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Krabi newsletter February 2010

Hello to all our readers following this fishing in Thailand series. The fishing in Krabi has been very patchy with many guests struggling as the heatwave continues. Thailand is suffering the hottest weather ever recorded (unlike the UK where I am freezing my nuts off!). The drought conditions caused by proper rain for 16 weeks has dried up the feeder stream by the lake, and it is running dry for the first time in living memory. Even the mighty Mekong river, Thailand’s lifeblood for exports and transport from the north is at its lowest ever recorded level – you can walk across it in places and the cargo boats and ferries are literally grounded.

Our hot period is normally April/May but once again February/March are unbearably hot and dry. I hope this will be the last year of these conditions and that next year we can return to normal. If these conditions become the norm we will have to reconsider our close season as the fish go off the feed in these temperatures. It is not all doom and gloom though as the Mekong Catfish and Julian’s golden prize carp love this hot weather, as the catch report this month shows, but the rest of our fish just sulk in the lower, cooler water layers, only feeding for short spells each day. As I write this newsletter our lake is 4ft below normal and the temperatures are a frightening 33, or to oldies like me, 96! We have just had emergency pumps rushed up from Bangkok to move the water around to mix the lower water with the upper layers to reduce the temperatures, and if we continue at this ridiculous temperature we are going to have to add ice blocks to bring the temperatures down. We are all now praying for rain and lots of it, and whoever is fishing the lake when the rain comes should have a fish fest as they will surely go on a mega munch-up!

As long as the rains arrive in time we shall be stocking once we close in mid-April, as we have around 200 various zoo creatures waiting to be released into their new home. We stocked 12 Nile perch in January and the first one has been caught by Mike Kirsch at 12lb. Hopefully they will avoid being caught until they exceed 50lb, which must only be two years away. Joe Ball has submitted his Mekong catfish as a new world record, so it looks like my old mucker Rob Maylin will have to try to break the 200lb barrier to reclaim his prize when he returns this August.

A strange sight has been greeting our guests this month after Sean and his sister Becca bought Jack a model car. Nothing strange about that, ‘til you realize it is big enough for him to sit in, and is remote controlled. Sean loves to sit the wee man in his car then send him round the lake. Imagine the guests’ surprise when they see Jack trundling towards them in his car – it even has a music player that the little fella can turn on! I wish I’d had brothers and sisters of 27 and 29 when I was a kid!

Although this is the February newsletter I am writing it in March having just finished the Five Lakes Carpin’ On show. Blimey, what is the world of fishing coming to when a company bring out a pellet grinder to rival Korda’s product, only to have their stand smashed up with a baseball bat – I kid you not! We have had the underwater films, and I suppose the next release by Korda will be the battle of the tackle companies, and new to the range for 2010 will be the titanium super bat! I suppose I’d better get off the subject or maybe we will get trashed at the next show. The show was very good for us, taking ten bookings on the first day. Thinking Sunday would be better still I bought a round in the bar that night, only to be totally deflated on the Sunday selling just one DVD! We also had many enquiries and issued lots of quotes, and at times the throng of people waiting to see me was four deep!

I love this show as I get to meet up with all my old mates. We are planning a trip of the who’s who of fishing for 2011, and hopefully my old mate Len Gurd will film it. If it comes off it will be the DVD of all time. Talking of DVDs have you seen Gillhams Monsters DVD yet? Get your copy via the Tackle Box in Dartford, and my old mate Lee Jackson will even sign it for you along with a copy of his long awaited book, Just for the Record. Lee presented me with a copy of his new book at the show as well as my old mate Rob Maylin, who also has a new book out, One Last Cast, which even has a chapter on Gillhams. I have plenty of reading material at the moment, as another good friend, the complete nutter and full-on lunatic, Mike ‘Spug’ Redfern, presented me with a copy of his hilarious fishing tales, Carping Mad. This is a book I have been longing to read, but now I am spoilt for choice.

We also had a tragic moment this month when an arapaima died during the fight. The unfortunate angler was well known UK angler John Found. The fish in question was a male fish we stocked a few months ago at around 230lb along with his mate who was over 300lb. They had, for no apparent reason, stopped reproducing at our fish farm, so not knowing which fish was the problem we stocked them both into the fishing lake. Upon delivery this fish went crazy. We wrap them in a blanket to transfer them from the truck to the lake, and as the fish was being carried he went mental, broke free from the blanket, and bounced down the stone path knocking off several scales in the process. Within a week of the retaining nets being removed this fish started getting caught. He was getting caught every day and losing weight, even managing two captures in one day! I believe this fish was sick and past his prime before he was stocked, so it came as no surprise when he died. It is always tragic when fish die, but as the owner of a commercial fishery it’s a thing we have to accept, and it’s the same for fishermen – if you fish for these magnificent beasts, very occasionally these things will happen.

