This was my second visit of the year to the productive waters of Kuala Rompin on Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast. Once again I was joined by Ben Urlwin and Jochen Kassan, together with Jochen’s good lady Juliana, who was on her first ever fishing trip. As per the usual routine, I left KL mid-afternoon to escape the city traffic, and arrived at Rompin (via a scenic drive south along the coastal road from Pekan) in time for early evening drinks at sunset. It also gave me an opportunity to view the catch (other than sailfish) and to discuss options for the following day a with our fishing guides, Anthony and Aziz.
It was apparent that the recent, and unusual, run of dorado was waning, with the fish suspected of having moved further offshore. And, whilst the occasional Tenggiri and cobia were being caught, it was clear that the target species for the next two days fishing would be sailfish. With that in mind, and after a nice dinner of Tenggiri, salad and chips washed town with some cold Tigers, I returned to the chalet to prepare my tackle for the next day.
Day 1 (15.08.15)
We awoke to clear skies and a light breeze – perfect fishing conditions. We loaded up and headed offshore towards the fishing grounds, with Aziz acting as our guide. We stopped en route to try and catch live bait. Just as Anthony had predicted, the bait fish were sparse and difficult to find. We had to make a number of stops before we had (just) enough bait to start drifting for sailfish, but we would have to keep fishing for bait throughout the day.
We finally reached our first fishing spot at around 11am, and commenced to drift two live baits set under balloons. I went to the bow to try and raise sailfish by popping whilst the others continued to jig for more bait fish.
It was initially very slow going – I got no joy on the popper, and we failed to attract any interest to our live baits. Other boats were also having a slow start to the day. Finally after around an hour or so, as we started to raise fish to the popper, we got a strike and were on for the first fish of the day. Jochen was first up as he battled a good fish on his newly acquired, second hand, Penn 7500ss reel (purchased from yours truly). After a couple of runs and a spirited fight, we had our first fish of the day on the scoreboard.
Jochen’s first Sailfish of Day 1
Juliana was next up as we got our second fish of the session. This was her first ever Sailfish, and her first ever gamefish (infact, it was her first ever large fish …!), and she was surprised with the sheer power and fight of the sailfish. This, together with her unfamiliarity with fishing tackle and technique, made for an interesting experience! However, under Aziz’s guidance, and Jochen’s assistance, she soon started to get the hang of things and, slowly but surely, started gaining some line back from the fish. Meanwhile, with Juliana’s fish far out off the starboard side of the stern, I worked a live bait off the port side. I felt a familiar jerk on the line as I kept the lie under my index finger with the reel in free spool. I let line pay off the reel as a sail ran with the bait and, after a 10 seconds or so, flicked the bail arm,over to engage the line and set the hook, for a double hook-up.
Sailfish Double hook-up
After we’d completed the double, we then suffered a patchy few hours after lunch when we lost a succession of fish. The fish were really fired up now and we were raising a succession of fish to surface poppers, but frustratingly could get very few actual takes. After a number of follow’s I finally managed to get a strike on a Yozuri purple popper, only for the fish to escape the hook almost immediately. Ben was next, and pulled the hook on a fish after a 10 minute fight, before bringing his first fish of the trip to the boat on the second attempt. Unfortunately, the leader broke just before the fish was billed to be brought onboard for a photo.
Then, Jochen lost a good fish as it ran under the boat and broke him off on the hull. I followed this up with another dropped fish, followed in quick succession by another pulled hook for Jochen. Finally, Ben managed to stay buttoned to his second fish off the day. Once again, Ben was unlucky with a fish photo opportunity, as his second fish of the day was bleeding and had to be released quickly without being taken out of the water:
Fishing for live bait
Live-baiting for Sailfish
Jochen trying to prise one out from under the hull …..!
It was now late in the afternoon and we were running out of time. With 5 fished released for the day, we were level with Anthony’s boat. Finally, on our last drift, I cast a large livie (a kerisi) out the back and free-lined it away from the boat. Just before lines up I got a take, and after giving the fish time to eat the large bait, I set the hook on the last fish of the day.
