set a drift heading towards a small group of birds and I felt a fish pick up the bait almost immediately. I set the hook and passed the rod to Paul. This time he was in for a tough battle as the fish, after making a brief series of jumps went deep and ran hard. Paul held on and slowly pumped the fish to the boat, regaining line slowly as we backed down on the fish. The closer we got, the steeper the line angled into the water. This was a tough fight, and Paul was feeling the strain (see the summary video at the end of this post), eventually bringing up a fish lassoed around the tail after a tussle lasting over 15 minutes in duration. Still, sailfish #1 landed for the day, a great start to the afternoon session:

Sailfish #1

We continued the afternoon in the same vein as the previous day, but despite our earlier success it was much slower than yesterday. We got the second hook-up almost two hours after the first:

Sailfish #2

The rest of the afternoon continued to be slow. I managed a third hook-up later on and passed the rod to Paul. This was another smaller, and spirited fish. It made a number of wild jumps getting ever closer to the boat as Paul wound frantically trying to keep in touch with the fish. The captain saw the danger but wasn’t fast enough as he dashed back to the wheel, fired up the engines and tried to turn the boat to starboard whilst Aziz had grabbed the rod from Paul as the sailfish when sprinting past the bow on an angled run to the right. The line was caught across the bow and chaffed off in seconds …. the fish lost. 

Paul decided he needed to to brush-up on his fishing education:

The Old Man and the Sea

Despite the flow fishing, we continued to chase bird activity. The captain managed a fourth hook-up late in the afternoon but the fish managed to pull the hook within seconds. Finally right at the end of the day we took our last fish …. a small barracuda which was released back to the sea:


And with that, it was time to call it a day – 2 spanish mackerel and 2 from 4 sailfish hook-ups landed. Highlights of the day’s action were captured on video:

We still had to run back to port, flush the tackle, pack and load the car, and eat before making the long drive back to KL. Unfortunately, there was a road accident on the outskirts of KL. I followed waze which took me on the turn off to Genting, and then on a tortuous winding path down through a misty jungle before eventually rejoining the main highway. The detour had apparently saved us 30 minutes, but the journey back was still over 4.5 hours. I was exhausted, and still had to drop the boys off in town and then return home, unload the car and prepare the tenggiri for the freezer.

But it was worth the effort, the tenggiri was in excellent condition when we got it home and we got some prized fish to eat. I will be targeting this species next season:

Tenggiri feast

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

Hulu Langat Fishing Resort (06.10.18)

When Fuz (Mahfudz of Reelyology fishing reel workshop – invited me to join him, along with some of his friends, at the Hulu Langat Fishing Resort I was a bit surprised …. ! I’d only fished there once before, back in August 2014, when the place opened (an event at which my party cmanaged to completely skunk); and, although the place had been well set-up and had potential, I’d not made it back to fish since. I’d visited once again for a look about a year ago and it seemed to be in terminal decline, a shadow of it’s former self. So i was surprised, because I thought that it must had closed down completely, and it was only half heartedly that I made my way through the Ampang traffic just after lunch on a Saturday afternoon to meet up with Fuz at the location.

I arrived a little late and was surprised to find the car park almost full – there was an angling competition in full swing. Fuz told me that it was due to finish at 3.00pm, giving us time to tackle-up and get some idea, from watching the competing anglers, of how the pond was fishing ….. and it wasn’t too bad, with a slow but steady stream of Mekong Catfish and carp species being landed.

Once the competition finished, it was out turn. The anglers were me, Fuz, Bernard, and Sabri joined by his wife, Liya and his daughters. We spaced out along the west bank, baited our feeder springs and hooks with the powder mix bait – everyone here has to use bait purchased from the venue so were are all fishing with the same stuff, and commenced our session. 

Hulu Langat Fishing Resort  pan view

The main technique use here is to ledger a ball of mix on the spring feeder, with a short hook-length below it with a smaller ball of bait. Spinning reels are left in free-spool with the line looped around a plastic bottle c.1/4 filled with sand for ballast. A bite isregistered when the bottle gets tipped over as a fish pulls line ….. a version of the UK’s “dough-bobbin” method that I used as a kid. Simple but effective.

The fishing started off slow, and it was Bernard that took the first bite, pulling in a spirited Asian Redtail Catfish about an hour after we started fishing:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #1

Ten minutes later it was my turn, a juvenile Mekong Catfish:

Mekong Catfish #1 

Fuz, who’d been fishing to the south of us with no success, moved in to join our group and was rewarded with the next fish, a large Tongsan:

Bighead Carp (Tongsan)

Things then went very quiet, and we went over an hour and a half without a bite. Then, at around 6.30pm, the pond suddenly came to life. Sabri had a strong take and was in action to what was obviously a good sized fish. After a 10 minute battle he got the fish subdued and brought to the bank for netting, an excellent catch, a Siamese Carp estimated at c.17kg: 

