Kuala Rompin (07-11.08.17)

I started thinking about the possibility of doing a 5 day trip to Rompin whilst on a previous visit here in September last year. I discussed the possibility with a few mates but I realised that it would be difficult to get people together on the same schedule. Then in March of this year I tentatively started scoping out a possible trip to Muscat, Oman with the idea of chasing longtail tuna and dorado with light spinning tackle. That idea also didn’t pan out. Then, a few chance events happened that switched my focus back to a 5 day trip – first I had an awesome 2 day trip to Rompin in mid June, with unexpectedly good fishing:

https://agriffinandrew2.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/kuala-rompin-perfect-10-2-monsters-17-18th-june-2017

Secondly, the tuna school didn’t materialise off of Muscat in any numbers worth chasing. Thirdly, I had both of my sons back here in KL for the summer; and finally I got a window of opportunity with my wife’s, work and fishing guides schedules …!! So here we were, me, Siôn and Ceri set for a 5 day sailfish fishing extravaganza at Kuala Rompin. As usual, I was fishing with Anthony Sullivan:

http://www.hook-line-sinker.net

DAY 1 (07.08.17)

We awoke on Day 1 to clear skies, although the forecast all week was for blustery weather every afternoon …! The routine commenced as usual – run offshore, stop at various unjams (FADs) to collect bait and then start the hunt for signs of sailfish feeding activity. We did struggle to get bait and had to head offshore with only a limit supply (in both number and species) of bait. For this trip I was going to keep a fishing log to help me with catches and sequencing for writing this blog entry ……!

So, we commenced fishing for sailfish at Tok Rahmat at 10.20am! It looked good, with birds and abundant sailfish surface feeding activity. Almost immediately Siôn started to get follows on the popper and we had our first hook-up by 11.00am. Ceri took this first fish whilst me an Anthony continued to soak live-baits and Siôn was working hard with the popper:

Sailfish #1

Whilst Ceri was in the final throes of the fight, I had a subtle take on my livie, and set the hook on a fish that stayed deep – it moved deep and close to the boat. I had to navigate it past the engines as it moved from the port stern corner around to the starboard corner, whilst passing under Ceri’s rod and Sailfish that was coming to the boat for landing. I worked it to the surface and wasn’t completely surprise when a large Cobia broke the surface. The fish then pulled me 360 degrees around the boat (a walk-around design) and back to the original hook-up position …. and then back and forth across the stern as it made multiple deep diving runs back to the sea-bed. Finally, after a number of aborted attempts, the captain finally managed to get in a gaff shot and the fish was mine. A nice fat Cobia of 30lbs (14kg), my biggest to-date and another trophy fish on the Stella Sw8000 and another good test of my new “double-lock” FG knot tying technique:

Cobia 14 kg

The full intense fight was all captured on video:

http://youtu.be/t2xGYljuamo

Cobia fight

It was a good start to the day and we were anticipating a really good session. We continued to chase feeding birds and raising fish on popper – Siôn was getting multiple follows and had two brief pulls from Sailfish, but nothing stayed hooked for more than a few seconds. I had a go and also managed to get multiple raises to the lure but no strikes. Frustratingly, we were throwing live-baits at these fish  but they were ignoring our offerings each time.

We then had a comical interlude – Siôn brough in a green-eyed squid. It was attached to, but not hooked, the live-bait. As soon as we made an naive and amateurish attempt to net it it was gone in a flash and a puff of ink!

We stopped for lunch at 12.40 pm and then Anthony made the decision to try to get better baits – we needed more variety and we needed to replenish our live bait stock. We sped off to a near-by unjam, gathered more bait and headed back to the sailfish. We resumed fishing just before 2.00 pm. Once again Siôn was working a popper from the bow and immediately began garnering follows from fired-up sailfish. This time the pop and switch worked – I dropped a live-bait right in-front of a sailfish as it turned away from the popper near the boat and it immediately took my bait. Siôn had raised this fish and he wanted it so I passed him the rod to do battle:

http://youtu.be/xGPCzTnr988

Sailfish #2 – pop & switch

Sailfish #2 c. 30 kg

Shortly after this fish I was in action again – another strange fight, but with an evidently smaller fish ….. another, albeit smaller, cobia:

Cobia #2 – 5 kg

Almost immediately after the cobia, we took a vicious strike on the port rod. Both boys were at the bow, popping and chilling. I took the rod and started to wind rapidly to keep tight to what was probable a good sized tenggiri …… but the inevitable happened as the fish neared the boat, despite my best efforts the bloody thing bit me off ….. arrrgh.

We spend the remainder of the afternoon chasing sailfish, but despite rasing fish to the boat and at one point being in a pack of 4 or 5 sailfish we couldn’t get another take. Then, with a big storm approaching on the horizon, we had to finish fishing early and we left at 4.15 pm to head to port.

It had been a reasonable, if slow and frustrating, first day. We had caught and released two good sailfish and landed two cobia, including a personal best for me. I was looking for an improvement over the coming days.

DAY 2 (08.08.17)

The slow bait-fish fishing continued over from day 1. We’d had information from a sister boat that the fish (on the previous day) were taking small sardine type baits, so we were trying to get a live well full of these, but without much luck. We’d only managed 5 baits in half an hours fishing …! We finally had to commence fishing for sailfish with a limited bait supply and try to pick up more bait as we drift-fished for sails. 

But despite our lack of bait, the sailfish were in a hungry mood and we kicked off the session with a double hook-up at 10.25am on our first drift. I pulled the hook on my fish but Siôn stayed buttoned and after a short skirmish brought in the first fish of the day:

Day 2 – Sailfish #1

Barely 20 minutes later and we were in action again – another double. This time Ceri lost the fish whilst I was able to bring in the second fish of the day, a sailfish well into the 30 kg class:

Sailfish #2

After these two double hook-ups, things went quiet, with little bird or surface activity to chase. We relocated but still found slow going. At 11.42 am the Captain decided to run to a nearby unjam to collect more live bait. After better success with bait gathering we headed back to fish for sailfish with a good stock of sardines.

Ceri and Siôn free-lining live-baits

Once again, the boys put in some effort popping from the bow, getting 3 follows in less than 5 minutes and Siôn manage another, if brief, hook-up on popper. Ceri then raised 3 more fish in the crazy half hour since we re-commenced sailfish fishing at c.1 pm. Finally, at 1.30 pm I got a strike on my live-bait. I set the hook and fought a big sailfish to the boat, a decent fish approaching 40 kg:

Sailfish #3, c.40 kg

Reviving Sailfish #3

Ready for release

We now had 3 from 5 hook-ups landed. We went on the hunt for more. It was Ceri’s turn next and half an hour later he was doing battle with his first sailfish of the day. As the fish came in we could see that it had a large wound on it’s back and damaged pectoral fin – it was either from a squid attach or a shark bite, but it was apparent that it was an old wound and was healing up. We opted for a quick in-water photo before release:

Sailfish #4 with large wound on it’s back

After this fish things went quiet, and that was our lot for the day. We’d improved our sailfish catch, but it was still slow going. I was hoping that things would pick up as the week progressed. Once we got back to port it was apparent that the rest of the fleet had also been struggling. Pretty slow for the time of year.

http://youtu.be/G0gbD_zbvvc

Day 2 Summary

 

DAY 3 (09.08.17)

We started the third day with better luck – we made two separate unjam (FAD) stops and quickly filled up the live-well with a good variety of baits including scad, slimy mackerel, kerisi and sardines. We were able to start fishing for sails at the relatively early time of 10 am …!

