Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steve in Action here is a good angler staying with me. Steve Gilbank, a regular customer aboard Offshore Rebel, also loves his freshwater fishing. Look at him gazing lovingly at his monster carp caught in England.
 When we arrived at Phuket Fishing Park, I explained to Steve how powerful the fish are and that you MUST play them with a very light drag. Also, if you set the rod up in the rod rest without a VERY light drag, the fish will drag your rod and rod rest into the lake...and it's all gone!! Of course he didn't believe me!!
 Here we are..bent into one of the fish...and of course it broke him. Now, the thing to remember is that Steve is an extremely good angler and those of you who have fished with him aboard the Rebel will know just how good he is. So, even though he has tamed 20lb carb on 12lb line, the first couple of fish here really took him by surprise. I don't know if these buggars are on steroids...but they are seriously powerful. If you try to stop them then your line will snap...even though we were on 22lb breaking strain. Anyhow, Steve soon got over the shock of these rascals....and the first fish came in....a fine fruit eating pirhana.
 I think these things are called packoo or something like this....I've gotta sort my names out for these things. The fight was terrific....they just go on and on...tireless is seems.
 And now our gallant angler is into his stride and bent into another lively rascal...which is now firmly under his more bust-ups!!!
 A nice catfish......ha ha...I know what's coming next week! This catfish weighed about 8kg and fought like a demon...but Steve ain't gonna believe what's in store for him at Gillhams!!!! This fish took about 10 minutes to may recall it took me 90 minutes to get my catfish to the net at Gillhams...but it was 87kg heavier than this baby.
We had a brilliant end to the day....we hit a double on the carp....and of course you can see who got the biggest. Well, I'm a darn professional ain't I??? As it happens, Steve had cast his rod out and was fiddling around with something instead of paying attention to his tackle....and it was on the verge of being pulled into the lake so I pounced and started to play the fish...which should have been his....and then my rod took off so Steve had to dive for that one and rescue there we were playing each other's fish!!!!

It's a great pleasure having Steve here because he really appreciates just how special the fishing is here...I mean, look at his face with his Phuket caught carp and compare it with his dinky little thing caught in England!!

We can't go to the lake again this week...buggar me, we're busy. Tomorrow we're going diving and on Friday we're off to see a new lake project somewhere north of sounds extremely interesting and may offer another adventure 'next' year.

On Saturday we meet Keith, a fish farmer and brilliant carp angler, who arrives and early Sunday morning we're off to Krabi for four days at Stuart Gillham's fishery again. If we do as well as we did with Jeff and Spike, the lads are gonna be on 7th heaven. They can't believe I caught catfish OVER 200lb and  Jeff's Arapimi was in excess of 240lb....let's hope it works for the boys!!

This 'season' over here in Phuket has turned into something really special...we've had some amazing fishing at sea and in the lake. Brilliant fun...especially when you've got people who realise just how amazing all this is. We were diving yesterday....Steve loved that as well....photographs will follow after tomorrow's diving session!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Private Outing

What could be better than going to sea on Captain Tawan's longtail boat with your diving buddies for a couple of pleasant dives with no-one else around? Perfect. Here we are on our way out from Rawai to Coral Island which is about 3 miles offshore. We have, L to R, the always smiling Mike, the Bemused Jai and the statesmanlike Heath with Captain Tawan in the background hanging on to his engine!
Further out to sea now and you can see Mike starting to wonder about all this diving's the first time he's ever done any and he's come on in leaps and bounds...and these are well chosen words to indivcate his unique approach to diving. The entertaining thing about our Mike is that you NEVER know what he's gonna do next..............
And here we go....with Mike exhibiting a fine dive profile
We were diving just off Coral Island....I mean, just look at it! Unfortunately it was too windy to land at the little resturant you might just see on the beach.
And here we have our ever graceful Jai striking a pose. Th eThai's just love to have photographs taken of them...they are a very obliging people!
Heath on the left with Jai well into tucked arm position as all good divers should be.
Below, we have a the mantis shrimp...a pretty lively critter and of a size of a small lobster. Known to be very aggressive, these are the little buggars known to smash divers' masks if they get too close. They certainly pack a swift and powerful head butt!!

Below is a giant clam but it was the white nudibrach just above it that interested me...don't see many of them about.
And no dive in Thailand is complete without a giant puffer fish...
We found this fish trap which we think is abandoned...but who knows. This method of fishing is extremely effective and we often come across them stuffed full of fish. The more fish that enter the trap's one way system the more fish seems to attract...I've seen these literally jammed with hundreds of fish inside.
That's the end of Heath and Mike's diving adventures for the time doubt they'll miss the pleasures of warm sea and good for me; can't wait to go on my next dive whenever that might be...soon!!!

