Welcome to another fishing in Thailand newsletter from Gillhams Fishing Resorts. This month’s newsletter is longer than usual, as Geoff wanted his moment of glory. As you will read later, Geoff was helping with the filming. Now Geoff is a movie star and hoping for an Oscar, so we have had to include his blow-by-blow account. They say everyone gets five minutes of fame; well Geoff has taken half an hour and filled the newsletter! If we have missed you out then blame Geoff because we ran out of room, but as Manchester United are playing such crap this year we had to do something to cheer the old git up! To save you all from being bored, Geoff’s account is at the end of the newsletter, so that way, instead of counting sheep, you can save it until bedtime and read your way into the land of nod.
As this newsletter was being completed we have broken the world record for Siamese carp. Keith Williams landed a beast of a fish at 134lb 7oz. Story and pictures to follow next month.
This month has been incredibly busy due to the lake extension. We scheduled 16 days to complete the work, and due to good weather and a good team the middle of the lake was removed in five days. Tidying up, landscaping and 1,000 metres of turf was completed in four days, which meant the whole job from start to finish was completed in an incredible nine days.
The work was planned to start with 11 diggers on the 19th September. Three diggers were delivered on the 17th, which gave us a bit of time to remove trees. The bonus was that we managed to get the first five metres dug prior to the start date, which meant that the top bank was shaped and the marginal slope was perfect down to the digging depth. We lowered the lake by a meter so the machine could dig down to four meters and leave a smooth bottom, which meant that when the water level was raised we had a constant five-metre depth.
The first day of work started smoothly enough at 8am, and what a sight to see – 11 bloody great machines lining up along the causeway. Each machine was spaced out evenly, and the drivers worked alternate ways so as not to collide. The plan was to fit a net around the area. The lead machine, driven by Mick was digging so fast we were struggling to keep up with him. I was rushing around moving the net and hurried over the bank behind the machine; I jumped down the bank and landed straight on a piece of reinforcing steel that had been dug up with an old manhole. The half-inch steel bar went straight into my foot and hit the bone, so I was impaled on this piece of steel and had to wrench my foot off before the reality of the situation sunk in! I collapsed into the lake in agony, and Sean and Geoff thought I was having a heart attack. They dragged me from the lake and captain sensible Geoff took control. What a man Geoff is in an emergency; being a retired fire chief he is trained to cope with emergencies, and all I can say is thank goodness Geoff was there. He sorted everything and got me to hospital, and two hours later I was back at the lake sitting in a wheelchair and overseeing the work.
Whenever I have worked on lakes before, digging triggers the fish to feed, but I must admit I have never experienced 11 diggers working at once! The fishing was a lot slower than expected; most people did catch but not in the numbers we expected. The bonus was that watching this incredible feat unfold in front of the anglers’ eyes compensated for the lack of fish, and everyone who witnessed the event commented that they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We offered a free return to anyone who failed to catch, but fortunately only one guy blanked on a very short stay, and he has been given a free return.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, we had an accidental stocking of 3,000 pacu, which should have been tilapia. Prior to the lakes being joined, we removed around 700, but unfortunately we ran out of time, and now we have around 2,000 of the little sods to remove. In the first week another 300 have been caught and relocated to the lure lake, and with the predators having a feeding frenzy on them it will only be a few weeks before they have been eradicated. Before the green-eyed tossers start, these fish were not counted in the no-catch guarantee and are not included in the catch report!
Many people who follow us on Facebook were disappointed that we did not post daily pictures. We apologise, but the green-eyed monsters decided to phone the powers that be and tell them we where using a non-Thai machine driver. Fortunately we were tipped off and asked to keep a low profile, hence we could not post a daily report. The main reason we used a UK driver was the job was very specialised. Mick Murray is an expert in this field, and being English speaking meant any decisions could be acted on immediately. Mick was not paid for his services and our friend Den supplied the machine for him to drive. All the Thai drivers complimented Mick on his machine operating skills, and admitted they could not have performed the task as well as he did. As I have said before, jealousy is a sad thing, and why these wankers can’t get on with their own sad little lives is beyond me.
This month one of our anglers found out the hard way why we have rules here that aren’t just about fish care. The careless angler left his rods on the bank without removing the baits. On many waters this would get you banned and removed instantly. George our resident giant African tortoise came through on a feeding session. He took a fancy to the angler’s pellet, which resulted in a size 1/0 hook imbedded deep inside him! Poor old George was rushed to Krabi’s animal hospital where he underwent four hours of surgery but they were unable to remove the hook. The vet told us it was too dangerous to carry on, and that George would have to take a chance that the hook will either pass through, break down inside him, or he would just have to live with a internal piercing. Over the next couple of months George will be kept inside an enclosed area, and some poor sod will have to check his poo every day. This job will be monitored by Geoff due to him having too many days off island hopping, elephant trekking and anything else he could talk a film crew to take him on.
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 439 fish caught of 29 species, made up as follows: 62 arapaima to 380lb, eight arawana to 9lb, three alligator gar to 36lb, 96 Amazon redtail catfish to 80lb, 102 Asian redtail catfish to 40lb, two barramundi to 8lb, one brycon of 4lb, 12 black pacu to 40lb, six big head carp to 22lb, two Chao Phraya catfish to 110lb, one firewood catfish of 22lb, two giant gourami to 7lb, one giant snakehead of 10lb, four giant featherback to 11lb, six Julian’s golden carp to 33lb, 36 Mekong catfish to 220lb, three mrigal to 9lb, eight Nile perch to 8lbs, one ripsaw catfish of 9lb, four rohu to 18lb, three striped snakehead to 3lb, three seerfish to 8lb, six spotted featherback to 7lb, 51 Siamese carp to 105lb, three shovel nosed spotted sorubim to 28lb, four shovel nosed tiger catfish to 14lb, three tambaqui to 62½lbs, two wallago attu to 20lb, and three wallago leeri to 25lb, and one zungaroo of 8lb.
Over to Geoff and the guides now for the anglers’ catch reports.
