Hello again from Gillhams Fishing Resorts. Sorry for the delay in this newsletter about the fishing in Thailand. Stuart and Sean have been away on a month’s fishing trip to Marathon in Florida and Panama, which has left the resort very short-staffed. I know Stuart is going to do a write up on this trip when he finds time, but at the moment he is busy catching up on all the jobs he has to cope with to keep Gillhams up to the high standard he demands.
Well after months of drought conditions the rains have finally arrived, and the lake is getting a much-needed injection of fresh water. The gardeners can get on with keeping the gardens pristine instead of spending four hours a day watering. June and July are always quieter months here, and add the World Cup into the equation and the numbers of anglers visiting is lower than normal. Saying that we have had a lot of last minute bookings, which is probably due to the military making a great job of running the country. Life in Thailand is back to normal and tourists are confident to visit again. To be honest every time there is a military coup the army makes a splendid job of running the country for their beloved king. What a shame they can’t be kept in place; they certainly make a splendid job of running this country. Maybe the UK should take note and let the British army run the country. Anyway I am starting to sound like old man Gillham so I will get off the political soapbox!
Whenever Stuart is away something always goes wrong, this month was no exception. We had horrendous winds, stronger than any of the Thai staff can remember. This resulted in the kitchen roof having 20% of the roof tiles blown off; the toilets actually had the roof dislodged, and the restaurant lost part of the outside roof. Some of the bungalows had tile damage and we lost around 20 trees, the roads to the town were blocked for a few hours with fallen trees, and we had power cuts for a day. Mr. Bang the handyman did a sterling job of fixing all the roofs within a couple of days, and Sumlee the head gardener got his team into action and had the garden back to normal in record time. Thanks to our loyal and hard working staff within two days you would never have known the devastation we suffered.
Somehow three of us, between taking care of anglers, managed to write this newsletter, and as for Chris and Gollock, we saved you the pain of getting them to do a write up. I have split the fishing reports into three parts using my contribution here and John and Adam’s parts after the report. My time at Gillhams is sadly accelerating to a conclusion. I have spent a great 2½ years here in paradise, and it is with regret I leave at the end of July. I have made many new friends and enjoyed every minute of my time here. I have also learnt so much from the old master Gillham. So folks this is Joely Essex’s next to last contribution to the Gillhams Fishing Resorts newsletter, or will it be the end of the first chapter. To be honest if it wasn’t for my beloved gran not being in good health, I would not be leaving this dream job in a dream location. Fishing and life in general will never be the same in the UK again after experiencing this magical place called Gillhams, and to quote an Arnie saying, “I will be back” (one day!).
This month we had the first trip of the year for long term Gillhams friend and customer Keith the Tooth O’Connor. Keith is one of the old school anglers; he fished the carp circuit from the early days and was part of the group of anglers I used to read about in the carp books. He’s been there, seen it and done it and loves to tell the younger anglers exactly that. We’re known to him and Stuart as the Korda-powered carp fisherman.
His trip was never a certainty; it all depended on his beloved Chelsea’s progress in the Champion’s League, but as Stuart had already pre warned him, we would be seeing him in Thailand, rather than Keith gallivanting across Europe with his blue flag flying high heading to Portugal, and how right he was.
This time Keith came here by himself rather than having his lovely wife Ina with him (we missed you Ina, and I know Keith did, as he was bribing everyone around him to make him tea and get him this and that). So it was nine days’ straight fishing for the Tooth and the quest for more big carp. Keith is as easy as they come; he comes with his own ideas, leaves a bag of tricks here from previous sessions and completely manages his own fishing. All we have to do is tell him what’s been working well and he’ll adapt it to his own tactics and he’s away.
In other ways, Keith is his own worst enemy, if he’s not getting a bite or loses a fish, then the guides will get, “I’m in the wrong swim” or “There’s something wrong with this rod or reel” or “The fish have moved – I’ve got no chance” and so on. As always we try to get him to look at it from a different angle and nine times out of ten he listens and carries on fishing the way he always does.
