This was a team building trip sponsored by one of our service providers. The group consisted of 4 people from my office together with two representatives from the service company.
I set off from Kuala Lumpur with two colleagues, Ben Urlwin and (new to game fishing) Tom Kivior. We left my house just after 2.00pm and made good time in the light afternoon traffic, reaching the Rompin River Chalets just after 6.00pm. Before we sat down for beers we witnessed the results of the days fishing – two boats that targeted Tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel) were laying out there catch, a mixed bag of a large haul of tenggiri together with an assortment of dorado, barracuda, bonito, trevally and groupers.
I was excited, the Tenggiri (a fish that had thus far eluded me in my game fishing career) were running well. The three of us had arrived first, and we made the decision to try for Tengirri the next day – we had to decided for the whole group as the fishing grounds were near Tioman Island, a considerable run offshore that required extra fuel (and a surcharge)to be loaded that evening. We also decided the fishing groups for the trip – me, Ben and Tom would go with Anthony (Sullivan), the owner of Hook, Line & Sinker fishing charter, and my friend and regular fishing guide during my past 6 years in Malaysia, on Boat 1. The second group, including our other colleague, Jochen Kassan, would go with Anthony’s employee, Stefan on Boat 2. I was quite pleased with this arrangement because Anthony was often top boat amongst the sailfish fishing charters, so I thought that we’d have the best chance at a good weekend’s fishing.
With the plan arranged, it was time to kick back and drink some beers (some for me, and a few more for Tom ….!) whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest of the group. We got to watch the river scenery and the sun go down whilst we snacked on calamari and downed Tigers.
The rest of the group duly arrived, joined in the partying, and enjoyed the evening meal. We has a drunken discussion about a sweepstake bet between the two boats, but nothing was settled and we decided to return to it over breakfast. All too soon it was time to stagger back to the spartan, but functional, chalets and hit the hay.
Day 1 – Tenggiri Fishing (12.04.14)
We awoke, with varying degrees of groggy head, for the traditional Rompin breakfast off eggs and white bread toast washed down with iced lime drinks and Nescafe with condensed milk. Mm mmmm ….!! After loading the boat, and awaiting our turn to cast off from the mass of boats, we were on our way down the river towards the river mouth and the sea beyond.
We had to stop just before leaving the river as the port engine was playing up. After a quick inspection the problem was revealed – rope around the prop. It took a good twenty minutes to cut the rope free and disentangle the propeller before we finally cleared the river and were on our way.
After about twenty minutes, the skipper’s mate spotted what he thought was sailfish surface activity. But, as we got closer, we realised that it was a pod of small dolphins. After a quick photo stop, we were on our way (via a short stop at a FAD to collect live-bait)to the tenggiri hunting grounds about 10 nautical miles or so off Tioman Island.
When we arrived, Boat 2 was already tied up to a FAD and had already caught two tenggiri. Given the catches that we saw the previous day, I thought that we were going to be in for a mackerel festival. We anchored up about 30m from the other boat – I was thinking at the time that we were too close and that we would risk getting our fish tangled up with the other boat. How wrong I was ….!!
As we set out lines, using a dual hook wire trace and small sardine live bait, Boat 2 made took their 3rd mackerel. I then got a strike, and pulled the hooks after a short fight …… my Spanish Mackerel curse again (I’ve been after this species since I first started serious fishing in Oman and have pulled the hooks on a few fish over the years. But after my son caught one early on in our Rompin careers, and getting bitten off numerous times whilst fishing for sailfish, I haven’t even had a sniff of one of these fish over the past 3 or 4 seasons ….!!). Boat 2 then picked up another. We got a strike that Tom fought, catching a garfish (aka Long Tom, Singapore Marlin) for his first ever game fish.
After a short hiatus, I got a good strike on my ProTech – Shimano Baitrunner 6000D set-up, but a series of surface jumps soon revealed another (good sized) Singapore Marlin ……! More trash fish!