Siamese Carp c.17 kg

He followed this up barely 15 minutes later with strong bite, and hooked up to another decent fish which he passed to Liya to fight. After another spirited fight she brought in a decent Mekong Catfish of c.10 kg, that would prove to be the biggest catfish of the session:

Mekong Catfish #2

The bites, and fish were now coming at regular intervals. Fuz added to his tally with the second Amazon Redtail of the day:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #2

Quickly followed by another fish for Sabri’s rod, which his daughter Irdina took, another nicely conditioned Mekong Catfish:

Mekong Catfish #3

Finally, after almost 4 hours since my first fish I managed to garner another strike and hooked up to the smallest fish of the session, reeling in a very juvenile Mekong:

Mekong Catfish #4

Fuz trumped me a little later with a much better fish of c. 5 kg:

Mekong Catfish #5

But then graciously let me take the next strike on his rod when he was busy preparing and baiting-up a second rod. It felt very weird trying to reel a fish in on a left handed baitcaster (its really very odd that I’m completely comfortable with left-handed spinning reels and right handed multipliers, but give me the opposite sided handle for each reel type and its really uncomfortable and difficult to use). This was another species, a decent Rohu of c.3.5 kg:


That proved to be the last fish of our session. We had all caught fish, with a total of 5 different species and fish up to c.17 kg …. not bad at all and definitely much better than my prior expectation. Fuz put together a nice summary video which can be viewed here:

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.07) - Hulu Langat Fishing Resort, Carp, Carp - Bighead (Tongsan), Carp - Rohu, Carp - Siamese, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Mekong | Leave a comment

UK (14-22 September 2018)

A happy visit to the UK to bring my son to University. The plan was for a couple of days chill out in London before heading down to Wales to get my son settled in to his University lodgings and send him on his way into the big wide world.

London (14 & 15.09.18)

Day 1

We arrived at Heathrow airport at c.6.00am after taking an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur. As usual, we stayed in the Holiday Inn Forum at Cromwell Road in Kensington. Even though we arrived very early the staff were very accommodating and let us check in immediately, even though it was only 8.00 am. Outstanding! This allowed us to get a few hours sleep and basically stop the onset of the affects of jet-lag.

After sleeping we were up and about for brunch at 11.30 am at Gloucester Road Pret before heading out on a long walk exploring London. The weather was overcast  but mild. Perfect for walking. We headed off in the direction of South Kensington, taking in the sights and sounds of London. We past by the interesting architecture of the Ismaili Centre building before turning right into Cromwell Gardens.

South Kensington: Ismaili Centre (l) / London residence, Thurloe Place (r)

We passed the Victoria and Albert Museum before heading towards Brompton Road in the direction of Knightsbridge:

Victoria & Albert Museum (l) / Brompton Oratory Church dome (r)

Brompton Oratory Church (u) / London Cabmen’s Shelter, Thurloe Place (l)

Just before Brompton Road we entered the eatern part of Thurloe Place and saw one of the few remaining Cabmen’s Shelters – a green hut that provided shelter, food and hot drinks to London’ cabbies. As we moved into Brompton Road we passed the imposing Brompton Oratory Church.

To add a fishy theme, these artistic plates depicting popular British table fish caught my eye – not only impressive artwork but also some scientific information about each species:

Divertimenti Crockery shop wares (14.09.18)

After proceeding along the road we finally come to the impressive architecture of the famous Harrods building:

Harrods, Knightsbridge 

We then looped back towards our hotel along Kensington Road. I was surprised to see a large statue of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic polar explorer set into a red-brick wall. Around the corner was a City of Westminster milestone. This was the Royal Geographical Society building – if I’d only looked up I would have also seen the statue of Dr. Livingstone … one for my next visit.

Shackleton statue (l) / Robert Napier statue (r)

Iconic Red Telephone Box & City of Westminster Milestone

We saw a number of London’s icons and artifacts along the way including a red telephone box and a statue of Field Marshal Robert Napier at Queen’s Gate. 

After an enjoyable walk we returned to the hotel mid afternoon. I was to me my old mate Professor Norris for beers at my “local” (at least when visiting London), the Stanhope Arms at Gloucester Road. It was a long afternoon and evening on the Stella …..

Day 2

Woke up, after a good night’s sleep (and surprisingly, a clear head) to an equally clear day – blue skies with only passing light patches of cloud. Another perfect day for walking. After a Pret breakfast we headed towards Kensington gardens and Hyde Park with the loose plan of visiting our old haunts around Bayswater. 