Some anglers have a funny story of how they came to Gillhams. Facebook as a social networking tool is an amazing thing to use, but there are many stories where Facebook has got someone in trouble, and here’s another one for you. Chris Chennells came to Gillhams in March last year, and he couldn’t wait to get back and tell his best friends Paul Bowman and James Sergeant about how much he enjoyed it.
Secretly, behind his wife’s back, James and Paul plotted and planned how they could go fishing at Gillhams, telling James’ wife they were going to Spain for catfish. That’s where Facebook comes in: Chris posted photographs of his catches and Paul rather stupidly commented on Facebook to James, “I can’t wait until WE get there.” James’s wife Emma saw the posting and was livid, and you can imagine the conversation when James got home from work that day. “Had a good day at work babe? Where shall we go on holiday to this year? Maybe we could go to Thailand, you conniving b*****d!” Anyway with a lot of creeping and no doubt a few new dresses and the promise that she could go away with her friends, Emma finally agreed to let James come.
Shortly after arriving at Gillhams, I nicknamed James and Paul “Little and Large” mainly due to the fact that their combined weight comes to around 40 stone with James weighing in at ten stone wet through, and, well, you can do the maths. They arrived at around the time when the lakes were being joined, and with the disturbance of the diggers, the fishing became very slow. But not a single moan or gripe was heard from the lads in all the time they were here; I think Emma was sticking pins in a voodoo doll!
After five days, the only fish that they had managed to land between them was an Amazon redtail and a spotted featherback, plus the annoying baby pacu that don’t count. All were caught by Paul I hasten to add; James was staring a blank in the face. I think the only thing that kept James happy was the fact that anyone who blanked when the digging work was being carried out would get a free holiday. So at least if James kept up his amazing skill of losing fish, he had a readymade excuse to return. James did hook into a Mekong that took him the length of the lake and back again before losing it due to a hook pull. That evening he had a definite run from an arapaima, but did his best to lose the fish, nearly picking up the wrong rod in the darkness and tripping over the rod pod until eventually he had another hook pull.
I was thinking to myself, I’m going to get the sack if this guy doesn’t catch and Stuart has to give away a free holiday, so the next day we tried popping up baits, and eventually James hooked into an arapaima, which gave a spirited scrap until eventually being netted. Joel immediately noticed that the fish was in distress, and asked for Stuart to come and look at it. The arapaima is such a special creature and gives a spectacular fight, but it is also a fragile fish that needs to be treated with the utmost care. Fish whisperer Stuart cradled the fish for over 15 minutes, performing little tricks he has learnt over the years, before he was content enough to let the fish go, which unfortunately meant James didn’t get his photograph, but to his credit James was just as concerned for the welfare of the fish as we were. Everyone was happy that the fish went back able to fight another day. Maybe Stuart was the happiest as bang went James’ chance of a free holiday!
Next up was John Harvey with his partner Yo plus his mum Helen and dad David.
John, a former roofer from Devon, is someone who took the plunge eight years ago, and he is now an ex-pat living in Pattaya running a small business selling items on eBay. Both John and David were clear in their minds on how they wanted to fish, and asked for a method feeder rod and a float rod to be set up. Nothing happened on their first day, so they asked for a swim further down the lake and set light float rods up. Using bread punch that John is famous for, and feeding groundbait every cast, they soon had the pacu feeding and spent the next couple of hours catching pacu after pacu, each one around 2lb, and they were as happy as the proverbial pig in s**t!
I hope David doesn’t mind me saying this, but he is slightly deaf, so there were a few awkward moments when I would talk to him and he would completely ignore me (we all pretend that, Geoff.) Quite rude I thought, but then I realised I had been calling him Derek all day, and not his real name, David, so perhaps I can understand why he ignored me! John fished hard but the fish were not having it. It was a different story for David/Derek though, when he hooked into his first arapaima. After a long battle and just before it was netted, the fish leaped completely out of the water narrowly missing guide Declan “pretty boy” Austin and his boy band facial features by just inches. This was a lovely looking arapaima with a green sheen to its body, a young fish bred naturally in the lake that most likely had never seen a hook. David was absolutely delighted with his capture, and the grin on his face said it all. The whole family was off for few days in Ao Nang, so if you’re reading this, John and David, I hope you all had a lovely holiday before mum and dad returned to the UK.
Ollie Dumville joined us this month to complete five weeks’ work experience at Gillhams. Ollie is currently studying fishery management at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, and he was one of the lucky students to secure his work placement in Thailand. Now in my old job we used to have a saying called the “six Ps” that stood for “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. Now if young Ollie had followed these rules, perhaps he would have brought the right stuff with him. If you were told that you were going to work in Thailand, with temperatures touching 35 degrees and you would have to enter the lake every day to land fish, what would you bring with you? Do you think shorts would be a good idea? This was Ollie’s first mistake; he didn’t bring a single pair of shorts with him, which resulted in him taking a pair of scissors to his favorite jogging bottoms, and he wore them for the whole time he was here! We would all love to hear his decision making process when he was packing his bag! So I suppose it’s Dumville by name, Dumville by nature.
Seriously; it must be hard to be 21 and come to a strange country and meet a team that has been together for a long time and try to fit in. It would be fair to say that Ollie struggled at the beginning. His personality didn’t really shine through, as everything you asked him was answered in one of two words: yes or no! Nothing else existed in his vocabulary other than yes or no! And this was always delivered in a slow Barnsley accent so much so that he got the nickname “Delkim” because anything and everything he said was in one tone!
I think things changed for Ollie when he was asked to sit with Mike Whitford and Jo Green to watch what they did and help in any way he could. Mike and Jo are real thinking anglers, always trying out new things to get into the fish, and Ollie no doubt got a lot out of his experience with both of them. It’s only when they went home that I asked Ollie how it had gone and what did he learn sitting for 14 hours a day for seven days with quality anglers? To my surprise I didn’t get the usual yes or no this time; Ollie actually said a sentence, and with great excitement in his voice went into great detail how he had learnt how to make a snowman out of ground bait! So folks, if you are wondering where your taxes go when they go into education, it’s so the students of Sparsholt College can learn how to make Christmas figures out of ground bait!
