This was a trip way to the north (c.380km from KL) of Peninsular Malaysia, to the Thye Fishing Village at Bedong, in Kedah state. The plan was to utilise the public holiday on the Friday to travel up in the morning, fish the afternoon and evening, fish all day Saturday and then make the long drive back to KL in the evening. The target species was barramundi (Siakap), but the location also stocked milkfish, GT’s, snappers and tarpon. The fishing kaki for this trip was myself, Noru, Shamin and Nash.
The fishing location is a converted fish farm – typically in Malaysia theses consist of a series of small to medium sized, shallow (c.1-2m deep) ponds separated by narrow pathways located close to a river. In this case, the location consisted of three ponds open for catch and release sport fishing located near next to a meander bend of Sungai Merbok:
The location – the three ponds at Thye Fishing Village, Bedong, Kedah
We left KL at 8.45am and made good time – it was almost entirely on the E1 Highway (Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan), arriving at the location by about 12.30pm. The first priority was to order in some lunch, stow the gear in the room (we had booked a room at the location – it was pretty basic but allowed for more fishing time plus you were also allowed to night fish as a guest of the place), and start setting up the tackle.
Day 1 (24.10.14)
As soon as we’d finished lunch, we made our way to the area between Ponds 2 and 3:
I’d brought three rods, for trying different methods of fishing. Whilst I was in the process of rigging-up, Noru was already out lure fishing in Pond 2. Within a couple of casts he hooked-up the first barramundi of the trip on a small popper:
Noru soon followed this up with another fish on popper. The rest of us quickly set-up a casting outfit and began fishing Pond 2. Nash struck next, catching a nice barra on a red/white grub lure:
I followed this up with my first of the day on a white 3″ Berkley grub lure:
It then went quite on lures as the sun made an appearance through the clouds. Shamin (The Milkfish Lady), had yet to catch, but no worries – she started to get bites on cut fish bait, almost at will, wherever she seemed to cast. After missing a few bites and dropping a couple of fish, she soon switched into top gear, putting a succession of good sized fish onto the bank, including fish of 8 (twice), 10 and 12lbs – these were to be the biggest fish of the trip. She became, quite literally, a fishing machine!!
In contrast, the rest of us were struggling. I, in particular, got zero bites on cut fish bait. But as the clouds reappeared and the afternoon drew to a close, I too started to pick up fish.
My second fish of the day came at sunset. I then picked up a few more fish into the dark before we called it a day at about 8.30pm.
I finished the day with 5 fish, and I think that between us we accounted for over 20 fish on the opening session of the trip. Tired and hungry, we ate some delicious traditional Malay food after being invited to a wedding open house by Noru’s friend, and then hit the sack. We are exhausted but eagerly anticipating Day 2’s fishing!
Day 2 (25.10.14)
We all overslept on Day 2, and didn’t make it out to the water until about 9.00am. After trying lures briefly, with no success, we all decided to opt for bait fishing. A local had been fly fishing and had been chumming fish up with pellets (the standard fish fodder on these fish farms) and then trying to catch with the fly rod using, I think, pellet flies! but he was having no luck and soon move on. After watching the fish hitting the pellets so voraciously, me and Shamin rigged up small hooks and decided to give pellets a go.
You could just about get the hook through a dry pellet without it crumbling (if you were lucky and persistent) and, with a small hook tied straight onto the main-line the pellet would float. However, the Barras would hammer the “natural” pellets, but would charge the hooked pellet and then veer away without taking it. Or, they would rise up under it, after sucking down all the chummed pellets, and would then turn their nose-up at the offering and sink back out of sight. Extremely frustrating!
Now, I was using a 10lb braid spliced to 30cm of fine diameter 30lb mono leader. We’d had a discussion about leaders and the pro’s and con’s of fluorocarbon the previous day, when I’d been going through a barren spell. I have to admit that I’ve never been that convinced by the idea of a leader spooking fish – I know that a heavy leader can make a live-bait swim unnaturally, but I’ve always struggled with the idea that a fish sees the line, has a thought process that it is somehow dangerous, and then doesn’t bite. If that was the case, what about the hook, swivel, lure clips, split rings, etc, etc that make up the usual terminal tackle of fishing rigs??!! But …… they were definitely avoiding the hooked pellets! Shamin was using 15lb fluorocarbon leader and she had been catching lots of fish the previous day! Then she went and did it again – hooking a nice fish on a floating pellet bait (they had been avoiding the hooked pellet for her, too, but eventually one took the offering):
I decided to take up Shamin’s offer of some fluorocarbon leader, and re-rigged with 15lb fluro leader. Still no luck, the fish were still avoiding the pellet like the plague. Now Shamin’s fish taken on pellet had a deformed, and under-developed lower jaw (possibly because of over-zealous and heavy handed use of a boga grip type device during a previous catch and release event?) and I was starting to surmise that maybe this fish had only take the pellet because it was handicapped and was struggling for food when bam ….. I got a strike on the pellet. It was only a small fish but at least I’d gotten it to eat a hooked pellet. Maybe there is a learning for me here – maybe the lighter and less visible fluorocarbon leader was helping ….!!