The Stanhope Arms pub & Gloucester Road Tube Station

Along the way we detoured through the village-esque area between Cromwell Road and Kensington High Street and were rewarded with some stunning examples of Regency style architecture:

Kensington: Kynance Place (l) / Launceston Place (r)

Kensington: Kynance Mews

We passed Kensington’s Christ Church and the stylish Builder’s Arms public house before reaching the imposing late Victorian era residential properties of Kensington Court:

Christ Church, Kensington

The Builders Arms & Kensington Court

The weather was perfect and we had a pleasant walk through Kensington Gardens en-route to Bayswater:

Kensington Palace

When we reached Queensway at Bayswater we were dismayed to find the Whiteleys shopping complex in a sorry state – many of the shop lots were empty and the place had an air of decline about it. A far cry from its former self c. 25 years before when me and the wife used to be regular visitors here. The Prince Albert pub across the road still seemed to be doing a brisk trade though:

Spire House & Prince Albert Pub, Bayswater

We then decided to hop on a tube and visit Covent Garden. We decided to take a detous passed The Maple Leaf pub (where we first met) and the walk down to the embankment. As we walked down Maiden Land we passed The Porterhouse pub and were surprised when my nephew Sam jumped out excitedly from the pub as we happened, purely by chance, to walk past …! We had to stop for a beer, one turned into two, 3, 4 …. Until it was early evening

Covent Garden

Another night on the pop and a stagger down towards Charing Cross and the Embankment Tube station for a train back and dinner at the hotel.

Charing Cross & Embankment


Cardiff (16-22.09.18)

The next day, with a slightly groggy head, it was time to catch the bus from Victoria and head west to Cardiff. Now, I grew up in a port town some 7 miles west of Cardiff, and I never really had a warm feeling about the place – when I was young it was a gritty, slightly grim, industrial city dominated by the docks and coal and exports . My boyhood memories are of grey skies, wet and windy weather and generally miserable shopping trips although thankfully these were not common events. However, in my later teens we made excursions to the city to watch bands at the Top Rank club and, occasionally, other venues. This was the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the tail-end of the punk era. To me, the city was much more exciting, but there was still swirl of gloom and oppression in the air. Since then, apart from a brief stint working as a fitter’s mate in a small engineering company after graduating from university, I’d spent very little time in the place.

But over the past few years I’d visited a number of times – primarily to bring and fetch my eldest son from school and after a failed attempt to live in the city after finishing school. I’d started to see a new, more dynamic city emerging – the city boasts 3 different universities with new custom built  student accommodation buildings and associated trendy bars and eateries to cater for this influx of young people with student grants to burn. The city had long been furnished with arcades – glass roofed narrow lanes where people could shop protected from the rain, since Victorian and Edwardian times. This had been extended with the building of the indoor St. David’s Centre in 1981 alongside the pedestrianised Queen Street. Now, a further extension of the St. David’s shopping centre and additional pedestrianisation of The Hayes and High Street has resulted in a concentrated car-free city center with a pleasant mix of the old arcades, new shopping centers and a vibrant pub, bar and restaurant scene. I was more than happy when my youngest son earned his place at Cardiff University – the reason for my visit and an opportunity to explore my rejuvinated old city.

First off was a visit to my son’s faculty buildings on Newport Road:

The Queen’s Buildings, Cardiff University

We spend a number of days buying essentials, pots and pans and paper, for the year ahead …!

Queen Street (l) / Saint Mary Street (r)

I also got to visit some old haunts and take some pictures of the interesting architecture:

Charles Street (l) / New Theater (r)

Some of Wales influential sons are honored with imposing bronze statues – Aneurin Bevan was the founder of The National Health Service in the UK. John Batchelor was a Victorian businessman and politician – he had links to education and campaigned against slavery:

Aneurin Bevan (l) & John Batchelor (r) statues

My son’s new home for the next year, Ty Gwyn at University Hall:

University Hall (l) /  Brewery Quarter (r)

The old Brains Brewery at St. Mary Street has been redeveloped and re-branded as the “Brewery Quarter” – yet more fancy eateries and watering holes. But the traditional places also survive –  Welsh Breakfast (basically fried breakfast + laver (seaweed) bread and cockles – at Garlands in the splendid early Edwardian Duke Street Arcade:

Welsh Breakfast at Garlands, Duke Street Arcade

Now, one place that I remember fondly since my childhood, and which we stumbled upon purely by accident, Cardiff Central Market. Another indoor Victorian marvel complete with wrought ironwork roof structure: 

Cardiff Central Market

Still serving home-made fried breakfasts, Welsh cakes and still with a vibrant wet fish market section, along with fresh fruit and veg, cheap kiddies toys, old records and other trinkets.

One building that I’d passed many times but not really though about before was Park House – a magnificent Gothic style building designed by the renowned Victorian art-architect, William Burgess. Now a restaurant, one to sample on the next visit:

Park House (l) /  St. John The Baptist Church (r)

He was also responsible for Cardiff Castle, so has left an indelible mark on the architecture of the city:

Cardiff Castle

Our visit soon drew to a close. It was time to head back to London to catch a flight back to the warmth and humidity of KL, leaving our youngest son to start on his journey into adulthood. We will return again to explore further in the not too distant future …!

Posted in (7) United Kingdom, (7.1) Wales, UK | Leave a comment

Kuala Rompin – Sailfish Century (25-27.08.18)

My second round for the season at Rompin, and my first fishing trip since my previous visit back in May. As usual, the main attraction and target was the sailfish and still chasing my personal tally goal of 100 sails. On this trip I was fishing with my younger son, Ceri.

