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Krabi newsletter March 2008

Hi once again to all our readers, and don’t the months fly by? It seems like only yesterday I was freezing my bits off in the UK. It is great to be home once again in paradise, sitting in my office overlooking the lake, and being distracted by monster fish crashing and rolling, plus calls on the radio summoning me to the lake to assist with netting various monsters for happy clients. The fish stocks are good, so now we seem to be starting Gillham’s zoo! Mrs. Peacock who, is at the moment being kept in her cage until she settles into the surroundings, while Mr. Rampant Peacock struts his stuff around her cage, shrieking every five minutes and fanning his tail. I can’t speak with animals, but it is easy to translate his comments, and for sure she is getting it upon release. Also this month we have obtained a giant tortoise named George. After spending a lovely day with Martin Locke and his delightful family in the UK and seeing Lockie’s two giant tortoises, I decided I must have one here. The restaurant is, as everything else in laid-back Thailand, behind schedule. What should have been April 1st is now looking more like June 1st for completion. This actually suits most of our guests, as everyone enjoys the meals at my house in the evenings, followed by too much drink on my balcony swapping fishing lies.

The biggest shock for me this month happened the other morning. As every morning, I was out on my balcony with my cup of PG watching another sunny dawn break over the surrounding mountains, when horror struck. There were around 100 black shapes gulping on the surface, plus hundreds of small fish screaming for Sean to check the oxygen levels, and Benz to phone Mr. Egg. Leaping onto a motorbike just like Mr. Wayne on his horse in the westerns of my youth, I sped round the lake turning on the aerators. Sean shouted across the lake that the oxygen levels were as high as normal. I looked more carefully at these fish on the surface, and they were all carp and tilapia merrily taking floaters of the surface. Unbeknown to us dear old Gollock the guide, love him, had been introducing floating fish pellet over the last few weeks to see if he could get the carp feeding off the top, and some 100 fish between 20 and 50lbs were happily munching their way through a bag of goodies. Gollock thought the sight of Sean and I dashing around the lake in our skidders was most amusing, and after dispatching a swipe to his barnet, we could see the funny side of things too. So we now have another method for our customers – fishing floaters on the surface for carp in excess of 100lbs – now that’s going to be fun!
Anyway onto the fishing, and this month has been getting hotter and hotter leading into April and May, which are our hottest two months. The fish have been very lethargic in the heat of the day, so we have reintroduced early starts to avoid the heat, which have been most productive, followed by early evening. Most fishermen are taking a break in the heat of the day, swimming in our large infinity pool overlooking the lake, and taking afternoon siestas, with the energetic ones going off and taking in Krabi’s abundant sightseeing. This month has seen some returning clients for a total of 20 fishermen for the month. The most fish, 143, fell to Dutch angler Peter Langstraat, who was on a 30-day fishing marathon targeting carp species. He landed 51 various carp, along with 92 other fish for a total of 14 different species. Total fish caught this month was 297, made up as follows… 39 arapaima to 330lbs, seven Mekong catfish to 110lbs, 80 Siamese carp to 66lbs, 35 red tail catfish to 65lbs, 15 alligator gar to 35lbs, 19 Julian’s golden prize carp to 30lbs, two common carp to 21lbs, two silver carp to 15lbs, three rahoo carp to 20lbs, two red tail Thai to 25lbs, 31 black pacu to 30lbs, four Chao Phraya catfish to 40lbs, three spotted soribim to 35lbs, two tiger catfish to 18lbs, five gourami to 15lbs, and four emperor snake head to 5lbs.

