Krabi newsletter February 2009
Hello once again, and thanks to you all for following this fishing in Thailand series. As I write this newsletter I am in the UK attending fishing shows, meeting up with old friends, getting drunk and freezing my nuts off while in Thailand the heatwave continues. I am sitting here with man flu, feeling sorry for myself, and counting the days ‘til I can return to paradise. In Krabi temperatures are at their highest ever recorded level. The stream that skirts the lake is actually dry for the first time in memory - no one in our village has ever seen this stream run dry, as southern Thailand experiences the hottest February ever recorded. The jungle that surrounds us has changed from its usual lush green to brown. Luckily we have seven natural springs that feed the lake, and although they are running very slow they are helping to slow the lake dropping to a record low level. We are pumping water into the lake from our well and a spring next door, but with all my gardening staff watering our seven-acre gardens daily we are fighting a losing battle. Even George the tortoise is struggling; he can’t be bothered to trek from the shade on the top of the hill down to the lake, so the other day we took some water to him, and he actually drank 3½ litres of water without stopping, just like Sean with his Singha beer! Talking of George he has been having jogging races with fishing guide John. It’s not a fair contest though as George wins every time! Sean, Kevin and Gollock have taken advantage of a slow down in clients to build a rock barrier on the bungalow side of the lake to stop erosion, and the gardeners have backfilled to the rocks and replanted some creeping plants, so as these grow the rocks will get hidden. Actually the plants grow faster than old John walks!
It’s strange; arapaima are such inquisitive fish. Every day the lads are working on the stones the arapaima hang motionless behind them watching the proceedings. Helmet our dog thinks all this is put on just for his entertainment, so he pounces on the arapaima, the water explodes, and they come back for more as if it’s a game. If they wanted to they could surely kill him with one swipe of the head. The arapaima have been slow feeding this month; they hate the hot conditions, but every time some wind and clouds came over or a brief rain shower they had a short feeding spell. The red tail catfish have also been slow this month due to shedding their skins to make way for new growth. I wish I could do the same as I keep growing, but I have to buy new skins! As the heat continues more bird life is appearing as all the surrounding waters dry up. We seem to have an abundance of water birds fishing here, double the amount of cave swallows are coming to drink, and some days the air is black with them. These are the birds that make nests with their spit, which makes the famous bird’s nest soup, so next time you are tucking into your spittoon of soup, bear in mind it was made thanks to Gillhams and all that fish poo! Talking of these swallows our Chao Phraya catfish have sussed out an easy food source, prowling just under the surface, lining up an incoming swallow, then wham, in an explosion of water Mr Swallow is no more! I have been thinking of tying up some imitation swallows - imagine casting those at the Chao Phraya, now that would be exciting!
We have also had an increase of hummingbirds visiting our flowers, which are flourishing due to the gardener’s continuous watering. Our top stock pond, which backs onto jungle, is being visited by all sorts of four-legged creatures, the strangest looking being an armadillo that crept in as darkness fell. All this activity, along with fish rolling, is missed by some individuals who sit in the swim covered in sun cream getting a tan while they go through the chore of waiting for a huge fish to pose with. They don’t know the depth of the lake in front of them, or anywhere else come to that. Just casting blind then putting their headphones on whilst reading their latest Beano annual as they wait for their 300lb deserved prize to hook itself. Why do some guys fly 7000 miles, pay hard-earned wonga, to arrive here and never even walk around the lake, or watch for signs of fish, and not even looking at the wildlife - they are content to just plonk their butt in the nearest swim to their bungalow, then complain how slow the fishing is, even though they never change their bait or fishing position. These same guys then proceed to moan as they say there are no fish showing, when we prize the head phones off them and toss the comic in the flower bed, we show them fish rolling and flat spots where a fish has just rolled under the surface, the flat spot is beyond their comprehension, as if you throw your ice cream wrapper into the water it produces the same effect! But when you show them a two-metre monster rolling, or a huge carp head and shouldering out of the water they tell you they have just started showing. The same guy bristles with enthusiasm when you tell him to look up at the fish eagle circling the lake this produces the enthusiastic response of, “Oh, are they special, then?” At this point I normally sod off to my office to watch the fish rolling in front of the prats while they get back to their comics. These same guys will be shown huge carp head and shouldering and crashing out at the opposite end of the lake, where the new wind is blowing into the bank, but upon being asked, “Why don’t you move on those fish, the reply is, “I am waiting for them to move to me” - oh god, help us! Even when they are in the correct spot by chance, with the wind coming to them, you can show them the colour change as waves wash the margins and create a feeding area within three meters of the bank, but the response is, “Yeah I see ‘em, but I baited up over there, and don’t want to miss them when they come to me!”