Following the previous day’s protocol, Siôn and Ceri took to the bow to try to raise sailfish on popper:

Siôn and Ceri casting poppers

I kicked off the day with the first fish. The ratchet screamed on the bait-caster on the starboard ballon rod, I picked up the rod and felt line running out slowly, another cryptic take. I flipped the reel in gear and wound down …. nothing. But as a was retrieving to re-bait I could feel light tension and some jigging on the line. I reeled in yet another cobia, although this was a feeble 1 kg specimen that we released.

It was Ceri’s turn next. He took the rod on the next strike and soon had a chunky c.30kg sailfish alongside for billing, the first of the day:

Ceri with Sailfish #1 of Day 3

Meanwhile, Siôn was busy working a popper at the bow, repeatedly working the area with the lure and raising a number of fish that he enticed towards the boat. Despite his efforts though he still couldn’t manage a hook-up. He then turned his attentions to live-baiting, attempting to hook-up a sailfish. He had a subtle take that get taking line, but very slowly. I took the rod to see if I could figure out what was going on. I put the reel in gear and wound down. I felt some resistance but it was definitely not a sailfish. I suspected a squid (as we’d encountered on Day 1) and reeled the bait slowly to the boat. Sure enough, a large and aggressive green-eyed squid was on the bait. We let the captain try to net the creature this time. After a number of attempts (the greedy cephalopod repeatedly returned to the bait each time it was spooked by the net), the captain finally managed to get it in the net and it was transferred to the cooler – the starter course for the evenings meal.

Siôn was in action again half an hour later as we hooked-up the second sailfish of the day, another c.30kg fish:

Siôn with Sailfish #2

We re-baited and reset out drift and were bitten again almost immediately, but we failed to hook-up. On retrieving the leader we saw that it was cleanly cut-off above the hook. Another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel) had robbed our bait and escaped once again. I was incensed and grabbed my spinning kit armed with a 40g blue Sotelo casting lure (a Jackson Pintail clone) and cast if off the stern. I only had time for a handful of casts before we had to reset our drift. On the third cast, as I was retrieving the lure near the boat I got a decent strike and set the hook on a small, Spanish Mack that I quickly brought to gaff. Another fish for the ice box and the entree for the evenings dinner:

Spanish Mackerel – olé ….!

It was now noon and the day was shaping up well. We were getting consistent strikes from a variety of species. It wasn’t too long before I was hooked up again, this time a smallish, but feisty, sailfish that I soon had boat-side for Sailfish no.3 for the session:

 

Sailfish #3 c.20 kg+

It was barely 15 minutes after sail no.3 than we were hooked up yet again. Ceri stepped up to do battle with his second fish of the day. This fish put up a good fight but was hooked near the eye, so we opted for a quick release to minimise damage to the fish:

Sailfish #4

We now had four sailfish and it was still only 1.00 pm. We still had plenty of fishing time left. Ceri and Siôn continued to work poppers from the bow  at the start of each new drift, once gain helping to bring sailfish to the boat, with Siôn yet again having the popper slashed by a fish without hooking-up. Whilst this work was undoubtedly helping us bring sailfish to the boat and increasing our strikes, the fish were still mostly snubbing the live-baits cast at them was the chased down the poppers. Once again, extremely frustrating.

In-between spending time popping at the bow, Siôn was in the stern long enough to take a strike on live-bait and wrangle his first ever cobia, a decent fish of 14 lb (6.4 kg), for another different species for the day:

Siôn with 14 lb Cobia

We then went through a lull with no further activity for about two hours. Then, as the session was drawing to a close there was a sudden increase in sailfish activity. First Siôn was in action with another decent sailfish:

Sailfish #5

And then right at the end of the day, at 4.40pm, I managed to secure one last fish before we had to return to the jetty:

Sailfish #6 

This had been the best day so far – we were on an upward trajectory for sailfish, with 6 landed, plus we’d added a couple of cobia, a spanish mackerel and a fat squid to round off a decent day’s fishing. The weather had also been excellent and the best of the trip so far. We deserved the cold Tigers that we drank on the journey back. 

The days events are summarised in the following video:

http://youtu.be/pVaFnv3hKbQ

Day 3 Summary

DAY 4 (10.08.17)

We were now in to the second half of the trip. The catch rate and the weather had been steadily improving. As usual, we set off with expectations high, and were soon into the familiar routine of collecting live-baits at a number of FAD stops.

We commenced fishing for sailfish at 10.20am, and within 15 minutes had our first hook-up, unfortunately only a “Singapore Marlin” (garfish or todak in local parlance) that we let the captain sort out. Withing the hour we got our first sailfish action, a double hook-up, but pulled the hook on one fish and broke off at the leader knot on the other. Ten minutes later, at 11.30am, I set the hook on another fish only for it to turn and pull the hook again ….. 0/3 to start the day ….!! The tale of woe continued when Ceri missed a possible tenggiri strike on the popper and then Anthony got bitten off by a tenggiri on his live-bait rig.

Finally, 2 hours after we started fishing, we got our first solid hook-up, with Siôn in action bringing in a c.35 kg Sailfish. I followed up half an hour later with a smaller fish of c.25kg:

Sailfish #1 & #2, Day 4

In-between the sailfish, Siôn had raised two cobia that followed his sabiki rig with attached hooked bait-fish to the surface. The were in the area and, sure enough, took one of the sailfish baits. Ceri took the rod and did battle with his first ever cobia, a decent 17lbs fish:

Cobia #1 – 17lbs

Ceri with his first Cobia

Meanwhile Siôn continued to fish for bait withe sabiki rig. He was catching kerisi (a type of red bream) and then snagged a decent grouper of c.1kg, that was retained for dinner that evening.

Next up was Ceri again, almost an hour after his first ever fish, he had another decent cobia of 16lbs. Whilst he was fighting this fish, Siôn set the hook on a Sailfish that eventually jumped and snapped off at the hook as it neared the boat. All action was captured on video:

http://youtu.be/IrIzTeB8QNk

Day 4 Summary – Sailfish & Cobia

As the afternoon wore on the action started to improve. Anthony was on fire today, hooking up the majority of the fish on his new Stella Sw10000, and once again was able to elicit another good take. I took over the rod to fight sailfish #3 of the session. This was a good sized fish that gave us some good surface action right next to the boat (shown in the video above). We brought this fish on-board for a quick photograph before release:

Sailfish #3

The final fish of the day came, once again, courtesy of Anthony (he’d cetainly earned his fees today). It was Siôn’s turn to take the rod and he enjoyed playing his second sailfish of the day on the luxuriant Stella SW10000:

Sailfish #4

Shortly after this fish we were forced to make a move to a new location, Saga Batu, to avoid an brewing storm. Things though were quiet at the new location, apart from a single follow on popper for Siôn that we failed to convert into a hook-up. We closed up for the day at 4.50pm. Time to break out the tigers and head for home ….

Anthony and me toasting the day

DAY 5 (11.08.17)

The final day of the trip. My first ever 5 day fishing trip. I thought that it may become a bit stale after this length of trip …. but not at all. We left the port for the day’s fishing with the same level of excitement and anticipation as for the previous 4 days.

As per the previous days we had to visit a number of spots until we found good concentrations of bait. At the second FAD today we managed to find a good stock of good bait, tamban – a type of sardine, that was proving successful on sailfish this week. We then haded offshore to the Saga Batu area once again, and started to fish for sails at 10.30am. We searched, soaked live-baits, and waited, and waited ….. and repeated this scenario multiple times. It initially looked quite fishy, with some sailfish and bird activity. And then just went dead, apart from a single sailfish follow to a pencil lure and a small group of garfish attracted to the boat by Siôn chumming chunks of tamban in an attempt to generate some activity. Other boats in the area were all in the same situation.