Another strange thing about Ollie is he would always have his tee shirt on unless he had to go in the water, and then all was revealed when you finally saw his chest. Ollie has the most sunken chest we had ever seen; in fact you could serve Tom Yum soup in his chest and you wouldn’t spill a drop! Of course we never mentioned this to him… much!
As the weeks went by Ollie slowly came out of his shell and was a great help around the fishery. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and you could see him grow in stature from the shy young man who had arrived a few weeks earlier to someone growing in confidence and learning new things every day. He even started answering back when we took the mickey out of him. I think I speak for everyone at Gillhams when I wish Ollie well in his exams and his chosen career, and we hope to see him back at Gillhams at some time in the future.
As mentioned above, Stuart’s friends Jo Green and Mike Whitford returned to fish with us. Jo and Mike have been together for ten years and run their own gardening and landscaping company. I have to say I don’t fancy being one of their customers, as they seem to be always bloody fishing. As soon as they left us they were planning their next trip to Graviers in France and then Morocco carp fishing.
The first day both of them blanked, but we needn’t have worried, as between them they had 19 different species throughout their time here – a great achievement – and how did they do it, I hear you ask? They came fully armed with their own special bait, the good old-fashioned worm. Now before you ask, we don’t stock worms at Gillhams; Stuart has tried to create a wormery at the resort, but not only do the fish like worms, so do the local snake population, making the wormery a non-starter. Unfortunately the worms that live in Thailand are not the same as at home; they die very quickly in the water, so if you want to fish worms we are afraid you will have to do what Mike did and bring them with you. I must at this point explain that Gillhams will take no responsibility for the movement of live bait from the UK to Thailand!!
I asked Mike if he was worried about bringing alien species into Thailand, and what his secret was of how to bring them. He said it was no problem; he had a foolproof method of getting the worms in, which can bypass the most sophisticated monitoring and detection equipment. He told me he stuffed all 5kg down his Marks and Spencers underpants. Well with the smell of the worms and the smell of a gardener’s sweaty Y-fronts, no self-respecting sniffer dog would go near them would they? Night after night they would be met with disgruntled looks from other anglers who weren’t quite as successful. It never ceases to amaze me how jealous people can be when they see other people catching. If they had done the same as me and just asked them, they would have gladly given them some worms because that’s the sort of couple they are.
And what happened when the worms ran out? Like I said, these two know their stuff. If a method wasn’t working they were not afraid to come up with new ideas and ring the changes. Mike thought he would try making soaked pellets into a small ball and wrapping the paste in PVA netting, and he was soon into the fish again. They didn’t stop there; they did the same with bread and tuna chunks straight out of the tin, which resulted in a take from a Siamese carp that unfortunately threw the hook at the net. It was this method that gave Jo the highlight of her trip – a magnificent 100lb Chao Phraya catfish.
It was quite fitting that these two were the last people to fish the Sala 5 and 6 swims before they had to move across the lake as the diggers moved in to start the lake extension. Jo moved to the swim known as E3 and thoroughly enjoyed herself as the eleven diggers trundled across the causeway and started to join the two lakes together. She enjoyed it that much that she delayed their departure date twice and stayed three more days, so if you were waiting to get your lawns cut, would you accept our apologies? Both Jo and Mike said they would love to do some guiding over here; they would be an asset to the fishery and have asked Stuart, so you never know.
Colin Dodd, an English ex-pat who lives in Phuket made his second trip to Gillhams, fishing for one week and taking advantage of the 50% discount while the lake extension was underway. Colin is a very keen and experienced angler. At the time of Colin’s stay the fishing was hard with most anglers struggling due to the amount of suspended particle from the machines working. Colin thought about his setup and reasoned that the lakebed would have a film of silt covering it. He set up with critically balanced and popped-up baits, and everything was timed to ten minutes with his alarm set on his phone so he was consistently casting and baiting. Later he changed to method feeders, using bread flake to allow the baited hook to waft around, making his bait easy for a feeding fish to find while hoovering up the groundbait. His tactics may have seemed strange to others, or even excessive due to his strict timekeeping, while others simply cast out sat back and cracked on with their favorite holiday novel. Colin’s work certainly paid off as he became top rod on the lake in a swim that not too many people would pick. Colin landed seven fish of five species including hitting all his targets, with a personal best Siamese carp to 55lb, Mekong catfish to 140lb and two arapaima, one being his biggest ever fish at 200lb.
Colin Huggett returned with Dale Blowes and joining them for the first time was Colin’s father, also named Colin. Colin senior doesn’t mind me mentioning but he was recovering from bladder cancer, and Gillhams was somewhere he always wanted to visit. Son Colin made a promise to his dad that when his treatment was over, then the trip would happen. Fishing started slow for them, but when Colin junior, who was getting away from running his own security business, could manage to drag himself out of his bed, he got into some lovely fish getting two PBs with an arapaima at 220lb and a 65lb Amazon redtail.
Colin senior wasn’t going to be outdone, and he sat in his swim day after day with a good book steadily catching Amazon red tail catfish – as long as he had a cup of tea he was happy! Bloody hell can this gentleman drink tea! It must have been ten cups a day, and next time he comes we are having a kettle installed in his swim! The one thing that eluded him, and what would make his holiday was a Siamese carp. We all sat in the restaurant one morning before work, saying it would be lovely if we could get him one. The poisoned chalice was given to Jut, then what happens 20 minutes later? Colin senior got his Siamese carp. Now I would like to say it was down to Jut’s expert guiding, but Jut had only spent two minutes with him; in fact it was all Colin’s own work. Stuart had said that if Colin got his carp, because of his medical condition and having trouble getting in the water, he could sit on the edge and cradle the carp in his hands. I don’t think you could have seen a happier 73-year-old; he was so chuffed with himself as a 50lb carp was placed on his lap.