At the end of the trip they have still managed to fluke out a couple of 100lb fish, probably ten or more fish around 30 to 60lb, and as is normally the case a 200lb undeserved beauty, only to complain about how disappointed they were with the slow fishing, and how lucky that guy was who kept moving, recasting and checking the lake contours with the plumbing rod – the guy who actually fluked three times more fish than they did! The most annoying difference is this poor bugger didn’t get a deserved 200lb-plus fish. End result - the fisherman rebooks, and the nerd never comes back - good! Why do some people not listen to our guides, who are here 24/7 handling big fish day in day out. We farm our own fish and spend days and months studying them, so why not listen? We had one guy arrive this month whose whole time was spent trying to prove us wrong. When told the swim in front of his bungalow was not producing in the heatwave conditions, he spent the next three days fishing there, but hey he had one, so I suppose it was one-nil in his pea-sized brain! He had caught one arapaima at another Thai lake before, which made him an expert on them, and after two days of listening to him telling us we had it all wrong about them, I avoided him, and Kevin and Sean tried not to speak with him. John didn’t mind, because the prat was never going to catch much, so John could sleep by him all day and just nod in agreement with him. The final straw for me was when the said fishery expert, upon seeing me walk around the lake with Helmet the dog, decided to try and wind me up. Upon being told I had just had some bad news and wanted to be left alone, he chose to tell me that the fish were not feeding because the lake was too hot due to being only 1½ metres deep. The shallowest part of our lake is three meters - we know because we dug it. If the doughnut had bothered to check the depth, he would have soon discovered this. Better still why did he not put on some lead boots and walk over the lake to prove his theory! The same guy got upset because he couldn’t use barbed hooks or bring his own fish to the lake for bait. When asked if he had read the rules, his comment was he thought they were wrong - so why did he come? He also wanted to groundbait with kilos of dead fish he was going to buy at the supermarket. I told him that in Thailand some unscrupulous fishermen use formaldehyde instead of ice on their catch, which would kill our fish - we only buy our fish off one lady who owns 20 fishing boats that all go to sea with ice on board. I also told him that as the fish were not feeding very well that loads of bait put in by him and the other fishermen would stuff the fish and stop the few feeding ones being caught. His reply, “Well don’t let the others do it, just me,” was enough for me. I spent the rest of his holiday joining the others in avoiding him and praying he would blank or better still drown! We had a nice quiet fisherman from Norway in who was unfortunate enough to be fishing next to him, and he summed the guy up with on word - prick! ‘Nuf said and onto the fishing.
16 anglers came for fishing holidays in Thailand, and 17 came on day trips. Between them they caught 460 fish of 20 species, made up as follows… 32 arapaima to 360lb, eight alligator gar to 25lb, 41 Amazon red tail catfish to 60lb, two arawana to 7lb, one Asian red tail catfish of 20lb, 11 black pacu to 30lb, one big head carp of 20lb, six Chao Phraya catfish to 60lb, one Giant feather back of 18lb, one giant gourami of 14lb, one giant stingray of 120lb, seven Julian’s golden prize carp to 30lb, nine Mekong catfish to 160lb, two migul to 15lb, seven rohu to 15lb, six spotted feather back to 10lb, 302 Siamese carp to 110lb, seven striped snake head to 5lb, 11 spotted sorubim to 35lb, four shovel nosed tiger catfish to 20lb.