Finally, Ben took the next strike and connected with a reasonable fish that stayed deep – he soon overpowered a tenggiri of around 3.5 kg. Our first of the day. Meanwhile, the shouts, and by now piss-taking from Boat 2 indicated that they’d picked up a few more mackerel.
After another quiet period we got a bite that turned out to be a remora – another trash fish. This was followed by another garfish that the skipper brought in as no one else wanted to deal with it!
By early afternoon the bite went off (for Boat 2 too!). Finally, after slow trolling live-bait for a couple of circuits around Boat 2 we decided to try a different mark. We moved around to a number of different FADs without much success. Late in the afternoon we finally got a strike and I reeled in (note the adjective, because this fish was too small to even take line) the smallest tenggiri of the day (between both boats). Still, I’d finally broken my duck with this infuriating species (I’m sure I’ll now catch a few more in the future …..!!??). More importantly, another fish checked off the Bucket List!
As the day wore on, and with the fishing still slow, we heard on the radio that Boat 2 was heading back early, with a haul of 16 tenggiri and a barracuda. A great days fishing compared to our 2 mackerel, 3 Sinagpore Marlin and a remora. This was, without doubt, a tale of two boats and demonstrates the importance of location when hunting predatory pelagic game-fish! We headed back to port, comforted by Tiger beers and a serene evening scenic view, awaiting the banter that was bound to ensure. The only silver lining was that we hadn’t agreed a bet on the days fishing that morning before we departed ……!!
Day 2 – Sailfish (13.04.14)
The second day was spent fishing for sailfish. For probably the first time ever since I have been fishing out of Rompin, Anthony was not confident when I asked him about the chances of sailfish. This feeling was further compounded when we started seeing the odd, small group of birds ….”first birds I’ve seen in the past week” said Anthony, reflectively. We also struggled to fins bait today, in stark contrast to the ease with which we filled the live well yesterday! And indeed, it was slow going.
But finally, early afternoon, I managed to raise a sailfish on the popper but couldn’t elicit a strike. Then it was quiet again. Boat 2 decided to head off towards Berhala Island to try their luck. By late afternoon, we were still fishless (well, not entirely true, Ben had st the record for the world’s smallest fish ……).
We decided to head over towards Berhala and try our luck. After about 20 minutes we arrive on location – it felt “fishy” and there was a fair amount of bird activity. We set our drift and almost immediately got a strike. Tom took the rod and had a good battle with a good sized sailfish – his first!
After releasing Tom’s fish, and with time running out we reset the baits and started a new drift. I went to the bow and started popping, hoping to raise a fish to our baits. Then I saw a couple sailfish on the surface, with associated bird activity. I rigged and cast a large live-bait in the direction of the sailfish. They were some way off so I repeated the cast a number of times, hoping that the splash would draw them near.
The livie, a type of trevally, was strong and frisky. I kept the bail arm open and help the fish with finger pressure on the line, but it kept pulling free. I let it run a bit and then engaged the bail and felt a strong pressure, as the rod slowly bent over into a horseshoe without taking any line. Then a good sailfish started tail-walking just off the stern starboard side. Suddenly all hell broke loose as both rods got struck at the back. We were on a triple hook-up! We managed to get the fish going in different directions and I passed my rod back from the bow. We soon dropped one fish, leaving us with two to fight. My fish started running and then tail-walking about 50m off the stern and promptly threw the hook! Damn. That left us with Ben fighting the third fish, which went under the boat. As soon as it was clear of the hull it started running and jumping and it also got free – triple hook-up with nothing to show for it! And with that it was time to return for the tedious task of packing up and then the long drive back to KL.
Triple Sailfish hook-up, all fish lost …..!!
When we returned, Boat 2 had again kicked our ass. They’d managed to get 4 sailfish releases, one for each angler plus a spare! It truly had been “A Tale of Two Boats”.
Still, it had been a great trip and always good to be out on the water. The trip had been, on average, (ha ha), a great trip!! Thanks to Keith for sponsorship and Anthony Sullivan and company for the fishing.