Last month we touched on the subject of former world champion England match man and all round nice guy Dave Roper, who fulfilled another angling ambition this month when he visited Gillham’s. Swapping his poles and float rods in delicate sizes for our 6lb TC Free Spirit Cat Tamer rods. Dave arrived here with his old friend and Gillham’s regular, Phuket ex-pat Peter Lyons. Dave’s target was a fish over 100lbs. On arrival as we find with most of our fishermen that they wanted to fish for the arapaima, so Sean set them up two rods with dead bait rigs and chose a location where he had noticed a lot of arapaima showing the previous day. Once set up and cast out, it becomes a waiting game, with chances being increased by regularly changing bait due to our large shrimp population constantly chewing up the baits, along with groundbaiting to attract the small fish into the area, which in turn brings the arapaima and other predators into the swim. For Dave and Peter the second most important thing was a regular supply of ice-cold Singha beer! About three hours into their fishing, out of nowhere Dave’s rod screamed off like a scud missile being launched, and to follow in the same sequence was Dave. As he struck the rod it was like nothing he had ever felt, and this was a fish that was going to beat his personal best half-pound roach by a long way! He was about ten minutes into the fight when the fish broke the surface like a submarine. This fish was BIG, so with his pulse racing, and his reel dispensing line faster than Poppa Eustace at the Five Lakes show, all he could do other than saddle up and ride it was to hold on, knowing that it would tire soon. Sean and Gollock got the arapaima cage in the water and ready. Some 15 minutes later the fight was coming to a conclusion; the fish and its captor were tiring rapidly, and it was just a case of who would give in first. Eventually Dave won the day, and a big beautiful arapaima was safely in the cage. The fish was in fact one Sean recognized by its scale patterns as one that was delivered here several months ago weighing in at 330lbs. After a quick check over to make sure he was ok, and to let him take two breaths of air, and then the same for the fish it was photo time, before releasing the magnificent beast back to the lake to fight another day. After this all Dave could say was, “That will do me for the day,” and of course, “You will need to get more beers down to us.” Not surprisingly nothing else was caught that day by the two drunken anglers, and the evening consisted of more beer and of course some fine dining at the house.

The next day dawned, and two happy hung-over fishermen had to wait until the afternoon for some more action, when again Dave’s buzzer announced another fish, much to the disgust of Peter who had caught nothing. This time it was not such a dramatic fight, but nevertheless a stunning red tail of 25lbs entered the net. As the night came to an end, Peter’s turn eventually came for some action, and after about a 20-minute fight he was also the proud captor of an arapaima of around 140lbs. It was dwarfed by Dave’s beast, but was still one hell of a big fish, and not a personal best for Peter, as in previous visits here he has landed fish to over 200lbs. So once again it was up to the house for more of Benz’s fine Thai food and a few dozen beers on our balcony, accompanied by the sound of arapaima smashing through the weedbeds trying to annihilate the local frog population! It was two happy and content fishermen who went off to bed, then back to Phuket the following day to meet the wives they had both left behind to go on this lad’s weekend of fishing and drinking.
Gareth Medley and girlfriend Vicky (aka Bicky) came out for a two-week stay here after hearing about us from Sandy and Mark Champion who were here in December for a one-month trip. Gareth, a very keen fisherman from England, booked with Stuart after seeing photos of the fish caught by Mark and Sandy, but kept quiet to his girlfriend about just what kind of holiday they were going on, only informing her that it was a trip to Krabi, Thailand for her birthday (very sneaky). It wasn’t until they were seated on the plane with the doors locked shut and hurtling down the runway at 500mph did Gareth finally tell Vicky exactly what was in store for her birthday surprise. Just picture young Vicky’s face as thoughts of a nice romantic holiday for two in hot tropical Thailand, with moonlight strolls along the beach hand-in-hand, and all the things young girls dream of, were shattered by finding out that they were actually going on a fishing holiday. Vicky, being the fun loving girl she is, didn’t let this get her down after Gareth did guarantee her that she would still have the holiday of a lifetime. After having a long but pleasant trip, they finally arrived here at the resort. It was about 9pm on a very dark evening, so not being able to see the natural beauty that surrounds them they were welcomed with a cold beer and a fine Thai meal. After the meal and introductions were over, it was time to get down to business. No, not fishing, but the next best thing – drinking, and of course talking about fishing, which led to a late night into the early hours of Vicky’s birthday.
The next day didn’t involve any fishing, just getting over the travelling and the amount of alcohol from the night before! Gareth had to take Vicky away so the staff could arrange everything for her surprise birthday party, which consisted of a decorated balcony overlooking the lake, flowers, balloons, banners – the full works, a candlelit meal for two, and of course the birthday cake, which after a 30-minute phone conversation trying to get them to understand the name Vicky still came back reading ‘Bicky’. On their return everything was ready, with Gareth trying to get Vicky back to their bungalow, instead of staying at the house chatting. They set off with Vicky feeling very insecure with all the staff following behind them, but it then all fell into to place as she walked round the corner to find out what was going on, and she broke down into tears of happiness. “Happy birthday,” everyone screamed, then left them alone to enjoy their romantic night together

