Monday, December 30, 2013

Diving with Scubacats

Dec 27th and we were diving with Phuket Dive Company Scubacats. Our day started at 0800 as we travelled down the very long pier at Chalong on the 'Pier Buses' to our dive boat where members of Scubacat's staff were waiting to welcome us aboard. The intention was to dive three sites around Racha Yai which is a large island about 15 miles south of Phuket. But, just as in UK, it is windy here with pretty choppy seas. The dive programme was rearranged so that all 3 dives would be in sheltered waters in  palve called Bungalow Bay. This was obviously a disappointment to some of the divers who had dived there the previous day because of the prevailing weather conditions....but it was great for our little group who were looking forward to good visibility and a warm (30 degrees!) sea.
 Scubacat are clearly following a theme as here is our Thai Lady Dive guide....Tabby! And of course she'd added the ears to look the part. Since the Tsunami in 2004, many Thai people have been encouraged to become involved with the diving industry and it's great to see how many have made it to Dive Master and are working on the Dive boats. This is a great leap forward for the Thais.

The Thai girls I have met are superb divers. They use virtually no air and are very graceful underwater and very patient with their diving customers.
 Bungalow Bay was superbly clear and was packed with fish life and corals. There were plenty of scorpion and stonefish lurking about.
 This sea snake was well out in the open and we were able to track its progress abcross the sand to another area of coral for a good time.
 We kept a respectable distance above and away from it!
 I am always amazed just how clear the sea can be. It's hard to believe that I took this photo at 17 metres depth...terrific clarity.
 As you all know, colours disappear fast underwater and merge into a kind of bluey greyness. I used a strobe on this shot to light up this lionfish to give an idea of how colourful they actually are and how bright the corals are when their colours can be seen. For those of you who may be interested, I am using a Lumix DMC-FT4 HD underwater camera which is doubly protected  within a dedicated Lumix/Panasonic DMW-MCFT3 housing. It proved impossible to obtain the correct housing in UK and it required a call to Panasonic in USA to resolve my requirements. I have to say the chap who assisted me couldn't have been more helpful and within the month my camera housing had arrived.
 Plenty of soft corals everywhere. This one had a black tentacle that rose up from the middle of its structure, swirled around presumaby gathering food before retracting back into it central core. Never seen a coral feeding before...fascinating.
 Another strobe lit lionfish....
 ...compared with this photo of a moray eel without the strobe. Big difference in the colouring!
And Tabby the Cat going her SMB release to signify the end our our dive.

With the maximum depth at just 17m, we were able to have three lengthy dives which was great. Diving was one of the main reasons for coming to Phuket and it's very pleasing to see how our regular guests have progressed over the past few years from learning in my pool to now fully qualified PADI divers and thus abe to enjoy the various dive sites around Phuket.

It's a couple of months away but I have 3 x Similan Island four day liveaboard trips booked for guests coming in Feb and March. The Similan Islands are a real diving highlight to look forward to.

But there's plenty more adventures to come before those eagerly anticipated trips!

Happy New Year to you all....we will be spending the evening at a beach resturant known as 'Friendship Beach'. What could be more fitting for a NYE?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Siamese Carp Day

Carp at Phuket Fishing Park
 Yesterday, 28th Dec, four of us drove north in the formidable 4 x 4 Mr Gary Chard had rented in order to concentrate on the carp in Phuket Fishing Park.

