Kuala Rompin – August 2009

Highway to Heaven

Finally….the time had arrived for my first trip of the season to fish for Sailfish at Kuala Rompin. It was just over 11 months since my last visit (& the last time I’d dipped a line in saltwater …!!). Now, I left work early to try to beat the rush hour out of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, it was a mad day in the office and I didn’t get home until 3.50pm. By the time I’d packed the car and was on my way it was 4.35pm. The first part of the trip, out of KL could be very frustrating, often taking 45 minutes to go the 10km or so to the Kuantan motorway on the NE side of the city. I’d decided to try the new Duke Highway which conveniently runs close to my house, but I was nervous about making a wrong turn and burning up precious time (road signs are notoriously bad in Malaysia & it’s very easy to get lost). I’d planned my route on Google Earth and had marked the distances to the turn-offs. I’d even had a recce of the highway the previous evening. It all went like clockwork …. I was on the Kuantan motorway in 15 minutes and recorded my fastest time out to Rompin, arriving at 8.20pm (3 hours 45 minutes), thanks to this Highway to Heaven!!         


The Magic Wand (Day 1 – 6.08.09)

Weather: Calm, hazy to slightly overcast.

Water Temperature: ~29°C                                                                                     

The day had finally arrived! With mounting anticipation I loaded my gear on the boat and headed offshore at 8.30am. Conditions were near perfect, hazy skies and calm seas. We stopped at a FAD to catch bait and soon had the live well full of sardines and small trevallies, then headed further offshore to look for sailfish activity.


Baits set …….


It didn’t take long to find a cluster of boats working an area marked out by sporadic seabird activity. We set out two live-baits; one under a balloon, the other freelined, and waited. After about half an hour we got the first strike, the fish hitting my new (light tackle outfit) Shimano Tallus/Daiwa Saltist 40A combo. I set the hook and commenced fighting an average sized sail. After a 10 minute surface display of jumps and runs, I turned the fish and brought let towards the boat. As it drew level with the transom the hook pulled! Damn!! We reset the lines and the light combo again got struck, this time the hook pulled on the first jump! We changed hooks (to slightly offset circle hooks) and reset two baits an started again. Things went quiet, with only the odd half-hearted takes. The captain suggested changing the leaders to fluorocarbon, as the fish appeared finicky.


Sailfish breaching


Finally, at about 11.30am I managed to stay buttoned to a smallish sail, again on the light combo (this was the only rod getting struck). A short time later, this rod got hit again. This time a better fish of around 30kg. After some photos and a revive and release we were back to fishing. I hooked up again, another c.30kg fish that we released in the water, again on the Shimano Tallus/Daiwa Saltist 40A combo – I now christened this set-up “The Magic Wand”. I’d really been looking forward to testing this set-up, and now I had, in spades!! We now entered the mid-afternoon lull, and all activity ceased.


Fighting a Sailfish on the “Magic Wand”


First sail of the day 


 Fish no. 2 – a  fine sailfish specimen 


Reviving Sail No. 2 for release

At about 3.00pm, we started to see surface activity, and got a series of sporadic half-takes (beak slashes) that damaged or removed the baits, and got bitten off by a (probably) good tenggiri (aka kingfish, narrow barred mackerel). I then hooked a good sized Sail (on The Magic Wand), and after watching it peel off some 200m of line, turned it and brought it to the boat, a good 40kg+ fish.


Me & Anthony with Sailfish No. 4, best of the day at c.40 kg


Releasing Sail No. 4


After a few more missed takes, we got a double hook-up, I took The Wand, Anthony took the fish on the Penn Senator rod. Mine then threw the hook, so I took over on the other fish. This was another fish touching the 40kg mark. That marked the end of proceedings for the day – 5 sails, 3 lost and a half dozen strikes missed! Hot billfish action by any standard.


Sail No. 5


The day was concluded with a good meal and some beers at the Rompin River Chalets restaurant.



Storm Watch (Day 2 – 7.08.09)

Weather:Choppy with swell, overcast.

Water Temperature:~29°C

The sea had changed overnight, a c.1m swell made for the worst sea conditions that I’d experienced to-date out of  Kuala Rompin. In addition, it was overcast (which I like), and looked a little unstable (which I don’t like!). Bait was a little harder to come-by today, with 4 or 5 other boats milling around the chosen FAD dropping and casting sabiki rigs for bait fish (including one idiot who cast over our boat and tried to wind his sabiki rig through our cockpit …… tit!). It took a good 40 minutes to gather enough bait, this time a mixed bag of sardines and slimy mackerel, mostly of a decent size for live-baiting. And then we were off, chasing Sails!