Day 1 (25.08.18)

The usual routine, up at 7.00am …..ish, breakfast of omelet, toast and beans and then head out to the local FADs to jig up live-bait. This is often a tedious task – the longer it takes, the less actual game fishing time you get. We were also dealing with unusual, persistent winds and chop, although the weather was better than forecast.

It took a while, and a number of different stops, before we procured enough bait to head towards the sailfish fishing destination at Berhala Island. We arrived at about 10.30am and the signs were good – lots of birds and surface activity. We made our first drift, cast out live-baits and waited. My bait was picked up almost immediately. I set the hook, loaded up on the fish which breached the surface and almost instantly the line went slack. I reeled in to find a broken crotch at the hook loop-knot. Strange for it to break so easily with very little apparent pressure. Frustrating, but it happens. Still, a good early sign for the day ahead.

After a couple more drifts we were in action again just after 11am. This time it was Ceri’s turn on a light multiplier (overhead) reel set-up. After some brief jumps the fish made a long run and then stayed submerged. It was slow and heavy slog to pull the fish to the boat due to it coming in tail wrapped and tail first. Still, it revived well and was released in good shape:

Sailfish #1 being revived before release

We were off the mark and still relatively early in the day. We initially had the western side of the island to ourselves, but suddenly 4 or 5 boats came steaming towards us – the eastern side (which had been good earlier in the week) was fishing poorly and we now had to share the pods of birds and feeding sailfish with the others. The forecast breeze also started to kick in (although not to the levels expected).

We weren’t able to connect with a fish again until well after lunch (and the usual mid-afternoon lull), despite chasing flocks of birds and casting live-baits. It was difficult to get in the right location with the wind and the fast moving action. 

Free-lining live-bait in anticipation …!

I took a strike on my heavier multiplier set-up (Tekota 700 with 40lb braid). I set the hook and held on whilst the fish made a long run before the line went slack …. another leader failure …wtf! But at least the activity had started to pick up. After re-positioning the boat and  re-setting our drift I was hooked-up again 30 minutes later, again on the heavy Tekota 700 set-up and made short work of sailfish #2 to finally get off the mark (and land the 98th sailfish of my personal tally):

Sailfish #2 (and 98th for the tally)

After another lull of about an hour we had a late afternoon burst of activity. Ceri pulled the hook on a fish before landing his second of the day on spinning gear, a decent sized fish that put up a good fight:

Ceri fighting his second fish of the day

Sailfish #3

We followed up this fish with a final strike after getting in the perfect location alongside a feeding frenzy. I hooked up to a good fish only to get an almost instantaneous leader break again (the breaks were occurring in the 80lb hook length, not the 65lb wind-on leader), so very frustrating. We finished the day with 3 from 7 hook-ups ….. not the best statistics and I was losing faith in the spool of 80lb leader! I was also still 2 fish shy of my century. I was hoping for a much better day tomorrow.

Rompin Sailfish – Day 1 Summary


Day 2 (26.08.18)

Day 2 dawned bright and clear. This was forecast to be a day with a stiff breeze and choppy seas. But it was sunny, flat calm seas and a light, cooling breeze. Perfect fishing weather. We were to be guided by Aziz today which meant that, almost by tradition, we would be competing against Anthony who was guiding other clients in another boat.

Things started off well during live-bait fishing. We found good quantities of a variety of good bait-fish. As we were filling up the live well a large fish suddenly erupted from the water alongside the boat and Ceri shouted out that I’d tangled his line. He then realised that a fish was running with his sabiki rig. The engaged the bail and line began screaming off his reel. Luckily the drag on the bait gathering tackle was not locked down (as is often the case) and the fish was able to take line without breaking off or straightening on of the tiny sabiki rig hooks. Ceri did a good job fighting the fish, which was putting up stubborn resistance on the light rod, and carefully guided the large Talang Queenfish of c.7kg to the boat for a quick photo and release. The fish had been attracted to the live-baits we were catching and had gotten foul hooked in the sabiki on the drop:

Talang Queenfish #1

After finishing securing bait we headed back to the previous days location on the west side of Berhala. It wasn’t quite as active upon arrival as it was yesterday, but we soon found a patch of scattered birds and sporadic surface activity. We’d taken a little longer to get live-bait today so didn’t commence our first drift until just before 11 am. Within 5 minutes of deploying a livey I felt a take and engaged the reel into a decent fish that immediately breached – another good sized Queenfish. I wasted no time pumping it to the boat when, with the wind-on leader on the reel it made a last gasp jump and then suddenly broke the leader just as we were about to land it, another loop break:

The captain said that the leader was no-good and to change it out. It was supposed to be good kit but was either defective or damaged. I switched hook lengths to my spool of 80lb Varivas. We then set about chasing sails, but without any luck. It was now very slow. we had good weather, good baits and finicky sailfish …. brilliant. It was very ., especially as I only needed two fish for my target. Finally, as is often the case, I got a strike whilst we were finishing lunch. I heard the line snap free of the retaining balloon on my rod handle but the line when slack. The captain shouted at me to reel in quickly because the fish was swimming towards the boat. He was 100% correct –  I wound like crazy and suddenly felt the weight of the fish which jumped just off the bow, starboard side, and I was in action with the first sail of the day and my 99th fish:

After a good 10 minutes battle in the muggy early afternoon heat I had my fish landed, only one more to go for the century:

Sailfish #1 of the day (99th of my angling career)

Revived and released

It was now just before 1pm. Game on – only one more  sailfish for me to catch for my target. As with fishing (and Murphy’s Law) there followed a very frustrating hour whereby I hooked and lost two sailfish in succession to pulled hooks. Ceri was graciously letting me go for my 100th. But after missing a couple on the trot I said to him to take the next fish, which finally came over an hour after the first sail. However, this fish turned out to be a nice 9 kg Cobia which we retained to eat:

Ceri with a personal best Cobia

Once again Ceri let me take the next sailfish, which finally came another hour after the cobia; with me finally, with the clock ticking down, getting a solid hook-up on Sailfish #2 at just after 3pm. This was my sailfish for my century, and what a magnificent fish it was. It started off with a frenzied series of twists and jumps at the surface before making a powerful run and then some more surface histrionics. All the action was captured on video, on two cameras with different camera angles, and then with some underwater footage to complete the record. Ceri used a fancy video editing package to make me a nice memento of my 100th sailfish, replete with split screens, an intro featuring some of my previous fish and some nice graphics …. a great represenation to look back on:

Sail for the Century

As pleased as I was with the catch, it had still been a very slow day by August in Rompin standards. I wanted at least a couple more fish to complete the trip. Also, Ceri had yet to catch a sailfish for the day ….. and we still had Anthony’s boat to beat ….!! We worked hard chasing birds, but the fish were fickle. Late in the afternoon we heard over the radio of a double hook-up to the SW of Berhala Island. We quickly retrieved lines and headed off in pursuit. It was no surprise to arrive and find Anthony’s boat already there (I think that he was also on two sailfish for the day). After a number of unsuccessful drifts I finally garnered a hook-up from just behind Anthony’s boat, almost from his prop wash …..! I passed the rod to Ceri, but after a couple of jumps the line went slack and he retrieved the terminal tackle that had failed just below the swivel – the entire 3ft 80lb Varivas hook-length had chaffed off. It was frustrating but it happens. We made a few more drifts but that was the end of the action. A slow day, but ultimately rewarding for me. We’d landed a couple of queenfish, a cobia and 2/6 sailfish hook-ups landed … not too bad.

We toasted the end of the trip with some cold beer. Its always nice to spend some time fishing with your son (despite the usual teenage back-chat):

Enjoying a cold one …. or two

And were rewarded with some interesting cloud formations and light, with sea the colour of molten lead:

The journey back to port

Its always a privilege to be out on the water.


Day 3 (27.08.18)

We’d stayed over on the Sunday evening so it was a relaxing and leisurely morning and return trip to KL. After driving into town for breakfast, I saw an interesting wall mural depicting some of Rompin’s iconic features. After packing up the car, we made a detour back into town to take some pictures:

Rompin wall mural

As it was such a nice day, we also revisited the Rompin Marlin statue, another of the town’s attractions:

The Rompin Marlin statue

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Cobia, Queenfish, Sailfish | Leave a comment

Japan (July 2018)

I escaped from the steamy heat of Kuala Lumpur to arrive in Tokyo for my first visit since January after my Xmas-New Year break; only to arrive on the 14th of July into a developing heatwave. It was bloody hot combined with high humidity, making KL seem like a nice summer’s day in the UK …! This was to be the pattern of the two weeks with temperatures building throughout the trip before being switched off by an unseasonal typhoon just before I departed. In fact, the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan was achieved on the 23rd of July, just north of Tokyo:

July Heatwave

The heat provided the backdrop to the whole visit, turning travelling and sight seeing into an endurance event. It did, however, remain (unsually for the time of year) rain free until the penultimate day.