Four hours later we still had not had a single take. Siôn then managed to lose his Ray Bands sunglasses overboard as he bend over the side to wash his hands. He dived in straight after them, banging his nose on an outlet fitting and pushing the glasses deeper. It was frustrating because they were just about neutrally buoyant and it we’d realised we could have got then with the dip net. It was extremely frustrating to watch them disappear …!

Siôn sans Ray Bands ….!

Slowly …. very slowly, the fishing started to come to life. First Ceri scored a garfish of around 2 kg for the first fish of the day (at 2.45pm!). Then, at 3.30pm, completely out of the blue and with no signs of activity, we get a strike from a decent size sailfish that Ceri took on. But as Ceri was show-boating, and the fish started making some leaps in the distance after a long initial run, the line went slack. Ceri reeled in to find that the line had broken above the leader knot – the only one that I hadn’t repleaced after the previous weeks’ fishing. Damn. I cursed myself for not retying the leader – we paid for this lack of attention to detail on a very slow day.

Ceri fighting the solitary Sailfish hook-up of the day

Ten minutes later Anthony hooked-up a small fish that Ceri retrieved – a small Cobia of c.1kg:

Miniature Cobia

And that was it for the day and the trip – a skunk on sailfish and a very poor day. We’d tried hard, despite the lack of fish. I spent hours fishing pintail lures in the vain hope of scoring another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel):

Lure fishing for tenggiri

As well as poor fishing, the weather was also on the turn, as we were on the edge of a big storm:

Impending Storm

Given the poor fishing and developing weather situation we decided to end the day early and started the run back to port at 4.20pm:

Running for port

End of trip beers with Anthony

SUMMARY

It had been a very enjoyable trip, with reasonable (but not spectacular) fishing. The catch break-down was as follows:

  • Day 1 – 2 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a personal best 14kg fish for me)
  • Day 2 – 4 Sailfish
  • Day 3 – 6 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species ffirst for Sion), 1 Spanish Mackerel and a squid
  • Day 4 – 4 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species first for Ceri)
  • Day 5 – 1 Cobia …..!

So, 16 Sailfish, 7 Cobia and a mackerel. Not too bad, but certainly slower than expected for the time of year. My personal haul was 6 Sailfish, 3 Cobia and the mackerel. I didn’t achieve my target of 100 billfish and 100 Sailfish (my personal tally now stands at 92 Sailfish and 1 Black Marlin), but that goal will be achievable within the next few trips. I look forward to becoming a centurian!

 

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Cobia, Mackerel - Narrow Barred Spanish (Kingfish, Tenggiri), Sailfish | Leave a comment

Pay Pond fishing with the Al Busaidi’s (28.07.17)

My old friend from Oman, Kamal Al Busaidi, and his family had finally managed to pay us a visit in KL. Unfortunately the trip didn’t really allow for many fishing opportunities. I was also hampered by the fact that their visit coincided with an unexpected very busy period at work …! Still, we had two options for an afternoon paypond session in freshwater – going for Amazon Catfish at the NEFFP in Behrang; or chasing Pacu at Fish Valley Semenyih.

The later option was chosen by Kamal – he had a Pacu on his bucket list and this was the best place to go. It was also more scenic than the other option, had a decent restaurant with beer for the apres fishing relaxation. Good choice …!

We stopped en route to collect passed sell-by data flavoured buns, added a few loaves of Gardenia sliced white bread, and were ready to go. 

We arrived to a quiet pond but with a breeze blowing from the south. We therefore opted to fish from the south bank with the wind behind us.  We rigged and baited -up and commenced fishing. It started off very slow, in addition the baits were plagued by lampam. The buns were getting stripped from the hook within minutes of hitting the water. We occasionally caught the larger, or more greedy individual members of these bait-thieves:

Siôn with the first fish of the session

Saif’s Lampam

Mako scored a bait-thief too

As the afternoon wore on the pacu still didn’t make a showing – there were few tell-tale swirls of large pacu attacking the chummed bread, only a frenzy of lampan splashing at the surface. I had one possible pacu bite that failed to hook up and that was it. And time was ticking as the sun slowly dropped in the sky to the west:

Sunset approaching ….!

The situation called for a rethink. I was starting to think that the floating bun baits had been used to exhaustion at this location and that the fish had learnt to be wary of these baits.  I sent Ceri and Siôn off into the nearby treeline to look for palm oil seeds – an alternative and often successful bait for pacu. They had success and returned with a handful of fresh, ripe, seeds:

Baits

We now started mixing up the bait – some people fishing palm oil seeds, whilst the others continued with bread baits. Kamal had switched to his fly rod and started picking up lampam on flies tipped with white bread:

Kamal on the fly

Kamal switch to a spinning outfit and baited up with palm oil seed. Suddenly, he was on, hooked-up up to a pacu. It was a small specimen, and Kamal didn’t waste time in bringing it to the net, but it was the target species and I was pleased that he’d achieved his goal:

Pacu in the net …!

Kamal’s Pacu

This catch further inspired Siôn. He moved along the bank to the left and noticed some surface activity. Persisting with palm oil seed bait he was rewarded with a solid hook-up and brought in the second pacu of the session:

Siôn’s Pacu

Once again this was a small fish but still a feisty pacu, and the switch to palm oil seed bait had proved fruitful …. Kamal and his son joined Siôn in the same location but we had no further luck as dusk overtook us:

Dusk at Fish Valley Semenyih

Right in the dying seconds of the session I had a take and managed to hook-up my last fish of the session, a final lampam to close the day.

Final lampam

We quickly packed-up the kit in the dark using the car headligghts for illumination and then retired to the Fish Valley Chinese Restoran for dinner an beers. It had been an unusually slow session and the usual large pacu had failed to show despite us trying a range of baits and (usually productive) locations along the south bank. As mentioned, I suspect bait exhaustion for the flavoured buns. Still, it was still fishing, Kamal had got his fish and it had been an enjoyable afternoon and evening. 

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.05) - Fish Valley Semenyih, Main Pond, Java Barb (Lampam), Pacu | Leave a comment

Wales (27th June – 5th May 2017)

A family trip to the UK, a holiday of sorts, to collect my youngest son from boarding school in Monmouth, Wales. I also had to try to help the prodigal elder son, with a view to bringing him home to Kuala Lumpur for help with his issues.

The wife and I flew into Heathrow early morning, collected some cash from the ATM, picked up a hire car and drove down the M4 to Cardiff:

The new with the old – the new five pound note

We travelled in style …..

Cardiff  (27-29th June & 3rd – 5th July)

Novotel, Cardiff Bay

We stayed at the Novotel in Cardiff Bay, just off Tyndall Street. It turned out to be a very nice hotel in a surprisingly convenient location for the city centre. I’d struggled with hotels in organising this trip and was booking places on the fly. This was so good, I booked for our return visit after spending some time in Monmouth. 

We went for a walk along a dock feeder canal, which was a mini wildlife ecosystem:

Nesting coots

Swans with cygnets

The hotel also had its own avian guests:

Herring Gull chick camouflaged against the roof pea shingle

Old docklands buildings (including the hotel intself) have been cleverly restored and integrated into noew developments. The building below used to be a bakery (I think):

Old bakery restored & re-developed into apartments

I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for a beer in the city centre and was surprised to see this brew for sale, named after my home town:

Brain’s Barry Island IPA brew

Despite growing up close by, I don’t know Cardiff very well. I saw some new parts of the city when spending time with my eldest son. Cardiff’s “tube”map helped put locations in context:

Cardiff by “tube” ….!!

