Noru had been researching a trip to Air Kuning for some weeks and I was delighted to be asked to join him. I’d visited this location some years before on a recce mission, but this was my first time fishing here. The location is an L-shaped lake separated by a dam. We were to fish the quieter and more isolated eastern lake, which gave the impression of fishing in the wilds:
The target was to be snakehead (toman) and pacu. Noru had caught a big pacu of 15kg here some years before, but he advised me to fish light. So, I arrived armed with my lightest gear – two 4-10lb class Daiwa Crossbeat rods paired with a Shimano Biomaster 4000 and a Stradic 3000, both spooled with 10lb braid.
When we arrived at 8.00am conditions were perfect – slightly overcast, cool and with hardly a puff of wind. The only thing missing was any evidence of feeding fish, there was scarcely a splash or ripple on the surface indicative of fish activity ….!
The location was awesome – surrounded by jungle and with fallen trees and branches forming various fishy nooks and crannies to harbour predators and bait fish. This was, by far, the most natural pay pond that I’ve fished in so far in my time in Malaysia. In a way, it reminded me of fishing at St-Y-Nell ponds in South Wales in my boyhood. Perfect.
However, the fishing started off very slowly. We paddled and drifted around the lake casting a variety of lures to the lake margins and various structural features, but without a single strike. Whilst I was casting to try to entice a toman, Noru was float fishing a tofu bait that he’d prepared (a boiled soy product that looked like chicken), also without success. After a couple of hours of fishing completely devoid of activity, we started to discuss moving to the western lake to fish (another boat had made a quick circumnavigation of this lake casting lures but had long since moved on). I liked the isolation and exclusiveness of this water – I suggested that we head back to the northern side of the lake and give it another half an hour. If we had no luck we would then move location.
It was around 10.30am now, and the sun was up and warming the air (and, presumably, the water). As we commenced a drift I decided to try out a pellet ball – I cast out and then continued to lure fish with my second rod. Noru, meanwhile, continued with the soy protein. Suddenly, my bait rod lurched towards me as a strong fish took the pellet bait. I wrestled the rod from the rod holder and commenced the fight – this had all the hallmarks of a pacu. Sure enough, after a brief but powerful fight that put a wicked bend in my light rod, I soon had a small, but feisty, black pacu of c.5lbs in the net:
Following this first fish we decided to tie up to a post protruding from the water and fish from a static boat. I was soon in action again – another vicious strike and a similar sized pacu. This fish bit me off as I brought it to the boat for netting.
With the fish feeding, I decided to switch baits and try the soy protein. It wasn’t long before this bait was taken by an evidently better fish, which made an unstoppable run on the light gear and made it to a fallen tree, quickly tangling my line resulting in a break-off and lost fish.
I retied my terminal gear and was quickly back in action, once again a smallish, but spirited pacu, that also pushed my light tackle to the limit:
After landing this second fish I was quickly in action again. another big fish hit my soy bait and, once again, made a strong and determined run towards structure. I was more aware this time an started to palm the spool for additional drag. I was desperately trying to turn the fish before it reached the tree branches. Suddenly, the line broke – I’d been bitten off (or possibly broken-off) just as the fish reached structure. Damn, I was now 2 from 5 and realised that we needed heavier tackle to stop a decent fish in these snaggy waters. On the other hand, Noru was yet to register a bite, despite fishing with fluorocarbon leader. I, in contrast, was using dark green 30lb braid leader – was this the difference in these green tinged waters?
Air Kuning – South view, overcast skies
We now entered a slow period, and a breeze had picked up as storm clouds gathered ominously in the distance to the south of the lake. After a hiatus, I scored my third, and last fish of the day, another black pacu:
With the breeze from the south-west picking up and making it difficult to fish, we decided to move to the west bank and tie up to some fallen branches. This kept us out of the wind but it meant that we would have to bring fish in to the boat surrounded by fallen branches and roots.
It was now Noru’s turn for action. He switched over to a braid leader and within 5 minutes of arriving at the new location caught his first fish of the day, a very dark black pacu, that still caused problems with the structure near the boat despite its relatively small size. However, Noru teased it out of the branches and into the net:
Noru’s first fish
After releasing his first fish, Noru got another strike within 10 minutes of recasting his bait. This fish pulled the hook, but, as soon as he re-baited and cast again his bait was struck as soon as it hit the surface. This was a good sized fish that revealed itself with a jump that completely cleared the surface of the water. Noru fought this fish well, but it proved impossible to keep out of the nearby branches. We tried for 10 minutes to prise this fish from cover, changing boat position, line angle and pressure, and even probing the branches with the net handle. All to no avail. In the end, Noru over-pressured the tackle and ….. the rod snapped. We had no choice but to break the fish off.
It was now mid-afternoon and we’d been under the sun for around 7 hours. We decided to call it a day and head back. As we were stowing our gear a large dark shape glided past the boat just under the surface of the water. It disappeared into the gloom of the depths before I could get my camera out, a c,2m long black python-like snake which we probably disturbed in the tangled branches as we tried to get the snagged pacu. This experience once again added to the wilderness-like feel of the location.
With that, we made the hard paddle back into the rising breeze towards the dam at the south of the lake. It had been a good session, 4 from 8 hook-ups landed. Definitely a place to revisit, but with heavier gear to bully the big pacu away from structure. I’ve also got a few ideas to improve the boat, including a longer line for the brick “anchor”.
Watch this space!