The fish did not go to waste though, and was skinned and filleted, producing 150-plus steaks for our restaurant. If you have never tried arapaima steaks I would highly recommend them, as they are surely the finest eating fresh water fish on the planet. We perform an autopsy on any fish that die here, and in this fish’s case it was found that the hook had been swallowed and penetrated its heart, causing the fatality. We always use the money from the sale of the fish’s meat to buy a new one from fish destined for the food market. It doesn’t make any difference to the world of fish, but does make us feel the poor thing’s life was not wasted, while appeasing the good lord Buddha! The footnote to this story was I received a phone call from an angling publication asking me if it was true that John Found had a heart attack and died playing an arapaima! If it had been that way around it would have been easier, as a 200lb human is more common than a 200lb arapaima! It’s a funny old world when things get distorted – I suppose the next rumour will be that we filleted John and are selling human steaks in the restaurant!

Gay fishing guide Scott finally left to travel Thailand with Ben Dover before heading to the Mardi Gras to meet up with their old pal Phil McCavity! Scott will be missed here at Gillhams; he is a very hardworking nice guy and surely did not deserve what happened to him after leaving. He was drinking in a bar when a fellow backpacker befriended him, and this lowlife scum then dropped a drug into Scott’s drink and robbed him of all his hard-earned tips he had been saving for his trip. If this piece of pond life ever comes to Krabi we promise he will not leave, and the arapaima will get bigger! Onwards and upwards, Scottie mate – one day we will find this arse-wipe, and come back soon old son, you are missed already! On a happier note our dear friend Kevin has returned to guide for us. Kevin is one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet, and as he is bigger than me he won’t be called gay, unlike our new gardening contractor, Matt, who is assisting with the fishing whilst transforming our gardens into a rival for Kew gardens. He is definitely a brown-fingered bottomist ex-pat (oops, sorry, green-fingered botanic expert!).

The next part of the news letter is getting a bit repetitive so I will keep it shorter, plus some people are saying that Gillham’s Gripe is stopping them coming here on holiday. This was never my intention; it was really just a bit of fun and a chance to let off steam and make people think about their fishing or behaviour. However, I must mention a few antics from this month… By far the worst, and something I have never come across in all my years involved in fishing, is this next act that actually took place this month, and which I found disgusting beyond belief. I have my ideas about who was guilty, and if I ever find out for sure I will hang them from the nearest tree. I had two anglers who were fishing in their chosen swims over a few days, and with steady baiting and recasting they had built up a successful feeding area between them. Upon getting ready to start the morning session they noticed one of their lines was cut by the reel, and upon closer inspection all four of their lines had been cut half way through by the reel. If they had hooked a fish for sure the line would have parted, leaving our fish trailing tackle, let alone denying these people the chance of their dream fish. We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour at Gillhams, and if you are this kind of moronic prick you are not welcome here! Furthermore when one of the two went to the restaurant for breakfast, upon wishing a good morning to the suspects, they where treated to a stony silence! This sort of behaviour, along with bitching, shit stirring and jealously may occur on public waters, but I guarantee you it will not be tolerated here! The next people who bring this kind of behaviour to our fishery will be escorted from the premises immediately.

We still get the bloke who states, “I am not like the others; I would be happy to sit here for two weeks for one big fish,” only to start whinging on the first day because they have not caught a fish yet. Some even catch a 200lb arapaima and a 70lb carp in the first week only to start bleating about how slow the fishing is and they haven’t caught a big fish yet. Any arapaima is a privilege to catch, and anywhere in the world a 150lb-plus arapaima is huge! If someone builds up a swim with accurate plumbing and baiting over a few days, why should he move off the fish to let a moron fish his spot? These people, and I won’t call them anglers, have been in equally good swims and put no effort into their fishing. How would you feel if you had worked hard for three days only to be told to move? Ok, I know I said I would stop, so onto the fishing in Krabi…