Elephants at The Big Buddha Mountain

Heath and Mike will be in the air right now flying from Kuala Lumpar back to Heathrow and soon to experience the difference between a regualr 32 degrees C and whatever is happening back home right now! It's been extremely busy with the two chaps...plenty of fishing, scuba diving, sight-seeing and eating out at a range of Thai resturants.
Bev has joined the lads for several outings as husband Tony has been flat out on PADI Training courses. It is the couples' dream to come to Thailand for a year with Tony working as a Dive Master and Bev as an English teacher. Bev has been sussing out the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses and they can now see that it's all very possible to do.

Anyhow, here we are witing for our elephants to be readied...the call has come to mount up and Mike is leaping to his feet to take command of his pachyderm.
He also took command of Bev...and told the Thai mahoot that he and Bev were on their Honeymoon!! Poor Bev! Those of you who have come across Mike will know what I mean!
And 'orf they go....the Happy Couple. Didn't I get an ear-full later on that day from our Bev!! Ha ha...
Meanwhile our Heath, regal and in control as ever, cantered off into the forest with his man....Ah, Elephants....everyone who goes on them says it's not an experience to be missed....and not one to be repeated either!! Several years agao, me and The Jai went on a 3 day Elelphant Trek up in the North West of Thailand...stayed overnight in the rain forest...met the Hill Tribes people....ate funy things etc....terrific experience if you have time on your holiday to do such things.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Underwater Discovery

A four hour journey in choppy conditions took us to our secret location out in the Andaman Sea to the north west of Phuket. Dropping down into 27 metres we could see the shape of the first elephant looming into view....part of the shipment of artefacts to Sri Lanka from Thailand, then called Siam, in 1804 to commemorate the inspirational part Sri Lanka played in the great Indian Epic, The Ramayana, which had swept across Asian 2,000 years ago. In 1804 the Kings of Siam in the newly estabished Chakri Dynasty, King Rama 1 and then his son Rama 11, had rewritten the Ramayan and renamed it the Ramagian. The story remained similar to the original but a 'Thai Slant' was put onto the story with the characters taking on different names....for example, the hero of the story was called...Rama....well, there's a coincidence! The current King of Thailand, crowned in 1950 and now the longest serving Monarch in world history, is Rama 9.
Now with all this religious/cultural/historical significance....I leave you to just imagine what it must have been like for Jai to see these things on our dive. Jai doesn't normally breath much underwater...but she did on this occasion!!!!! It was pretty tricky to get these photo's without them being blanked out by a cascade of bubbles escaping from The Jai!
The excited at seeing the elephants!

 See...even with a mask on she looks SOOOO happy!!
 Elephant and Jai Head to Head
 Look at the air blowing away...ha ha.....we had to send another bottle down for her and change underwater to keep her going!!
 And here we are.....whoever would have thought an elephant would be such a source of photographic inspiration??
 Amazing that two of the elephants and one of the Temple Guardian Yaks are in an upright position. There's various bits and pieces and scattered around. I promised not to give too much away as the main problem would be looters...and the area hasn't been completely mapped out and protected yet. I don't know if this will become a dive site open to everyone...we'll have to see.
And Jai in a proper position of prayer.....just like the flying angels in the brilliant Thai culture show (Siam Nuramit) we attended last night....but that's another story.

Now you rascals may think that we haven't been doing much over here lately as my Blog contributions have been pathetically low. It's just the opposite...we have been SO busy....on the go from early in the morning to very late at night. And the Blog isn't the most user friendly bit of software to use!!! Tomorrow two of our guests leave us....and so I will have a couple of days to do a few more bits and pieces.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wild Time in the Similan Islands

 We've just returned from our latest fishing trip to the Similan Islands area...about 50 miles to the west of Koa Lak to the North of Phuket. Onboard the 3 day Liveaboard trip were Jez Wilson, self-employed builder from London, Software Developer Heath Barnard from Poole, Dorset, Self-employed plumber Mike Howcroft; Tackle Entrepeneur and Fishing Guide, Mr Moo from Phuket and me, Whittall of Weymouth. It will be noted that several of the party are members of the recently formed Offshore Rabble S.A.C. which came out of that lose array of chums gleefully co-ordinated by Mr Colin Gill.

