Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rod and John in Action

 Here we are again....back at the Phuket Fishing Park. Our status has risen...we have become local celebrities with our flashy new Grauvell sponsored tackle and our massively increased catch rate thanks to all the advice from the Thai guides. Our rods were kept pretty busy throughout the day with each fish attracting an ever increasing audience of  mainly Russian holiday makers who were having a day's fishing as part of their Phuket experience. Here's John bent into a very hard fighting mekong catfish.
 These fish have massive tails (caudal fins!) and provide a lengthy and exciting tussle. We kept commenting how great it would be to have seafish that fought like these catfish. I suppose the nearest we have back home is the tope, although the actual fight from each species is totally different. The cats make powerful steady runs compared to the tope's head shaking, fast run and surface churning action.
 Rod was our star man with 8 catfish coming to the net.
 Most of the catfish were in the 15lb-20lb range although John's best was estimated at 40lb.
 Ah..the satisfying bend of the rod as it reacts to a very nice......
...Siamese Carp. What beautifully marked fish these carp are.

Today is Sunday and our brave lads are out sea kayaking with John Grey today. Their programme includes penetrating four limestone karst formations (known as Hongs). This is achieved by waiting for the falling tide to reveal narrow caves whose entrances are usually just under water at high tide and then lying flat on your back and using your hands on the cave 'roof' to guide the kayaks towards the hollow interior. It's a great of the best trips on offer here in Phuket and the scenery of the Phan Gna region where the kayaking takes place is spectacular. It's the same amaxing scenery as found at Exotic Fishing Thailand which is in Phang Gna and Gillhams Fishery in Ao Nang, Krabi.

Our next fishing trip is on Thursday when we head back to Mike Bailey's Exotic Fishing Thailand and then we have a 4 day trip to Gillhams in early February with 3 more keen angling lads.

It's all fun and all part of a great holiday here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jigging in Phuket

                                                       Jigging in Phuket

We're always up for a challenge and for trying new fishing techniques to try and catch the elusive pelagic fish of Phuket.

We'd been guided towards a young go-ahead Thai skipper named Jay, just like my crewman back in UK! (No, not Jai...when Jai is here in Phuket looking after you all, Jay is in Weymouth looking after Rebel...clear enough?? OK, I shall continue).

Anyhow, Jay of Phuket clearly comes from a wealthy Jai/Chinese background. Owner of the best tackle shop in Phuket Town, Jay turned up with his new 4x4 towing 'Haloo ' which is a year old fast aluminium craft powered by a Mariner 150 HP outboard giving a cruising speed of 25 knots.

Jay's tackle was top of the range Shimano jigging gear with his rod and reel costing £750....miles better than the crap I had bought along for myself and 3 friends. I had rigged up our Grauvell fixed spool reels with 50lb braid as advised with 60lb leader and invested in a varied selection of jigs in the £4 to £10 range. Our rods were spinning rods and not much good for this type of fishing. But we tried!!

Take a look at this 2.5 minute Instructional video on will see how much effort is required. Try doing that all day in 30 degrees out at's not easy. Our skipper Jay never stopped...he was superb. Ah, to be young's a load of bollox getting increasingly ancient.

Nice bit of kit, eh?? We were limited to a maximum of 4 on the boat plus Jay. The boat cost £320 for the day. If you want to hire tackle then it is £40 a day each (yep, just a bit more than the £5 we charge back home towards maintenance) and then lures are charged on top. We all lost a couple each so say an additional £60 to £80 in lures. You get an idea of prices!! Anyhow, what the hell...we are on holiday!!

 Our day started early....we were to meet Jay at 0700 and once the boat was launched etc we were on our way past the sinking Thai fishing boats (yep, commercial fishing here has just about destroyed itself...the usual story...take everything and blame everybody else for the lack of fish stocks) and headed out past the many islands towards Racha Yai which was a good 20 miles out to sea.

Jay worked extremely hard. He is young and keen and he kept the boat drifting the marks with great efficiency...and he fished all day for us.

Our intended quarry was GT (Giant Trevelly) and we did have some success....

Here is Mr Horst Schneider, the Chairman of EFSA. This year, in Weymouth, we are hosting the EFSA World Championships so those of you involved or who would just like to wander around when the 20 odd boats involved return to port each day (we return to the pontoons just outside the Weymouth Hrabourmaster's Office) will see Mr Horst Schneider strutting about and shouting in instructions to we minions....Horst has a fabulous property here in Phuket (and also does renting of holiday homes) and often joins us on our various fishing trips.