41 anglers came for fishing holidays in Thailand, ranging from three to 14 days, with 15 anglers fishing on day tickets between their Krabi holidays. Despite the lake being extremely busy, they managed between them all to catch 652 fish of 20 species, made up as follows: 90 arapaima to 280lb, seven alligator gar to 25lb, 117 Amazon red tail catfish to 70lb, 17 Asian red tail catfish to 25lb, 57 black pacu to 45lb, one big head carp of 15lb, seven Chao Phraya catfish to 70lb, one giant stingray of 110lb, 17 Julian’s golden prize carp to 35lb, 18 Mekong catfish to 150lb, one Nile perch of 12lb, 11 rohu to 15lb, five tambaqui to 45lb, three spotted featherback to 10lb, 257 Siamese carp to 80lb, three striped snakehead to 3lb, 27 shovel nosed spotted sorubim to 35lb, three shovel nosed tiger catfish to 15lb, five wallago attu to 20lb and five wallago leeri to 20lb.

We had some anglers in towards the end of the month who we carried over to this month. The first was Eric Oaks who is my dear friend Terry Eustace’s shop manager at Birmingham Angling Centre, who was on a two-week trip with his good friend Nick Rose. Both these two were extremely good thinking anglers and in the tough conditions it shone through. Eric was merrily catching fish in a swim he had built up when some whinging started from an angler who was struggling. The difference was that Eric had plumbed his swim, found his spot, baited accurately and often, and was reaping the rewards. The other guy was casting where it went splash and checking his bait at least every five hours. In fact the bloke used a complete 1kg of boilies in a week compared to Eric’s 6kg per day! So Eric moved into the other guy’s swim, which the other guy had blanked in for three days, only to immediately start catching while the other bloke struggled! Nick stated on arrival that he only goes to a venue once for a fishing holiday and that this would be his only trip, but since returning he has rebooked for next January! Eric landed 21 fish of four species with the best being a 180lb arapaima, while Nick trailed Eric with 11 fish of four species, the best being a 110lb arapaima. They did not fish through the heat of the day, and had a proper holiday going sightseeing, elephant trekking and boat trips to the Islands between chilling out in our swimming pool.

As mentioned earlier we had the pleasure of John Found’s company this month, John is an experienced all-round angler and writer who I had never met before, despite sharing many of the same friends. He came with his better half Linda for two weeks’ sightseeing and fishing. John and I spent a good few hours discussing fishing and putting the world to rights. He is already planning a return trip in the cooler months, and for sure his catch rate will go up as he now knows what to expect and is sure to come with some new ideas. Despite the tough conditions, John’s angling ability shone through when he landed 34 fish of eight species, which included ten arapaima to 280lb, plus 11 Siamese carp to 65lb.

While John and Linda were here we had some return visitors, Dave and Carol Cook. They came here last year with friends and were hoping for a repeat of some spectacular fishing, but unfortunately the heatwave dictated otherwise.
The surprise came when they arrived, as the Founds are related to them. They must be a very close family, as they had not seen each other for 13 years! Or maybe they had been avoiding each other for all those years… Funny old world is the fishing community, and as they say, the fishing world is a small one. This would explain the disguise Dave was in – dressed as a Taliban dissident, but unfortunately for him it didn’t fool old John! Dave went on to land 29 fish of seven species including seven arapaima to 150lb and a nice Mekong of 110lb.

We also had the return of Chris and Sara Henderson from London, who came to us before just after Christmas 2007, before the restaurant, bungalows and pool were constructed. It must have been an eye-opener for them to see the change in the resort, as last time all meals were served at our house. Sarah had never fished before, but decided one day to try, and she landed an arapaima and Chao Phraya catfish totally unaided and like a true professional. In his five days’ fishing Chris landed eight fish of five species topped by a 110lb arapaima. We also had another returning client, Peter Langstraat from Holland. He was another guest who had last fished here in 2007 when we only had four bungalows built. He certainly noticed the change from those early days to now. Peter was on a three-month fishing tour of Thailand and had planned to spend two weeks of his trip with us. Peter found the intense heat and busy lake a bit much for him, moving swims twice a day to avoid the sun, but he still managed 23 fish of nine species including two Mekong catfish.

Dave Peacock and Claire came to us for a week while on their honeymoon, and considering Claire does not fish he obviously knew how to pick the right partner. Dave’s honeymoon trip resulted in him landing 19 fish of five species with his biggest fish being a 150lb arapaima. At the same time Lloyd and Kelly also came for a week. Both these couples were fun and took in day trips as well as fishing, which is what Gillhams should be about – fun! Lloyd landed 20 fish of only three species but these included six arapaima to 140lb. Another regular visitor, John Duffy, made an appearance. John comes to us every eight weeks but was another who found the heat too much. Fishing odd hours when the sun went down he still managed 13 fish, which included two more Chao Phraya catfish to be evacuated.

