The lull before the Snakehead Storm

The lull before the Snakehead Storm

Paul Arden | Monday, 18 February 2019

This is the quiet spell on my local water. At this time of year you can cover great expanses of water looking to find only one or two shots at parenting Snakehead in a day. And sometimes you won’t find any. Gourami and Jungle Perch are rarely, if at all, seen at the surface. And free-rising Snakehead are either simply not surfacing at all, or if they do, they surface once and not again.

This is also the hottest time of year. We came out of the Wet Season approximately one month ago and it hasn’t rained since, daytime temperatures can be as high as 38C. The water temperature is still below 30C however (28.9C this afternoon). Free-risers are mostly seen by me when the lake water temperature approaches 32C.

However what will happen, at some point- maybe this week, maybe next, certainly very soon - is that Snakehead babies will appear. Not just one set per day. But a good day will see 8-10 sets - and a blinder of a day; 14 or 15 sets. The smaller the babies the better - the parents have been laid up waiting for them to hatch; now they can feed properly again. Also, the smaller the babies are, the more aggressive can be the parents - and of course if you find them early on, when the babies are small, then they won’t have been hammered. 

Consequently, this can be the best week of the season!

I have about two and a half weeks to go until my guiding season starts. It starts mid March for me and runs right though until the end of July this year (when I head back to Europe for a couple of months). I’ll do another month in October probably and then hopefully head over to Tasmania. 

I haven’t really done much in the way of promotion for guiding/teaching - despite being rather busy. I’m planning to buy a houseboat in April and then will launch the Belum fly fishing website - which I’m currently writing. I now see why most lodges plan two years in advance; everything fills up so fast!

I will maintain it as a low key operation. Despite being such a tough fishery, and maybe even because of it, I feel I could put Snakehead and Gourami more on the map. But my operation is one, or two, or three anglers maximum. It’s not in my interest as to turn this into another New Zealand!

I’ve accidentally screwed specific rivers in the past, Mystery River C in NZ - three guys randomly met there who had discovered the place through Sexyloops. That was year 2000 and caused me to remove all the names from the NZ guide. It took three years to recover from all the pressure that I accidentally placed on that river (it wasn’t just three guys but there were anglers there all the time). Note well: that was 18 years ago and not even a recent “social media” thing. 

I may have inadvertently fucked up a Canadian BC River that Matt Klara and I fished once for Bull Trout some 12 years ago. We never mentioned the river, but it’s since “been found”.

So I will be playing this on the cautious side. A certain increase in fly fishing numbers here would actually be good for the fishing (it’s good for the local economy and possibly we can help protect the fish better - money talks when it comes to the environment), but it’s a difficult balancing act. You have to be careful not to accelerate a decline - and let’s face it, this is the single biggest problem we face nowadays. 

This is one reason I tell everyone that it’s the hardest fly fishing in the world and you probably won’t catch any fish! Yes it helps to manage expectations, it also weeds out a lot of people who I wouldn’t want to take fishing and it helps keep the angling pressure low - but it is also actually true! 


My plans for this week are to be on the lake until Tuesday night, head back to Grik. I’m taking the owner of my favourite Chinese restaurant out fishing on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I’m planning to do some Sexyloops backend stuff and, fingers crossed, revive the old archived Board. Saturday and Sunday I’m going to a fly casting and fly fishing competition in a neighbouring state. 

Lee is pretty much flat out again and has a week or two of custom Hot Torpedo work lined up. I have stock of all standard HT builds here in Malaysia. I suspect in about a month’s time we will be chasing our tails again. It would be nice if orders were steady throughout the year but the world doesn’t work that way! 

Hot Torpedo shirts will be ready and in the post very soon, possibly finished as soon as this Friday. And we will be starting a new competition as soon as they are!

Last year was our busiest year - many thanks for that! This year should be even better and I plan to release a few more models. 

About a month ago Matt asked me if I would write something for Big Sky Anglers in West Yellowstone. I know Justin, one of the owners, having met during my fishing times over there. I was asked to write something about the importance of fly casting skills: 

Nice to see that Justin was fishing with Stuntman Ronan :D 

Hope you all have a wonderful week and I look forward to meeting some of you next weekend. Right, I’m going fishing!

Cheers, Paul