Gourami are known in these parts as Kalui - which is their Malay name and reminds me off a drink I once knew. Last year I was fishing Temenggor and asked Mr Ti about them. He told me, that while he had caught a few on stocked private ponds, they were considered an impossible fish to catch! So I did what everyone else would do, given the same circumstances, and set about catching them! At that time I could occasionally see them rising (because they were eating ants from the surface) and shortly after that, I landed one on a size 16 Ant I had tied on the boat that same day.
I did lose three others to catch this one however, and up until last Thursday I still had only landed one out of now, eight hooked - the others smashing me in submerged structure. These are big fish too, the average one I see is over 8lbs and I've seen fish to 20lbs plus! They fight hard, fast and strong, growing to 15KG in this region, the size of a medium sized suitcase that you might take on a plane with you, if you're a woman, and there is no question that even the double figure fish eat surface flies.
I've seen them eat ants, termites, duns, spinners, weed and figs! They can be incredibly hard to spot, being a shadowy brown sort of colour in jungle green coloured water. However right now they are giving their presence away by kissing tree stumps! At first I didn't know what this was. Maybe it was catfish? That's what one guide told me. However, I didn't think so. I thought it was Gourami eating shrimps, but the stumps didn't reveal much in the way of shrimp life. It's around but didn't merit this sort of sucking noise. So I figured that they must be eating the weed/algae attached to the stumps.
I now know that this is 100% true, having watched it many times since. So I questioned myself whether they would take a well presented dry fly? This is not easy as it happens. We have a couple of problems here, the first being that they are not easy to convince under any circumstances and the second is that even if convinced and they eat the fly, they then go totally ballistic.
If you've been following my progress in these parts you'll know that I've switched over to braided tippet. This is an experiment to see if it gives me more of an opportunity to land them. The braid gives dry fly presentation problems... 35lb braid, which is the lightest I have at the moment, is not exactly invisible and it floats! It's a bugger to sink and basically stands out like dogs' balls. It does seem to absorb water after a while and with constant muddying and cursing it can be sunk eventually, but it's a pain. Apart from which it's overkill; I'm using an SA DT line that pops at 20-25lbs according to Bruce who knows these things (it's a 4wt!). I'll have both these problems sorted out very soon with 20lb Braid arriving with Ashly, courtesy of Nick Ooi at Tacklebox in KL. Thanks Nick! Really op bloke and a shop you definitely want to visit if you're passing through KL. Hell you might even meet me there, but don't let that put you off.
On Thursday evening I hooked and landed a 4.4KG Gourami. This is my second in the net now. On Saturday evening I lost yet another fish, this time slightly smaller, after a ferocious struggle. 3/4 of the way through the fight I lost the fish when the hook pulled! It had been a pain-in-the-arse shot to begin with, I'd followed its stump-kissing progress from trunk to trunk, on low electric motor battery, desperately trying to get upwind. A difficult shot appeared, into the wind, which I executed perfectly (of course) but the problem was, once the line had landed I could see absolutely nothing - not the fly, not the fish, not even the line, because of reflected light. And then I noticed some subsurface disturbance - the bloody fish had eaten the fly without me knowing! Somewhat mis-timed, I struck and set the hook but I reckon this is why I ultimately lost the fish, although I did bring him to the surface twice. I don't know if I struck too early or late.
Thursday's fish was also a bit interesting. I heard him kiss the tree, so I belted over as fast as the electric motor would allow, and could see him perfectly lining himself up again for another mouthful of weed. In went the shot and the fish came over. After inspecting the fly for a very long time he ate it, but wasn't there when I struck! Nothing! The fish was still there - amazingly - and after a small delay I threw in another shot. He ate it again, this time I waited, not a big NZ brown trout wait, more of a reservoir Floating Fry wait... and struck! That's when he went ballistic...
I really believe I'm going to open up this species. I know I can catch them. They're not the impossible fish as many believe - difficult yes - but with the right fly they'll eat and with the right tippet and a real hard fight they can be landed. In an evening session I should be able to catch at least one, I reckon - there you go, let's see if I can make that happen. Landing them is always going to be tough. I need to up my game - as I have been! Flies I've been downsizing. Hooks have to be strong. These are wild, native Giant Gourami on dry fly. What an awesome species!
Here's what I think I know: They want smallish dries, smaller than you think, probably smaller than I think. They take a very long time inspecting them, and an incredibly long time eating them - it's not your "God Save the Queen" Strike - it never is - this time it's a whole verse of Motorhead's "God was never on your side" - and some of the chorus line too - just to be sure. Gourami appear to want absolutely no fly movement - dibbling the fly hasn't worked for me and I've tried it many times. They will however move for a fly that lands like a thistledown a foot or 18 inches away from them. Land it with a plop and the fish simply disappears.
When you do hook up you need to point the rod at them and really stick them. With my first Gourami success I got lucky and thought I'd kept him at the the surface through skill, but actually I now think I just got lucky. They are going to run hard and beat the crap out of your tackle. You can expect line burns on both hands and everything else that gets in the way. If you can play them to open water then you should land them.
Anyhow I've only landed two so far!!! So you can take all this with a pinch of salt - I'm just letting you know where I am with this now. Hooked ten, had about twice this number of refusals when actually trying for them, had umpteen refusals with poppers when not. It's only a start I know, but I know something else... It's all about to happen!!! Give me another 100 fish and I might know something more about them.
And you thought Snakehead were interesting!
"What about the Jungle Perch?" I hear you ask. I still haven't set about these yet. Maybe next month when the rains start to set in. That's prime-time, apparently. But for now I want to make some more headway with the Gourami and press on with sinking line tactics for Toman. I've been flytying today with this in mind. It turns out that you can buy 5-minute epoxy that mixes grey. I didn't know this. Maybe that's what the fish want...
Cheers, PaulPS Good stuff on the Board! Glass resurgance, Almost Braid, Gary Borger's Triple Shoot, Leaders for trout fishing, Reading the Line.
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And finally... This week we have a new writer joining the FP team and taking on the Thrusday slot. Alex Vulev from Bulgaria.