The next guest in was my old mate Johnny Swann, who came for 12 days this time. His last trip in October was only six days and he landed 66 fish. Johnny is an experienced angler and knew this trip would not see him landing the same amount of fish. For Johnny this was never going to be an issue as he comes for fun and is happy whatever he catches. We had some cracking nights out at the Kansas Saloon and the local bars, and poor Johnny also suffered a severely sun burnt head, but never let it stop his fishing. With the lake busier than his last trip, Johnny decided to find an area he liked and bait it heavily with boilies. Baiting a tight area with 10kg a day, Johnny soon had the fish stacked up in front of him, taking 37 fish of seven species which included 19 Siamese carp up to 70lb, seven Amazon red tail catfish to 60lb and seven arapaima to 130lb.

Arriving at the same time as Johnny was yet another John, and oh what a John this guy was! John Farey visited us with his delightful model wife, Angie. What a pair Angie was, oops, sorry, what a pair these two were – a full-on laugh a minute. We had some great evenings out with them, plus so many laughs around our restaurant that my sides where aching! Yes it certainly was good with the Fareys in our garden! One morning John related a tale of a passionate moment with Angie; she was down to just her lovely pair when she killed the moment asking John to stop while she put on her false eyelashes! She also went elephant trekking and was worried about the poor elephants. Peeling bananas for them, she was convinced that in the wild they couldn’t eat them as there would be nobody to peel them (oh, bless!). John only intended fishing for six of his ten days, but soon got caught in the lake’s spell and fished the lot! His fishing started slow, as he could not settle in a swim, and eventually after three days without fish he found a spot he was happy in. Angie doesn’t normally fish but is a delight to watch with a plumbing rod! Once John found his spot he baited with 10kg of boilies each day, and the fish got on the bait, leaving John with a grand total of 26 fish of six species. His catch included five arapaima to 230lb, 14 Amazon red tail catfish to 75lb plus a rare brace of Julian’s golden prize carp. Angie only fished one day, but she had a lovely pair, plus two red tail catfish and an arapaima. John’s daughter Kelly is backpacking around Asia and came to see her dad for a few days, and she also got in on the fishing act for half a day landing a 130lb arapaima and an Asian red tail catfish of 25lb. By the time John and Angie left it felt like we had been friends for years. This is what owning our resort is all about, and people like these make our job worthwhile. I am certainly looking forward to the return of this lovely pair!

Every couple that came to stay this month were lovely people who created a fantastic atmosphere around the resort. The next couple where no exception… Ivan and Terri came for a week, wished they had come for longer, and promptly rebooked a return visit. They are both fishing mad, fished every hour available, and at the end of their six days’ fishing they had landed ten fish between them, the best to Terri being a 90lb Mekong catfish, and to Ivan, a 60lb Siamese carp. The return is booked for the arapaima that eluded them. Another fun couple who came to see the sights were Tony Tudor and his delightful Yorkshire lass Maria. Tony came to have a good time sightseeing and partying with a bit of fishing thrown in, and between days out and laying in with hangovers Tony landed 13 fish with the top fish being a 110lb Mekong catfish.

Tony was actually part of a large group consisting of 13 anglers who had come over via Catmaster tours from Spain. He arrived ahead of the main group with Alan ‘Squeaky’ Wright and Steve ‘Wingnut’ Littlechild. Squeaky and Wingnut timed their arrival to perfection as John and Johnny were finishing their trip, leaving two heavily-baited swims to move into with fish on the munch. These two were incredibly keen and excited to get started, and we had to slow poor old Squeaky down as he got so keen he kept breaking lines in his attempt to empty the lake in two weeks. Wingnut had also bought along his lucky mascot, sharing his name. Apparently this character goes everywhere with him and has been pictured around the world! Fishing swims that had just been blitzed with 100kg-plus of boilies, the lads between them were hauling! Squeaky landed 50 fish of seven species, which included the most Julian’s golden prize carp ever taken by one angler here at Gillhams; he landed eight up to 35lb, along with 16 arapaima to 120lb, plus 19 Amazon red tail catfish to 50lb. If he had landed all the fish he screwed up on he would have added another ten at least to the tally. One fish he did nothing wrong with was the stingray he hooked, but after 45 minutes of tugging and pulling to get the beast off the bottom, the bloody thing flicked its razor sharp tail and parted the line. Wingnut, fishing a deeper swim opposite Squeaky, landed 36 fish of ten species, and he also took a lake record for the most Mekong catfish with six to 120lb, plus 11 arapaima to 280lb. The hot weather fish sure were on the bait, as he also had two Julian’s golden prize up to 30lb.