The first of the Thailand fishing holiday guests was Ian Roberts, who managed 22 fish of five species for his five-day stay. He managed the target arapaima, plus a couple of nice Chao Phraya catfish. Then Bob Armstrong and Dave Cook arrived, who bought their wives Carol and Sue with them. The girls were pleasantly surprised by the facilities and surroundings at Gillhams, as it was such a change from the French carp fishing holidays of the past, swapping a bivvy for an air-conditioned bungalow, mud for lawns and tropical gardens, puddles for a swimming pool, and a stove for a top class restaurant. Sorry lads - the French trips are things of the past – it’s Thailand from now on! Between them they landed 90 fish of five species in their two-week stay fitted in between sightseeing, shopping and chilling around the pool, both getting their target arapaima, Dave landing five to 230lb, whilst Bob landed three to 200lb. They both had a rare shovel nose tiger catfish, along with plenty of Siamese carp up to 60lb, which fell to Bob’s rods.
Another spot-on fella was returning client Alistair, who started the banter going by saying John the fishing guide looked like that bloke Christie of 10, Rillington Place fame. All week the saying was, “It wasn’t me, Christie done it,” in a fine Welsh accent just like Christie’s lodger Evans! Alistair sacrificed numbers of fish in the hope of a whacker, sitting it out at the mouth of the bay, tucked up behind a reed bed, waiting to ambush his target big arapaima, and boy did he achieve the target, with a fine fish of 360lb, which was actually a spawned-out fish that earlier in the year was hitting 400lb, but who’s bothered when they are that size? He still ended up with ten fish for the week, including his target species with two arapaima. Then came the one and only ‘speak before the brain is in gear’ Peter from Spain. Peter brought his long-suffering wife, and husband and wife non-fishing next-door neighbours, who all loved the tranquillity and beauty of Gillhams. He desperately wanted an arapaima, but wherever he fished, once he moved from the swim, one came out! Even on the day he left, an hour later the swim he vacated produced a pair of arapaima! He did manage 19 fish of five species for his six-day trip, topped of by a fine Mekong catfish of 160lb. Poor old whinging Peter thought Gillhams was expensive, as he was off to, in his words ‘a great Thai fishery that was only ten quid a day.’ We heard when he got to the said puddle, stocked with minnows, he checked out and obviously realized the difference between paradise’s and hell’s prices. One thing’s for sure, in this world you get what you pay for - see you next year, Pete? Our new regular ex-pat Warren from Hua Hin, six hours north of us, came for two days earlier in the month, taking 28 fish in two days of four species with 22 fish on his second day. He returned for a four-day trip to fish Siam carp, which are his favourite fish. Now Warren fishes the pond by his house in Hua Hin that Peter travelled to after us, so alarm bells should have rung for Peter when he found out that Warren travels to us for good fishing. Warren rubbed salt in the wound by taking a 160lb arapaima from the first swim Peter fished. The four days were not so kind to him on numbers as last time, but with 16 fish during this visit, he had his favourite Siamese carp to 50lb on the Gillhams special boilies, but really pissed Peter off when he said he would have swapped the arapaima for a Mekong catfish. Never mind - the good thing about living over here is fellas like Warren can return when they like, and he is already booked for another four days in March to try for his big Mekong plus he is after upping his 50lb PB carp.