Conditions were hot (30 degrees+); sunny and reasonably calm but with a welcome breeze blowing throughout the day.
 We were fishing a whole range of methods....trolling, which produced small tuna, dorado and mackerel; baitfishing for livebait; popping, jigging and fishign at anchor in depths from 35 metres to 240 metres! It was the fishing in the deep water...on the drift and at anchor...that produced the bulk of the fish. Here's Jez with a 50lb grouper.....battled up from 240 metres.
 Mr Moo, who supplied all the gear....7 sets each of top quality tackle....bends into another backbreaking grouper that weighed in at 40lb.
 Star of the show...Mr Heath Barnard....caught a good run of grouper and red snapper..'s one of the rock groupers....
 ...and here's Mike with a very nice yellow snapper..........
 Just take a look at these fabulous red snapper.........Heath caught these two on a three hook paternoster rig fished at 220 metres.
 And another fine snapper....the snapper were all caught just as dusk fell. As is often the case in this part of the world, the best fishing took place at dusk.
 Saying that...we still caught some fantastic fish during the day. Here's another grouper caught this time on the drift and again weighing in at about 50lb for Heath.
 And the best one..........quite a handful to lift and plenty of razor sharp teeth if you are silly enough to stick your fingers in a grouper's mouth (Heath tested this...the blood supply to his fingers is good!)
 There's was even time for one of the lads to take a photo of me with a fish....another nice grouper. Not up to Heath's standard but a great fish to catch all the same.
 Mr Moo did us level tackle.......Shimano Baitrunners for the jigging and popping with Penn rods and reels for the trolling.
 A very substantial array of gear......7 different sets each to cater for the different styles we tried out over the 3 days. And three days means 3 days....we fished until midnight and started again at 0500...with at least one of us always fishing.
 Yeah....the camera went out of focus...but you can get an idea of what we caught......
And today.our Jai was doing what she does best...............filleting all the fish.......she's always got a smile on her face when she's working. What a diamond she is...and tonight we shall start to sample some of the many fish which are now in the fridge and freezer.

Hard work..............and hot...........but superb. Well Done to Mr Moo for his enthusiasm and to the Thai crew and skipper for finding us so many fish. Well Done to the lads for keeping at it and not flinching in the face of 240 metre depths....I don't EVER want to hear any of you grizzling about our Duckpond of an English Channel after this...even the Hurd Deep wrecks are only 127 metres!!

2013 should be the year when you anglers get down that gym...get yourseves fit and in sleek shape like our ersthwile team on this latest trip...and RELISH the challenge of deep water fishing!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

                                      New Year's Day in Phuket

Those of you who know Jai realise she is proudly Buddhist  but, like most Thais, firmly believes that the world is inhabited by a multitude of spirits. These spirits are everywhere...and they're not all friendly! Therefore it is very important to make sure the ones that are potentially friendly are appeased on a regular basis. Jai will be seen praying to the Guardian Spirit of our house everyday....we have a special Spirit House for this purpose with a table upon which to place a daily offering of food and drink. Our car also has a Guardian Spirit and Jai places flowers and burns incense to it every day....and, bearing in mind the insane driving  on the Thai roads, I am more than happy if she can keep the car's Guardian Spirit on our side!

Phuket has a Guardian Spirit known as Lak Muang. There are four 'Spirit Houses' on the Island of Phuket dedicated to Lak Muang. We visited one of these yesterday....and it wasn't very easy to find! However, find it we did lurking in the Thep Krasattri Subdistrict of Phuket Island and Jai bought all sorts of offerings from the old lady in the Offering Shop to present to Lak Muang.

Jai is never happier that when she's bought a bundle of offerings....


And here we are at the Sam Phra Phum (Spirit House) of Lak Muang
Praying to Lak Muang to keep us and all our guests who are coming to vivit us in 2013 safe! See how The Jai thinks of you all?
You might be able to pick out the elephant and the little figures by it...Thai culture is heavily influenced by Hinduism and the colours, flowers, figures all come out of Indian mythology and beliefs.
We bought our own Sam Phra Phum some lights this year....and they went on last night for the first time. The lights blew the first couple of times we turned them on...Jai was convinced that our Guardian Spirit didn't want to be lit up....but it seems that after a bit of a discussion together our Spirit is now happy with the improvements.
We ended up on Patong Beach for midnight last night. Crap photo....but we watched literally thousands of Fire Lanterns (komlois) being released into the night sky over Patong Bay. It was VERY impressive...and the fireworks were incredible. An excellent night with a very amiable atmosphere about the place.

And today....the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and Jai was off to the Temple, to give alms to the monks and then off to Phuket Town to pay her respects to the main Spirit Temple dedicated to Lak Muang.

It's all entertaining!!!! I devoted myself to Pra Athid today (the sun God) and lazed about on a sunbed and in the pool savouring the occasional Amber Nectar. Well, we all have our different ways of celebrating the start of the New Year, don't we....and I hope yours was a good one too!!!!