We did a lot of walking and enjoyed some excellent weather:

Cardiff Cathederal

Cardiff Cathederal & St. David’s Hall

Churchill Way in the sun

Cardiff has changed significantly since my boyhood, particularly over the past decade. Remnants of the old city remain, side-by-side with new buildings and modern street culture:

Old Brain’s Beer Advert 

Modern street art

Monmouth (29th June – 3rd July)

The second part of the trip was a visit to the town of Monmouth near the Welsh-English border to pick up the youngest from boarding school:

Monmouth School

Monmouth School buildings commemorative stonework

We spend one night in Monmouth, but couldn’t get a hotel room over the busy weekend. We found accommodation in Symonds Yat, ath the Paddocks Cottages,  we had a nice bungalow close to the River Wye:

 

The Paddocks Cottages

Monmouth is on the route of The Wye Valley Walk and my son was keen to take us on a hike up The Kymin, a local landmark hill and National Trust site, with links to the Royal Navy and Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The Wye Valley Walk information sign

The hill makes a pleasant hike and has spectacular views westward over Monmouth Town and beyond into the green hills of Wales. England and the Wye Valley can be seen from the eastern side of the hill. It also boasts a Georgian Round House and a Naval Temple – unfortunately I didn’t do any prior research so didn’t realise the significance of the Round House and didn’t even see the Temple …. hence no pictures ….!! I did, however get plenty of photo’s of the picturesque views:

Views on the ascent

The Kymin

The Kymin – view from the top (Monmouth Town & Wales)

Siôn on The Kymin

Monmouth viewed from The Kymin

Ceri on The Kymin

View looking east towards England and The Wye Valley

We followed up the hike with a return to Monmouth and a stroll through town, which has is’s share of historic buildings:

St Mary’s Priory Church

Historic Building marker plaques

Monmouth Town & Ceri ready for The Summer Ball

For the last day in Monmouth we took a walk down to the River Monnow and it’s surrounds: 

Pan: The Monnow Bridge & The Gate House Inn

Monnow Bridge

Green Dragon Pub

Green Dragon & Monnow Bridge

The Blue Anchor Inn, Aberthaw (3rd July 2017)

After Monmouth we returned to Cardiff for a few more days. Whilst there we paid a visit to my ex brother-in-law and his family, who’d looked after Ceri during half terms and exeat weekends whilst at boarding school, and took them out for a thank you dinner. They’d chosen the excellent (and historic) Blue Anchor Inn in at Aberthaw (established 1380), near to my home town of Barry. I hadn’t been here in a long time and it was a bit of a journey down memory lane …. Not to mention great real ale and traditional home cooked style food. Excellent!

The Blue Anchor Inn, Aberthaw

All too soon, the holiday drew to a close. It was time to drive back to Heathrow and take the big bird back to Kuala Lumpur. A very hot south-east England day, a usual Heahtrow flight delay coupled with a broken air conditioning system on the Malaysian Airlines plane made for an authentic tropical experience as we waited in the aircraft for a full hour before take-off …… the holiday was over …!!

The ride back to Kuala Lumpur

Posted in (7) Wales, UK | Leave a comment

Kuala Rompin – The Perfect 10 [+ 2 leviathans] (17 & 18th June 2017)

My friend and colleague Gareth, soon to be departing from Malaysia, asked me if I could organise a trip to Rompin – he was keen to get a trip in as part of his Malaysia “bucket-list” of things to try. Unfortunately I was just too busy with work and personal matters and was unsure even if I would be able to join the trip. I passed him the details of my fishing guide, Anthony Sullivan (http://www.hook-line-sinker.net).  He organised a trip in mid June and managed to get a boat that could accommodate 5 anglers. I wanted to go too, but still had a lot of outstanding commitments to sort out.

As luck would have it, I managed to get on the trip together with Gareth, Jochen and Tom from work and Gareth’s mate Justin Lewis, who flew in from Oz just for the fishing weekend. I did have some reservations regarding the fishing though – the past season had been unusually poor, me and Jochen had already had a slow trip back in April and June is not usually renowned for it’s fishing quality. In fact, this was my first ever visit during this month of the year. But the real reason for this trip was to give Gareth and bit of a send off and have a boozy lads weekend. Good fishing would be a bonus.

So, the scene was set. Me, Gareth, Justin and Tom headed out from KL just after 2 pm for the long drive to Kuala Rompin on the east coast. It was a luxury for me not to have to drive – I could sit back and relax. Jochen, as usual, was taking the opportunity to have a run on his motorcycle. We arrived in Rompin by 6.30pm, in-time to see the day’s catch come in and start on the Tigers ….! Jochen arrived within half and hour of us and we enjoyed an evening of Malaysian food, beer and banter. I also bumped into my mate Noru, who was there with a couple of Danish anglers. Anthony informed us that the tengirri fishing, which had been good the previous weekend, was tailing off, but we could expect reasonable sailfish fishing (his guys had been getting 5+ sailfish per day). We decided to start off trying for tengirri and then switch to sailfish for the afternoon.

Besides two sailfish virgins (Gareth and Justin), I also had two new bits of kit to blood. I had a Stella SW6000HG that I was going to use to lure fish for mackerel (tenggiri) and a new (but 2008 model) Stella SW8000HG that I was using to live-bait for sails. The SW6000 was on it’s first saltwater outing (it had already proved to be a “lucky” reel on it’s previous freshwater tests) – I was hoping for a mackerel or two on it and was secretly also wanting to try popping for sailfish with it (I’d only brought 2 outfits for this trip). I’d already used the SW8000 in the salt back in April, but had yet to land a fish on it.

Day 1 (17.06.17)

We were met with perfect conditions – clear skies with only a light breeze and flat calm seas as we departed Sungai Rompin:

Sungai Rompin – leaving the jetty

We left the river mouth into the open sea and headed toward our first stop to collect live-bait and commence fishing for tenggiri:

Heading out from the river mouth

We arrived at our first stop and started fishing. Whilst the others started jigging sabiki rigs for live-bait I started casting a Jackson Pintail lure for tenggiri. I had a strike third cast and hooked up to what felt like a good fish. Within a minute my line went slack and I reeled in my braid minus the leader, lost along with a wire trace and expensive pintail lure. Damn – I’d chaffed my mainline the previous week on a large Amazon Catfish and had cut out the damaged line. Whilst tying the leader with an FG knot I notice some more chaffed line but stupidly thought that it would be ok ….. and paid the price with yet another lost tenggiri …. arrrrg ..!!

Meanwhile, the boys were busy filling up the live well with quality baits. Our live baits off the stern had also been attracting some attention. Unfortunately, our single-hook rigs resulted in sancocho’d baits without hook ups. After a couple of hours, with the action slowing and only one further strike on lures we decided to troll for half an hour before moving off to search for sailfish.

Trolling for tenggiri

We had no luck trolling, so called it quits at around 12.30 pm and started searching for sailfish. We didn’t have to go far before we spotted bird activity and sailfish feeding at the surface. I clipped a popper onto my light casting rod with the Stella SW6000 and cast towards the sailfish. I was immediately rewarded with a follow, and again with my second cast with a brief pull on the lure. And again a few casts later. The fish were hot and looking to feed. A few casts later I had another follow followed by a good take – my first on popper for a few years. I set the hook and the fish took off on a screaming and prolonged run, taking at least 150m of my 30lb braid. I managed to stop the fish and start regaining line before another run, some brief surface activity, then it turned and the hook pulled. Damn, damn, damn …… lost fish number two. But I knew that we were in for a good day – the sailfish were in a bit of a feeding frenzy and it was just before 1 pm during the usual “mid-day lull” period.