 We kept on the move searching out many different marks and ended up a good 30 miles out south of Racha Noi.....and here's our Gary (Chard) rewarded for his and Jay's efforts with a nice GT......

 ...and our outstanding young Thai skipper, Jay. If any of you reading are likely to try jigging or popping then I recommend Jay as being by miles the best skipper I have been out with in Phuket. He is dead keen and an extremely excellent angler as well as being polite and charming...just like me really. Jay's number is 0857899433 (This is, of course, a Thai number for anyone here who'd like to book him...he's very busy, be warned!!)

GT's make fabulous eating. We presented our catch to The Jai who immediately attacked it with her filleting knife in the way only The Jai can. She then cooked up the GT's in 3 different Thai styles with various sauces...Here we see (L to R), Janey our Janey; Stevie my Darling; Gary and Mandy Chard. Horst was no doubt enjoying his catch as was our other angling friend Jeremy who joined us on the boat but who has bought a property in nearby Kata....see, we're all at it...we like the sunshine and the fishing of these 4 months in Phuket.

Steve Thorne cracks Phuket Lake

Phuket Fishing Park has fished really well since we arrived and has provided us with some terrific sport. We have learnt the required techniques from our Thai Guides and are now able to fish the lake on our own with some degree of confidence and success.

I was unable to accompany Steve on his final visit for this holiday as I was running around after our new he and Janey as his trusty netswoman and gillie took on the Phuket Park fish on their own. What a courageous couple!

Steve had an amazing day. Using two rods he experienced non stop action from the moment he arrived landing 15 fish with a good variety of species. Here he is with a mekong catfish...
And another sort of catfish with gurt whiskers and a reddish tail. I shall await my friend Mike Bailey of EFT to assist me with identification!!!
And, shortly after Steve landed this excellent and hard fighting pacu.
And another nice catfish...
...followed by another carp.

Steve told me before he left for UK a couple of days ago that he has enjoyed the best fishing of his life...and as he is an experienced and regular angler that just shows what terrific fishing Thailand offers....and we are just scraping the surface of what is on offer really. But with visits to Gillhams at Ao Nang in Krabi in December, Exotic Fishing Thailand in Phang Gna in January and Phuket Fishing Park (in Phuket!) we have seen and caught some truly amazing fish. The highlight for Steve was undoubtably the 60lb Arapaima caught at EFT. Steve was delighted to be amongst those anglers who have caught a fish OVER a 100lb from freshwater which is a pretty amazing achievement.

Needless to say Steve has booked one of the house rooms for another month next year December into Januar) with have Richard and Mark who were here plus Mandy and we are already very busy next year!!!! Because of the demand we will be offering November 2014 this year in addition to our 4 usual months. I will not be here as I will be bassing in Weymnouth but I can arrange everything to make life easy for you and Jai will here to look after the house and run things. There are a few gaps in January and late March 2015 but if you want to sample some of this amazing fishing (and diving) and the many other delights on offer, then please don't delay in contacting me as we will be full again.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Martin's First Dive

Martin Arnold from Surrey is currently on holiday with us over in sunny Phuket. Martin has never dived before and was up for the challenge. We started off with a pool session and after a bit of a natter about the gear etc we then headed off to our favourite first dive site at Kata, Phuket. There is a nice inshore coral reef at Kata and the viz is usually pretty good. There's always stacks to see which is great for a first dive. The reef is buoyed off to protect snorklers and divers against the real menace and danger of jet ski's. (Why are they allowed in areas where there are families trying to swim with their children??....utter madness!) The rope around the reef allows a novice diver to hang on and gently descend to within a couple of feet of the sandy bottom...a perfect way to make a first gentle descent. And there's Martin telling us in diver sign language that he is OK!

 Martin has dropped free of the surface rope and is making his very first underwater fin kicks. We are at 4 metres.
 And now at 5 metres.  The bottom is sandy and then the coral reef start to appears. So, you have kneel on the sand and stay motionless and the fish will all come back towards yo...what a nice way to start your very first dive...and in 30 degree C sea!
 There are hundreds of different fish on this reef and many different species.
 There's always a puffer fish hiding under the reef.............
 Many different types of coral, anenomes and colourful fish make diving at Kata hard to beat.
There's always a need to be careful as there are many lionfish hiding under the watch out for where the hands go.

Martin's first dive took us down to 8 metres and we stayed there for 50 minutes with plenty of air left at the end of the dive. Shallow, clear warm water makes Phuket a delightful place to learn and it's great to see how many of my guests are up for having a go.....we ain't what could be called Spring Chickens any more so it's all the more credit to our guests that they take that first dive. As is usually the case, Martin looked very happy when he was down there with so much to see and we will do another dive togther tomorrow. He is especially keen to impress upon his daughter that he reached the dizzy depths of 103 see...anglers...they HAVE to exaggerate everything.