My “manor” whilst in Tokyo, Shiodome and its modern architecture:

Shiodome Buildings (15.07.18)

We spent a lot of time on this trip exploring the Akasaka district of the city, an interesting mixture of the traditional and the modern, with interesting a quirky architecture and a surprising number of English style pubs:

Akasaka views #1 (18.07.18)

Akasaka views #2 (24.07.18)

Akasaka views #3 (24.07.18)

Ueno was a familiar target to scout out shopping deals. I couldn’t resist of picture of this statue of a salmon advertising a fresh fish shop:

Ueno (21.07.18)

Traditional tourist sites were also visited, including Tokyo Tower (at night), Hei Jinja Shrine and a mooch around the backstreets of Ginza:

Hei Jinja Shrine, Akasaka (24.07.18)

Tokyo Tower / Ginza Restaurant frontage

I was intrigued by this place, a mixture of clothing store, bar and restaurant. I didn’t get to try it, but it has authentic, suns and sea salt bleached board-walk and walls. It even boasted separate bars for men and women …! One to try  in the future:

Tommy Bahama Ginza (28.07.18)


Yokohama (19th July)

A day trip to Yokohama to visit Hakkeijima Sea Paradise park, with an aquarium and a show featuring trained dolphins, Beluga whales and sea lions:

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise #1

Predators of the deep, both large and small were represented:

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise #2

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise #3

After a long and tiring day on our feet we went in search of sustenance and came across the Red Brick Warehouse, described in Wikipedia as follows:

The Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse (横浜赤レンガ倉庫 Yokohama Akarenga Sōko) is a historical building that is used as a complex that includes a shopping mall, banquet hall, and event venues. The complex, officially known as the Newport Pier Tax Keeping Warehouse (新港埠頭保税倉庫 Shinkō Futō Hozei Sōko), was originally used as customs buildings, and has two sections: Warehouse No.1 and No.2. It is operated by Yokohama Akarenga Co. Ltd., and located at the Port of Yokohama in Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

Red Brick Warehouse area

I can’t remember the name of the bar-restaurant that we finally chose but they served delicious food and thirst-quenching beer in boot shaped glasses:

Fill up (and unfill) your Beer Boots

It was a long day, and we arrived home around midnight with c.16,000 steps apiece under our belts.


Kawagoe (25th July)

This was an interesting day trip by train from Tokyo. It is a city in Saitama prefecture located c.30 km NW of Tokyo. The city is known locally as “Little Edo” after the old name for Tokyo, due to its many historic buildings. It is an interesting mix of traditional old buildings, templs, shrines and some reaming building associated with Kawagoe Castle:

Renkeiji Temple

Kurazukuri Zone #1

Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Residence

It was, as in previous days, extremely hot. But for some reason, I really felt the affects of the heat and humidity on this day. After walking a long way to sea the Kawagoe Castle area, then walking inside the stiflingly hot Honmaru residence, I suddenly felt dizzy and off-balanced. I had to stop and drink a bottle of water and rest a while before the long walk back through the Kurazukuri Zone (Kawagoe’s Warehouse District – the word “kura” means “warehouse” in Japanese, and Kurazukuri are clay-walled warehouse-styled buildings that are constructed with an Edo architectural flavor) back to the station.

Kurazukuri Zone #1

We decided to stop and have a drink before taking the train back to Tokyo. We chanced upon a delightful little bar-restaurant that served finger foods along with excellent Coedo craft beer from the town itself. I finally recovered from my heat exhaustion after an unplanned feast of mature cheeses, salad and pizza washed down with a couple of bottles of beer:

Coedo Craft Beer of Kawagoe


Mount Fuji and surrounds (27.07.18)

Another day trip from Tokyo – this time a coach trip visit to Mt. Fuji and its surrounds:

Mt. Fuji #1

Unfortunately, the peak was hidden by clouds:

Mt. Fuji #2

But we still had some spectacular views:

Mt. Fuji #3

The trip was rounded off with a visit to a slightly gimmicky “ice cave” – basically a very small cave where blocks of ice had been place to make a tourist “attraction” (I was expecting some Mt. Fuji lava tube cave that I’d visited previously); and then to a peach farm (a local produce speciality) to try some fresh fruit and then pick a few more pieces to take back home:

Peach Farm family



No visit to Japan is complete without a mention of the food. As usual, we enjoyed excellent food. A selection of some of the best sashimi dishes that we sampled are shown in the picture below:

Sushi Midori, Ginza (l)/ Umaishushikan, Akasaka (m)/ Hibiki Bar, Shiodome (r)

The Hibiki Bar was particularly pleasant and close to our home, with excellent food and drink, plus views over the city and Sumida River. We visited with my eldest son and his girlfriend, instead of the planned night cruise up the Sumida River, which we cancelled due to the weather forecast for the arrival of Typhoon Jongdari:

 Typhoon Jongdari rain map

The typhoon actually tracked to the southern range of its forecast track, and only brought moderate winds and light rainfall to Tokyo. But it did mark a break in the heatwave and it did have a knock on effect on travel – my flight out of Tokyo back to KL was delayed by almost 3 hours the following day ….. the end of the holiday!

