Out of the wilderness

Out of the wilderness

Paul Arden | Saturday, 29 January 2022

I’m back out from Sungai Tiang. I spent five days fishing with my good friend Juan Wei (who guides for Sailfish on Fly out of Rompin, as well as hosts other Flyfishing trips in SE Asia). It was Juan’s first trip to this river and the first time they’ve had a guest.

The real test for this trip however was to assess how practical it would be to pull a whitewater raft upstream, behind the angler/s with all gear, in order that one could raft out at the end of the trip and fish without carrying a pack. There are lots of really good reasons for having a raft, not least the ability to float someone out quickly if there is an accident! Fingers crossed this will never happen but we are pretty remote and have to be prepared.

It was a success! Albeit we discovered that it takes three persons to pull the raft upstream through rapids and not two as originally planned. This gave me some excellent exercise and some enjoyable moments!! I actually enjoyed these days as much as I would fishing from the front — and we caught fish at the back too.

So that’s the plan now. To get some whitewater rafts and open up as soon as possible. Unfortunately it’s still not possible to travel to peninsular Malaysia, where we are located, because of Covid travel restrictions, however anyone in Malaysia can now come fishing and after Chinese New Year we hope to see people… finally!!!

Juan has a smaller “6 person” raft he is very kindly donating to the project. If you know of a 8 person whitewater raft anywhere in the world for sale then please let me know. Currently we cannot find any second-hand in Malaysia and new ones that I have researched so far, take until next year to deliver!!! We really need something now.

What we have now organised if 5 camp spots up the river, giving a maximum of 6 days fishing (7 if you include the rafting out, and you can raft-fish in parts). The plan is to charge 500USD/day for one person all included (after arriving at Banding Jetty or Belum Rainforest Resort). It’s possible to do less than 7 days and of course I am based close to here myself, so a combined Sungai Tiang and Snakehead trip with me is entirely possible. Ultimately my suggestion is $500/day for one person and $750/day for two people sharing. However I’m also suggesting that, while travel restrictions are in place, and while the guides are still finding their feet, that this year they charge $500/day for one and two people sharing.  I think that’s a very fair price, considering you get a guide at the front and three people doing all the hard work of pulling a raft upstream behind you. You have exclusive access to the river and the raft trip out is fun!!

The fish are bigger now, through the conservation closure of this river. Two years ago a Copper Mahseer of a pound was a good one. Now I’m seeing 1KG and even 2KG fish. I also saw some larger Red Mahseer (4KG, possibly more) but we didn’t get these. Juan had some Jungle Perch but not the really BIG ones that appear like  ghosts in the river and disappear again. These may be as large as 5KG, which is a huge Jungle Perch. My biggest so far was approx 2KG (unweighed).

As far as methods go, I’m still putting it together. I now think the “Hedged Bet” NZ approach is the way to go, ie the Hopper/Dropper approach that one would use in Montana. Two or even three flies. The Dries have to be on strong hooks. I did well this trip with a size 10 and 8 Elk Hair Caddis. Juan had some bigger Tengas (Copper Mahseer) on a Chernobyl Ant. But, equally important, dropping fly size can make a difference. But remember — strong hooks! Everything up to the eat reminds me of trout. Everything after the eat is much more powerful; they are perhaps three times as strong as trout. And, I don’t know why, but they can be quite challenging at times and determined to ignore everything!! That certainly reminds me of trout!!!

For the nymphs they seem to want small flies. 14s. Maybe 16s and 18s. But strong hooks and strong tippets present a problem with small flies. But this is where I will be experimenting next and I shall be tying flies accordingly. Lars sent me a kick-net for sampling the river and the only kicking I did this trip was myself for forgetting it.

For the Kelah (Red Mahseer) this is still an unknown. I suspect streamers are the way to catch these fish. Weighted Bunnies or String Leeches. I saw some big ones in a pool at the end of the fourth day. I would like more time to set about these fish. It’s also possible big stonefly nymphs; there must be stoneflies, but I haven’t seen any. More kicking of myself.

For the Jungle Perch I stripped a Popper which has worked in the past. This time most chased and didn’t eat. One did eat but didn’t set. Juan had a reasonable one on a streamer. What I would do here, is a smallish popper say size 6, Pencil Popper 3 inches long, and then run a trailing streamer behind this.  Say a Bunny Cat’s Whisker or something less in-you-face, and hope that only one fish eats at a time!!! Certainly needs experimenting.

There are a LOT of fish upriver. We filmed loads of video with several GoPros and some Drone footage too. This weekend I shall attempt to make a movie.

A wonderful trip with river guides, Khairul, Hassan and Aman. Always great company. I’m hoping to teach these guys to be FFing Snakehead guides too. When I have guests there are times that I need a second guide and of course in five years time my plan is to leave here and sail the world. I’m sure they could take my place then by running Snakehead FFing trips on the lake.

Anyway more about the river on Tuesday when I have a bit more time to construct a better FP. If you are in Malaysia and want to fish here over the next few months (come before the Dry Season ends, in fact the sooner the better!) then email me on paul@sexyloops.com — also if you know of any rafts available please get in touch! I have a very busy time coming up organising for them. It will be fantastic to see this project start to make money. It truly will change their lives and those of the village where they live, and of course it’s the start of C&R FFing-only trips to SE Asia and that has to be great for fish and river conservation.

I’m actually looking for a fly sponsor to give the guides complete fly boxes for their clients. If you have any connections then please pass them on. They will get excellent promotion and of course it’s a very worthy project in its own right. What I love most about it, is that FFing is making a difference to people’s lives while protecting the river.

Have a nice weekend!

Cheers, Paul