His swim of choice was D3. He loves this swim and has had so many big fish from it that it was never a doubt where he would settle for his duration. This springs back to the comment above – Keith, don’t doubt yourself, mate. You always pull off something special when you are here. Keith started off picking a few fish up but couldn’t settle at what range to fish at, which was unsettling him, and the inquest into what was wrong had started. The lake was also quieter with fewer anglers after a manic high season, so the fish were moving around confidently everywhere, with every swim looking appealing.
After a couple of days Keith settled on fishing over a bar and changed his tactics from the resort’s small pellet to big pellet on the hook. He changed his baiting strategy from Spombing to catapulting, so he was making the fish work a bit harder to find the bait in a wider area. This turned out to be the best decision he made, and from that moment he started to pick up fish regularly, and his tally of captures kept rising.
Now a happy Keith is an awesome customer, and trust me, once the swim started to work for him he was happy, speaking broken Thai to all the staff, singing to Genesis and Queen in his swim, cracking jokes and generally loving his trip. The banter between Keith and us was flowing. He will never let me live down a comment I made to him a couple of years back… He was fighting a carp and it was giving him the runaround. I looked at his rod and noticed that it wasn’t bending much, so I kindly advised him that I had seen more bend in a pencil than he had in his rod; I think I hit a nerve to say the least. Well things have changed, and he does put a good bend in the rod now. There is just one problem – the drag setting! Keith likes to fish a looser drag than most, and when he’s fighting a fish we always enquire, “What drag are we using now Keith – gudgeon, perch or tench?” I don’t think he appreciated this too much either, but took it in great humour.
In all seriousness; Keith got his swim working, and when he found the right pattern he was landing fish after fish. He had multiple days of seven, eight or nine carp, and he achieved his fourth 100lb carp with a beauty, which we weighed at 106lb. He also landed his first Chao Phraya catfish, a fish he’s been after for a couple of years now.
Long time friends and business partners Richard Austin and Dean Phillips came back for another visit this month. Now the pair of them are great fun to be around. As soon as I saw them arrive at the resort, both of them looking like a couple of characters from Miami Vice, the smile on their faces said it all – they were over the moon to be back fishing in paradise.
Their trip was booked soon after leaving here last year. They take annual fishing trips together and had a lot of unfinished business here with a bucket list of fish they wanted to try and catch. They told me the way they fund their trips was by putting a small amount in their holiday pot daily, not looking in it and closer to the time check to see how much they had, and this would be the kitty for the trip. Well with the exchange rate and amount they managed to save, they had great joy in telling everyone they were half millionaires (in Thai baht I hasten to add), and they were going to live like kings for two weeks.
Dean came with a couple of goals this trip; he had brought his fly fishing gear with him and wanted to land a fish using this method. He also wanted to get revenge on the arapaima, as he didn’t manage to land one last time. He told us he also would love to get a Siamese carp, which was also all Richard was planning on targeting. Joining them a couple of days into the trip was Dean’s son Oscar. This was to be Oscar’s third trip here after first coming here on a day ticket, and then again when he convinced his dad and Richard to miss Spain that year and try Thailand instead.
Oscar now lives and works in Australia with his girlfriend, so he flew in to have a week with his dad. Also for Oscar it was to be third time lucky; he hadn’t landed a fish with us from his previous times. He had hooked Mekongs, arapaima and carp, but be it hook pulls, fish parting the line or dropping them at the net, he just hadn’t had Lady Luck on his side.
Now these lads enjoyed the fishing, but also loved exploring the area in the daytime on scooters and hitting Ao Nang in the evenings. Now we are knocking on the door of rainy season, and the weather is getting unpredictable. You can be sitting in glorious 35-degree weather, and then two minutes later the heavens open. The start of this weather period always has an impact on the fishing and the feeding patterns. Noticeably the Mekong shy away and start feeding on the higher levels of plankton, which kicks the carp in to overdrive, and they start to feed heavily on the bait available to them. Dean managed two of his goals when landing fish on the fly rod with an arapaima of 140lb. The carp evaded him, but that’s just another incentive to come back next year.
After a few days Richard managed to hold some carp in his swim and went on to land five other species, including a personal best Siamese carp weighing exactly 100lbs. Oscar fished for two days and managed to break his duck with an Amazon redtail of 45lb and went on to land another five fish.