Dale tried the new side of the lake first and got plagued with pacu; he was a bit down after seeing his mate get two PBs. Now I had been warned that if Dale, by his own admittance, lost a fish, he was well known for going off on one in a kind of John McEnroe way! His rods would be flung on the grass, the bottom lip would come out and it was best to leave him for 20 minutes to calm down. That, coupled with his choice of wearing an unusual Laura Ashley designer hat with matching shorts, is going to be interesting, I thought, but then again what do you expect from an Arsenal supporter?
Top of Dale’s wish list was an arapaima, but they didn’t seem to be playing. But the old trick worked again as Dale asked me for a cup of tea; he’s another seasoned tea drinker I might add. While I was away, he hooked into a big arapaima, and although he tried his best to turn the fish, it went straight around the aerator, and was gone before Dec could get there. Dale was inconsolable, but it’s not my way to have people sulking when things don’t go quite right, so I offered my apologies with a piss take about how a Spurs fan wouldn’t have lost it. That and a couple of chocolate digestives shoved in his hand brought a smile to his face, and he said “Let’s get the rods back in. There will be others to be had before the end of the day.”
Throughout his stay Dale kept a picture of his good friend Fritz next to his rod pod. Fritz sadly had lost his battle with an aggressive form of Hodgkinsons disease, with Dale and other friends seeing him through his illness to the end. We both said Fritz would be looking down on Dale, and he would get his arapaima before his holiday was over. Shortly before the 8pm deadline Dale’s rod screamed off and his ‘arry was on. With Dale shaking like a rabid dog, and after a few scary moments, he had his first Arapaima at 100lb, and once again we had a very satisfied customer. The next day Dale spent most of the morning trying to catch a stingray that was feeding on snails in the margin, virtually dropping a piece of fish onto its nose to tempt it, but the fish wouldn’t take the bait. But he still ended up with a personal best Amazon red tail at 50lb.
I have to say one of the kindest things happened with Colin junior, when on the last day he was fishing the grass swim. He found out that Ollie the student was leaving us, and desperately wanted to catch an arapaima. Without hesitating he gave up the swim for the afternoon, letting Ollie fish it till the end of the day. You have to remember this is a man who had paid good money for his fishing, but in his words “He had got his personal best arapaima and wanted to give the lad his chance.” That was a really nice gesture Colin, and not something that many anglers would dream of doing. You certainly have the respect of all the guides for what you did that day. By the way, Ollie didn’t catch his fish, but he is from Doncaster, remember!
Becoming an old friend of ours now, Lawrence King arrived this month, or Casper as he’s now known because if he put chip fat on his body he still wouldn’t get a tan. Armed with his own reel spools filled with new braid, he was ready to try and surpass his massive total of 45 fish all over 50lb that he achieved early on in the year. Casper always treats himself to new tackle when he comes, and this time he had a nifty small rucksack that would suit a certain guide down to the ground. When it was mentioned to Casper, he said if he got certain fish on this trip the rucksack was mine. What was the target? To beat his PB for an arapaima at 280lb and his PB Amazon red tail of 50lb – not exactly easy targets for me, I’m sure you will agree, but nevertheless the challenge was on!
The first day, within an hour, he had his first arapaima on the bank, a small one by Gillhams standards of 100lb… Isn’t it funny how we say that now, a small one of 100lb? What would people give for a ‘small fish’ of 100lb. Next fish was another arapaima that at first glance looked like a small one. The way we land these fish at Gillhams is when they are ready for the cage we take the leader and virtually put our arm around the fish and ‘cuddle’ it into the cage. When I went to ‘cuddle’ this fish I couldn’t get my arm around it, so I just sort of gave it a manly hug and into the cage she went. I had a very smug smile on my face, as I knew there and then I was going to be the proud owner of a nifty little rucksack. Fortunately Jut joined us, who had landed the fish a couple of weeks earlier and knew it, and straight away he gave the weight of 360lb. Cue a big grin on Casper’s face and me thinking that rucksack will be great for stalking in the rivers when I get back home. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
Next target the redtail and conversations with Stuart as to what ideas he had to connect with the fish. His view was that maybe the fish were getting wise to boilies whether popped up or not, and no matter if they are flavored with the latest super duper flavoring designed more for the angler’s nose than the fish. Out came a small method feeder with a tiny piece of fake corn and poly ball on the hook for buoyancy; the last three inches nailed to the bottom with split shot. Casper, having to cast in with the method every ten minutes, had a result of two Amazon red tails with largest going 60lb.
So day one: two PBs before nightfall and one very happy friendly ghost. The next day, out came the float rod with scaled down tackle to try and catch a Julian’s golden carp on bread flake. Unfortunately that didn’t materialize, but a 15lb Asian redtail on the waggler more than made up for it.
For the next few days Casper was the only angler who persevered with the float, balling ground bait every day creating a new plateau in the lake in front of his swim, but in the end it paid off. He said all week he wanted to catch something he had never caught before and he did it on the float with a big headed carp of 12lb and followed that up with a 35lb Asian red tail and another two personal bests.
Shortly before he came out, Lawrence found out that his dad was very ill with cancer, which I know personally hit him very hard. After sending his dad the pictures of his 360lb arapaima, Lawrence said whatever it takes he is going to try and convince his dad to get out here even if he has to take unpaid leave. I hope you succeed mate, because I for one would love to see you out here soon with your dad, and everyone at Gillhams will do everything possible to make sure it is a holiday your dad will never forget.
Family friend and old UK fishing partner of Stuart, Matt Skinner joined us again this month with his wife Claire and both sets of their parents. Matt and Claire own the beautiful hotel Reef Retreat on the stunning Philippine island of Boracay, so swap holidays are the order of the day when we want to swap our paradise with theirs. If you are visiting the Philippines look no further than Reef Retreat www.reefretreatboracay.com Boracay is a great place with beautiful beaches, good restaurants and great nightlife. This holiday with the family was to celebrate three birthdays and a wedding anniversary. While Matt and his dad Dave fished every day the others took it nice and easy relaxing around the pool… Well everybody apart from Claire, who spent a few days nursing hangovers!
