When you mention Thailand most people think of lady boys, Muay Thai, and city’s that never sleep, however there are some incredible fish to be found in its waters and fisheries. Due to a lot of over fishing, bad water management and no economy in certain areas a lot of the natural species have suffered a great example being the mighty Mekong catfish. There are however a few very well managed fisheries which not only hold these amazing creatures but also a multitude of spectacular fish from around the world. There will always be people that argue the case that it isn’t right to catch a fish that’s not in its natural environment although there are many a species in this country not but if your like me, justifying the costs of travelling to the deepest parts of the amazon, Africa and rest of Asia just isn’t doable, so having the opportunity to catch a range of buck-list fish is a no brainier.
After speaking to my good friend lee Mcsween my arm was bent and tickets were bought, we were off to Exotic Fishing Thailand. After a long but hassle free flight we eventually arrived in Thailand at night, where we were met with the sort of temperature you associate with a sauna but was welcomed with open arms after travelling from our lovely standard February weather. The next morning I was out of bed quicker than a kid at Christmas and as I drew the curtains open I can only describe the view as resembling something from Jurassic park, it was absolutely spectacular, sheer mountain sides dropping into what looked like a hidden tropical lagoon.
With breakfast polished off before it had even hit the table I was off like a man possessed but most importantly with a fly rod in hand ready to target the fish at the top of my bucket-list – the incredible arapaima, so with the advice of Mike the owner of Exotic fishing Thailand I was fully equipped with a selection of streamers and floating pellets. Now I can hear a few of you saying “pellets” but at times of the day when the fish are less active these are used to send the small Java barb (similar to a roach) into a surface feeding frenzy which would then hopefully attract any of the predators close by. After thrashing the water for numerous hours in the melting heat it happened, I hooked something that went off the line quicker than Lewis Hamilton, the power of the fish was incredible and nothing like I’ve felt before. The fish stayed deep and instantly went for the aerator and totally snagged me up, so without even thinking myself and mike went straight in after it, for once the fish gods were on our side as after another 10 minutes of been given the run around, a stunning red tail catfish estimated at around 60lb was safely in the net. Before all fish are returned mike keeps the fish safely in the net while giving them oxygen to revive them which shows you the level of care taken at this incredible fishery. I managed another red tail Not long after during a crazy 5 minutes where both Dave and Clive also got amongst the fish to give us a hat-trick of identical red’s.
As always when fishing the days fly by far to quick and within the blink of an eye another 2 days had passed with nothing but lost fish to show for it, the lake was fishing great with my buddies Lee, Scott, Dave, Paul and Clive catching some incredible fish including a 280lb arapaima for Scott, an 60lb beast of an alligator gar for lee and a multitude of other species. I’d changed to the normal bait fishing methods but I just couldn’t keep anything on, including loosing a monster arapaima estimated around 350lb and a Mekong which couldn’t be stopped and literally melted the reel. Things had to change soon, well before I went insane, luckily the next morning it did as I was instantly into a fish which had taken a ledgered Lahm ball (flour made from rice canes) fished hard on the bottom, it was obvious from the start it wasn’t a large fish but most importantly it was on and within a few minutes was mine – EVENTUALLY! It turned out to be a hovens carp around 15lb, a new species for me and a very welcome catch indeed.
The day yet again flew over and we were down to the last 10 minutes just as the light was fading when 2 of my bite alarms started singing on my predator rods baited with chicken, I’m not going to lie I literally went for the nearest rod which turned out to be the right decision as the weight and power of the fish was phenomenal. As with all fish hooked in the dark everything is magnified especially your senses, could it be the fish that had eluded me so far, what ever it was it was giving me one hell of a battle constantly taking line as soon as I’d recovered some, soon the fish started tiring and now I had crowd around me anxiously waiting to see what I’d hooked, they wouldn’t have to wait long as my guide in a split second had the fish in the net. It’s wasn’t my arapaima but a phenomenal Chao Phraya catfish estimated around 70-80lb and i couldn’t of been happier.
It was the last day and my last chance of an arapaima which seemed so close but yet so far away, as always I thought I’d missed my chance with all the days slipping by and my last day eating hours for fun. The great thing about Mike’s lake is you can target different types of species by have 3 rods out at a time, so along with my 2 predator rods baited with chicken and fish I also had a rod baited with a lahm ball the size of a small football in hope of one of the larger particle feeders, it was this rod that went and again lifting into the fish it was obvious this was another large fish – well for me anyway. This fish fought totally different using its weight to hold its ground in between short sharp powerful spurts, I battled away drawing the fish closer and closer when the rod pinged back and that horrible slack line sensation – the hook had somehow came out, but miraculously my guide had managed to net the fish, a stunning Siamese carp around 50lb which are a few quick snaps went back with a splash.
It was the end of the day and I’d excepted defeat in my search as surely it couldn’t happen now, but it would literally come down to the last 10 minutes, just like injury time, when my bite alarm wert ballistic with a fish crashing about in the darkness. My guide instantly screamed the words I’d be dying and hoping to hear – “ARAPAIMA!” As always the enjoyment turned instantly to fear of the fish throwing the hook again, but this time the fish gods were on my side and the arapaima was safely in the net! As always the fish was given plenty oxygen and time to recover before being carefully lifted and photoed, then released back into the black abyss. Not only had I conquered my bucket list fish I got to spend an incredible week with some amazing people. Until the next time!