If there was one slightly bad point for the guys, it was the political issues in Thailand that arose while they were here. This meant that the lads were grounded for a few days due to the nationwide curfew, and their millionaire status was burning a huge hole in their pockets! What it meant though was for those few days they were in bed early and up bright, breezy and fresh headed. To be honest it helped their fishing. Dean finished his trip with nine fish of five species. Oscar caught a total of six fish of three species with Richard landing seven fish of three species topped off with his Siamese carp of 100lb.
We also had the second trip of the year for the legend Terry “Poppa” Eustace. Terry has fished here more than most; he sponsors the lake with line and terminal tackle from his company Gold Label Tackle. Poppa has fished here from the very beginning and was the first angler to cast into the hallowed water. He even visited when the land was first purchased. He has seen a jungle and swamp turned into this fishing paradise created by Stuart and Sean. I wish I had been here to see Stuart’s vision turned into reality; he really has created heaven on earth.
Terry’s love for this place never ceases to amaze me. Even after so many trips his passion never dwindles; if anything it increases. I would walk in to his swim or on to his balcony and would catch Terry sitting without a care in the world, just content with life. He could be watching a beautiful butterfly hovering in front of him (I know in his head he’s thinking, “I wish that bloody thing would stay still for one minute so I can get a photo”), or he’ll be sitting with binoculars watching eagles and swallows swooping over the lake. One thing he always has is his eyes pinned to is the lake, watching for fish.
Now Terry has caught fish from all corners of the planet; he’s been there, seen it and bought the T-shirt, but I know one of the draws for him coming back, apart from the tranquility of the surroundings and the wonderful respect he gets (I say this tongue in cheek, as we give as good as we can get when it comes to Terry), is his love for the Siamese carp. He’s already accounted for four different Siamese over 100lb, and I know he wants to top that number up as many times as he can.
Well, Terry was lucky when he arrived; the rains were setting in and the Mekongs that he hates had backed off, so for him this was music to his ears. It was all out for another big carp and maybe move on to some of the other species if he achieved his goal of another 100lb’er. As always when the conditions look right, the weather is manageable and the carp are putting on an amazing water show, do they bite? Do they hell.
For the first four days, Terry moved swims once, baited up well, presented good rigs, recast every 45 minutes, did everything by the book, but couldn’t hook a Siamese for love nor money; all he could get was his beloved red pacu. He was the lake’s pacu king; even customers were calling him Poppa Pacu. It is stated that Gillhams is strictly catch and release, but this didn’t stop Terry begging us to knock each and every pacu on the head and take it up to Noi and Benz to be cooked for him for his dinner… Sorry Terry, rules are rules!
Now Terry has never gone two days in a swim without landing a Siamese carp, so for him to have three days and no carp, well, let’s just say day five was a swim move for the final time, this time moving into Sala 1 for his last four days. It did get worse for Terry; the morning of his first day in his new swim he had a late start. We normally see Terry on his balcony at 6am when we are setting the swims up, but this day he didn’t show until around 10.30am. We had a new couple join us to fish for two days, and they slotted in to his old position. First cast, inevitably, they had a Siamese, and by 10.30 they had landed two more. With a few typical Terry comments of praise to the lucky couple, he made his way to the new peg and his luck turned.
We slightly altered his tactics to the swim, changed the bait presentation a little and he was away. Terry caught Siamese carp every day for his last four days, and he ended up with a total of ten with the biggest coming in at 93lbs. He also managed a Julian’s Golden Carp and a rare catch on a pellet for us of a barramundi.
Now the name Poppa Pacu almost left him in the second half of the trip, except for his penultimate day. He had a screaming take on his middle rod… Now he was positioned in Sala 1, and you have the comfort of the new salas that Stuart has built. Poppa, moving at a rapid pace for him, rod in sight, leapt from his chair and raced out of the hut. Well the salas are great, but be warned – if you are 6ft or over, remember to lower your head on exit. As Terry found out, if you don’t do this you can quite easily gain a lump resembling an egg right in the middle of your forehead, and you guessed it, the fish was a pacu and his tenth of this trip.
It really seems that Terry’s trips come and go so quickly. I think I’ve had ten with him and loved everyone of them. On a personal note… Terry, thanks for the laughs, thanks for stories, and generally thanks for the chats and time I’ve spent with you; it’s been a absolute pleasure!