We re-set out drift and put two baits off the stern. We got a take almost instantly – Anthony passed the rod to Gareth to fight his first ever sailfish. After a short fight, and with some coaching from Anthony, Gareth soon had the fish boat-side for a quick picture before release:

Gareth fighting his first ever sailfish

Sailfish #1 – the obligatory picture

Barely 15 minutes after out first fish, we were in action again. This time it was Justin’s turn as he took over the rod to do battle with his first ever sailfish. After a 15 minute fight we had fish number two on the leader:

Justin fighting his first sailfish

Sailfish #2 on the leader

Justin with his first Sailfish

Whilst  Justin was fighting his fish we had another take for a double hook-up. Jochen was up and took on the fight. Jochen is a seasoned sailfish angler and did a good job of bringing the powerful fish under control. This was a good sized fish and the biggest of the day so far, around the 40 kg mark:

Jochen with sailfish #3

4 hook-ups and three fish landed within the hour. Things were shaping up well for a very good day …..!! After these first three fish we moved slightly towards an unjam (FAD) in the distance that had large frigate birds circling overhead like prehistoric pterodactyls. This place was alive with sailfish feeding activity.

We tied up to the unjam and the first set at this new location produced yet another fish, with Tom taking over with only his second ever sailfish. Whilst Tom was fighting this fish, we continued to soak a live-bait off the stern and we soon had a double hook-up, which I proceeded to fight. The problem now was that we had to thread the fish between the floats and ropes of the unjam, which was particularly difficult with two fish on!

Double hook-up in the unjam

My fish managed to run under a line and I was beginning to think that it was going to be a loss, but the captian expertly manoeuvred the boat alongside, the mate picked up the rope with a gaff and the captain cut it clean through with a “chinese chopper” (meat cleaver). The mate freed the line from the encrusting gooseneck barnacles and I was still in the game:

Freeing the fish from the unjam … game still on!

With the line released from the unjam ropes I was free to fight the small, but spirited fish, and soon had it alongside for billing:

Sailfish #4 alongside and billed

Sailfish #4

Tom’s fish was a different story though. It was a much bigger fish and was fighting hard:

Tom concentrating in fight mode

An aerial display near the boat

Slowly but surely, Tom got control of the fish and after a good 20 minute+ fight finally had the fish landed, another good sized and chunky sailfish, probably approaching the 40 kg mark:

Sailfish #5

After reviving and releasing Tom’s fish, we returned to the unjam, tied up and trotted two baits out off the stern. This had been a fantastic hour and a half’s fishing – we now had each landed a sailfish and the pressure was off. But it didn’t take long before we were in action once again. Jochen stepping up to take on sailfish #6. It soon became apparent that this was a decent fish as it was fighting hard and taking a lot of line. The captain had to slip off the unjam once again to get this fish clear of the floats and into open water to chase the fish down.

Jochen doing battle with the hard fighting fish

It was a real tug-o-war fight, with Jochen straining against the big girl. After a number of long and powerful runs the fish eventually came in near to the boat. But it remained tantalisingly off the port stern, refusing to come in the last 10 m or so to be leadered. It was a stalemate for a good 6 or 7 minutes before finally succumbing to the pressure and finally coming to the boat.

Sailfish #6 – remaining stubbornly just outside leadering range

This was a big fish, a true leviathan of the ocean. Certainly the biggest sailfish I’ve ever seen and the biggest that Anthony has seen for at least 3 years. The Captain estimated this fish to be around 65 kg (c.140 lb), a very large sailfish specimen indeed and a great catch:

Monster Sailfish: estimated at c.65 kg

That was now 6 sailfish landed in two hours … extreme sailfish action indeed. But we were not finished yet …….

We had a brief “lull” of all but 15 minutes as we returned to the unjam and re-tied the boat. As soon as we fed live-baits off the back we were in action once again. Gareth was up for this fish – his second and sailfish no.7 for the day. Another decent sized fish, another epic battle, this one caught in detail on video footage:

Gareth in action fighting his second fish of the day

We were now approaching late afternoon, with 7 fish under our belt in about 2.5 hours of fishing. A feeding frenzy was starting to develop – first Tom snagged a fish on a sabiki rig whilst jigging for bait, whilst almost instantaneously both me and Anthony had strikes on free-lined livies. It was chaos, with the sabki hooked fish breaching on the opposite side of the boat before running through the other two line. I broke my fish off well above the leader during the ensuing tangle, meanwhile Justin took over the third hooked fish. It was Justin’s second fish and with his growing confidence following his first fish he made light work of his second, taking only 5 minutes to bring the fish to leader:

Justin working sailfish #8 to the boat

Whilst fighting his fish, we had yet another hook-up for a double, with Tom doing the honours this time:

Tom on sailfish #9

And, whilst Tom was in action we had a further hook-up for a double-double …!! This was my first decent fish on the Stella SW8000 and it tore off on a huge run, leaving my spool dangerously low on line. I started at the stern port corner and ended up going a full circle around the boat (a walk-around design) before pulling the hook …..

Fighting a sailfish on a Stella SW8000, another double hook-up

However, I soon followed up on my lost fish with another, this time solid, hook-up and brought in fish number 10 to the leader:

Sailfish #10 billed

This was another nice sized fish, well into the 30’s kg:

Sailfish #10

It was now approaching the end of the session, almost 4.30 pm. But we still weren’t completely finished. Jochen was hooked-up again at the death only for the fish to throw the hook on a jump after a long powerful run.

What a day it had been, 10 sailfish caught and released (from 13 hook-ups), 2 fish for each angler and one monster sailfish of c. 65 kg. We’d had double and double-double hook-ups. I’d also hooked-up my first sailfish on a popper for quite a few years and also managed to hook (and lose) a tenggiri – both on my new Stella SW6000HG (which is not quite as lucky as I was starting too imagine ….!).

These were great numbers for mid June, particularly given the fact that we didn’t hunt sails until well after noon.  However, it was now time to head back to the dock for food and yet more Tigers …..! We were all looking forward to Day 2 with anticipation.

https://youtu.be/ZAN4T2kIMlM

Day 1 Highlights – sailfish no’s. 1 to 5

https://youtu.be/8z_agDSknWk

Day 1 Highlights – sailfish no’s. 6 to 10

Day 2 (18.06.17)

We awoke to what seemed like reasonable conditions – still air and slightly hazy skies over the Rompin River:

Sungai Rompin and jetty, 7.30 am

After the usual Rompin River Seafood restaurant breakfast of omlet, toast and coffee, we grabbed our gear and set of down the river to begin our second day of fishing. The plan was the same as the previous day – try some unjams (FADs) for baitfish and mackerel (tenggiri) first and, depending on results, continue to pursue mackerel or switch to hunting sailfish. 

It was a surprise when we left the river mouth to be met by a stiff offshore breeze. At the first unjam it was decidedly choppy, making lure fishing uncomfortable at the bow. It was also very slow. We made good progress with the baitfish but got zero activity from tenggiri. After about two and a half hours we decided to give up on tenggiri and return to the scene of the previous days sailfishing success.

Choppy conditions, Tioman Island in the background

When we arrived at the sailfish unjam, it was a completely different scenario to the revious day. although the breeze had dropped off and the seas were calming down, there was no bird activity – the frigate birds from the previous day were gone. I though that this might be a bad sign, but as we arrived one of the two boats already in residence was already hooked up to a sailfish: 

Neighbouring boat hooked-up

After scouting the area, we selected our spot and headed into the maze of floats and ropes of the unjam. We tied up right in the middle of the unjam and started fishing, with two live-baits off the stern under balloon floats. Jochen headed to the bow and cast a live-bait out, and it didn’t take long before he had a take and hooked-up the first sailfish of the day.  After a  drawn-out fight which saw him move from the bow port side to finish up at the stern starboard side, he worked Sailfish #1 of the session boat-side for a quick release:

Jochen commences fighting Sailfish #1

We trotted out two new live-baits under balloons and had a double take and hook-ups within five minutes resetting our spread. Tom took one fish, Gareth the other. These were both good fish and a handful whilst still amongst the unjam floats and ropes. Unfortunately, after pulling the anglers around the boat, and with the Captain doing his best to manoeuvre the boat, we eventually ended off losing both fish. One to a pulled hook and the other tangled around an unjam and broke off.