Posted in (4) Japan | Leave a comment

Sailfish – Rompin with the Greens (12-13.05.18)

My wife’s friend, Julie, was preparing to leave Malaysia after more than 20 years in-country and was in the process of rounding off her Malaysian experience. She’d seen photo’s of some of my fishing exploits when visiting our house and remarked that her husband Geoff had been a keen fisherman when he was younger and was interested in doing a fishing trip before they left. The scene was set for a trip chasing sailfish at Rompin with The Greens and my wife, with my usual guide Anthony Sullivan (

The trip followed the usual routine – we left KL at 2.00pm for the 4 hour long drive to Kuala Rompin, to arrive just as the boats returned from the day’s fishing. We could get information about the catch, fishing conditions and, of course, enjoy a cool beer at sundown with spectacular views over the Rompin River. As usual, I started the trip with my usual dinner of pan fried tenggiri and fries, joined by the rest of the party, washed down with cold beer and red wine. After spending an evening of conversation and banter (plus more alcoholic beverages) with Anthony it was time to hit the sack and try to get a good nights sleep before the first day of fishing.

Day 1 (12.05.18)

We awoke to perfect conditions – slightly overcast, with light winds and forecast calm seas. 

Dawn at Sungai Rompin

After breakfast we loaded out gear and headed out across the tranquil river downstream towards the sea: 

Casting off from the jetty

Sungai Rompin views

After navigating the river mouth we headed offshore in search of bait and then sailfish activity:

Powering to the fishing grounds

Bait was hard to come by and we had to stop at a number of FADs (fish attracting devices consisting of submerged bunches of palm fronds marked by floats) until we finally managed to hook good numbers of ikan tamban to complement our meagre supply of selar and kembong baitfish. One bonus was that the ladies managed to catch a succession of kilo+ sized grouper at one stop, so we had the evening fish dinner sorted out early in the day. Finally, we had secured enough bait and made the final part of our outbound journey to the waters surrounding the nearby Pulau Berhala.

As the island came into view, signs of sailfish feeding activity also appeared as we saw small groups of birds milling about. Suddenly the captain brought the boat to an abrupt halt as we arrived at a small group of feeding sailfish. The captain urged us to quickly cast out live-baits – Anthony threw one off the port side, I cast to the starboard. Almost instantly Anthony was hooked-up and past the rod to Geoff to experience his first sailfish. In the mayhem that ensued the leaping sailfish managed to break off. But I’d left my bait in the water and had also felt it being taken. I set the hook and past the “spare” to Geoff to fight:

Geoff fighting Sailfish #1

With some guidance from Anthony (and some additional excited exhortations from me) Geoff played and landed his first sailfish, a nice fish of c.30 kgs:

Geoff’s first Sailfish

With the very promising start of a double-hook up on the first drift, at 11.00am, I thought that we were in for a high catch rate day. It is, however, the start of the slow period for Sailfish, and we had to wait until after the mid afternoon lull for our next fish. Despite repeatedly chasing small flocks of birds, it was evident that the sailfish were in small localised schools, and were moving very quickly, making it difficult to get the baits in-front of the fish. Finally, about 2.5 hours after our first fish, Anthony managed to get a take and set the hook on a powerful fish. Mako was up to the challenge and did well against a strong and dogged sailfish, only her second ever. This fish fought hard, with Mako eventually bringing it for billing after a hot and sweaty 15 minute fight:

Mako battling Sailfish #2

Reviving Sailfish #2 for release

Again we resumed the hunt for sailfish, making repeated chases and drifts without reward. As time crept into late afternoon the captain got a hit when bringing in a bait but didn’t manage to hook-up. Then, Geoff got a follow on popper and Anthony simultaneously got a hit that he missed. The fish following the popper took a ninety degree turn about 5 m from our port side and swam straight towards where my line was entering the water as my just cast live-bait was trying to swim away. Almost immediately I felt the sailfish pick up my bait and then run off the stern. I flicked the bail, set the hook and was on for sailfish #3:

Sailfish #3 on!

I kept the fish under pressure and soon had it boat-side for a quick picture, revival and release:

Sailfish #3

Revived and released

With the bite picking up as the afternoon wore on, I was hopping for another fish or two. But, despite the crew’s efforts, we had no further luck and it was time to make the long run back to port, as usual refreshed by a welcome cold beer or two:

End of Day #1

Geoff had been tracking our progress on his GPS – the trace attests to our relentless search for fish. We had covered approximately 140 km’s during the day:

GPS trace of the days movements

We arrived back in the tranquil waters of Sungai Rompin: 

The Jetty & Sungai Rompin at dusk

After a quick shower we continued the day at the Rompin River Chalets restaurant where we enjoyed our catches of the day – steamed groupers and pan-fried ikan kerisi. All washed down with nice red wine:

Remnants of steamed grouper

We retired early for a well earned sleep after a long day. It had been reasonable fishing, not the best for Rompin, but not bad for the time of year. We’d landed 3 from 4 hook-ups, good statistics. But, more importantly, Geoff had caught his first sailfish so the trips’ objective had already been achieved. The day’s action is summarised in the following video:

Rompin Sailfish – Day 1 Summary


Day 2 (13.05.18)

Once again we were treated to perfect conditions. The plan today was to head straight to the Berhala Island area and collect bait at FADs close to there (as opposed to yeterday when we tried FADs along the way with limited success). Hopefully this would give us more sailfish fishing time.