New Yorker Scott Sagar joined us for his return trip in June. Scott was first here two years ago almost to the day for his first experience of fishing in Thailand. He had seen the resort on TV while watching the National Geographic channel, and he made an instant decision that he had to add the resort to his fishing list.
Scott works in real estate back home and fishes as and when his work and family commitments let him. His US fishing is mainly for bass, but he frequently travels to various destinations chasing fresh and saltwater specimens. Luckily for him being an American, destinations like Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean are not so tough for him to get to. Now Gillhams is the exception to the rule for him; it’s a 40-hour journey for him to get here with around four to five different flights depending on connections – that is some journey. When Scott walked in on his first day, I remembered him straight away. His first words were, “That was 40 hours of hell, but I’ve had two years of thoughts of getting back here, and just being back through the gates makes it all worthwhile.” That’s some serious dedication.
Now you would think for a journey that intense the trip would be seven to ten days, but Scott only had four due to having to be back in the States, so it was get in the room, throw the bag down, get the necessities needed for fishing and get the rods out. No longer than 30 minutes after walking in, he was fishing.
On Scott’s previous trip, he had an amazing time. The Siamese were all over him, and I believe his best was twelve in one day. Asking him if there were any targets this time, he simply replied, ‘I just want to catch fish, keep busy and get as many as I can. He stayed in the same position the first trip, so said he would move about a bit and try different areas. The lake was pretty quiet numbers wise, so this plan was going to work well; he could freely move and still have plenty of room to fish without landing on top of other anglers.
With the rains coming in daily, the water temperature had dropped a few degrees, and it sparked the arapaima and other Amazon species into overdrive. You were able to see them in every area of the lake, confident and definitely on the prowl. To me fishing here all depends on targets and what you want to take from the trip. For some species I would recommend building up a swim through baiting, feature finding and consistently fishing to the same areas to try and get the fish to hold in one area. For other species moving to different areas and trying and pick off your target can be the key. Motivation is a big part of this too – this is a holiday of a lifetime, with catches of a lifetime fish to complement it. Every customer has their own goals and agendas and the variation of this is seen by us all year round.
Scott worked his four days solidly; he was out on the lake in his position at 6.30am every day, with baits on, ready to drop his rods onto his spots at 7am and didn’t leave until 8pm when the shout to pull your rods in had been called. His fish tally is impressive: he landed 20 fish in his session and lost around ten for various reasons. He had arapaima to 275lb, 14 Amazon redtails to 65lb, Asian redtails and pacu.
The anglers who visited us for the exotic fishing Thailand has to offer had some good fishing in Krabi this month with a total of 748 fish caught of 24 species, made up as follows: 35 arapaima to 380lb, 13 arawana to 8lb, five alligator gar to 65lb, 192 Amazon redtail catfish to 85lb, one Amazon stingray of 15lb, 121 Asian redtail catfish to 38lb, two barramundi to 6lb, 32 black pacu to 35lb, two big head carp to 25lb, one Chao Phraya catfish of 65lb, seven giant gourami to 5lb, three giant snakehead to 10lb, 16 Julian golden carp to 25lb, 18 Mekong catfish to 185lb, three mrigal carp to 9lb, one Nile perch of 5lb, four rohu to 15lb, six ripsaw catfish to 22lb, four spotted sorubim to 25lb, one spotted featherback of 6lb, one giant featherback of 8lb, 194 Siamese carp to 135lb, two shovel nosed tiger catfish to 12lb and two wallago leeri to 18lb.
Here’s the second part of the newsletter written by John, an eight-toed seven-fingered Isle Of Wight thoroughbred:
Troy and Jo Dando from New Zealand came to Gillhams for the first time this June. Troy is a security and facilities manager for Port Services and Jo is a health and safety manager for a massive haulage/transport company, two very responsible positions, so they were very much looking forward to their well-deserved break. They are two great people who are no strangers to fishing; in fact they have fished all over the world. Troy is a Pro-teamer for Lowrance, who are the people responsible for some of the best fish finding/plotting/radar equipment money can buy.