The following day was Gareth’s day; it was time to fish, and after sitting there the day before watching those monster fish crash out in front of him, he couldn’t wait. The first day was a bit slow, only getting a couple of small alligator gar and a Siamese carp. The following day was more rewarding – after getting two fish in the morning, he then retired to the pool in the afternoon due to temperatures rising to around the hundred mark. The evening session gave Gareth his first arapaima of 150lbs. The fourth day the fishing went well, but again because of the temperature the early evening was the productive time, when Gareth’s rod baited with maize went of like a steam train! After a one-hour fight there was another first for Gareth, in the shape of an 86lb Mekong catfish. The fishing started to slow down after that as Gareth had to get some sightseeing into the itinerary, so he took Bicky to visit the hot springs, the crystal pool, elephant trekking, Thai cooking school, and the many shops and beaches Krabi has to offer. After all this, and still getting in a few hours at the lake, he finally caught the fish he came to Gillham’s for, a red tail catfish, well, three to be exact, and one was a new lake record of 65lbs. Also throughout their stay they caught three arapaima, four alligator gar, five Julian’s, two pacu, one Mekong, one Siamese, and three red tails. After that their holiday had officially come to an end, but they both decided to stay longer. So with both bosses in England saying it was no problem (what good bosses they have), it was down to EVA AIR to get it sorted, but how disappointed they were that they didn’t fly with Thai Airways, as they couldn’t get the flight changed, so it was back to sunny old England vowing to start a Krabi fund and return as soon possible.
Dave Negus with his soon to be son-in-law, Dan, joined us for a two-day one-night session, after meeting up with each other in Phuket. Dave was on a two-week holiday while Dan was on a ten-month world tour. Dan was in Singapore when he got talking in a pub to another Englishman on a trip, who told him all about Gillham’s fishing resorts in Krabi, and the huge fish that patrolled the waters. Knowing he was going to Phuket to meet Dave, he had to come and see for himself. On his arrival he told Sean all about this strange mysterious Englishman that had told him about us, and it turned out to be none other than Orange John (John Deakin) from Catmaster tours in Spain. With the bags in the room and rods set up, it was time to get started and see if these huge fish were fact or fiction. After a couple of hours’ fishing and having nothing but the dreaded alligator gars ripping baits off the hooks, Dave rod was off. He was playing a fish for about ten minutes before it showed itself to be an arapaima, but unfortunately as it approached the cage it spat the hook with a shake of the head and was away. Two to three hours later Dave’s alarm was once again screaming at him, and with a hard strike the fish turned and was coming in with no problems. Everybody was just thinking it was a small fish until it came to the net (how wrong they were). Suddenly the head of an arapaima popped up for a breath of air; it was huge, and on seeing Sean with fishing guide Gollock it roared off. Whether it was the net or the teeth hanging out of Gollock’s head like piano keys, I don’t know, but whatever it was this fish was out of there and the fight was on.

