By Neil Robinson.
Bungsam Lan kicked off my fishing exploits for May.
First of all with a four day trip for four Hong Kong based
fish starved Englishmen; Sharpie, Adrian , Chubbs and Andy.
The first day we went all out to target as many fish as possible.
This we achieved quite well, with all four guys catching plenty of Striped-
and Giant Mekong Catfish, plus a by-catch of a small River Catfish
for Chubbs and a fine Pacu for Andy.
The guys were all really pleased with their results after many blank sessions
at a reservoir in Hong Kong. They recorded all fish caught, and what species
they were, as trophies were up for grabs for the most species caught,
biggest fish, match winner and also err, attendances!
To raise the stakes even further, the angler with the least kilos landed
over the duration of the trip had to have a perm!
I will save the blushes of this angler by not mentioning his name.
They should maybe consider a fashion award, but it would be difficult
to choose between Andy's "Street Fighter" look,
and Chubb's "Socks N' Sandals" outfit!
The guys were so worn out from the first days fishing that they decided
that they didn't want to meet up for the next days fishing until 1:00 PM!
This we did, and after a mix up with the bungalows, we ended up
on a not so prolific bungalow and the fishing was really slow.
To make matters worse, the guys who had hijacked our bungalows
were having fantastic action, with fish after fish.
Luckily they decided to finish early, so we moved bungalows
to where we should have been in the first place.
Once back on our bungalows we were straight into the action
with fish after fish on all four rods, we managed a triple hook up
and almost a quadruple, if we had had just a few seconds more.
We fished on into the evening and enjoyed plenty of action,
giving the lads lots of practice for the following days 5-hour match.
The match was a great success with everyone catching plenty of fish,
Sharpie being the clear winner with a catch of over 200 Kg.
The final day Adrian unfortunately had to miss, but the guys
kept him informed about the terrific action by text message.
We had decided to go all out for big ones
(18 Kg average size where no longer considered "big ones"!)
Fishing this slightly different method can often be quite slow,
but today was not so bad with quite a few fish landed.
Sharpie struck gold with the first real biggie of the trip with this beauty.
The fish put up an enormous battle that lasted the best part of an hour,
finding its way finally into the net via twice through the pier
and under the bungalows! The line had to be cut and re-tied twice,
and was very badly chaffed from the obstacles it had scraped over.
When the fish was ready for the net, the line was making so much noise
we were sure it was about to break, even with the drag set very slack.
We were all very relieved to finally net the fish, but it wouldn't be long
before Sharpie was into another big one!
The guys were taking turns on the rods, with average sized fish,
but when it came around again to Sharpie, he was straight back
into another really big fish.
Another hard fought battle finally producing this Giant Mekong Catfish.
In two casts and two fish, Sharpie had landed more than 100 Kg!
I think I enjoyed this trip almost as much as the four guys did,
with plenty of laughs and Mickey taking.
Thanks for the night out on the town as well guys!
On the following day, it was nice to welcome back "Bungsam Bill"
and his wife Roxy along with Bob from England.
After the previous days two massive fish, I didn't expect our luck to last,
but when your fishing with "Bungsam Bill" things tend to happen.
All three anglers were into non-stop action right from the start.
Bob was really unlucky to lose a really big fish early on.
The fish took him through the small pier; we handled this by cutting
and re-tying the line and continuing the fight on the main pier.
Unfortunately the line was damaged quite badly and broke
when the fish went on a surging run to the far side of the lake.
Not long after this, Bill hooked into another really large fish that headed
straight for the small pier. Being an old hand now at successfully landing
lots of really big fish, he instinctively gave the fish "free-spool"
to let it swim straight through the pier without damaging the line.
This enabled us to pass the rod straight under the pier without cutting and re-tying.
After making our way over to the main pier, Bill had plenty of room
to play out the fish in its' own time in the centre of the main lake,
until we eventually slid the net under this beauty.
After this, Bill's wife Roxy was showing the boys how to do it,
with an almost 100% success rate of fish hooked and landed.
The heat of the day was intense, so when Bill & Roxy decided to take it easy
for a while, all the fish landing duties were left to Bob.
It was one of those days when it didn't matter where you cast,
the bait being taken usually within a minute or two. This pace
soon took its toll on Bob in the blazing heat, and so we called it
a day around 4:30 PM, everyone well and truly worn out.