Troy and Jo are big time ”salties”, fishing every week for billfish, tuna, snapper, blue cod, grouper and kingfish. Between them they have caught fish to 250 kilos plus. They are also part of a fishing club called Dawn Breakers, a group of people who are huge on fish welfare and have a catch and release policy on most fish including a tag and release program that they’ve just started on kingfish, Troy’s favorite species..
So, even with the comments like, “What the f@%k d’ya wanna go freshwater fishin’ for?” from their salty colleagues, they were still very curious about the freshwater side of the sport, and made time on their planned trip to Thailand to see what our lake was all about for a four-day session after they had read and heard so much about Gillhams over the years. They settled on a swim of their choice with a keenness that we guides like to see, open to our tactics and putting trust in us to help them get the bites they need for a chance to catch. They soon got the hang of Spombing and other methods we use that were all new to them.
It wasn’t long before they were into some fish.
Now I think most of us would all agree that New Zealand has to be one of the most beautiful places in this world, Troy and Jo certainly love their country yet they said on several occasions while sat relaxing on the bank, “This place is just awesome, with such beautiful surroundings.” They told me that Gillhams is one of the most beautiful places they have ever fished. I think it’s fair to say that when you hear this from customers it just shows what superb vision Stuart had to make this place as beautiful as it is today from the start, ten years ago.
Troy and Jo had some great fish. Jo only fished the mornings and managed Asian redtails to double figures, an Amazon redtail of 30lb and was so happy to have two Siamese carp at 55lb and 80lb. Troy also had some nice fish with black pacu, Asian and Amazon redtails to 50lb and the fish he wanted to catch “if he was lucky enough” was an arapaima. Well, he lost two but caught three at 80lb, 140lb and his biggest at 250lb. Facebook pictures before their session ended has resulted in some of his saltwater friends chomping at the bit to get out here and have a go. That along with the compliments makes you smile, not in a gloating fashion, but with a bit of pride I suppose to know this place can tempt salties off their boats! I think if you love your fishing yet have never been to Gillhams, it’s certainly a different but really amazing side of fishing, whatever you prefer to catch. Troy and Jo certainly proved that, and we will look forward to seeing them again with the rest of the crew!
Father and son, Patrick and Ryan O’Sullivan planned a trip this month while on a two-week family break in Thailand celebrating Pat’s 60th birthday, and part of the plan was to fish on his birthday. Ryan had fished here two years ago and had some cracking fish including arapaima. Pat has wanted to catch one for a long time, so this was the main target for this trip.
The first day’s fishing started slow for them both with only one fish each, Ryan’s being a Siamese carp, and Pat caught a 40lb Amazon redtail, which he was really pleased with. On the second day it was Pat’s birthday, and they arrived on the lake with their usual smiles of excitement. Pat was soon off the mark with another Amazon redtail, slightly bigger, and Ryan had an Asian redtail. They took a break at midday to meet the girls for lunch, as they did every day, which is always nice to see. The afternoon session began and Pat settled back into his swim. Throughout the afternoon pat had a constant smile on his face happy to be fishing on his birthday.
At 7pm, an hour before finishing, his right hand rod rattled the pod, and within the first minute we knew he was into a good fish. After ten minutes it rose for air – yes, Pat’s 60th birthday, and his dream fish was on the end of his line. This fish was quite angry if I remember rightly, and gave us all some tense moments during the half hour battle. With the arapaima in the cage Pat was overwhelmed, and this fish was estimated at 280lb. To say pat was in shock was an understatement; the pictures say it all. This was the best birthday present Pat could have ever wished for. At 8pm Pat and Ryan got cleaned up for dinner, and both the girls and kitchen staff got balloons and birthday banners put up. We all sat and waited for them to turn up with a request to sing happy birthday arapaima… Pat was still gleaming and decided to celebrate by ringing the bell for his new personal best fish and buy everybody in the bar a drink. We all had a drink and of course cake, so it finished a brilliant day for him, a day he said he could never forget.
The next day Pat caught two more arapaima to 120lb and wasn’t bothered if he’d not caught a thing for the rest of the week. They had just a few hours the next morning, as they wanted to go elephant trekking and spend some time with their wives. They spent the last few days on the other side of the lake in the hope of different species and managed some good fish between them with five Amazon redtails, eleven Asian redtails, three Siamese carp and a nice 30lb black pacu, and on the last night Ryan had his turn for an arapaima. This was a very touch and go moment, as the fish had swum around a corner twice, grating the line severely. The guide could feel how bad the line was as it neared the cage but said nothing to Ryan, who played the fish superbly and managed to land it with an estimated weight of 200lb.