After this first fish, it was still slow going. They were still taking all the chummed pellets but avoiding the hooked-bait. I experimented – I managed to get two pellets on one hook. No success. I made a bait bayonet from a small hook, and presented a bait with 3 pellets clumped together. Nothing. I tried chumming lots of pellets to get a frenzy. Still no hits on the hooked bait. I tried sparse chumming. Still nothing.
I then returned to a single pellet bait. Suddenly, things changed. I got a second take, and then a third, both missed. The fish were starting to be less discerning. Before I knew it I hooked-up and lost a fish but quickly followed it with a brace of nice sized barramundi brought to the bank:
Meanwhile, after taking a few fish at Ponds 2 and 3, Shamin and Nash had decided to move to Pond 1 to get out of the sun (there was good shade there) and try their luck at a new location.
Suddenly Shamin appeared – Nash had hooked a nice Milkfish at Pond 1 and she needed the landing net. Nash duly landed a nice fish, and the only other species landed during the two day trip (although Nash did briefly hook-up a tarpon, only for it to throw the hook):
Following this exotic catch, Shamin and Nash decided to spend the remainder of the day fishing at Pond 1 and started to catch more barramundi:
After the Milkfish catch, Noru has also gone to try out Pond 1. I’d been about to join them but was really determined to get the fish to take the pellet hook-baits at Pond 3. And then, once I’d got them biting I’d decided to stay. After a while, Noru returned with a small container of small fish live-baits. We both hooked one up, through out a handful of pellets and tossed a livey into the mix. I was hooked-up almost immediately:
Noru soon followed suit, and then I added a further fish before it was time for lunch. It was now around 2.45pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous evening. I was famished.
Me and Noru returned to Pond 1 to eat. Before serving out his food, Noru cast a live-bait out and had the rod resting on the table. Before he’d finished putting food on his plate he got a good strike that turned out to be one of his best fish of the trip:
After lunch, I purchased a bag of pellets and 20 live-baits and Noru and I set off for Pond 3. however, when we got there, other anglers were now in our spot. After walking around Pond 3 and trying a few new locations, with only slow action, we reached the boundary between Ponds 2 and 3. I took a handful of pellets and went to the northern corner of Pond 2. I chummed the pellets and there was an immediate response so I ran back to get my gear and we move to this new location.
There now followed a period of intense action. The pattern went like this – hook a live-bait, chum some pellets, cast the live-bait into the feeding action and wait for a strike. I soon scored my best fish of the trip, c.8lbs and quickly followed this with multiple fish in the 3-8lb range, with most fish being in the 4-5lb category:
Noru with a Siakap caught on live tilapia
Back at Pond 1, Shamin and Nash were also enjoying good fishing and keeping the catch rate ticking over:
Meanwhile, at Pond 1, Nash & Shamin keep the catch rate ticking over!
For the next couple of hours it was non-stop action, with repeated hook-ups, double hook-ups and dropped fish. It was easy, but fun fishing – it’s not often that fishing is this good and who wouldn’t want to catch the Barramundi (Siakap, aka Asian Bass) – they are aggressive, fight hard, put on an aerial display and are very predatory in appearance. The only down-side was a couple of deep-hooked fish, easily rectified by a return to circle-hooks.
Another Barra from the late pm live-bait (& GoPro) session at Pond 2!
Barramundi (Siakap) double hook-up!
My 10th Barramundi of the day
Noru with yet another Siakap
Me and Noru with one more double hook-up (Pond 2)
We finished the session around 6.30pm when the live-baits ran out. It had been a great day – I’d caught around 12 fish for the day and Noru had taken a fish or two more. I think that, between us all, we’d probably caught well over 50 fish over the two days. The only downside was the long drive back to KL after a long day in the sun. Still, a great trip – excellent fishing and good company. Definitely a place that I will visit again!
A nice summary of the trip, courtesy of Shamin and Naweshad, is given in the following video:
Thye Fishing Village (24 & 25th October, 2014)