Tom and Gareth, double hook-up

One of the fish that had tangled the unjam and broken-off was sill caught by the line to the unjam rope. Before we could return to the float to try to free the fish we had another strike, which Justin took for sailfish #2 of the day. Luckily, whilst we were fighting this fish another boat came to our aid and freed the sailfish from the rope.

Jochen was keen to catch some table fish to bring home from the trip. He put out a live-bait on a wire trace and two-hook rig for mackerel (tenggiri) on a trike drag setting and was soon rewarded with a decent strike and hook-up. The hoped for tenggiri didn”t materialise however, it was another sailfish. This fish put up dogged resistance and Jochen was in for a prolonged fight. After a good 20 minutes or so he had the fish close to the boat, but it held its position with the leader tantalisingly just beyond reach ….!! This stalemate endured for a good 10 more minutes before Jochen was finally able to bring the fish in. The fish was foul hooked at the top of the head, explaining the difficulty in guiding it to the the boat. 

We had been in constant action since we arrived at the unjam an hour and a half before. We were then treated to the sight of a largish juvenile whale shark that glided gracefully past the boat, only a couple of metres away, with an associated menagerie of remora and cobia in attendance (my first ever whale shark sighting):

Whale Shark

Following this welcome interlude we resumed fishing. I flicked out a live-bait off the port side whilst Anthony set a bait off the stern. I was using my still virginal new Stella Sw8000. I said to Gareth that if I hooked-up I would take the fish on my gear, but that he could take the fish if Anthony got a strike. almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth than I felt my free-lined live bait twitch and then felt a sudden jerked. I watched the line play out from the open-bailed spool, slowly at first then rapidly gathering pace. I flicked the bail shut and set the hook on a decent fish that set off on a powerful run taking at least 150 m of 30lb braid. After the run eventually stopped I started the laborious task of working the fish to the boat – I tried to regain line as quickly as possible (I’d already lost some line in the previous days tangle) and didn’t want to risk getting spooled. I managed to get the fish near the boat within 15 minutes or so, but it was evidently a good sized fish and was difficult to control. It made repeated long pin-wheels, each time swimming under the boat and requiring me to plunge the rod tip deep into the sea until I was sure that the fish had cleared the engines. This happened 3 times before finally snagging on the engine skeg – the captain saw the danger and helped me clear the line. Finally I had the fish on the leader – a big fish and easily my biggest sailfish estimated at around 55 kg. A fantastic first fish on the new reel, and sailfish #4 for the session:

Sailfish c.55 kg

http://youtu.be/zO6mWZL0rBM

We returned to the unjam and reset out baits. Gareth took the next fish to make it no.5 for the day. The weather was now starting to cause concern –  the day had started breezy and with choppy seas but had been getting calmer all day. Now, storm clouds and heavy rain were evident in the distance:

Storm watch …..

We continued fishing, hoping that the storm would pass us by. Now we’d all caught a fish except top. I cast out a live-bait and garnered another take on my Stella SW8000. I set the hook and past the rod to Tom for fish #6:

Tom fighting Sailfish #6

Everyone had now caught a fish on the day. Justin, however, was particularly keen to hook-up his own fish. He spent the next hour or so trying to set the hook. He missed a couple of takes and then hooked-up, only for the fish to pull the hook within a few minutes. The captain notioned that he’d set the hook too early. Whilst Justin continued with his efforts, Anthony was coaching Gareth to a hook-up, and suddenly he was on for Sailfish #7. Within a few minutes Justin also managed to get a good set an we had yet another double on our hands:

http://youtu.be/hghIn-p1W-c

Double hook-up: Sailfish nos. 7 and 8

Justin’s second fish, sailfish #8 being released

One of the fish we caught (I’m not sure which one) had a fresh (unrusted) sabiki rig in its mouth with exactly the same type of sinker that we were using – almost certainly the fish that Tom had snagged with his sabiki rig the previous day ….!!

It was now 4.00 pm and the trip was drawing to a close, with 8 fish under our belts. But there was still time for more. On the next drift we had yet another strike which Gareth took for sailfish #9 and his third of the day. Whilst we chased Gareth’s fish down, with Gareth fighting from the bow, I cast a live-bait off the stern and free-lined it about 100 m back. I soon had another strike for a third fish on the Stella and the 10th and last sailfish of the day …. another perfect 10:

Sailfish #10

It was now 4.30 pm and time to return to port. The storm that had threatened earlier had past us by with just a few spots of rain but now we were heading straight into it:

Into the storm

We were soon right into the storm, with heavy, cold rain and churning seas. We hunkered down for shelter and enjoyed cold Tiger beer, as the rain lashed the deck and blew in from the sides:

Under cover

Then, almost as quickly as is started we were back under clear, warm skies and calm seas and were soon heading back up the Rompin River to the dock. There was time for a quick team photo before we had to rush to pack our gear, shower and grab a quick dinner before the long drive back to KL.

Group Picture (l-r): Jochen, me, Gareth, Tom and Justin

I’d never fished here before in June (traditionally the slowest part of the season) and had come on the trip with no real expectation about the fishing quality. But it had turned out to be one of my best trips here. We’d had great banter, good food and plenty of beers. But the fishing had been awesome, the perfect 10 on both days, with everyone getting their fair share of fish and action. Finally, we’d caught two really big sailfish, true leviathans. A great time – thanks go to Gareth for organising the trip and Anthony Sullivan for putting us in the fish once again.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Sailfish | Leave a comment

Natural Exotic Pond Behrang – Amazons and Asians (09.06.17)

Yes, back yet again ….. it’s becoming an addiction. This will be the last trip for a while though.

Frustrated by losing what we thought to be Alligator Gar last week,  and “interested” to try the chicken intestine bait that proved so effective for fellow anglers the previous week (interested but not keen – I don’t like using bait with the potential to give me food poisoning if I don’t keen my hands completely clean), we were back for another go.

So, baits was a bag of prawns and a pack of frozen chicken guts (RM3 at the pond) plus a small bucket with a concentrated soap solution for hand washing after baiting up …… My target species were gar and Chao Phraya catfish. I was not keen on catching anymore Asian Redtail catfish!

When we arrived the pond was deserted (for the first time ever – Friday afternoon during Ramadan):

Natural Exotic Pond, Behrang

We started fish, my using prawns and the wife on chicken guts. Prawns were definitely the hot bait today. I started picking up Amazon Redtail Catfish, whilst the wife was getting Asian Redtails:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #1

Asian Redtail Catfish #1

Amazon Redtail Catfish #2

Asian Redtail Catfish #2

Despite us landing a couple of fish apiece during the first hour and a half, I was getting many more bites – almost one per cast on prawn bait. The problem is I was getting smashed – dragged under pipes at the edge of the pond and resulting in broken hook lengths and lost leaders. I spend the first couple of hours tying leaders and making up wire traces, and it was hard work in the extreme heat. Some of the lost fish were undoubtedly big Amazon Catfish, but I suspect at least one was an Alligator Gar. We saw no signs of Chao Phraya Catfish though ….!

