While fishing down the lake...

While fishing down the lake...

Paul Arden | Monday, 23 March 2020

I took Richard fishing for four days on the Battleship. There was no Internet where we were and we wondered what the chances were of the Resort being shut when we returned. About 40% likely was my guess. Ha! The whole of Malaysia is now shut!

So a bit of an emergency ensued where I tried to get Richard over the Thai border crossing before 11pm. Got there in time but five days too lake because Thailand has shut the gates to foreigners.

Depending on where you are in the world, I guess you are having similar lockdowns. Here in Malaysia, the army are on the streets and sending everyone home to watch Netflix, tie flies, have sex or post on the Board. Unfortunately my wife is trapped on an island the other side of Malaysia, so that’s one option less for me. It gives me a chance however to catch up on other things of course. Board registrations for example - which I will be doing after posting this!

Anyway to other exciting news - Richard caught a superb free-riser on his fourth day. The fishing was tough. Normally at this time of year it’s prime-time for BIG adults rearing their young. But this year not really. I think that this is because the Wet Season was far less wet than it should have been - global climate change? Well possibly. That’s two in a row now and weather patterns have certainly changed. The lake is about 6 metres lower  for this time of year than for the first seven years I was here. So that’s my guess.

We saw we few sets of babies. Maybe five total in four days. However we found free-rising activity. I call it “free-rising” because not having babies is freedom, right? So the game here is to find the territory where they are grouped (they are social fish - for sure), hang back and study them. Look for the biggest or alternatively figure out a way to move through the area getting the best shots and spooking the fewest fish. It’s not a wham-bam-thank-you-Toman approach; it’s stealthy.

When they are active - usually 9.30am-12.30pm and again 4pm through time dark (currently ~7.30pm) or if it’s overcast and still, then throughout the afternoon as well. Light drizzle is OK, but rare. In fact it’s excellent. Heavy rain is a killer and you need to switch fish to Gourami after the storm - so when Snakehead are active then they move around the given territory rising every 5-7 minutes to gulp air (this is your shot). After this they then disappear again for 5 minutes or so.

Trying to fish for them deep (they hang around the bottom in 25-35’ of water depth) is generally ineffective and spooks them. (You know they are spooked because they don’t turn down slowly giving a 1-2 second shot; instead they turn down with a splash. You won’t catch these spooked fish). So the trick is to allow them to take air, turn down and then put in a delicate shot landing approx 2-3 feet in front of their direction of travel and bloop enticingly away. If you are quick enough, accurate enough and delicate enough with your shot then 90% eat on the first two pulls.

If you are close but not right on the money then you get a chase out of which about 25-30% actually eat the fly. The rest follow and getting these fish to eat is always a challenge. Better to put the fly in the right place first time. If your shot is wild and you bloop then you probably spook the fish for next time. Tough, very interesting, and because you are never really sure exactly where or when the fish will appear, it’s really exciting flycasting. This is seat of your pants, angle change, finger on the trigger, technical slipped lift shooting shot fly fishing world. It is awesome and like nothing else in flyfishing. Truly - this fishing is unique. Spectacular, challenging like no other, amazing. If you could invent a flycasters fish then this is the one you would create. But you would need acid just to get the idea.

Richard actually had a day where there was maybe 10 (really probably only 8) good possible “money shot” opportunities. But none of the casts went in. Hey man it’s hard. I would like to see Richard up his game so that half those shots go in at least and I know he is capable of this, with a little practise (eh, Richard? :)). But it doesn’t matter, because the big fellow, the one that was moving territory in a free-rising zone, that needed a 90 degree change of angle slipped lift, Belgian style (/aerielised single Spey) 2 second money shot with perfect fly placement (that we had been practising the day before) went in and Richard caught a fucking nice Snakehead. 5.7KG. I think that might be the biggest “free-riser” in my boat. So beers and cheers all round and a very successful trip.

That’s what it’s all about here. One trophy fish. Making it happen. Pulling it out the bag. And upping your game. A wonderful moment.

Battleship is good. Going to take some organisation which I’m going to enjoy creating. I like building and designing stuff. Get the boats organised and get through this lockdown. I don’t expect too many visitors this summer, but we will have to see what happens.

It means I’ll be working mostly on the rod business and planning hard for next year’s trips. But we will just have to see what happens. All the guides I know well at the moment are locked down and many are looking at a six-month period without work. So I will assume the worst and go fishing.

Stay safe. Here’s a joke for Ronan - “why did the Irishman wear three face-masks?” Answers on a postcard.

Cheers, Paul