Day 2 (16.08.15)
For The second day, the target was, once again, Sailfish. The big difference between today and yesterday was the abundance of bait fish. We quickly stocked the live well with a variety of mackerel species, big-eyed scad, yellow tailed trevally and the odd kerisi. A very promising start to the day!
The jetty – early morning
Once again, the morning started off slowly. There was, initially, very little surface activity and nothing happening on poppers. After a while, we got our first hit of the day. Ben was first up, and was keen to get himself a trophy photograph. Ben soon wrapped things up and had the Sailfish onboard for a quick photo session before release.
Ben with Sailfish no.1 of Day 2
Jochen was up next and brought his first of the day to the boat for a quick in-water release:
Jochen fighting a Sailfish
My turn next, and, unlike on the previous day, more fish were starting to stay buttoned:
One curious thing though that I’d noticed. Both on the previous day and today, a number of fish were breaking off at the hook rapala loop knot, both on the leader at boatside (officially landed) but also during the fight (= lost fish). This was happening on Aziz’s leader and my own Varivas 80lb leader (despite changing to a new spool of line once this started the previous day). It hasn’t really happened before and was most perplexing.
Anyway, the fishing started to pick up a little in the afternoon, and the numbers started to build, with Ben next up, into his second Sail of the day:
Ben’s second fish of the session
As we approached mid-afternoon we were on 3 from 5 hook-ups. Captain Ah Ping decided to search for a better location. After only 20 minutes we chanced upon bird activity and feeding Sailfish. We soon took a strike on the bait under a balloon, which Julian took and started fighting. Meanwhile, we were in a hot spot, with birds just off our stern. Aziz still kept a live-bait out of the port side and I joined him and cast a livie out on a spinning rod.
Suddenly, Aziz was hooked-up. I put the spinning rod down and took the rod from Aziz. Then my spinning kit got bit too and was almost pulled over the side, but quick reactions from Jochen averted disaster. Jochen took the rod from me and I transferred to my spinning outfit. Triple hook-up!
Juliana was doing a great job fighting the first fish and was already fighting her fish like a battle hardened pro. Jochen’s fish went 180 degrees away from Juliana’s out of the port side. I first had to plunge my rod deep in the water as the third fish went under the boat and backed off the drag a little to let it run out. Fortunately it went straight out from the stern, for about 250m ……!! We now had 3 fish on, all roughly 90 degrees apart. It was the best situation if we had a hope of landing all three fish.
After the initial long run, I cranked my drag down and starting horsing my fish in. Initially, it look as if Juliana’s fish would be ready first but, under steady pressure, I soon had my fish in ready to land, despite it being very close to Jochen’s fish during the later stages of the battle:
The first fish of the 3 was swiftly followed by Julian’s fish for the second of the triple hook-up secured:
Finally, Jochen brought in the final fish of the set to make it a triple header landed. This was my first experience of a triple landed in all my years of fishing at Rompin so far (the previous year we’d managed to lose all 3 of a triple …. so it ain’t easy) ….!
All the action was caught on video camera to be re-lived and enjoyed here:
Rompin Triple Sailfish hook-up
Following the triple each person landed another fish apiece, with only one dropped fish. I, once again ended up with the last fish of the day:
During the day, we managed to raise a large number of fish on popper, particularly in the late afternoon, but failed to entice a single hook-up. This lure fish undoubtedly helped us with the catch rate on bait by bringing fish up in the vicinity of the boat.
Once again, another memorable and very enjoyable trip to Rompin. The only downside was the late night drive back to Kuala Lumpur after a full day’s fishing ….
- Juliana’s first ever Sailfish(es)
- Double Hook-up landed
- Treble Hook-up landed
- Day 1 – 6 from 10 hook-ups landed
- Day 2 – 10 from 13 hook-ups landed
- 16 fish weekend
- Multiple (at least >20) fish raised on poppers & plugs
- Jochen’s first fish on his new Penn 7500 ss reel