Trouble seems to seek me out and follow me around. For a long while I shrugged this off, I mean I'm a flyfisherman; I was born into this. But this last month, in Thailand, I have surpassed myself.
It was the fan. Not some sex crazed fly fishing bimbo sort of fan (sadly; are there any?) but an electric wall fan. It was an old, run-down grumpy sort of fan, which required much encouragement and persuasion to blow air at you.
For three weeks the fan worked intermittently. However in order to get the maximum blowing effect you had to turn it, so that it faced directly at you and stand with your nose almost touching the casing. It was while I was rotating it in my direction, one afternoon, a catastrophic failure occurred, and the blade hit the casing and shattered most dramatically.
Promptly I turned the fan off and was at once electrocuted.
I took the blade to reception, and woke them up.
'What is it?'
'Your fan blade... it broke'
'I turned it on. It broke. I turned it off. It electrocuted me'.
'We get engineer'
And so I went to the beach, and on my return was presented with an astronomical bill which I naturally refused to pay.
The manager was called.
The manager presented me with the astronomical bill, which I once again naturally refused to pay.
Things got interesting. The manager called the police, my girlfriend called the police, I called the police. Everyone called the police. My girlfriend even went to the police. The police arrived.
Let me tell you about the Thai Police. This is not mean to be clever, it's just an observation; it doesn't matter how fat or thin they are, they all wear shirts two sizes too small for them.
I used to wear stuff that was too tight for me too. Until, that is, some friends took me aside and told me how stupid I looked, and how much they thought I was a dork. And they were right. And ever since then I've been eternally grateful to them for pointing this out and saving me much embarrassment later in life.
I had an uncontrollable urge to help out these two Thai Policemen too, I felt like saying to them 'hey look; I've got a fashion tip that will help you pull those hookers you arrest'. But fortunately I bit my lip and we hung around, waiting for the return of said girlfriend.
We all looked kind of disinterested in a interesting sort of way. Well they did, I wrote 'the vertical winch cast' as part of the series for Fly Fishing and Fly Tying. So you can say to yourself when you read it; 'Paul was being detained by two Thai policemen wearing shirts two sizes too small for them when he wrote this!'
Eventually the girl turned up and we all went to the police station in convoy to meet the big chief.
Patong Police Station
The chief inspector was more portly than the other police, and of course this was obvious right from the start.
Things got complicated and the Tourist Police were called. And we all hung around awaiting their arrival. In Thailand, as in every country I guess, like people tend to stick together. So I twiddled my thumbs and tried sticking my belly out to make my shirt look smaller too.
The Tourist Police arrived, with as much flair and gusto as could be expected from three people wearing ridiculously small shirts. It was explained to me, quite simply, that if I didn't pay for the fan repair I.would be taken to court, and while I waited for the court appearance they would keep me in a Police Jail. They couldn't specify how long this would take, even though 'girlfriend' asked how long this would take. 'Could be weeks, months, years, no-one really knows; Amazing Thailand'.
I rang the British Embassy for advice. 'Pay the fan. They mean it.'
So I promptly did. Indeed I paid so quickly it was frightening. 1000 baht. A brand new fan costs 650 baht, as I discovered later. The most interesting part is than we had already stayed for 3 weeks at 400 baht per night and would have stayed for another fortnight! So they made 1000 baht as opposed to 6000 out of us. As bright as they are friendly.
So if you're ever in Patong Beach, Phuket please drop in to Duangjitt Villa and tell them that you would have stayed there, but you heard that when things go wrong, the shit really hits the fan.
It appears that underwater flyfishing is possible but (of course) completely illegal in Thailand. In order for tourists to go fishing this has to be done from a fishing charter boat. And of course charter boats are not dive boats. This presents a problem. And it's not just a technical problem; apparently the dive operator was nearly closed down a few years back for allowing some people to fish off their boat.
If they put you in jail for breaking an old fan, then can you imagine what they do for underwater flyfishing?