Mako then hooked into a decent fish that turned out to be a large Asian Redtail, maybe 7 kg or more, a good size here for this species:

Asian Redtail Catfish, c.7 kg

As dusk approached, I was in action with a run of large Amazon Redtails:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #3

Amazon Redtail Catfish #4
The Natural Exotic Pond at dusk

Amazon Redtail Catfish #5

I was still getting plenty of action, but after picking up a small Asian Redtail, decided to move to the south-western corner of the pond  for the last half an hour to see if I could snag a garfish. 

Asian Redtail Catfish #4 & #5

Mako lost what she suspected to be a gar  on the opposite side of the pond to me (violent head shaking and then a pulled hook) before I had a subtle take that didn’t take much line initially, and I thought it was a gar. But as it came closer to the platform it started making strong runs, and another decent Amazon Catfish emerged from the murky waters:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #6

I finished up with another fish with the last prawn bait – a final Asian Redtail. We finished up with 6 Amazon and 5 Asian Redtails. The prawns had won, hands down, over the chicken guts, but at c. 1 RM a prawn vs. RM3 for a packet of guts I can see why the later bait is popular …. We won’t be back for a while – I want different species, I’ve had enough of Redtail Catfish …!!

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Asian Redtail | 2 Comments

Natural Exotic Pond Behrang – Asian Catfish (02.06.17)

Inspired by our previous visit the week before, me and the wife were once again visiting the New NEFFP (my fourth visit in as many weeks …). I was fired up after catching a Chao Phraya Catfish, but also hearing comment from another angler that told us he’s caught six on a previous visit ….! So, the plan was to float fish live baits to try to catch this species. I’d also brought some prawns with me and was keen to see how effective they’d be at this venue.

We left KL at around 3.30pm, but had to stop for water and to check our tyre pressure. Then we headed out on the E1 (Utara-Selatan) Highway. But, we got caught in a jam following an accident. We finally reached out destination at 5.15pm, and commenced fishing at 5.35pm, with very few anglers there making it easy to get our preferred location at the end of the platform on the right-hand side. We were fishing live lampam  under a float, with the intention of trying to avoid Amazon Redtails ….!

We were in action immediately – Mako got an Asian Redtail Catfish on the first cast, whilst I was still rigging up my rod.  I followed this up 10 minutes later with an Asian Redtail of my own quickly followed by Mako’s third fish:

Asian Redtail Catfish #1

Asian Redtail #2

Asian Redtail #3

I then picked up a solitary small Amazon Redtail Catfish:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #1

Then we were hit with another onslaught of predatory Asian Redtails, these fish are streamlined hunters and they absolutely love live-baits (cf the Amazon Redtails, which seem to prefer static dead baits):

Asian Redtail #4

Asian Redtail #5

Asian Redtail #6

Natural Exotic Pond at dusk

As dusk approached I decided to finish off our live-baits on float before switching over to dead bait on a ledger rig, to see if we could entice a different species. The final couple of livies enticed yet more Asian Redtails:

Asian Redtail #7

Asian Redtail #8

The change to ledgered dead-bait brought a marked change in species. I pinned on a prawn and cast out. It was almost immediately engulfed by a large fish that ran around some unseen submerged structure (a pipe of some sort) at the margin of the pond, despite my best efforts and a decent amount of drag. I could feel the line rasping against the obstruction. I managed to get it moving towards me and it felt free before pulling me into it again. It was only a matter of time until it broke off. But, under steady pressure I regained some line and then felt it swim free. I worked it to the bank for netting – a nice Amazon Redtail, c.12 kg:

Amazon Redtail #2, c. 12 kg

My leader was chaffed along its full length. The main-line had also taken some punishment. But I decided to fish on with it as I still had the other rod to change to a ledger rig. I re-baited with another prawn and recast. Whilst I was tying a new rig, the rod took another big strike. Mako picked up and fought our third Amazon cat of the session, another decent sized fish of at least 10 kg:

Amazon Redtail #3

We then entered a very strange situation. Whilst I was clearing up and putting rubbish in a nearby bin, the prawn bait was taken again. Mako picked up on en evidently big fish that jigged violently before the line went slack. She wound in and all of the leader was gone, just a frayed tag-end of braided line remaining. Very strange. I first though it was lost because of the previous line damage with the earlier big Amazon cat. I quickly tied on a new leader with a double uni knot (no time to re-tie the FG Knot), and added a 40lb wire trace tied to 50lb mono hook-length. Once again I took a strike on the prawn, again violent and erratic jigging and a sawing sensation before the line went slack. This time, the whole hook-length to the swivel was gone ….!! What was going on?? I re-tied my hook-length, again with wire trace and re-set with another prawn bait. 15 minutes later it was exactly the same – a slow take, violent and erratic pulls and then slack line. During the take I felt the line catch against something and then go slack and thought it was gone, then I felt the fish again, experienced a grating of the line and then it went slack again. Once again, the whole 4m or so of leader and hook length was gone. It was similar to what I’d experience before on my first ever visit here, when we encountered alligator gar:

https://agriffinandrew2.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/new-natural-exotic-fishing-pond-behrang-alligator-gar-30-04-17/

I think that we’d encountered a pack of gar and that the line was taken by one fish and cut-off against the scales of other fish in the school. That’s all I can think of as an explanation. Has anyone else out there experience this? Certainly the violent and erratic jigging and subtle plucking takes were exactly the same when I caught my gar a month back.

Meanwhile, Mako had been persevering with (the usually effective) keli (catfish) bait (the head  portion cuts). But had had nothing. Finally she got a strike whilst she was away from here place. I picked up her rod and fought a spirited fish to the bank, a large (but still another) Asian Redtail (#9) for which I only managed to get a quick, poorly focused picture. My first fish on the Saragosa Sw6000 ….. very nice too!

Now, our session was nearing its conclusion. I returned to my rod and retied a leader and recast the remains of my prawn baits. Once again the prawn was quickly taken. I engaged the fish and this time managed to stay buttoned, and brought in a lively fish to the bank that turned out to be an …. yep, you’ve guessed it, Asian Redtail:

Asian Redtail #10

Mako continued with the keli dead-bait. Finally, as she was reeling in she felt a pressure on her line. It was heavy but not fighting.  She reeled in a large, dead, Amazon Redtail that she’d snagged – it was a large fish of c.15 kg, around RM 1500 worth of stock …!! Sad to see, but an inevitable consequence of catch and release, there will always be some mortality. The pond insists on (and enforces the use of) barbless hooks, which is good, but they should introduce a circle hook only policy for fishing live and dead-baits. We also saw an angler “playing” with his catch by repeatedly, and violently, striking against a fish he was fighting , showing off to his friends – this was sickening and almost guaranteed to cause damage to the fish. I wish the ghillies would be more proactive in stopping such behaviour.

Finally, as I picked up Mako’s rod to wind in for the day I felt a fish on. Mako took over and brought in a tangle of line with an Asian Redtail attached – we’d hooked another anglers broken-off line. This was the 11th Asian Redtail, and final fish our session.  It was late and we were tired, sweaty and hungry. It was time to head home. We’d caught 11 Asian and 3 Amazon Redtail Catfish, not including the dead Amazon or the fish that had cut us off multiple times, so it had been a hectic four hours.

Out of interest, the handful of anglers that were in attendance this session were having good success on chicken intestine bait. We saw numerous Amazon Catfish caught, but also a large Mekong  (of 25 kg+) and a large Chao Phraya Catfish (of c. 2o kg) also caught on this unpleasant bait. I may have to give it a try on my next visit ……! 