Most mornings started with Dave getting the first fish, then Matt would start hooking Mekongs, letting them run through Dave’s swim to make him bring his rods in. Dave also had a long battle with a freshwater stingray, only to have a hook pull moments before netting. In total Matt and Dave caught 19 fish of four species between them including Siamese carp to 85lb and Mekong to 185lb. After leaving here it was of to the Maldives, to carry on their holiday relaxing on the beach while Matt and Dave no doubt found some fishing and no doubt Claire got pissed!
Another first time visitor, but not his last time, as he has already booked to return in 2014, was Steve Sands. Steve is an investment banker and owner of Churchwood Fisheries in Brentwood. Steve fished his lakes as a teenager and later became the proud owner of this picturesque Essex fishery. His target was to try and catch a Siamese carp over the magical 100lb, which would give him his second carp species over 100lb. Steve has already caught a Chinese black carp over 100lb whilst living and working in Japan, and he kindly sent us a picture of this rare carp to share. The Siamese carp were gorging themselves on a plankton bloom when Steve was here, and during his time here only a few were landed, hence the return visit next year. He did however manage two other species over 100lb with a 135lb Mekong catfish and eight arapaima with six of them going over the ton, up to 250lb.
Joining Steve was Phil Stockwell, another fishery owner from Colchester. Steve also owns a bait company, CW baits. Steve’s knowledge of fish’s dietary requirements and how pH content affects different baits and flavors made for some interesting discussions in the evenings at the bar. Phil mapped and plumbed each swim he fished meticulously, strategically baiting, adjusting presentation and variation of baits he brought with him plus the resort baits. The fishing was tough due to the plankton bloom, but he persevered and landed arapaima to 160lb, Amazon red tail catfish to 45lb, Julian’s Golden carp and a rare firewood catfish of 22lb. Steve has vowed to return and even the score with the fish.
Steve and Phil made a film on their iPhone and posted it on YouTube. Follow this link to view http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOi8P5hpEpw This film will also show the knowledge of Sparsholt College’s finest, Ollie, as he displays his research skills carried out prior to his Thailand assignment!
Mark and Annette Whittley returned just as the lake extension was completed to find a chocolate brown lake. They run the Four Seasons Hotel at Lanai Hawaii so this was a busman’s holiday for the two expats. This couple are fun to be around as they both have a wicked sense of humor, what with relentless piss-taking, quoting films. Plus there was the fun they had with student Ollie who kept getting in the way of their photos. They spent three days speaking in northern accents to wind Ollie and Geoff up! They had a few slow days, but fortunately the red tails liked the dirty water. In total they landed 21 fish of three species. Annette dearly wanted to catch an arapaima, but she hooked three and lost them, leaving it to Mark to show her how it’s done with two at 170 and 130lbs.
Another husband and wife team to visit was Roseanne and Gavin Winder. Roseanne is the angler in this duo; she listens to advice and never gets stressed with the fishing, unlike Gavin who does his own thing and then blames us. The worst hooks you can use here are Eagle Waves, but Gavin insisted on using them, even thinking if he left the barbs on they would work! The bloody things are so bad even a foul-hooked stingray came adrift despite dear old Gavin carefully waiting till the bugger came up to his feet before jagging the poor sod in the nose! Braid must be loaded tightly on a spool; Gavin’s was loose, and couple that with not checking drag settings and disaster is on the cards. Nice bloke Gavin, but very set in his own ideas, like when he watched Jack doing press-ups, then saying he was not doing them properly (poor little Jack is only four!). Enough of ribbing poor Gavin; he gave it his best shot and once he changed hooks he still landed eight fish and a PB arapaima of 280lb. Rosanne had her own ideas as well, and her choice of bait dips was excellent. Her own unique flavor had the fish well excited, and despite the colored water she still managed five fish of four species with the best a Mekong catfish of 120lb.
Jerry Smith made his return to Gillhams with girlfriend Trudy, Tony Askew and his wife and Lewis Janes. Jerry’s trip last year finished on a high after landing an arapaima of 380lb, and this trip his main target species were alligator gar and Siamese carp. The fishing started slow for Jerry, and he found it frustrating that all around him anglers were catching fish. It got so bad that knives had to be hidden in the restaurant and drawstrings removed from the curtains! All ended well when Jerry starting catching fish, and he was removed from suicide watch. Unfortunately Jerry’s alligator gar never made an appearance, but he did manage a new species with a ripsaw catfish, and nearly matched his PB arapaima when he caught another big one of 360lb. In total Jerry caught four fish of three species. Lewis Janes and Tony Askew also had some nice fish with Siamese carp to 85lb, Chao Phraya to 110lb and arapaima at 240lb and 360lb. Lewis also tried his hand at fly fishing, losing a couple of arapaima, but the Amazon redtail catfish were more obliging and he landed five up to 50lb.
Apart from Geoff’s filming escapade below this completes this month’s newsletter. Please remember to book your trip in advance, as 2014 is filling up fast. To book your dream fishing holiday contact Stuart by email at email@example.com or phone +66861644554.
As threatened, here is Geoff’s blow-by-blow account of his movie debut!
An old friend of Gillhams, Dean Macey arrived this month along with cameraman John Dunford to film a three-part series for Fish TV. Each individual program was to have its own theme, with the first program covering Mekong catfish and Siamese carp. The second program entitled ‘Weird and Wonderful’ focuses on catching some of the lesser-known species in the lake, and with 49 species to choose from it shouldn’t be too hard, should it? Finally the last program was to target and demonstrate how the arapaima, for which Gillhams are famous for, can be caught on the fly as well as our normal tackle.