So the flyfishing has been put on hold until I can get to somewhere more lawless, such as Australia. However it wasn't a dead loss as diving is actually a sport in it's own right. Not as exciting as flyfishing of course, but it has it's moments.
Saw some leopard sharks and anemone fishes (quite cute, for a fish) and surprisingly few Trevally. This came as a shock. I expected to find shoals of large hungry trevally down there. I expected the water to be thick with fish. Not only do I believe that all stretches of water contain large amounts of enormous fish and that the only reason I'm not catching them is because they are so busy fighting and eating each other, but the places we went diving were Marine parks for crissakes. In actual fact there are surprisingly few fish down there I'm sorry to say. There are not enough for me let alone all of us to catch.
Which is rather alarming.
Since I've been in Thailand I've learned to drive these strange machines. Let me tell you something,in Thailand you learn fast or die. There is only one road rule; whatever happens the tourist pays. So long as you accept the fact that if you hit someone you will be supporting a Thai family for the rest of your life then you are welcome to drive their roads.
I don't know if you're planning a trip over this way, but let me explain the driving techniques involved as this is a subject which I now, after a few excitement packed weeks, consider myself to be something of an expert.
You can expect near death experiences every 3 or perhaps 4 minutes on the open road, this rapidly increases to 3 or 4 near death experiences every minute in the towns. Cities should be avoided at all costs.
There does appear to be a pattern to the driving. On open stretches of road cars, trucks, tuk tuks and all but the local buses (whose function it is to stop the flow of traffic whenever possible) overtake the mopeds, generally on the right (most vehicles drive on the left - like England; that's nice, but often you can expect to meet an oncoming moped in your lane, on the inside) preceded with a short blast of the horn.
At all junctions, traffic lights and local buses, the mopeds overtake all the other vehicles, preceded with a toot of the horn. The side of overtaking is a fairly random affair. If you can be seen to be actively weaving in and out this is always held in high regard.
At all times frequent use of the horn is encouraged and a blatant disregard for safety is a must.
As a footnote to this, let me give you some advice, never ever let a German be your driver. This goes for cars too. I was passenger in a very thrilling crash on a steep hill where the bike wheelied and flipped over backwards.
I will be back in the UK for 6 weeks starting mid-August. I will be teaching and guiding at Ardleigh during this time and I am currently taking bookings.
The book plug!
Yes, once again I get to plug this little gem of a book for all it is worth (£5 inc UK post). Here is a slice:
The real bitch weather in August is strong winds and bright skies. I usually expect fish somewhere within the top five feet and anchor upwind. Often its a hard slog with the muddler, but intermediate and fry patterns or perhaps the booby trick can be the order of the day. Generally the answer is to work hard. Move around and keep thinking. Failing that, do nothing and hope the wind drops last thing and madly fish the last half hour before dark like there is no tomorrow. If the wind fails to drop by very much the answer is a large muddler trick (try a black muddler), if it drops completely then get ready with the dries, but it could even be a time for the black lure.
Surprisingly perhaps, I used to enjoy August more than any other month. I guess it was the challenge thing. That and you never really know what line you will be using let alone which flies.
Warm wet days are the best ones and the quantity of trout moving near the surface can sometimes be quite extraordinary. It's often small fly work. The best news is that the trout can be in super condition.
Worth coming back for? I'll let you know. But I'm told that winter has already set in..!
A note about emails
There has been problems, especially in Bonnie Scotland, where my emails have been arriving in January. So if you are still waiting for a reply from me, please check your inbox thoroughly. I answer all my mail... even if it's just to say 'piss off, I don't need any more business cards.' You can expect a reply within 24 hrs. At all times.
That's it! I hope you have a good month. I will be expanding the casting tips section within the next 4 to 6 weeks to reflect this last year of feedback and to include comprehensive fault diagnosis as well as US definitions for the casts.
More excitement next month!