Paul Arden | Monday, 4 January 2021

I thought I would write a little about strategy this week. I grew up fly fishing the reservoirs in England and the strategy I’m thinking about is how you go about searching for the fish as opposed to letting them come to you. Quite frankly not only is fishing the same fish-less cast twice in succession rather boring, it’s also a poor approach. There are times when it is the correct approach however, for example if a peninsular is forcing a current that feeding fish must move around, but by and large the more successful option is to divide the water up into sections and work your way logically through them.

Also knowing the sort of water to fish is important too. Temperature, currents, time of year, water levels, food sources are all going to play a part in where the fish will be.  For example on the reservoirs in the UK during Spring the wind is generally warming the water and the fish will be on the prevalently downwind shore, which is where you want to be – as long as the water isn’t too discoloured from wave action. In mid summer it’s the same deal but now the fish are seeking the cooler water and so you want to be upwind. In the Autumn the water in the shallows is often the correct place to be – knee deep water or less – at least until the first frosts.


When I travel around the lake here in Malaysia, hunting Snakehead, I choose a location and motor quietly around every bay carefully searching it all. I have formed defined beats that cover the entire Temenggor lake. Over the course of two years I will visit it all, but as you can imagine it’s not all the same and there are places worth far more fishing attention than others; some beats I’ll fish once/week while they fish well, often over a period of one month to six weeks. Fishing is not just about finding fish; it’s also a process of elimination.


When lochstyle fishing (“lockstyle” for me mostly means fishing off a drifting boat, “over the front” – I do a little lochstyle fishing here for Gourami but it’s really a minor tactic, for stillwater trout of course it’s a major tactic), I’ll run drifts and keep changing drifts until fish are discovered and then of course it’s very important to immediately triangulate your position because often where there is one fish there are more. Trout for example can be in extremely tight shoals at certain times of year. Quickly learning which windlanes hold fish – and which do not – is critical to top water trout fishing (and Gourami for that matter – and let me tell you, there is nothing quite like catching 3.5-5KG Giant Goirami that are feeding in windlanes!! If there is more exciting windlane fishing than this I have no idea what it is).


What there is absolutely never any point in doing, is to continue with the same fruitless approach hoping that things change. You must implement the changes yourself; either with a different drift or using different tactics. When I used to have a regular trout fishing boat partner, one of us would start high in the water and the other deep and we would gradually change tactics until we met in the middle and then we would shift locations. When one method worked the other would immediately change to that method. It goes without saying that you need a boat partner who can remember what he was doing when he hooked the fish! Not only triangulating the position (which you should both do) but taking note of depth, angle cast and the retrieve being used. Being able to duplicate the successful method is the key to sequencing.


Catching only one fish, as far as I’m concerned, especially if it’s a trout, is normally a failure, or out the blue luck. Repeating the method and catching numerous fish in a short time  period is what fly fishing is often about. So don’t relax and have a sandwich! Instead start fishing hard!! Time is of the essence: you’ve found the fish, you’ve found the method, they are on, you don’t know for how long.


An important consideration is what to do when the takes dry up. Have the fish changed feeding behaviour? Moved up or down the water column? Moved location? Or switched off completely? You need to change tactics to try to recover them. There is no point in both sides of the boat making the same changes. But at some point you also need to know when to pull the pin, and start again afresh, on new fish in a new territory. Running over fish that have turned off is a stopped clock. One of the hardest decisions to make in fishing is when to change fish. Leaving fish to find fish is a decision never to be taken lightly and is one of the cardinal sins but at some point you must pull the pin because you are wasting your life.


I’ve always considered trout fishing on Stillwaters to be a three-dimensional game of chess. You need strategy. Change approach in a logical sequence until you locate fish, fishing hard when your are on them, and then find them anew when you are not. There are two fishing methods that fit well to eating sandwiches: dry fly and counting down fast sinking lines, but the rule is when the fish are feeding you are not!


Bank fishing I use a similar approach, being mobile. Move move move. Search the water with searching casts. Make every cast a “shot”. Don’t just fish the water - never fish the water - fish for fish. If you can’t see them, then imagine they are there. “Blind fishing” in hope is a waste of time, just as “going through the motions” is pretty damned dull. Every cast is best taken as if it’s going to put a fish on the line.


This sort of active fishing is hard work. It’s physically hard and it’s mentally tiring. You need to be constantly working and running through the changes. I’m actually usually pretty lazy (you’ll be surprised to hear that I know) and conserve my efforts when the fish are obviously off. There is little point in fishing hard for example on a hot bright sunny midsummer afternoon for UK trout. But I know they will come on in the last hour, so I instead prepare myself for this in order to fish at 110% when the opportunity arises.


I often hear anglers being daunted by large bodies of water. Just break them up into smaller sections and fish through them with purpose. After a while they don’t feel big at all. The lake I currently live on is 80km north to south and it’s a labyrinth. I tell you something though; it’s now starting to feel pretty small.



I’m almost very excited about 2021. This is going to be a great year and surely better than 2020!! I’m hoping/almost expecting, that later this year International travel into Malaysia will be permitted again and I will see some of you here. My plan for this next month is to fish (of course), but also I want to make the Battleship really comfortable for guests. I have some plans involving timber, bamboo and sore thumbs.


Hopefully this year I will get to do my 5 long distance triathlons celebration for turning 50! The TV show should be a blast. Sungai Tiang will be operational as soon as the rivers clear. And, fingers crossed, Ashly and I can spend a couple of months over in Europe late summer/early Autumn.


My New Year’s Resolution this year? To get up a dawn every morning!



Here are my prices for 2021 (the same as last year!). One day with me taking you fishing (and sorting out your casting shots, teaching you how to fish for Snakehead and Gourami, positioning the boat for you and so on) is 500USD/day. You can alternatively take out “The Ronan” which costs 150USD/day/per person (max two people). Both options (you can mix and match) include food and accommodation aboard the Battleship (hammocks, currently one camp bed to argue over, shower, onboard toilet, full flytying kit, a gymnasium... sort of). I can take three people max - that’s pretty tight but certainly doable.  Best is 1 or 2 people. Minimum trip duration is 5 days fishing and 7 is highly recommended - there are no half days in the jungle!


If you haven’t fished here before you most certainly want to have at least one day with me showing you the ropes. Most of my guests spend all their trip having me take them around the lake but the second boat option gives you some flexibility, can make the trip more affordable and of course there is nothing quite like doing it all yourself. We will need to stick close together since I don’t want you to get lost and eaten by a tiger, and at some point during the days we will spend time working on your shots (just after breakfast is generally a good time to practise casting, as is after dark, the middle of the day however is usually too hot to be standing under the sun waving a rod around training). It’s difficult to book anything at the moment with Covid, I know, but I hope later this year life gets more normalised and we can plan something. Who knows?


All the best for this next year!!


Cheers, Paul


PS I’ve had a snakehead every day of the year so far! :)