Mark Butland chose the northern side of the lake where the carp had been coming from over the past couple of weeks whilst Mr Steve Thorne, Mr Gary Chard and meself (as Gillie and GOFOR) fished the southern bank. Of course Gary was into the first Siamese Carp on his very first cast. These carp are extremely powerful and very heavy for their actual size and provide a very lively and prolonged fight to the net. Excellent sport.
 But it was to be Mr Steve Thorne's day. Here he is with the first of his carp.
 And here am my usual position...on me knees looking after the angler who has just guided his second carp to the waiting net wielded by yours truly. And where, you ask, is our professional netsperson The Jai? Ha, she tells me there is no way she's going netting fish when we are in Phuket. She's much too important over here for all that nonsense. Nope, she's off attending the opening of a friend's clothes shop.....well, how interesting is that?
 And here is Steve again....with his second carp of the day....
 ...and now bending into his third carp. I was kept pretty busy as the lads were also catching catfish, pacu and giant somethings which looked like black bream.
 This was probably Steve's biggest carp of the day...a very solid fish weighing about 30lb.
 And now bent into a fourth carp later in the afternoon...
Another fabulous fish and a super day concentrating on the Siamese Carp. We used our new Shimano Cruzar 21002 rods courtesy of Mr Moo's Tackle Shop in Chalong paired with 6 x Grauvell fixed spool reels supplied by Grauvell as our main tackle sponsor. The reels were all loaded with 25lb Trilene which the lake owner preferes as a minimum breaking strain line for these very powerful fish. Each of the three lads fished two rods.

I've just returned from Phuket Airport having taken seen Mark off on his return to UK. Mark has been a real pleasure to have here. A dedicated angler and excellent company.

We are always saying what a small world it is now because of the air travel available. Steve Porter, skipper of Poole based True Blue, has started a project in Florida. Steve has rented a big house and has a purchased a boat. He aims to provide UK style 'hands on' fishing in USA waters and at half USA prices. This will be for February and March 2014. Mark Butland has already booked up 2 weeks to be with Steve Porter and as a co-incidence son Tom will be in Florida  at the end of Feb and first 2 weeks of he has also contacted Steve. This means Mark and Tom will meet up and be fishing together....I mean...that is a hell of a co-incidence. Poor Mark; just got shot of old man Whittall in Thailand only to be confronted with Number One son Whittall in Florida.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gillhams in Krabi

Our Intrepid Team has just returned from the Internationally acclaimed Gillhams Fishery in Ao Nang in the Thai mainland province of Krabi.
 What a way to start each day, eh? This is the view from the veranda of our accommodation bungalows alongside the's spectacular yet calming. A truly wonderful place and a credit to the vision of resort creator, Stuart Gillham.
 Steve Thorne was the man to lead the way on our first day with four pacu. These were taken on worm baits.
 Our heroic Weymouth commercial fisherman, Gary Chard, was soon catching them as well....not what we were after but good fun and an extremely lively fighting species.
 Mark Butland landed the biggest of what must have been a dozen caught between the chaps.
 Behind every successful (???) man there is of course an inspirational woman. There are those, like Janey Thorne,  who sit and calmly offer advice on every aspect of everything.....
 ...and there are those who adopt the 'get out of the way' approach and demonstate how things should be done. Here's Mandy Chard giving a running commentary on the correct way to play a fish...and not a dinky little paku this time!
 Here she is...having leapt into the lake to show the guides how to handle a netted fish.
 It's a good job Mandy was in the thick of it to lend a hand as our guide Chris was clearly a bit nervous about picking up such a wild creature as an Amazon catfish. With Mandy controlling the thrashing tail with a steely grip, the photo was taken!
 Now Gary, as many of you know, is a bit nervous about water. He refused to get in as it was 'a but slippery' underfoot. This meant that our second guide, Khun Glock, had to present Gary's catfish to the world.
 Mark Butland landed a very nice redtail catfish and caught a far bigger one later on....but I wasn't on hand with the camera and Mark's memory card won't download via the Whittall Card Reader.
 Fishing is all about making new friends. At Gillhams you will meet angling enthusiasts from all over the world. Here's 23 year old Rodney Jones. Several generations back, Rodney's forefathers left Wales and headed west to settle in Florida. I mean, what on earth were they thinking of???  Rodney has left Florida twice in his life....and both times made the monstrous 36 hour trip to Gillhams. On this occasion he was rewarded with a 90lb and then a 70lb Siamese carp. Well Done, Rodney...and what a pleasure to meet such a polite young man.
And this is Kenneth Reichardt from Denmark. Kenneth was on his honeymoon with his glamorous new wife who had agreed to him spending 3 days fishing (shows promise this new marriage) at Gillhams. Kenneth was the hero of the 3 days we were there...catching a 280lb arapaima, an 80lb redtail cat and then this fabulous 80lb carp.