On arrival Stuart asked Dean what his requirements for filming were, to which Dean replied that for the purpose of continuity whilst filming, it would be helpful to have the same guide throughout his stay. Stuart thought long and hard about this request and methodically worked through the assets of the guides. Joel, great guide but should the viewing public be subjected to that huge forehead, as the screening would be before the watershed? Jut – quite photogenic but tends to use too many big words that even he doesn’t understand. Gollock, well being Thai, his English can be likened to a Scotsman on the piss so he didn’t make the cut. Declan, our pin-up boy – bronzed, young, good-looking, although a bit on the dim on the side… Surely they couldn’t have someone better looking than Dean on the program could they? Finally Chris, who after being told many times, “It’s not big and it’s not clever” still finds it extremely hard to string a sentence together without a swear word, and with his recent film exploits on Facebook the producers were adamant that a no-nudity clause was adhered to at all times.
This left Stuart in a bit of a mess really, so he did no more than to look into the bottom of the barrel to scrape it and found me, Geoff, possibly, sorry, definitely, the worst guide on the resort, fast asleep with my face stuck to a pillow as I tend to dribble when asleep, much the same as any other person of an elderly disposition is inclined to do.
I like to think I was chosen because of my remarkable resemblance to George Clooney or was that George Formby I’m not sure? Anyway, I was packed off to have my faced ironed and given 10,000 baht to visit a renowned plastic surgeon for one gallon of botox, and a mix of two of sand and one of cement to fill the cracks in my well lived-in face. As it turned out, I was chosen because I make a cracking cup of tea… charming.
Day one started with Dean targeting the Mekong catfish and Siamese carp. One good thing about working here is we get a lot of bloody good anglers, from well-known guys to lesser known and then the high profile guys like Dean, but no angler knows everything, even though some think they do. Dean is an easy going likeable chap who is always willing to listen to the guides’ views. For me watching a guy like Dean go about his fishing is an education; watching a professional like Dean you can’t fail to learn a few new tricks.
It’s true to say that the lake wasn’t fishing as it normally does and the fishing was hard. We were all anticipating how Dean would attack his chosen swim; the now removed Sala 6. Stuart has said time and time again that this is not a bagging up fishery, but those who are prepared to work and feed the swim properly will get their rewards. Much like in his athletic career, Dean is committed to winning, feeding a spot confident that he could get the fish to take his bait. His rods were walked out to a bankside marker and clipped up, ensuring that every cast hit the same spot time and time again. The result? Two Mekong catfish to 160lbs.
Dean’s favorite global species is the Siamese carp. How do I know this? Well it’s because Dean must have said, “This is my favorite global species” to camera more than 30 times on the first day. To say it was becoming repetitive would be an understatement! However do you know why it’s Dean’s “favorite global species” (I can tell you are getting fed up of hearing the phrase already)? It all stems back to a nine-year-old Dean seeing a picture of a Siamese carp in a fishing magazine and saying to his dad, “One day I’m going to catch one of those.” True to his word Deano has caught many of these fabulous fish; he caught his personal best of the species at 108lb on his last visit here. This time a slightly smaller one of 50lb graced his net with once again to camera, Dean saying, “Do you know, this is my favorite…” Well, you know the rest!
Second day came and more Mekong and Siamese carp, which resulted in John the cameraman having ample amounts of footage to edit. Dean was now feeling quite happy with himself, as this would allow more time to catch as many species as he could from the lure lake, which he felt could be his biggest challenge. The lure lake at Gillhams is roughly one acre in size, formally the nursery stock pond for the arapaima and now a fly and lure fishing lake. This lake is stocked with around 20 species of fish from around the globe; it even has a mystical figure of a solitary Siamese carp nicknamed The Warrior, and placed in the lake at 85lb. This fish was getting caught too much in the main lake, resulting in it losing weight, going from 127lb to 85lb. The Warrior has been fed on a diet of 10kg of pellets every morning for the past 18 months, and the fish is now expected to be back to its original weight if not even bigger! Stuart is now allowing trusted anglers the opportunity to try and catch this fish, as he wants to return it to the main lake, but to date no one has had a sniff of a run, so I guess he will just get bigger and bigger. Next year the lure lake is going any method; it will be netted and all big fish will go over to the main lake. The lake will then be stocked with smaller fish, which will give junior anglers and beginners the chance to catch large amounts of smaller fish.
However back to Deano… His tactic on the lure lake was to bait up six areas and fish them in rotation with a light rod and reel. At first every bait was gobbled up by the newly stocked small pacu, then the line ripped out as Deano hooked into a small tarpon. The speed of these fish in the 20lb bracket has to be seen to be believed, and at its first jump Dean was unable to ‘bow to the king’ and within a few seconds the line parted and the fish was lost. Dean increased the line strength and soon hooked into another tarpon, but once again after a spectacular jump it threw the hook. For the first time I saw Dean a little despondent as he became frustrated at losing the fish, so off it was for a bit of lunch and start afresh.
Another of Dean’s favorite species, but not his global one I hasten to add, is the arawana. On the second cast after lunch he landed one of around 8lb and very shortly after another one was added to his tally. Dean, feeling a bit more upbeat, asked for his customary 4pm tea and biccies. Now you know that old fishing tale that if you are struggling for a bite, just pour yourself a drink from your flask and sure as egg are eggs that is when the fish will take your bait? Well this used to happen nearly every time Dean sent me to the restaurant, and today was no different. When I returned Dean had landed a magnificent snakehead, which at 12lb had Dean grinning from ear to ear. I was also smiling, as it was his PB, meaning he had to ring the bell that night and buy everyone a drink in the bar… probably on expenses, but we won’t go there, shall we?