June saw yet another return from the “bearded fly fisherman” Jan Ibsen from Denmark, a great guy who is here once or twice a year. He has had some amazing catches on his fly rods. Jan has fly fished all over the world, saltwater and freshwater, and I must say, that bloke can cast a fly, and he is one of the more successful anglers that frequents Gillhams. Jan is a really nice bloke with a sense of humour; he is always bursting with enthusiasm and is an all-round gentleman.
Jan always brings a friend or two, and this year was the return from a trip two years ago of Kim Thrane, and a young lad called Janus Hansen, who came on his first ever visit, a trip he said he’d never forget.
Janus Hansen (who, if you haven’t guessed, is also Danish) is only 19 and a great lad. He is a chimney sweep, although his English is slightly worse than Dick van Dyke’s “Chim chimney, chim chimney, chim chim cherooooo!” In fact pointing and hand signals saved the day if Kim if Jan were not around to translate. To be fair, his English is still far better than my Danish. Janus fishes for sea trout at home with small spinners and lures, and he has had them to over 10lb but wondered what he’d let himself in for coming here. Kim took him sturgeon fishing the week before they came here in the hope of letting him know how it was to feel a big fish, and he managed a sturgeon of 23lb, which was a new personal best. On his first day Janus caught a couple of pacu and had a Siamese carp of around 40lb, which had already made his trip. He had never cast a fly rod before, so on the second day he decided to have a go with Jan’s rod up near the top end of the lake. He wasn’t very good and only managed 6ft of line for the first few minutes, but he persisted, and was soon casting an imitation frog a good 20 or so feet. This was far enough for his efforts to pay off, when a big Amazon redtail took it. I was with Janus through this battle, and I wish I could have captured the moment it went in the net. He was ecstatic! After all, how many people latch into a 50lb fish on their first attempt on a fly rod?
Kim Thrane was special – a big family man who spoke tirelessly of his lovely wife, 16-year-old stepdaughter Julie and 11-year-old son Tobias. He takes his son fishing a lot for carp and sturgeon. Kim is always laughing, and every day we were in stitches about something, most of which is not repeatable for this newsletter… He was very relaxed about his fishing and wasn’t too bothered what he caught, but big head carp was one wish.
They all liked to try different drinks, well, the truth in that is that they had no choice, as by day two they had drunk us out of Singha, so Tiger was next on the list until they had drunk all of that, and so they continued with other varieties that we had left. Most mornings they were hung over and had a few sessions on the any method/lure lake, or as I referred to it to them, the ‘hangover lake’ so they could ease gently into the day.
They really enjoyed their odd hour here and there on the small lake catching pacu, redtails, Julian’s carp and other smaller species in the lake. Bearing in mind that Jan only had one day with our rods and spent the rest of the days with his fly rod, the three of them had an impressive tally of fish.
Janus Hansen had 12 Amazon redtails to 80lb, four Siamese carp to 55lb, red pacu to 15lb, black pacu to 20lb and a Julian’s carp of 13lb. Jan Ibsen had two arawana to 7lb, three Amazon redtails to 60lb, Siamese carp to 60lb and arapaima on his fly rod to 120lb. Last but not least, the “Royal Customer” Kim Thrane’s list of species: two black pacu to 35lb, one Asian redtail of 16lb, four Amazon redtails to 45lb, four Siamese to 65lb, Julian’s carp, a 12lb ripsaw catfish, his target species in the shape of a 25lb big head carp and a massive arapaima of 350lb.
This next part has been written by Adam Randall, who was doing a fantastic job here as a guide. Unfortunately personal issues forced Adam to leave, but hopefully one day he will return, as the door is always open for him.
When I heard that Terry and Sue Kemp were returning to the resort for a few days after two previous unsuccessful trips, I for one was determined that this would be different. Now before everybody jumps on the use of the word unsuccessful, I’d just like to point out that for me catching is a very small part of fishing, and for want of a better phrase, just being there is often enough. Terry shares the same philosophy as me, and as he told me on many occasions: “Adam, I’m just happy being here, seeing others catch and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings is enough. A fish is just a bonus.” What a great outlook on the sport we all pursue.
