FishingMagic Cub Reporter Geoff lands 100lb Carp!
As a kid in the 50s and 60s, brought up on Superman comics and Dick Walker I always dreamed of a headline saying that, or something like it – and at last it’s happened!
I recently told you about my One Night In Bangkok on a visit to see my daughter; well, on my return journey, I arranged to have another day’s fishing with the top guide from FishSiam.com, Mr BadBoy.
In true Jimmy Olsen style we communicated via wireless radio signals which bleeped invisibly through the air, summoning each other to the point of action. The texts read:
“Where do you want to fish?”
“You’re the guide, you decide”
“Want to fly-fish or go for catfish and carp?”
“Er… I don’t mind. Where do you recommend”
“Okay. Let’s try to catch a big carp.”
The venue he chose was the same one we’d fished for the catfish last time, Bung San Ram (BSR) Fishing Park. It’s one of the best known of around three hundred commercial fisheries which exist in the Bangkok area alone – that’s considerably more than we have in the London area so as you can safely assume angling for sport is a big business there and it is well supported. Some of these fisheries are put ‘n’ take for the pot whilst others are purely sport fisheries with strict catch and return policies.
Many fisheries are competition venues; it’s possible to enter a competition in Bangkok every day and every night with big prize money at stake, up to £6,000, my guide explained. Sometimes the competition rules revolve around numbers or weight of fish and at other times and at other matches it’s all about the size of the fish. But if you are a successful matchman in the UK don’t think you are going to pop over to Thailand and clean up – there’s a bit of a learning curve to go through first!
The main species we were targeting at BSR were carp. Not the usual common or mirror varieties we have back home but the largest carp species in the world – Siamese Carp; beasts which grow to massive proportions, dwarfing our European specimens. These are those strange goggle-eyed, ragged-finned, half-dragon fish we see depicted on old oriental pottery designs. I really had no idea fish like these existed outside an opium-artist’s fevered dream-state imagination.
The method Bad-Boy employed to fish for them was fascinating; Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy would explain it as: “A Method Feeder Jim… but not as we know it”. And a method feeder cage is indeed employed to carry an immense ball of bait a mere thirty foot distant to a spot we could bait by hand – and we repeatedly did so with melon-sized balls of bait.
The water here is at least thirty feet deep and the lake has a deep layer of silt at the bottom. Bad-boy’s technique is to introduce lots of bait into the same spot so feeding fish create a clear spot where the baited hook is introduced. Except – the hook is not actually baited!
British carpers and users of fake corn etc should be interested in this; the method feeder is loaded with a damp core of flour-like rice-powder. Then layers of much drier feed is built on top of the core – all of which becomes a cloud when it hits the water and there is probably very little bait still on the feeder when it hits bottom. The bare hook is on a very short link but is popped up off the bottom via a few balls of polystyrene with the theory being that the fish try to filter-feed the cloudbait, sucking and blowing and swimming through it with their mouths open like basking sharks catching krill, and getting as much suspended matter into their mouths as possible. The hook is merely one more piece of suspended matter. Runs are not gentle!
Catfish can also be expected using this method but they are considered a nuisance species when BadBoy is targeting the carp – because the carp are not that easy and it’s quite possible for a good angler to fish this lake for several days in a row, employing all the best practice, and still not catch one.
The catfish, however, are so prolific that one is almost certain to catch them – and not just one or two; I probably had at least a dozen in my first few hours, all of which attempted to pull my arms off, none which were under 20lb and many double that weight or more!
Most of the catfish there are Mekongs and are so powerful that stand-up boat rods are essential. After the first few fish I put on a gimbal belt to hold the rod-butt – and I left it on thereafter. When these fish take line, the clutch – tightened enough that it is almost too hard to strip by hand – just spins like it is set at its weakest setting. When I say powerful, I mean it. The only fish I have ever encountered to match these strong fighters are Pacific white sturgeon, cobia and/or tuna.