As usual, we found the other boats, this time scattered over a wide area, interspersed with sporadic bird activity and the odd glimpse of a sail at the surface. We set out two livies  and started the drift. I’d consigned The Magic Wand to the reserves bench – I really wanted to try out my other, more powerful Shimano Tallus rod and Tekota 700 reel. If you’re superstitious (and I’m not) you may think that it’s a bad luck to stop using the successful rod! After a long drift with no touches, the captain asked us to wind in ready to reset the drift. As I slowly wound-in, I saw a large Sailfish shadowing my bait. I quickly put the reel into free-spool, engaged the clicker, and waited.


Click … click … click … click …. click. The reel slowly turned as the line deep, almost vertically down behind the boat. I took the line between my fingers and could feel a weight on the line. Click … click … click, more line slowly fed from the reel. This went on for c.1 ½ minutes as I waited for a sign that the fish had completely taken the bait and began to move off. Finally I wound down and tightened into a good fish that surfaced near the boat, threatening to go under us as the captain scrambled to turn on the engine, and then veering left, away from us before making a sustained, steady run behind us, stripping a good 250m+ of line from my reel. I’d set the strike drag at about 9lbs, and now turned the star drag up to c. 13-14lbs of drag. This was a lot, considering the amount of line now out the back. I finally managed to stop this fish and then, keeping steady pressure, slowly regained the line. It was hard work, especially given the rough sea conditions. However, that one long run had tired the fish, and after about 20 minutes we  had a chunky, massive sailfish in our possession, over 2m long tail fork to lower jaw length. Anthony estimated this fish at c.45kg +, the magic 100lb mark!


Me fighting a Sail on the Shimano Tallus – Tekota 700 set-up


Me with a tired sail. This fish estimated to be touching the maic 100lb mark.


This fish was soon followed by another good fish, taken on the Penn Senator rod (another double hook-up where one fish threw the hook just after the hook-set). This fish actually ate the bait about 5m behind the boat – we could actually see it turn and eat the bait! It gave a good aerial display close to the boat before succumbing to the steady pressure.


Me feeling the strain of the 2nd Sailfish of the session!


Sail no. 2 dives …….

Jumps …….

Flies …….

…. and tail walks!!


I now decided to bring The Magic Wand off the bench, replacing it for the Penn Senator. And yep, right on cue, The Wand got bit, it’s 5th Sail of the trip. 3 Sails before lunch …. this was shaping-up to be a very good day. I took a break to eat my lunch (nasi goreng) and noted that the sea was calming down. However, the sky looked ominously dark on the landward side – a storm was brewing.


3rd sailfish of the day breaching


Things were slow for a while, with a number of “slash” strikes, and a couple of good bites that didn’t hook-up, plus one tenggiri bite-off. Then, as surface activity started to increase, we got news that a thunder storm was hitting Rompin and most likely heading our way. Anthony, meanwhile, busied himself with the popper and managed to hook-up a fish, which promptly spat the hook. Two other big Sails also followed the popper and then veered right heading straight for our baits, which, incredibly, remained untouched!


The storm was now visible, and heading our way. Just as the first spots of rain began to fall, The Magic Wand went off again. I set the hook on another Sail, only for the hook to pull on the first jump. Another look at the encroaching storm clouds made us decide to call it a day. Many of the other boats had also started to head back. I expected to have a rough ride to port, but, luckily, we managed to skirt to the north of the storm, and were back at the dock by 3.45pm, in time for an early start on the beers (following a few Tigers on the run home ….). I finished the trip off with a boozy night at the dock (is there any other way to finish off a game fishing trip in the tropics?!!).


 Oh oh ….. time to head back to port ……. no more fish today!!!


As it was Saturday the following day, I tried to add an additional day to the trip but there were simply no boats available (a number of boats had been forced to stop over at Tioman Island because of the storm). So, the next day I headed back to KL. I heard later that the Sails had disappeared for the weekend, with only one caught between 20 boats  over the weekend, so my luck was in this time! My next opportunity will be a trip (to Rompin) with the family in mid-September.


Trip Summary

8 Sailfish caught & released.

This entry was posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Sailfish. Bookmark the permalink.

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