Stay tuned.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Asian Redtail | Leave a comment

New NEFFP Behrang – Mako’s Monsters (26.05.17)

This was my third visit to the New NEFFP at Behrang in the past month. The aims of this visit were as follows:

  1. To fish different parts of the pond to understand where the fish are holding and which areas a favoured by the different species present
  2. To fish the pond on a weekday afternoon to check out how busy it gets (I prefer to fish when it’s not too busy – more choice of fishing spots, less hassle with tangled lines, etc).
  3.  Get Wong a fish or two
  4.  To try out live-baiting
  5.  To give my new Shimano Saragossa SW6000 reel a test
  6. Attempt to catch a Chao Phraya Catfish
  7. To give my FG Knot tying skills additional testing (I’m starting to become more confident in my ability to tie this knot, but a few more trials will certainly help)

I was taking my mate Wong from the office on his second ever fishing trip (he was sea-sick on our last trip and skunked) and get him to land a decent size catfish or two. I spent an hour preparing tackle and tying new 40lb mono leader with FG knots onto my Stella SW6000HG and the new Saragosa SW6000 reel, with the plan to head out of KL by 2.30pm to fish from 3.30pm.  At the last minute, just before we were due to leave KL, the wife decided she’d like to join, and I decided we’d change and use her car as it is bigger. After packing an extra rod and reel we loaded the car and, after going to the garage to top up the Touch n Go card, finally headed up the North-South highway to Behrang in light mid-afternoon Friday traffic.

We were behind schedule, and finally arrived at the pond just after 4.00pm. It was busier than I expected, but much quieter than on my previous two visits. I put together four rods (one each plus a back-up), we signed in and collected out baits – 10 small lampam live-baits and 5 keli (catfish) to be butchered and cut into thirds to use as dead-bait. I rigged up two rods with ledger rigs for Mako and Wong and fixed a sliding float rig for fishing live-bait for myself. I plumbed the area we were about to fish – I wanted to fish about 1m off bottom – and found the depth was deeper than my c.4m of leader and hook-length, so I could use the leader knot as my float stop knot ….. perfect! This was the rig I was going to use to try to entice a Chao Phraya Catfish (I wanted to be off bottom to try to avoid amazon Redtails).

After I completed rigging-up we finally commenced fishing at about 4.40pm. We opted to fish at the end of the jetty, fishing the north-western corner of the pond. Whilst I was helping out Mako and Wong with their gear and baits, my live-bait was snatched. I picked up and started working the fish but pulled the hook. I reset and waited. It wasn’t long before I had another take and brought in the first fish of the day, a spirited Asian Redtail:

Asian Redtail Catfish #1 

Twenty minutes later, Mako got a good strike on her catfish head dead-bait and picked up to do battle with a powerful fish. She was using the new Saragossa reels, and it was up to the task of handling the big fish. Mako did a good job of turning the fish and bringing it was from the aerator paddles and associated metal-work at the northern edge of the pond. After an good fight, she brought in a big Amazon Redtail Catfish to the net, a fish of at least 15 kg:

Mako’s 1st monster fish – Amazon Redtail #1 (c.15 kg)

We now entered into an active feeding period. It was Wong’s turn next, he had a good strike fishing on the west side of the jetty, and was surprised at the power of is first Amazon Redtail, a modest fish of c.6 kg:

Wong’s first Amazon Redtail Catfish

The hits were starting to come thick and fast on ledgered dead-bait. Mako was in action again next, bringing in a spirited Amazon Redtail:

Asian Redtail Catfish #2

Barely 5 minutes later she was in action again.. This time she was into a prolonged battle with an obviously big fish, the second of her monster fish for the day. This fish fought long and hard, doggedly putting up resistance even when close to the jetty. It was a good test for Mako, the Saragossa SW6000 reel and my FG knot:

Mako (and Saragossa SW6000 reel) in battle with a monster fish

After at least 5 minutes of tug-o-war, a large Amazon Redtail Catfish eventually succumbed to the pressure and was finally brought to the net. This was a big monster fish, the largest Amazon Redtail that I’ve ever seen caught at either this or the old Natural Exotic Pond. It was at least 20 kg. Unfortunately, the pictures don’t do it justice as Mako was unable to pick it up properly to hold it, as it was too heavy for her:

Mako’s second monster fish of the day – Amazon Redtail #3 (c.20 kg +)

Meanwhile, I’d moved across to fish the north-eastern corner of the pond – Wong had told the ghillie that I was after a Chao Phraya catfish, and he’d told me to try that area. I soon had a bite on a small lampam livey, but pulled the hook. I re-cast and was bit almost immediately. I set the hook and was in battle with a powerful fish that made short, strong runs and frequent changes of direction. After a short battle, I saw a sickle -shaped fin break the surface as the fish neared the jetty and I redoubled my concentration as I knew it was my target species. A few tense minutes later, the ghille was able to slip the net under the fish and I was able to relax, content in my trophy catch – a fat Chao Phraya Catfish probably touching 15 kg. Another trophy fish on what is turning out to be (after a sort-after Alligator Gar on its very  first outing) a very luck Stella SW6000 fishing reel:

Chao Phraya Catfish (c.15 kg)

Immediately after I landed my fish, Mako was in action again, bringing in yet another  large Amazon catfish:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #4

She quickly followed up this fish with an Asian Redtail:

Asian Redtail Catfish #3

It was now only just after 6pm and it was shaping up to be a very successful visit (we had until 8.20pm left to fish on our 4 hour ticket …!). The pond was now, however, starting to get busy as people turned up to fish the early evening. Some anglers to our left were starting to have frequent strikes on earth-worm baits. Wong, was not faring so well though and was unable to get a bite, despite switching to worm baits. Eventually, he did get a hit from a decent fish (on a worm-catfish chunk bait cocktail) but unfortunately got dragged under the aerator wheel structure and got broken off. 

I was still doing ok at the NE corner as I used up the last of the live-baits. I landed two Asian Redtail’s in quick succession, one slipped out of my grasp before I could get a photo, the other was a darkly coloured specimen:

Asian Redtail Catfish #5

 We now started to enter a lull as the later afternoon dusk approached. Other anglers were starting to have success, one group in particular were getting a strike a cast – they were using offal from cow or pig – stomach and heart as far as I could gather. Each time they got a fish, they were pulled towards the north of the pond, frequently crossing Mako’s line and disrupting her fishing. They were smashed a number of times but also started landing a succession of good sized Amazon Redtails. I also lost another fish on live-bait ….. I was bitten off and could feel the line getting sawed through within seconds of hook-up …. gar??

As dusk approached, and the live-bait supply had been used up, I switched to a ledger rig to go for Amazon’s. It was slow going but I started to get the odd bit of attention and picked up my first Amazon Redtail of the session after about 20 minutes:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #5

After a quiet hour for us, we started getting strikes again. Unfortunately, both Mako and Wong got smashed by decent fish – Mako lost two to structure whilst Wong pulled the hook on one fish and then got broken off by structure. I,on the other hand, managed to land a succession of good sized Amazons, all in the 10-15 kg range:

Amazon Redtail Catfish #6

Amazon Redtail Catfish #7

Amazon Redtail Catfish #8

With broken rigs, the clock running down and exhaustion from the heat and battle, it was time to wrap-up the session. And what a great session it had been – we’d landed 14 fish to 20 kg +, with many fish 10 kg + in weight, and had got a coveted Chao Phraya catfish. Mako had landed two monster Amazon’s on the Saragosa SW6000 reel and Wong had caught his first ever catfish. My FG knots had been given a punishing test and past with flying colours. Finally, I’d learned a lot more about this new fishery, and now have a much better idea of where to fish and what to expect from different parts of the pond. All objectives had been achieved.

Posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.15) Natural Exotic Fishing Pond - Behrang, Catfish, Catfish - Amazon Redtail, Catfish - Asian Redtail, Catfish - Chao Phraya | Leave a comment