Our next outing was at Cheow Lan Lake with Norwegian angler Rune.
Fishing at our newly discovered area, I had really been
looking forward to this trip for a while.
Frustratingly the fishing was really slow the first afternoon,
with only a few strikes between us to show for our efforts.
The weather was quite bad, with almost constant rain,
but usually this doesn't affect things too much.
The next morning we set off once again in the pouring rain.
Our local "boat boy" showed us some terrific looking new areas
that you would expect to be "bursting" with Giant Snakeheads.
Dead trees, loads of weed beds, and islands in fairly shallow water
are the perfect habitat for Giant Snakehead, but again the going was slow.
We learned that the Snakeheads had started to spawn,
and the whole lake was closed to commercial fishing
for 6 weeks until the fish had finished spawning.
This was both good news, and also bad news.
The bad news being that the Snakehead fishing would be quite poor
for this trip, but in the next few months the fishing should be at its best
as the parent Giant Snakeheads, vigorously defend their fry.
I was fishing at third position in the boat, and with the fish spawning as well,
my chances of a good fish was seriously diminished.
(Excuses! Excuses! Says Michael).
So I decided to try a completely different kind of lure compared with
what we normally use at Cheow Lan. I knew that the Hampala Barb
was still feeding, as Jonas and Rune had already caught a few.
We moved to a channel close to where a river enters the lake,
which produced my first fish, a small Asian River Catfish.
The next few casts produced a few average size Hampala Barb,
and another Asian River Catfish while Rune was having fun
with the Hampala Barb on his ultra-light spinning outfit.
The weather brightened up a little and we made our way up the river
until the water became so shallow that we could not go any further
in the boat. We walked up the river and soon Jonas was catching
some really nice Hampala Barb, including this awesome fish.
This river is such a beautiful spot, with lots of Barb to be caught,
and it also looks like the ideal spot for fly-fishing,
but I'm sure no one has fly-fished this area yet.
We all caught a few more Hampala Barb and Rune
furthermore landed a nice Striped Snakehead.
Back at the Snakehead areas, Rune managed to catch
a Giant Snakehead, and Jonas took a couple as well.
During the night I was awakened by a bait-runner I was bottom fishing with
at the back of the floating bungalow. I dashed from my bed, hoping
for a nice carp or catfish, only to reel in a Tinfoil Barb of about ½ a Kg!
The next morning we came across a shoal of Giant Snakehead "fingerlings",
so we had a try for the parents, but with no luck. We did catch a few
of the "fingerlings" on lures that were almost as big as the fish themselves!
The rain continued for most of the morning, but my new lure
did eventually account for a Giant Snakehead of around 1,5 Kg.
A few more Barb followed before we had to head home.
Whilst at the lake this time in a very remote area, we were privileged to see
some amazing wildlife including a wild pig swimming between two islands,
wild buffaloes and a few Barking Dear. We also heard the Barking Dear,
and amazingly for the first time ever, the trumpeting of wild elephants!
This untouched area of Cheow Lan Lake looks incredible,
and I'm sure that when the Snakeheads do stop spawning,
there will be some incredible fishing to be had.
After this trip it was straight back to Bungsam Lan to fish with Swedish students
Jens and Geffy. They are both students of The Sportfishing Academy in Sweden,
and had heard about the great fishing to be had at Bungsam Lan Lake.
They were not to be disappointed!
We started with two Striped Catfish of around 9 Kg in the first two casts.
Then the Mekong moved in. The two anglers couldn't believe the power
of the fish, but relished every battle they had with the mighty fish.
The action continued until the afternoon when the exceptionally bad weather
Thailand has been experiencing moved in for a few hours.
At this point we decided to go all out for big fish. As mentioned before,
this can be quite slow, so after a while we changed one rod back
to the successful method we were using earlier.
This immediately paid off with more Giant Mekong and Striped Catfish
finding their way into our net. Eventually we had a really good run
on the big fish rod, but unfortunately the 30lb line "snapped like a carrot"
when it hooked into a beast of a fish.
I had put out a carp rod using a new bait I had been experimenting.
This lay untouched until mid-afternoon when it went screaming off
through the small pier. I struck into the fish, but unfortunately
it had got too much line on me before I could react, and
the shredded line parted company with the fish against the pier.