Terry and I spoke at the start of his trip in the restaurant the evening before he started. Terry’s from Asia, living in Penang, Malaysia so had arrived the night before to maximize his fishing time. The subject of conversation soon turned to the three days’ fishing ahead and in particular Terry’s target species. Now I know from previous conversations that terry wanted a Siamese carp; he’d witnessed these fish first hand on other trips here and he longed to catch one of his own.
With the lake being a little quieter then usual and more swim choice available it was decided to give Terry the opportunity to fish the Grass Swim, not necessarily a noted area for Siamese carp, although as anybody who’s been to Gillhams knows, the lake literally never plays ball and is full of surprises. It is however one of the most consistent areas for redtail catfish of both Asian and Amazon variety, and as it was to be his first of three days’ fishing I wanted to ensure he got a bend in the rod.
Now fast forward to the following morning, and whilst setting up the swims at 6am I was pleasantly surprised to hear a “Morning, Adam” as I rode past Terry’s bungalow. He explained that being full of excitement and anticipation had led to a rather sleepless night, and he was raring to go, so cup of tea and tackle bag in tow we headed off in the direction of Terry’s swim. With two baits positioned close in we had literally just sat back for a chat and to ponder on what the day might bring when the bobbin pulled up tight and Terry was away. A redtail gave a good account of itself as they always do, but soon found itself safely in the net. Terry was made up, and the necessities were carried out before I invited Terry into the water for a picture with his fish, and it’s always a good excuse to cool off from the relentless Thai sunshine. Now I’m not going to bore you with every last detail or run through every capture that day, but what I will say is it was certainly a red-letter day. By adopting slightly different tactics to the norm in that swim we managed to put together nearly 20 opportunities. It was far from plain sailing though with a few slipping the hook or finding the sanctuary of the floating hyacinths that line the margins. Those losses weren’t going to ruin the party though and as the last hour and darkness drew in, Terry had amassed 11 redtail catfish to 50lb! At one point I’d nicknamed him Ten Fish Terry, a name that was only relevant for all of 15 minutes before number 11 graced the net. What a great end to an amazing day! Oh hang on… did I say end?
With an hour to go the rods were repositioned and well, you know what happens next – another take. This one was different to all the others and took off towards open water with short, fast erratic runs. Could we really be attached to a Siamese? Terry explained that this fish felt different to the others, and not wanting to alarm him, as he’d played all the other fish that day so well, I played it down. This seemed to calm him, and he went to work fighting the fish. I knew when after 15 minutes a lovely Siamese surfaced I was going to have my work cut out. Terry had seen the fish, and being his dream fish a mixture of nerves and excitement had overcome him.
Now everybody has different targets, aims and goals – that’s why we go, isn’t it? When that 60lb Siamese carp was netted I looked at Terry who looked back at me grinning from ear to ear. “What a bloody hell of a day,” he said before turning to his wife and saying, “You know what, love? Somebody’s looking down on me today.” Now if I could bottle up that feeling that Terry was experiencing I’d be a rich man.
We moved Terry the following day into an open water area along the bungalow bank, where we thought he had more chance of another Siamese carp, and although the fishing was much harder he continued to catch. It’s satisfying to see an angler develop, and Terry certainly had. Terry finished his 3 days with an impressive11 redtail catfish and 4 Siamese carp. As I entered the water to land a fish for Terry late afternoon on the final day of his stay he mentioned to me those famous last words again: “Adam, this feels different! It’s heavy and methodical; it’s coming in but just feels like a dead weight with the occasion small head shake.”
Like I said earlier, always expect the unexpected, and it was obvious that this fish wasn’t going to show itself until it was almost under his feet. That’s the cue for an alligator gar (a fish we’ve named Chris due to the unfortunate shape of his mouth just like our Brummie guide) to pop up and glide into the net. Now Chris is difficult in the net, as even with his mouth shut teeth on both the top and bottom jaw are exposed because of the alignment of his mouth, and he seems to roll when you try to take the hook out, tangling himself in the net. That’s until he’s had enough and then tries to just rip his way out. Terry was made up with this capture; in fact the whole trip had blown him away. Needless to say he didn’t venture into the water for a picture with Chris, instead choosing to snap away from the bank and then asking for a trophy shot with the ripped net. Well done Terry – a fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable few days. I look forward to meeting you back on the bank again soon.