In the Catmaster group were three Romanians: Linda, Cris and Miha, they are the first people to represent their country at Gillhams, and if all Romanian people are as easygoing as these three, let’s hope we get more. They landed 20 fish between them of seven species, with Linda taking the honours with a brace of 100lb-plus fish: an arapaima of 220lb and a Mekong catfish of 110lb. They are planning a return visit when the lake is less busy and the exceptionally hot conditions have passed. Steve James was in the same group and landed 17 fish of four species with his best two fish being a 130lb arapaima and a 65lb Chao Phraya catfish, which would have been a world record two years ago before we obliterated the old record.

Mark Churcher managed 20 fish of three species in stifling hot conditions and water temperatures off the Richter scale, landing Siamese carp to 65lb and Mekong catfish to 110lb. He is another who has already booked a return in cooler weather to have a date with an arapaima! The rest of the lads struggled with the high water temperatures and busy lake, and the frustration was showing by the third day of catching a few fish, but as we all know that is why it is called fishing and not catching! I am sure they get poor trips in Mequinenza in Spain just as we do in Thailand – if the conditions are wrong there is bugger all we can do apart from to tell you to stick at it and your prize should come.

The last guy in the Catmaster group was a fella called Marc Porch. I must admit that before he came I was not sure about him. He bombarded me with three-page questionnaires plus phone calls about hooks, bait, location, sizes, rigs, etc before he came! I think he was worried he had asked too many questions, and got a mutual friend Richard Foster to phone me and give him the thumbs up, and when a mate like Richard tubby cuddly Foster says someone is a good angler they must be! Actually Marc was a spot-on fella and after meeting him his views and approach to fishing are very similar to mine – I could fish anywhere in the world with guys like Marc. He is planning returns one, two and three as I write this report! The targets Marc set himself, in my opinion, were impossible, as wanting arapaima, stingray, Mekong catfish, Chao Phraya catfish, Amazon red tail catfish and Siamese carp in a fortnight just ain’t going to happen, is it? Well believe it or not, it did! Pure determination, hard work and top class angling gave Marc all the above target species! The list read like this: 16 fish of eight species, including four arapaima to 230lb, a 70lb Mekong catfish, a 65lb Chao Phraya catfish, three Amazon red tail catfish to 65lb, four Siamese carp to 40lb, a 30lb tambaqui, a 20lb sorubim, with the best saved ‘til last – a stingray of 110lb. Marc had been asking me about the possibility of catching a stingray. We only have four in the lake and they are real sods to get off the bottom, but Marc bought over his own reel loaded with braid and borrowed one of our heavy duty catfish rods left here by Manfred of Ehmanns tackle in Germany – these rods could pull the head off a 1,000lb marlin! Our stingray patrol the hyacinth beds in the margins, and they swim along with one wing out of the water, brushing snails off the weed. Marc patiently waited all week until he found one doing this strange act, and creeping up on the fish he lowered a snail in its path and landed his prize, making him the first person to land one for a year! Coupled with his 230lb arapaima also stalked on his last day, Marc went home a happy chap. For his return he is vowing to catch all the other 100lb-plus species in our lake, and I for one certainly wouldn’t bet against him achieving it!

That’s about it for another month folks, so sorry if I left you out of this Thailand fishing report. Next month Sean will be doing 80% of the newsletter, which should make Phil our proofreader earn his keep! For all our Dutch friends come and see me on the Carps Cabin Stand at the Ahoy centre Rotterdam on the 25/26/27/28th March. There will be a 10% discount on the full holiday price for all deposits paid on the day. For all of you planning a trip here please note we are closed from the 17th May ‘til the 1st June. We are fully booked through June, getting busy for the rest of 2010, and Christmas 2010 is filling up fast. So get booking ASAP to avoid disappointment. Visit our website contact me or by phoning +66 (0)861644554.

Best wishes and I hope you have your best fishing season ever. Until next month, goodbye from all the team here at Gillhams.