Snakehead Blues

Snakehead Blues

Stu | Monday, 25 June 2018

It was a delayed start and I was stuck in Penang, Malaysia, for ten days more than originally planned - I was told that I was too old for laser eye surgery and the cataracts - that have been plaguing me tying flies and tying on small flies for the past two years - were not going to go away; and so they recommend taking out my human lenses and inserting synthetic ones.

It's less than half the price of the cost for the same operation in New Zealand.

"3% of people may have problem" they tell me, as I go back for the third time. Meanwhile, Paul's telling me to hurry up and I'm getting restless too and so I decide that one eye is good enough, and hopefully, before I fly home to start guiding, they will fix the right one!

In my hotel I have all my rods and equipment laying on the bed. My Hot Torpedo, good old "Mabel", is looking a bit sad. I tell her she will be happy soon because she will be feeling the pull of fish again, plus she’s on holiday!
It's all arranged... Paul being the night owl that he is, will drive down from his base in the middle of the jungle and pick me up early in the morning at 3.30am to avoid traffic jams since there are big religious events happening and this is the busiest time of the year.

I decided to have a couple of beers...

... and then a few more, with some other travellers, and have planned to stay awake until 3.30am, to meet Paul in the pre-arranged car park. At 3.25am I send a text message asking where he is and lay back on the hotel bed waiting on an anwser. The force of nature (and beer) immediately sends me to sleep. Suddenly, at 4.45am, I wake up and look at my phone to see that there are 28 missed calls and one text message! I read the text - "where the f-k are you?" I dive out of the hotel and meet Paul... it was probably not the best start to the trip!! Smile

Paul (my guide!) has lots of work to catch up on due to my delays. We head out the first evening and float arond into the darkness. The surface of the water is covered by hundreds of thousands of spent Termites. No Gourami lips break the surface to eat any of dead bodies. Paul can’t believe it! I can!

The next day with a boat full of noodles, chillies, bread and cheese slices and an X marked on a map, I take one of his guide's boats down the lake. Paul has given me a loan of his HT10 all rigged-up and ready-to-go for the Giant Snakehead. The X on the map is a small island, one of many on the lake, I slide my boat ashore and, as I step out of the boat, I notice large holes in the mud; large elephant footprints are heading up towards the same trees where I need to go to hang my hammock. Using my old tracker skills, I realise that the prints are a day old and so I carry on up to the trees and set up my Hammock. I decide to go to bed early, and before I can figure out what's going on, I'm laying upside-down on the ground. The Hammock Paul has given me somehow keeps throwing me onto the ground - I should be upset, though laughing at myself seemed like more fun.

The next day, despite the heavy thunderstorm showers, I sneak around like Jame Bond with a fishing rod. It's been a while since I've actually fished. It's all very exciting. Every now and then a Snakehead would pop up for air. Using Paul's super-fast Snakehead Cast my popper would often land too late - but sometimes, every once in a while, "just-in-time". The pull of a Snakehead is powerful and the quickness of making the shot makes it even more worthwhile when it comes together. With no Paul to help me yet, I struggle. I manage to land two in two days around 1 kilo each, though maybe they were the 10kg I wished! Innocent

I find some strange pink looking blob things moving just under the surface. At first I thought they were some sort of exotic turtles, however as I got closer the babies of mother and father Snakehead could be seen. I blasted out my Popper again and again into the middle of them, waiting for the parents to come flying out from below to eat my fly. It never happened. On one group of quite large sized babies I did see Ma and Pa but they avoided my angry popper too. Only when one of the babies ate my popper did Big Mama come out... and mushed down on her little one. Some may say she was trying to save her young - but that for me did not appear to be the case!

On the fourth night, Mr Sexy himself arrived to come and get me. I told him my Snakehead stories and he quickly told me that I should have waited for the parents to come to the surface to breathe and not to cast into the middle of the young - otherwise the adult Snakehead will know that something's not right.

We headed off for a weekend to the big city of Kuala Lumpur, some 4 hours south, so Paul could train up and help some local fly fishers who are preparing for their MCI exam. It was great to sit there and listen to the guru himself help these people and it was impossible not learn lots from listening. With our bellies full of spicy curries we were soon heading back to the Land of Giant Snakehead. It was getting dark and I thought there was no way we would be in the boats on the lake in the dark. How wrong I was!

I look at my watch, it's 1.38pm and I'm still following the light from Paul’s head torch. The spray from his outboard starts to slow and I also decrease my revs and try to gently ease my boat alongside his, on the orange clay muddy banking. However, instead, I hit the revs and crash into his boat! He was being nice as he looked at me startled but I could see the imaginary think bubble above his head saying "you useless C"! I smiled and said sorry.

I really was not sorry a few minutes later however, when I realised that Paul was going to sleep on his boat and due to my boat, "the Ronan", not being set up to sleep on, I  was going to be sleeping on the island. It had steep banks all around, long grass and one tree - trying to hang my hammock from one tree was not going to work. I would have no choice but to sleep in the long grass along with the brown and black soldier ants with pincers like nail clippers and obviously with the good chance of a cuddle from a local snake!

Paul offered me one of his warm Carlsberg beers to stop me complaining. I settled for nine of them and after the seventh I started to forgive him - after all, he had bought me a coconut and some black bananas for my dinner. He’s been a great guide and host and so I don’t complain - he must know that I'm trying to lose weight - but what really made my night more pleasurable, was that I had mobile coverage and could log on to my Tinder account.

The next day I would love to tell you about but Paul would kill me, but later, I will tell you about it anyway...

Flyfishing Australia