Commencement of Day 2

As anticipated, the strategy worked and after a couple of stops we managed to fill the live-well with tambam – a fragile sardine-like fish, but like candy for sailfish. We then went directly to the Berhala grounds. We arrived to find birds and small dorado (mahi-mahi) breaching the surface. We quickly sent out livies, but to my and Anthony’s surprise, we had no luck. This set the pattern for the morning, repeat chasing to get ahead of feeding birds, set the drift …. and ….. nothing.

It was well into the afternoon and we’d not caught a single fish. We’d had a few tentative bites but had not had anything that we could set the hook on, just a brief tug on the line and a stolen bait. It was very frustrating. we decided to stop for lunch about 1.00pm, and set out two live-baits. My reel was set under an open bail arm with the line secured in a loop under a balloon tied as a strap around the rod’s handle.

I said to Julie that we often got a strike as we were eating lunch – one of the superstitious “laws” of fishing – that fish bite when you at the least opportune moments. Anyway, as we sat eating our food a small flock of birds slowly moved closer and closer, approaching from our port side. The birds, and feeding sailfish, then proceeded right past, and about 50m, of our stern. Suddenly, I heard a twang as my line was pulled from underneath the elastic balloon retainer. I jumped up, engaged the bail arm and was in action with the first fish of the day. Moments later, Anthony took a strike on the second bait and hooked-up fish #2, and he called to Geoff to return from the bow where he’d been doing some post-lunch popping. After some careful manoeuvring, and guidance from the captain, we soon had both fish landed, to kick-start our day (at 1.35pm!):

Double – Sailfish #1 & #2

Unfortunately, one of the fish died whilst we were reviving it, despite been brought in quickly and being cleanly hooked. This is a rare event (I’ve only seen three die in c.250 fish caught), but it does happen from time-to-time. But in the grand scheme of things, the sports fishing operation at Rompin actually helps conserve these fish – the sports fishing fleet help encourage and pressure the local commercial fisherman into releasing all sailfish caught. Even the Ikan Bilis trawlers are encouraged to release any sailfish that they inadvertently capture in their nets. So the overall effect is positive. Without the value of the sport-fishing industry these magnificent game fish would almost certainly be under significant commercial fishing pressure.

With lunch over, and two fish on the score-board, we set about catching more. As on the previous day, it was a frustrating game of run and gun, but with most sets turning up a blank. Each time we got close to feeding fish they quickly moved tantalisingly out of casting reach. But on the few occasions when we got the drift just right we were rewarded with a double strike.

The first came just over 30 minutes after our landing our first fish. I had a pick-up than was running out line fast. I set the bail and …. nothing … just a stolen bait. Suddenly, Geoff shouted that he had a bite. I looked to see line ripping of his open spool at a rate of knots. I shouted at him to flip the bail arm over and he set the hook on his first sailfish hook-up. The fish started frenzied jumping, and quickly running towards the bow. Geoff’s line was still pointing to the stern, as the fish had run towards the boat leaving a big loop in the line. Geoff cranked the reel like crazy to come tight on the fish. We were then treated to another aerial display as the fish made a number of jumps and cartwheels not far from the stern. Gaining in confidence and experience, Geoff soon had the fish under control and alongside for a quick in-water picture and release:

Geoff with Sailfish #3

Three fish caught and it was still only 2.15pm, the later afternoon best fishing period had commenced! But still we were frustrated. Multiple drifts without incident. anthony had one stike but failed to hook-up. All very frustrating. We were about to move again and the captain had called lines up, Geoff had started retrieving his bait, and as his bait started skipping on the surface a sailfish emerged behind it, chasing it down. I shouted to open the bail and suddenly line started ripping off as the sailfish grabbed the bait. Geoff set the hook and was in action again. Then, almost immediately,  I too had a take as I was about to reel in, and closed the bail on a fast running fish, I briefly felt the fish as it jumped, and then threw the hook. Meanwhile Geoff was working his fish. Julie briefly had a hold of the rod to feel the power of the fishing before ducking back to the safety of the cockpit. 

Geoff soon had the fish ready for billing, fish #4 of the day, another in-water release:

Sailfish #4

It was now 3.10pm, and we still had about an hour left on the clock before the long run back to port. Despite further efforts, we had no further take or action. It had been an unusual day, but we had landed 4/4 hook-ups, although we’d missed 3 or 4 other takes. Still, a good day and Geoff had achieved his objective of hooking up a sailfish himself. Once again the key highlights were caught on video camera:

Rompin Sailfish – Day 2 Summary

And that was the end of the (fishing) part of the trip. We still had an evening to relax by the river. The final treat was to enjoy the signature clay pot curry (in this case chicken) at Jame’s restaurant. And another bottle of red ….. 

The next day we had a roti canai breakfast at a nearby mamak restaurant before taking an easy drive back to KL in light traffic and good weather. Definitely a better end to the weekend than the usual weary Sunday night rush back to KL. A very enjoyable trip.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Grouper, Sailfish | 3 Comments