OK...we did not get one of the big fish we came for but it's such a delight to fish here that the disappointment can be but fleeting. I am fortunate in that I will be returning in early Feb for another 4 day session so maybe I will witness one of our February team landing one of the lake giants.

We are back in Phuket now with a scuba diving trip planned for tomorrow and then , after Xmas, another session at the Phuket Fishing Park. This time we have ordered up a load of chicken skin (yep, really!) with the intention of having a good go at the Amazon redtail catfish....and I hope to be trying out another of the tackle offerings from sponsor Grauvell.

Merry Xmas to everyone....hope it ain't too chilly for you back in Good Ol' Blighty. For what it's worth, an unusally high area of High Pressure from China is covering the north and middle part of Thailand. In Pitsanalok, Jai's hometown, the temperatures are currently -3 degrees at night and the Thai Government (not that there is one at the moment) has been sending up blankets etc to prevent untimely deaths through the cold! ain't all sunshine and warmth all the time in The Land of Smiles.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Phuket Fishing Park Dec 2013.

Phuket Fishing Park Dec 2013

The tackle table is set out. It's pretty simple stuff required for Phuket Lake. Pliers are required for removing the hooks from the catfish and fruit eating pirhanas in particular as the latter's teeth are extremely numerous and sharp. The coils of line are 30lb and 60lb breaking strain depending on which fish are feeding and are used for the 2 foot trace to size 10 to size 13 hooks (these hook sizes are not like our freshwater sizes. A Thai size 13 is like a size 4 UK size). The pirhanas bite through everything so thick traces are required! We use floats when there is no wind to suspend bait cages or just use the cages as a swim feeder/weight if the wind is blowing and we need to fish the bottom. Bread, nuts and sweet corn are in the background of the photo. These were our hook baits but we also used bacon to great effect yesterday. Cameras are of course essential as is a phone so that wind up texts can be sent back to mates freezing back in UK when they (you!) should be here fishing with us.

On the right is the bait cage....although it can't be seen as it is loaded up with the provided groundbait mixture. On the left is the main this case just a piece of folded breadcrust with the size 10 hook threaded through it. The bait is then pressed into the groundbait ball which also acts as the 'weight'. A gentle lob sends it all on its way....but the real skill is casting a good distance without the baitball exploding mid-air. The Thai Guides are fantastic at it....we are slowly improving.

Grauvell Tackle sponsor Offshore Rebel. They have kindly provided several quality rods and reels for this winter's fishing in suny Thailand. Yesterday we tried out the Grauvell Colossus Cat Fighter 330 and paired it with the Grauvell Capri GT70 fixed spool reel. Grauvell also provided a Targa ZZ 3500 which was used on a Shimano Cruzar 21002. In addition we used two more Shimano Cruzars paired with a Penn 750 and an Okuma Corrida baitrunner. All four reels were loaded with 25lb Trilene olive line which was 5lb under the breaking srain recommended by the Phuket Park owner!!

 On the left is Richard Heaseman watching Mark Butland palying the day's first fish....
 ...which turned out to be one of a dozen catfish to about 15kg we caught on a selection of bread and sweetcorn baits. It was noticeable that the 'raw corn' straight off the husk was a much better bait than the corn from the tin.
 Richard landed this fine Packu or fruit eating pirhana. These fish are definitely on steroids.they fight like crazy and never give up right to the net. Brilliant sport.
 We enjoyed  a very busy and productive day. Here's Mark with another pirhana.
 Some beautiful carp came to the net. All around the lake, anglers were bringing in some cracking Siamese Carp and Catfish with an occasional red-tail catfish including a fabulous red-tail catfish of 40kg. I couldn't get to photograph it in time before it was returned to the lake as all our rods were  bent into fish and needed photo's.
 Here's Steve Thorne with the day's best Siamese carp from our little group although two much bigger carp were landed by two lady anglers fishing from nearby swims.
 This little fish is in fact a Giant Gourami. We were trying out bacon strips as an experimental bait and these fish loved it...we were catching too many and they were  hooking themselves too deeply no matter how fast we we stopped using the bacon! Too many fish!
 Another fine pirhana for Mark..............