We see a lot of friendships forged at Gillhams, not just between the guides and the guests but also between the guests themselves, and when Dave Wolf and Pete Rothy arrived at the resort from opposite sides of the world, Australia and England respectively, it was obvious for all to see a bromance was emerging! Pete, or Bedchair Pete due to the fact he’d dragged a Diawa bedchair all the way from the UK, as he didn’t fancy sitting on the plastic chair provided here, thought for a few hours he’d made the right decision. That was until he realised he’d not get more then ten minutes to sit on the damn thing. It pays to stay active and work at your fishing here, and regular casting/rebaiting helps to ensure you’re fishing effectively and making the most of your time on the bank.
There was talk that he was trying to sell it on the cheap before he left, but as nobody came forward with an offer he reluctantly dragged it back to the UK, unfortunately it never made it home as it went missing on the way back. Luckily his angling ability was a little better then his packing skills, and he managed to rack up a decent tally of fish over the duration of his ten-day stay. I think he’ll agree with me that the 300lb-plus arapaima he had was the highlight. Our guide here John called it completely right when he said we may struggle to get this fish to behave long enough for a photo, jumping the cage just as we were all about to say cheese. Luckily he’d snapped away whilst it was sulking and as we unhooked her to ensure Pete had some photographic evidence to show his mates.
Meanwhile Dave’s trip was turning out to be equally successful. He’d settled into a swim on the bungalow bank where’d he’d discovered that most days a few carp were happy to feed in the afternoons. This turned out to be quite lucky really, as after he’d been introduced to the bars at RCA we very rarely saw him before lunch. Any time he ventured into town the girls were on him in a flash, even the white trainer/white sock combination didn’t put them off! It was obvious from spending a bit of time with Dave that he was more then a competent angler, and although the arapaima he wanted eluded him, he still racked up some impressive fish. Dave left a few days before Pete, and it was obvious to see that once he was alone bedchair boy had lost his mojo. I have however heard that they’re now back in touch, and communicating daily via the wonders of modern technology, properly discussing when they’re next meeting up for a few yagerbombs! All joking aside, they are two great guys that were a pleasure to have here at Gillhams. Pete mentioned on the last day that he’d be back even if he had to get a second job to enable him to save enough money up. I think that’s testimony to how much he enjoyed it here.
Well, all the staff did a sterling job while I was away on my holiday. Over the years I have become bored with writing newsletters. Probably everyone who reads them feels the same, so it is nice to have the lads to write them for us. Come November my old mate and legendry angler and writer Mike “Spug” Redfern is joining the team. His job will be media promotion, filming and writing. If you have ever read Spug’s writings, especially his book Carping Mad, you will be as excited as us at the prospect of him joining the team.
While I was in Panama I got some really bad news. My mate Colin Huggett gave me the sad news that his father Colin Senior had passed away. Colin had been battling that scourge disease of the planet cancer. Last year he got the all-clear and made his dream trip with son Colin to Gillhams. He immediately told Colin to rebook for October this year, but sadly Colin Arthur Huggett passed away on the 1st July, at the age of 73 years. He was far too young to be taken from us. Anyone who had ever met Colin will have been touched by this lovely caring family man. Even if you met him briefly you would have felt you had known him for years. The world lost a gentleman. Colin asked me on the day of his dad’s funeral to put some flowers with our Buddha and say a prayer for his dad. While I sat saying my farewell a fish rolled in the lake. I believe this was a sign that Colin was now at rest and free from pain. Rest in peace, Colin. You will be sorely missed by your loving family and many friends; it was an honour to have met you, sir.
Many thanks to you all for supporting Gillhams. We only have a few dates left for 2014. Many dates are full or close to full through 2015, with steady bookings coming in for 2016. If you are planning a trip to Gillhams we strongly recommend you to book early to avoid disappointment.
Best wishes from us all here at Gillhams Fishing Resorts, we hope to see you at the world’s best fishery in the near future.