Success with Snakehead!

Success with Snakehead!

Paul Arden | Tuesday, 29 August 2023

I had a fantastic guest last week for six days, from Aussie. Peter; a really nice chap, multiple HT owner – 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 – and a CI who I was helping prepare for the exam via Zoom during lockdown. Also, because we knew he was coming, we worked on the “Snakehead Shot”.

Peter did fabulously well. This is an incredibly hard fishery. Normally I call it a “one fish a day fishery” but for new guests coming first time, it’s really a “one fish a week fishery”, and 50/50 at that!

Typical is 3-4 “money shots”/day – and while we had that every day, we didn’t have anything much more. And while Peter didn’t put every shot in first time, he really made it happen and the first time the fish knew there was a fly, it was in exactly the right place and at the right time (ignore some of his words of wisdom below!!).

I want to try to pass on my observations so that you too, should you come here, get to experience the wonderful moments that Peter and I had. We had 5 fish in the boat, and lost 5-6 others. One broke, one snagged and a few failed to hook. Pretty serious stuff. The largest was 5.7 kilos. An outstanding fish. One free-riser landed. The rest were off babies, although the first might as well have been a free-riser the way it came up, and a number of other free-risers were hooked and others followed and refused.

Peter also made one shot that was truly electric – one of the best shots I’ve seen here; the sort of shot where you want to rip off your shorts, stick them on your head and run around whooping in the jungle – and that’s just if you observe it… It deserved a fish and it got one. Peter got better and better as the week progressed. I’m sure that catching a fish early-on helped. It wasn’t the first day, but the second. There was another day without fish to the boat, but on the final “big fish” day, Peter had two. Both large and an absolute blinder of a day in anyone’s boots.

If you are going to come here, then the “slipped lift” absolutely needs to be ingrained. It’s very different to how we normally cast. You need to be able to slip a popper from 2m of flyline out the tip, taking your time, being deliberate, *touch* the line, shoot, preferably “slide load” and fire to the target, checking the shoot. You should be able to comfortably hit targets (to within a foot and a half) up to 18 meters this way.  For a “sitter” you have two seconds.

The drill is to see the fish, pick where you want to place the fly, have an imaginary target bell in your mind, 180 degrees away from the front target and make the slip, cast, shoot – to back target – slide, cast, shoot, check shoot – to front target. Learning this stuff, while here, won’t work and it needs to be ingrained before you come. Fine-tuning we can do. It takes 2-3 months of training, minimum.  Then you are in the game.

Next time Péter comes I hope he does it all, for at least some of his trip. Takes out “The Ronan” and fishes by himself. So far there is only one other person who has learned to do this effectively; Flavio (George and Declan are very close). Flavio has spent three or four months here, a fair bit guided by me, and then a lot of time on his own. Ultimately my goal is to teach people to do this; then we can both fish in separate boats, have fun talking over the walkie-talkies, and both stick a lot of fish. Perfect!!

It’s a long way round to making fishing buddies happen I know, but it takes a certain type of mad person to want to do this on their own. I should know!






Here are some wise words from Peter:


The things i'll work on for my next trip

  • Practice the snakehead shot with 10ft 40lb straight through leader. I found it much more difficult to turn over than the tapered leader I practiced with here.
  • Practice on water with a 1/0 largemouth popper. I found this was a lot harder than practicing with a bit of fluff. You have to make the slip lift much slower than with a bit of fluff and this makes it harder to get the linespeed required to get a heap of line in the backcast. It's also a lot more difficult to lay the leader out straight without it collapsing 
  • Practicing changing large angles quickly. Including behind you. The 'bell' on the backcast helped me with the direction of the forward cast
  • Practice short to long. It's really the 'long' that is difficult when you start with a short length of line out of the rod tip. Most of my fuck ups were short. Most of the time my fuck ups were in the right direction but landed short of the target. I will practice getting a lot more distance from a short length of line. Most of the time I was saying to myself that I just needed another couple of feet. You need to get a lot of line into the back cast and I can see you use your wrist for this.
  •  I found my fly lines also to be very 'sticky' there and harder to shoot than here. I don't know if that was the temp or that they seemed to get really dirty very quickly but you need to clean them a lot i think
  • It's quite unpredictable where the fish will rise and this is probably hard to simulate in practice. I think this is the fun of snakehead fishing and makes it exciting
  • Practice a lot more off-shoulder. 


I felt it really is about getting the distance from a short length of line. For me it's all about getting enough line into the first backcast. Watching you, I realised that you certainly use your 'wrist snap' to accelerate the line to shoot more line into the backcast. When I got enough line into the backcast, the forward delivery cast became much easier. I will really practice getting a shit load of line into the backcast


Tip 1 - Take your time and get the fly in the right place even if you think it'll be too late !! Quite often it isn't too late.

Tip 2 - Be patient and use 'Teaser Shots' -  Sometimes it takes a couple of shots to get the fish ready to eat. These early shots are called 'teaser shots'. You make a number of short shots that are just out of reach of the fish. This gets the fish worked up so that when you get a shot right in it's face it doesn't miss the opportunity to smash the fly. The fish doesn't know when it'll get another chance at the fly as there could be another 5 x short shots coming !!! This tactic works a treat !! P.S. If the boatman puts the boat close enough to the fish just cast straight at the fish as you won't need any 'teaser' shots

Tip 3 - You can catch both parents on a set of babies !!



Haha!! Please ignore Peter’s tips 2&3!!!

Train to put it in first time and they will all (almost/90%) eat!! The more often you can do this, the more fish that will come to the boat.  I expect to put 90%, on the money, first time. Anything over 50% is seriously good here and ups your odds considerably. If I don’t make the money shot first time, then I am serious pissed with myself. This is the one thing that we CAN control. And we should do everything we can do learn and improve it. Peter’s hang-on-to-your-shorts shot was amazing. That’s what you want to be doing as often as you can. Those are the shots that this fishery is about. Right there, that’s the top of the mountain.


The Malaysian Ironman is coming up rapidly. October 7th. So no more guiding for me I think until afterwards. Just Zoom casting lessons, IM training and personal fishing. After that, and until the end of the year, I expect one guest trip per month. I can fit in two, maybe, but I won’t do any more than that because I also want to fish hard myself during this time. And besides, I have a hell of a lot of online casting coaching going on too at the moment.

Next year I’ll need to decide whether to wind down the coaching and increase the guiding or vice versa. I might do alternate years of dominance for the next three years, while I’m here!

I expect to host guests while sailing too, but by this point we won’t be hosting many new guests; and will stick with those I know. I already vet people pretty hard before bringing them here! I think all guides do that. If not, they should!

I had a great time fishing with Peter. If you get a chance to fish with him, or to learn from him, then you should take it. It’s always nice to meet a kindred spirit.

Have an awesome week!

Cheers, Paul