...and a lovely carp. My Thai freshwater identification skills are pathetic but they will improve so I hope to provide better details in coming reports and tell you exactly what different carp we are catching.

Richard Heaseman has now returned to the cold and dark of UK (we've been here two weeks already!!!) but early this morning Gary and Mandy Chard have arrived. They are spending all day asleep...just as well because tomorrow  6 of us (Mark, Steve and Janey Thorne, Mark Butland et moi) are catching the ferry from Phuket to Krabi and the oustanding scenery of Ao Nang to fish in Stuart Gillham's amazing fishery for three days.

The Jai cannot attend Gillhams as we have benefitted from next door building an enormous wall between out two houses. It looks terrible but Jai is on the case...and the Military have been called in. I shall leave her to it but I expect to see drastic changes upon my return. The success of this Thai Project is largely down to the background and unseen work of The Jai. It's thanks to her things run smoothly for us holiday makers. There is no way I would have any influence over what goes on here!!

Anyhow, a report from Gillhams will soon be forthcoming!!! There's plenty of  information about Gillhams on the web...look it really is an unbelievable place to visit and fish and we are very fortunate to be going.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A trip to Jai's Family Home

It was Jai's ambition to put all her last 2 year's earnings into 'doing up' the Family Home in Pitsanalok, 150 miles north of Bangkok.
 In Thailand the family home is not something to part with. It's the place where generations of the same Thai family return and often retire. Whoever is 'willed' the Family Home has a great responsibility for its upkeep for the benefit of the whole family. As Jai is the eldest (and has the most dosh thanks to you chaps!) her parents handed over the Family Home to her.
 Jai's has taken this all very seriously and over the past 5 months a massive amount of work, mainly woodwork, has taken place with what was basically a big open barn on stilts now divided up into separate rooms along Western lines. Now there are several bedrooms and a sitting room with proper electrics and room fans installed. Next year, Jai plans to have a proper shower room and kitchen installed.
 To celebrate the renovation of the family home and Jai's nepthew entering the monkhood (all Thai Buddhist males spend a period of time in the Temple as a Monk) a village celebration has been announced with Jai as the gust of honour for making this all happen.
 Jai's family still have a few water buffalo to work in the rice fields (rice above) as well as a battered old tractor.
 The house has a fish pond as do most rural properties in the north of Thailand....nice lot of carp in here...used for eating of course.
 This is part of the house....mainly teak. It was originally built in the early 1900's when Jai's Grandfather emigrated from China and married into a Thai family. You can tell Jai comes from a Chinese background because of her family surname. The Chinese were given Thai surnames and the number of syllables in that name indicate how long ago the name was given. Jai has three syllables 'CHAN-SONG-SRI' which tells the authorities that her Grandfather was Chinese???
 An idyllic rural setting, eh?? But it's seriously hot here right now and there's no chance I could survive staying overnight as I'd be eaten alive by the mosquitoes!!!
 Another angle on part of the family home.
 This is where some of the rice is stored...well above ground and away from flooding. 2 years ago, the farm was all but destroyed by the floods so the building have been raised up on new and higher 'stilts'.
 Part of a rice field being prepared for another planting session.
Now, here's the best photo I've got of Jai. Dressed up in one of the costumes to be used for the forth-coming festivities, Jai looks at her absolute best!!!!

Well, Dear Readers (bit of Jane Austin there for you), it seems I have just a handful of days left here in The Land of Smiles. I am told it's returned to being freezing back in Weymouth and over here it's too hot for a Dorset Yokel like me to handle...

Offshore Rebel has undergone a major hull refurbishment over the winter and I am told looks just like new again. The boat is due to be relaunched on Friday 15th and bought back to its mooring by Mr Chris Tett who has been good enough to oversee the project. I return on Tueday 19th, spend the day getting used to the boat and weather on the 20th and then, if the weather lets me, I shall be returning to the delights of plaice and turbot fishing for a two day charter on 21st/22nd March.

See You All Soon!!