The next couple of days were spent filming Stuart, who had made a bold statement about how easily arapaima can be caught on a fly. Stuart hooked into several arapaima and every single one of them was lost by either snagging him in the weed or hook pulls. Perhaps the biggest fish of all was when he hooked a little known species, the elusive Akroyd prized sleeping carp, Latin name is fieriest fieriest. This rarely caught species is a native of Accrington where it lives in the canals amongst rows of terraced houses. A timid fish, it exists on the scraps of real Hovis bread, which the workers, with their flat caps on, threw into the canal on their way to the cotton mills. This fish tends to be bullied by many other fish but can bite back when agitated so should be treated with the utmost respect. This species is very active first thing in the morning whilst most people are still sleeping and has a strange habit of lying dormant for days on end if left undisturbed. Should you want to find out more about this strange but rather beautiful creature please follow the link on YouTube http:/ www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSK8GT6yfkY
The last fish of the day proved to be for me, and probably everyone involved, one of the most exciting fishing experiences of our lives. Stuart hooked into one of the very big arapaima whilst fishing the steps at the top end of the lake. After several attempts to go around the aerator, the fish decided to follow another tactic and dive deep into the marginal hyacinths. At this point Stuart had to enter the water in order to keep in contact with the fish, and fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I had to follow him. At the top end of the lake there is a reasonable marginal shelf that you can walk around, but this very quickly drops off to around ten feet. This meant Stuart had to tread water and swim whilst all the time keeping hold of his fly rod, and believe me that is not easy when you are 59 years old and have a 400lb-plus arapaima on the end of the line trying to make a bid for freedom.
They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but that should be replaced by the name of the fishing guide. I did everything I could to keep Stuart afloat whilst treading water, and I’m also pushing the free bus pass age! Stuart battled on and at one point I whispered in his ear “We are too old for this.” I don’t think I could print his reply, but both of us were bloody knackered. At one point I swear all you could see was Stuart’s cap on his head and eyes level with the water, and he must have been using his ears to breathe. Later that day Benz told me his ability to breathe through his ears was one of the reasons she was with him… but we won’t go there!
One by one the guides around the lake witnessed what was going on and entered the lake to give assistance. Joel beat a path through the hyacinth and to see him with weed all over his face was like a scene from jungle warfare in Vietnam. Declan, a strong swimmer, swam by Stuart’s side all the way, at the same time dragging the arapaima cage behind him. Not to be outdone, Macey, who should have been doing pieces to camera as the whole episode was being filmed, thought, sod it, and flung himself in the water too. I’m glad he did because I could take a breather. Dean, with his six foot five inch frame picked Stuart up by the armpits and led him around the lake. All of us were smashing through the weed, and many times the fish doubled back on us and the line went solid. This meant Joel had to feel the line down to the fish, at which point it just kicked on and went on another run. We finally got Stuart on solid ground at the corner of the lake. He was absolutely exhausted but still had a enough breaths to have a few jokes with his team.
I think we all thought he would land the fish there, but then the line went solid. Sometimes arapaima just sulk on the bottom of the lake, taking breathers using just their bodyweight to keep stationary. Enter Sean, Stuart’s son, who once given the go-ahead by Stuart, set off like a border collie sent out to round some sheep and swam 30 yards into the lake. He dived down to the bottom to nudge the fish with his feet to Stuart’s cries of, “THAT’S MY BOY!”
The fish then went on another long run, which meant getting Stuart in the water again. He followed the fish all the way down the bottom end of the lake, where again we thought the fish would be landed. Just five minutes later Stuart’s line went slack and the fish was gone, cut off when it swam over a plateau. I’ll always remember the silence that followed, and the look of utter despair on people’s faces, most of all Stuart’s. He had fought the fish so hard and for the large part of it his fishing team were with him every step of the way. I have worked in the Fire Brigade for 32 years and witnessed some great teamwork in extremely trying and difficult circumstances and this was right up there with them. Stuart is rightly proud of the team here at Gillhams, and I count myself very fortunate, and I know all the other guides do too. Believe me, this was an epic battle on a huge scale and the memory will be with me for a very long time.
Anyway back to Dean… The next day Stuart continued his quest for an arapaima on the fly, and Dean having already wetted his appetite with the arawana saw a specimen one cruising in the main lake. He crept into position using a light rod and bubble float, and after a few attempts the fish finally took the bait with all the action caught on camera.
Stuart meanwhile had another arapaima on the fly. The fish swam right through my legs and around the aerator, which meant the rod minus Stuart had to follow. After another huge struggle an arapaima of 250lb was finally landed. Stuart also had a go with a light rod and 10lb line set up with a waggler float and size eight hook baited with bread flake. Some fish and especially Julian’s golden carp are very wary of resistance when taking a bait, and Stuart swears by this method to catch some of the rarer fish in the lake.
Fishing in ten feet of water, the old master was looking to show the new kid on the block how it was done, and he certainly didn’t disappoint! Initially starting with the bait just tripping bottom due to the undertow on the lake, Stuart added a few inches to prevent the float from moving, which rewarded him with a mrigal carp of around 10lb. This got Dean interested and he went and sat with Stuart, with the usual order for me to get some tea and biccies. You guessed it; the old trick worked, and I when I got back Stuart was into a good fish. He has fished his lake long enough to know it wasn’t one of the usual culprits, and he also knew it was a big fish that had to be played gently on the 10lb line and size 8 hook.
Into the water Stuart went to follow the fish, and as usual wherever Dean or Stuart went that week I had to follow, so once again Stuart and I set off down the lake to keep in contact with the fish. The fish luckily stayed away from the marginal weed and kited left and then right before finally surfacing in the middle of the lake. It was a tambaqui and a bleeding great big one at that!
Slowly and deliberately Stuart coaxed the fish nearer and nearer to bank, where I was ready to net the fish. I stood there thinking to myself, “Don’t muck this one up; he will bloody kill you.” Can you imagine if I knocked the fish off with the net? I would be pretty sure I would be shipped back to the UK in the morning with the infamous Gillham bollocking still ringing in my ears. By now the light was fading and a lot of the anglers had stopped fishing to witness what was going on. Meanwhile John the cameraman had captured everything on film. After a few more distinctive runs, I sank the net deep into the water and waited for Stuart to draw it into range. Slowly I lifted the net and the fish was his. Everyone was cheering and Stuart had a massive grin on his face, the type of grin he has when Man Utd lose a game, and so pleased to have finally landed it on light tackle. The fish was absolutely huge, wide across the back and so deep in the body. Everybody was asking what was the world record for the species, and this special fish was going to push it very close. Here at Gillhams we don’t weigh fish unless there is a real chance a record could be broken, but no time was wasted in getting the weigh slings and scales. The scales were zeroed and Dean and Stuart placed the fish in the sling. The current world record for tambaqui stands at 71lb 7oz and as Dean and Joel held the scales the fish weighed a massive 62lb 8oz, a PB for Stuart and therefore another free drink in the bar for me and everybody else – happy days. All of the action was captured on film and I doubt very much that it will end up on the cutting room floor.