In a couple of days Martin's daughter joins us and is coming to Phuket to take the PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course) must run in the family,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Exotic Fishing Tailand

I've been trying to obtain a copy of the superb new book 'A History of Phuket' written by Colin Mackay and yesterday The Jai found a copy for me. The first section deals with the Geology of Phuket and Phang Nga. Phang Nga is where Mike Bailey's Exotic Fishing Thailand is based. Quoting directly from Colin Mackay we learn that 'Phang Nga Bay owes its majestic scenery to a vast and ancient coral reef that grew up some 200 million years ago when the sea level was over 300 metres higher than it is today'. This 'gargantuan reef was the biggest the world has ever known and stretches through Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and right up into China'.
 'As the world's sea levels fell, this huge coral reef was left projecting high and dry in the air. When coral dies it forms likestone which is easily eroded by rainwater, so this great reef is now eroding and large chunks remain starkly upright, jutting out of the surrounding sea and green forests of Phang Gna and Krabi'.

Colin Mackay's vivid explanation helps us to comprehend what is truly stunning scenery. Exotic Fishing Thailand couldn't have a more suitably exotic setting with a massive ex- coral limestone wall as its backdrop.
 My photographs and lack of photographic ability cannot possibly do this scenery justice. It is a part of the world you must visit and see for yourself. Several years ago The Jai and I enjoyed 3 days aboard a Vietnamese Junk in Halong Bay in North East Vietnam near the Chinese border. This is another particularly famous place for this limestone scenery and is one of the planet's most photographed is all just amazingly stunning. (If you came for a holiday with us here in Phuket, then it is a short plane ride to Hanoi and on to Halong Bay...but that's another adventure).

 We, of course, came for the fishing. The lake has attracted a good deal of attention and is very booked up.  I was lucky to get Gary Chard and Steve Thorne booked in which was the main aim but not myself. Hopefully, I will have a chance in the coming months. Within seconds of the baits being cast in, the rods were twitching and thumping with bites and runs keeping out two anglers leaping out of their seats to grab their rods. Here's Gary with his first fish which is a Jabbabar. The lads were to catch a number of these.
 And here's Steve Thorne with one of the various catfish in the lake which I am told was a Wallagoo Catfish.
 Gary landed this Chinese Yellow Cheeked Carp which is a lovely looking fish and fought very well.
                                            Steve landed a very large Giant Gourami.

And so our day went on with each angler catching 6 different species each including such exotic sounding species as Albino Pacu and African Walking Catfish. Steve did try to hold the Walking Catfish fish for a photo but it was one slippery customer and had slipped out of his hands before I could focus the camera!!
 But now for the highlights!!! Late afternoon and Gary was bent into something special. Ross and EFT's very own photographer are tall lads so that gives a good impression just how big Gary is....and even he was having to put a small degree of pressure on his fish in order to try and coax it towards him.
 This was not a fish to be messed about large landing net for this beast.
 And so, we proudly announce that Mr Gary Chard from sunny (ha ha) Weymouth is now a member of the illustrious 100kg club with this fabulous Arapaima being estimated at 120kg. Gary's monster was landed on a Shimano Baitruner reel and a Shimano Uptider....a wonderful 'fish of a lifetime'.

With darkness falling (it starts getting dark here at 6.30 pm) our day was concluded perfectly with Steve Thorne having the opportunity to fight and land another Arapaima. Our Canadian guide, Ross, estimated this one at around 60kg.

So, our first opportunity to benefit from the enormous amount of work Mike Bailey and his team have put into creating Exotic Fishing Thailand was a resounding success and is a day in their angling careers that neither Gary or Steve will ever forget. Thank you to all at Exotic Fishing Thailand  for looking after us so well and providing us with a day to truly remember forever!

Take a look at the links below for more information on Exotic Fishing Thailand.

And with thanks to Colin Mackay for his explanation of the scenery. For anyone living in Phuket or interested in this part of the world, then Colin's 'A History of  Phuket' is throughy recommended.
Full of detailed information that must have taken years to research, it is one of those rare 'history' books that is hard to put down. Published by White Lotus Co Ltd in Bangkok, the phone number for sales enquiries is 081 558 3234. And for those of you who know Phuket well, my copy came from Asia Books near Jung Ceylon shopping centre in Patong and I am informed that Lady Pie Co Ltd at
32 Srisoonthorn Rd, Cherng Talay, Phuket 83110 Thailand Tel: (66) 76 271049 has copies.