Too many fishermen to mention them all, sorry for that guys - I know some of you like to see what we write about you, but at least if we haven’t you didn’t do anything I can take the pee about! But I must just mention the silver fox Dave along with Jim and Mark who came for a week. Dave and Mark started off a bit wobbly, and we thought they were going to be a problem, but it all sorted out fine once they got to grips with the lake and accepted it as the lake it is, where dreams come true with huge fish, but they don’t give themselves up easily. Gillhams isn’t a numbers water; it is a specialist angler’s location. We always tell everyone who comes here it isn’t a fish a chuck, but for big fish in stunning surroundings it is the best location on the planet - our lake isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard. Now David claimed silver with his arapaima, a pup at 70lb, but the Siamese carp fishing exceeded his dreams when he landed 21, with a couple at 50, and 60lb topped off by a stunning never caught before dark fish of 110lb. Mark landed a nice pair of arapaima from the swim Spanish Peter left at 160 and 170lbs, along with 18 other fish of four species. The third man in the group, Jim, just enjoyed Gillhams for what it is from the off. He caught his target arapaima on his first day, one of the home grown babies at 50lb, stating that the fish had made his holiday. He went on with a fine show of dedication to the cause after going out on the razzle on my birthday. We took a group of 20 to the local curry house, ordering the grub for 9pm 24 hours in advance, and bless the Indians they did manage to serve us all by 11pm, leaving the partying time short. Most of us returned to the fold by 2am, but Sean and Jim went for it big style and came staggering home at the crack of 8.30am. Jim had a big fry-up, then went and cast out in a quiet corner of the lake, where he proceeded to fool the arapaima into a false sense of security by pretending to be asleep. This feat of angling was rewarded with a fine 250lb arapaima, after which Jim retired and slept on his laurels for the day! Sean on the other hand slunk off into the trees to find George, and then slept behind the palm trees for the day, thinking I wouldn’t notice! Before Jim left he booked a six-week trip over Christmas - top man Jimbo!
Another thing I must mention is “I will give a £100 tip for an arapaima” Neil. There was something else he said he would do, but I cant mention that in a newsletter read by normal people, so all I will say on it is I am glad he doesn’t honour his promises! Neil came for a day, then a week, and has even returned for two days this month before returning home. He has booked another trip, so I won’t give him too much stick. For an ugly bloke he had a very pretty partner, Kim, who gave up her beach holiday and visiting romantic places to listen to Neil talking arapaima onto the hook. He finished up with four arapaima to 150lb, plus a few other nice fish including one of the much sought after Julian’s Golden prize carp of 25lb. Phuket Ross made a return two-day trip, and caught his sought after arapaima at 120lb. Siam fishing tours client Martin Fisher took the award for the fastest arapaima when he arrived, and on his first cast, within three minutes, landed a stunning 220lb arapaima, and he ended his trip with another of 190lb. Unluckiest angler must go to Alan, another ex-pat from Pataya, who came for four days and blanked whilst fish came out all round him. Not put off, he stated he wouldn’t leave ‘til he got his arapaima. Through no fault other than bad luck, he had several arapaima shed the hook, but on his sixth day the dream came true for him with a 150lb arapaima, after which he still stayed four days, taking 27 fish on his last few days of six species, so it all came good in the end. Top day ticket rod must go to Andrew from Sweden who came for a day but fished three days, taking two Mekong catfish to 110lb, plus his second 100lb species, an arapaima, just scraping the ton! Now that’s a sign of the quality here when we have scraper one hundred pounders! Andrew also had some fine red tail catfish and Siamese carp during his day trips, and is another satisfied customer planning his return trip.
Space is running short, so sorry if you failed to make the newsletter, but thank you for visiting us. For all our Dutch friends and clients make a date to see us at the Visma show on the last weekend of March. We are on Fish-24 Gold Label Tackle stand, so book at the show, pay your deposit, and receive a 10% discount on the total cost of your holiday. Anyone booking holidays for June to October 2009 ask for our low-season discount. Don’t forget to visit www.gillhamsfishingresorts.com or phone to book your holiday of a lifetime in paradise on +66861644554. Thank you all for your support and reading my ramblings, and watch out for next month when Gillham once again has a moan up, and reviews his trip to Europe. Best wishes from Stuart, Sean and all the gang at Gillhams.
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