What else do I say about my time with Dean Macey? Well, first and foremost he is a fantastic angler, able to catch fish when everyone else on the lake was struggling. Set this against a background of needing to catch certain fish for the camera, which in itself creates pressure on the angler to deliver. He is meticulous to the extreme about where he puts his baits, and how they are presented. He uses the same technique when working out how much loose feed he presents to the fish. Always watching the water for signs of fish, and doing slight adjustments to his rigs makes all the difference in being a good angler and being one of the top all round anglers in the UK.
One of Dean’s other assets is his amazing power of recovery. If you could have seen the state of Dean the morning after the night in the bars with the team – he came into the restaurant looking like Frank Gallagher from Shameless, minus the hair of course! You would think there is no way you could put that face on the camera. However, two cups of coffee and he would be raring to go. Nothing of what he says on camera is scripted; he just talks like he is enjoying what he does, and for me he is a natural for TV. Much the same as my face is natural for radio!
It would be wrong not to mention the cameraman, John Dunford, who certainly knows his job inside out. He is great company to be with. He’s always up for a laugh, as no doubt the outtakes from the filming will show, because whatever happened on the resort, somehow John would capture it on camera.
Dean and I would have loved to know how to turn the camera on when on one night session John decided to cycle around the lake to put some bait in for Dean. We both watched as his head torch went around the lake, then suddenly disappeared followed by a large scream. John had ridden through the hedge falling 3 feet into the flood relief channel that surrounds the lake. With the bike landing on top of him it was a special sight as he came back covered in slime and carrying more than a few cuts and bruises.
John was also on hand when we visited a local fish market when I picked up and dropped a live snakehead that was for sale. As unusual Dean got straight into taking the piss, saying, “Can’t you hold a fish properly?” So I said, “You try.” Dean spent the next five minutes trying to pick up the fish from the floor, with all the market traders in hysterics. He finally picked it up and gave it to me, and I tried to slap him round the face with the tail but couldn’t hold it. The fish once again slipped out of my hand, landing slap bang on some fresh squid. The squid squirted black ink everywhere; it was so comical and all three of us were in stitches, and it was all caught on camera. I hope it doesn’t get edited out.
As part of the TV series Dean wanted to show some of the other activities available around Krabi. One of these was elephant trekking through the jungle, but every time we arranged to go the heavens would open and we would have to cancel, but one afternoon was kind to us and away we went. The owners of the elephants wouldn’t let John walk alongside the elephant to film, and Dean insisted if he wanted to do any filming he would have to do it on the back of an elephant. So Dean got on one elephant, while John and I shared another one. Why was I there? Well someone had to hold the umbrella over Dean if it rained; you know what these TV divas are like!
Now if you have never held one of these huge video cameras; they are quite hard to keep still, so imagine what it was like to film Dean whilst on the back of a 20-ton elephant. A total nightmare, particularly bearing in mind that this elephant was trying its best to put its foot down very carefully into the mud that had been left behind from the monsoon a couple of days before. Let me tell you, John and I were crapping ourselves, and it’s not something I will want to do again in a hurry. Horse riding is my thing, which is what I do on my days off when not in hibernation.
Another scene that John wanted to film was the wild monkeys that roam free on the far end of the beach in Ao Nang. This wasn’t something that Dean particularly wanted to do. He retold the tale of going to the zoo with his dad when he was about eight years old, and his dad lifted him up so he could get a clearer view. In a split second one brave monkey reached over the top of the cage, trying to drag young Dean into the cage. That experience had stuck in his mind ever since, but John and I said, “Don’t worry; we will protect you,” both winking at each other. The monkeys on the beach are not shy, and if they can they will rob your back pocket at a moment’s notice – a bit like Becky when she is adding up your bill. It’s the only time she seems to smile these days! Only joking, Becky… that’s me consigned to stale bread for a month or two!
You can imagine the scene when at first there were only one or two monkeys, with Dean calmly handing out bits of fruit while trying to talk into the camera? Then suddenly the whole troupe arrived, running across the beach and jumping out of the trees. Dean was getting more and more worried, especially when they started to grab the bag of fruit he was carrying and climbing up his legs. Exit ex-Olympic decathlete, all 6 ft. 5ins of him, screaming like a little girl. All the admiration I had for him left me that day!
Just prior to Dean and John leaving, Stuart arranged for them to go out in his boat to visit some of the beautiful lagoons and islands off the coast by the resort. I got a really nice surprise when every guide said, “You have worked so hard with Dean that you deserve to go and we will cover for you on the lake.” I tried to protest but they were having none of it. Joel and Jut even spoke to Stuart on my behalf and said it would be wrong if I didn’t go, so how could I refuse?
We set off at lunchtime; Stuart, Sean, Dean, John and me. The first stop was one of the lagoons with crystal clear waters like something out of the Bounty adverts, then going to another beach where Dean put us through our paces, in our very own version of Olympic games Thai style.
First up was the discus, with all of us trying to throw a stone as far as we could. Obviously Dean won this event. Then came shot putt, and again Dean was the winner. Finally there was the high jump, and guess what? Dean won again. Obviously our fitness regime at Gillhams isn’t working. Next stop was another beach where they served cocktails as the sun went down, while Thai ladies dressed in silk dresses fed us fresh fruit, all paid for courtesy of Stuart. If you believe that you will believe anything; it was a crummy bar where we had Fanta orange and I shared a bag of cheese and onion crisps with Sean. Stuart still paid for it though! To be fair it was a great end to the day where all the filming was “in the can” as we TV veterans call it, and Dean and John could relax before they flew home the following day.
Zzzzzzzzzzzz!! Nice one, Geoff. Thanks to you all for your support and for following our newsletters.
Best wishes from all the team here at Gillhams.