I kicked myself for being so slow, but next time I will be ready!
Andy, Anthony and their friend Archie from the UK made a welcome return
to Bungsam Lan once again in the latter part of this month.
However the fishing was quite slow compared to the last time Andy fished here,
when he and his friend Mark landed more than forty Giant Mekong Catfish
in seven hours! The lads still had reasonable action, but still a little slow
by Bungsam Lan's high standard. Along with the Giant Mekong Catfish,
the guys also had a fine Pacu, and also a decent sized River Catfish.
The following day, fishing the same bungalow with exactly the same bait
and equipment, Johan and Robert from Sweden had a great day.
Johan on his way to Bungsam Lan said he would be happy with just one
nice Mekong of 18 Kg or so. This we achieved on the first cast
when a perfect conditioned 23 Kg specimen took the bait
within about 5 seconds of casting in!
This pattern continued almost all day, providing terrific sport
for the first time visitors to Bungsam Lan. The best fish
fell to Robert with this specimen of almost 30 Kg.
The horrendous weather we have experienced recently has all
but put an end to the saltwater fishing for this month.
The typhoon that caused all the carnage in Vietnam had a serious
knock-on effect in the waters around Phuket and Khao Lak.
The worst sea conditions in fact at this time of year
on records dating back sixty years!
We have had to cancel a lot of trips due to the rough seas,
and have only been able to manage a handful of charters.
One night, the huge Marlin that hangs from our sign outside the Marlin Bar,
broke its chains in the gale force winds and was seriously damaged.
The few charters we have done have all produced a good number of Tuna,
but not much else around seems to be feeding at the moment.
We have spotted lots of Sailfish jumping around Racha Yai, but at the moment,
very few Sails are interested in feeding. We have tried "belly-strips",
lures and live bait, but unfortunately all too little effect.
One charter that did set the pulses racing was with Allan and Linda
from England , who had chartered "Reel Thing", but was upgraded
to "Gecko" due to the very unreliable weather.
Allan wanted to target billfish, having had a few attempts around the world
which didn't produce. Jonas was away on business for the day,
so Michael was in charge of the fishing on this charter.
Allan had made it clear that he wanted to do all his own "hook-ups",
so Michael ended up having a very enjoyable and relaxing day.
The run out to "Dragon's Back" south of Racha Noi produced a lot
of small Tuna, ideal for Sailfish bait later in the day.
After arriving at "Dragon's Back" it first seemed very quiet,
but as so often before, things suddenly changed
when a Marlin took one of the small flat-line lures.
Michael picked up the rod and handed it to Allan. He hooked up the fish,
and had good contact with it, but unfortunately the normally so strong
Mustad hook straightened, and the Marlin was lost.
Sometimes when the hook doesn't penetrate deep enough
and only the tip is embedded, this can happen with billfish.
We had Marlin lures in the spread, but the lure that the Marlin actually took,
was not intended for billfish. If one of the Marlin lures had been taken,
who knows what might have happened?
While trolling along Racha Noi, another billfish appeared in our "spread".
This time it was a Sailfish showing a bit of interest in a small tuna lure,
before it suddenly fell back and slammed the other flat-line lure!
Allan had barely got to the rod before the fish dropped the lure and swam away,
just proving the point of how fickle the Sailfish appear to be at the moment.
With all the Sailfish previously spotted around Racha Yai, this was
the obvious place to go, for the afternoon session with "belly strips".
Maybe some of the many commercial fishing boats seeking shelter here
a few days earlier have been bored during their 3 day stay behind the island.
There was definitely not much Sailfish action to be seen!
Only strikes on the "belly strips" came from a small Tuna and a Dorado.
Allan had mentioned earlier, how he had hooked several big Dorado,
but never managed to land any of reasonable size.
This was not a big Dorado, but with Allan's luck this day –
this also managed to spit the hook after a few nice jumps!!!
A few days later, American angler Brian Greeff chartered "Gecko"
for a day with the intention of doing a little fly-fishing as well as trolling.
Luckily the weather had changed, and remained quite good all day.
Plenty of Tuna came Brian's way and also a Dorado on the fly.
Once again the Sailfish could be seen jumping around Racha, but
still not prepared to take anything. It can only be a matter of time
before someone has a really fantastic day with the Sailfish
when they do eventually start to feed properly.
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