We put up hammocks and in between catfish we dozed in the shade. We had to build the swim up, my guide explained, and try to keep it baited and quiet. This was his polite way of telling me to play any hooked catfish away from the baited area asap and we did all of that. In between the catfish we dozed and drank iced drinks served by the resident eye-candy in the sweltering heat, as rivulets of perspiration ran down my neck.
Catching big catfish became a task requiring no comments. A run on one of the two rods would cause me to pick up the rod, strike, play the fish out at distance, pump it back where BadBoy would net, unhook and release it. He would then re-bait the feeder for me, I would cast it to our designated spots, set the alarm and await the next fish. (The alarm comprises two small bottles which were knocked over by the line when a take occurred.) After a short while we were doing all this without needing to exchange a word.
We became a two-man catfish-catching machine. We were catching more fish than all the rest of the anglers on the lake put together. Soon we had an audience and a group of idolisers were grilling BadBoy for information. He didn’t just tell them though, he showed them. Using their own rods and reels he re-rigged their end tackle, and spent an hour going through the how, where and why of how to catch fish in this lake. His previously blanking fan club took notice and an hour or so later started to catch fish. BadBoy is a bit of a hero in these parts it must be said.
By mid afternoon the heat had become oppressive. When the falling bottles denoted another take my guide was instantly beside me and very attentive. Something was clearly different.
Whilst I was striking into a fish which was powering away BadBoy was pointing to a huge patch of bubbles: “This is a carp” he told me, “so be very careful.” There were no doubts in his mind and the fish was certainly fighting in a different manner to all of the previous catfish, attempting to reach snags that the catfish had just ignored.
Eventually I had it under the rod top and thought I had it beaten but it went under the jetty on which I was standing, around a timber pillar and took off into the main lake again leaving a bubble trail the size of a truck and me with the rod tip aiming the wrong way!
BadBoy and I crossed our fingers and did what had to be done… We opened the bail-arm and let the fish swim off for a hundred yards, then cut the line, freeing it from the jetty and retied both ends together. I tightened up and was in with a chance again! Sure enough, fifteen minutes later I was cradling the biggest carp I have ever seen.
The photos were taken, high fives exchanged and mission accomplished declared. Then the heavens opened and a tropical storm shut down all fishing for the next hour.
We retired to the fishery restaurant (it’s very civilised here!) to sit out the storm and gloat a bit. By the time we’d eaten and had a beer, the storm had abated and we returned to the rods for the final couple of hours.
To catch a Siamese carp is not quite as easy as some might have you believe, even in this fish-soup of a fishery. So when I caught a second one, half an hour later, the crowds went wild. Well, maybe not crowds per se but at least thirty other anglers came to take photos and celebrate with me…and the second fish was a lot bigger. Nobody weighs fish here, they are all estimated in kilos – but they seemed fairly accurate to me, or good enough for rock ‘n’ roll anyway. The first fish was estimated at 65lb and the second at a rather magical 100lb. This huge fish is of a species capable of attaining weights six times bigger than this. Lex Luthor eat your heart out!
It was an amazing days’ fishing, even by the standards of this prolific fishery. BadBoy was very happy.
“All you need now is a big catfish and you have done as well as can be done”. I looked askance. As far as I was concerned I had been catching big catfish all day. “No, no” he said “I mean a B-I-G catfish!!”
Perhaps there was a pre-arranged diver down there with a huge school of circus-trained fish or something? I don’t know, but five minutes into the next fight, BadBoy told me with narrowed eyes that if this fish, which was currently still stripping line off my spool at an amazing rate of knots, surfaces at the end of the run, then it’s a very big catfish, so take it easy.
It did… And it was.
The knot in the line that was tied during the fight with the first carp plinked through the tip eye time and again during the fight – which was mainly conducted on the far side of the lake. At least a half hour later I panted with relief, as did the crowd behind me when the fish eventually was placed into my waiting arms. With every vein in my body ready to pop I could just about clear the fish’s tail from the floor. I’ll call it 125lb.
Now I need to go and have a lie down. Excuse me.
Postscript: With the greatest thanks to Rick and BadBoy at Fishsiam.com for one of the best days’ both fishing and catching I ever had in over 50 years of holding a rod. Catching fish don’t get any better than this.