After about twenty minutes of fighting the monster it was finally starting to tire, which was just as well because Dave wasn’t looking to well himself. Five more minutes passed and the arapaima was on the surface with nothing much left in him. The runs were getting shorter with not so much power in his body, but still enough to give everyone watching a few scares as it jumped in the air two or three times trying to shake the hook, but then it was over and the fish was in the cage. It was even bigger than they had first thought; It was a fish Sean recognised, and as he looked up at a very tired and shocked Dave, he informed him he had just caught one of our 150kg arapaima. There were a few minutes to get cameras ready, as they had to make sure the fish and Dave had recovered and got some oxygen back inside them before they could attempt any photos. After the usual five minutes the fish had recovered enough even if Dave hadn’t! The arapaima was that big, and with Dave in a bad way, Dan had to jump in to help lift the beast. With Benz on the camera and everybody in the water, the arapaima was briefly lifted for some trophy shots before the final job of lowering him back into the cage for one final breath before sending him on his way. This huge arapaima had given Sean his street cred back, as upon arrival hearing Sean talking about the size fish we have in the lake, Dave and Dan thought he must be getting his kilos and pounds mixed up. They both thought there could not be fish of that size in a lake, but how happy they were to find out that there were no mistakes and that the fish they were being told about did exist. The fish gods decided enough was enough for Dave this trip, but he was not disappointed, and it took him the rest of his stay to recover from the fight and let the experience of this fish of a lifetime sink in. Dan however went on to catch a red tail catfish of 34lbs, a Julian’s golden prize of 18 lbs, and a pacu of 12lbs, plus also landing his own arapaima of 150lbs. With all these fish in a 48-hour session they left extremely happy, and vowing to return.
English angler Alan Jones booked a one-day fishing session with us to escape the shopping trips and sunbathing his wife Bev had planned for their two-week holiday, staying close to Gillham’s at the beach resort of Klong Muang. Within 30 minutes of fishing, Alan’s rod was off, and he had hooked and landed a beautiful 45lb red tail catfish. Happy with what he had just caught, he informed us that if there was nothing else all day he would leave a very happy man. After this statement the golden Buddha must have granted another request, for Alan lost three arapaima, one of which was a good size. In the afternoon a lot of arapaima were showing in the top bay, so a move was in order, just taking the two rods there, and within minutes Alan landed a 25lb alligator gar, and then lost two more arapaima. Still happy with his catches, Alan said he’d have another 30 minutes, and then he would have to get back to his wife. With ten minutes to go the float rod was the main topic of conversation, as nothing was interested in it, and there had been no enquiries for the float fished dead bait. Just as the sentence finished, the float disappeared and a bow wave went out the bay. After about 30 minutes the beast was in the cage, and was recognized as another one of our 300lb-plus arapaima. With the photos done and the fish released Alan was speechless, as never had he seen such a big and beautiful fish, let alone hooked and landed one. With the day over he was off back to his hotel to tell everybody about the day he’d had. Two days later Alan returned with his wife Bev so she could look at the five-star accommodation and beautiful surroundings, and they then booked to come back for a holiday later this year – Alan was like a kid in a sweet shop. With Bev impressed with what she had seen, Alan even managed to get another day’s fishing the following day. On Alan’s return visit he had another cracking day with two more arapaima of 50lbs and 90lbs, plus a 20lb Siamese carp, and also alligator gar of 20 and 15lbs.

We also had the pleasure this month of a team from the National Geographic channel coming to Gillham’s to re-create the capture of Keith Purton’s historic biggest brace of arapaima to be caught on rod and line – fish of 330lbs and 220lbs, from back in October 2007. They wanted Keith in the same swim wearing the same clothes to re-create the historic event, which was easier said than done, as Keith had lost his case on that trip. He had bought some stunning Tesco blue label train spotter clothing, and being to shy to take it home with him, he had given all the trendy gear to our guide Gollock. Now with Gollock being a minty little chap, no way was Keith going to wear this kit again, so it was back to Tesco’s to the Simon Clark Cat Pro stand for an identical train spotter’s outfit. The day dawned for filming, all was in place, and the top bay had been closed and prebaited for a week prior to filming. With the camera crew in position, Keith made his first cast, and within ten minutes his deadbait was snatched by the wannabe movie star, Mr. Arapaima. Poor old Keith was nervous in front of the cameras (to be honest he did not want to make the film, but bless him he did it for us), and he fluffed it as the fish was nearing the cage, and a big Arapaima of way over 200lbs leapt from the water, shook its head, and parted the hooklink. This disappointing disaster recurred half an hour later, after which all the Harry Palmers spooked and left the bay.
Now panic was setting in, but yours truly had been feeding a little secret spot at the other end of the lake, so a big move was made. The producer asked if we could just get any arapaima for the movie, so after casting Keith’s rods into the secret hotspot I went in search of an arapaima to play. Using a float-fished dead bait, I picked out an arapaima that kept showing itself just above where Keith was fishing, and after 30 minutes of casting the dead bait in the fish’s face he got angry and snatched it. With no real dramas apart from wobbly knees, I played the fish cautiously to the cage, and whoops of joy went up, as we had one for the camera at last, even if it was not a 300lb-plus fish, and at 120lb it was most welcome. Now Keith, being the gent he is, had got in the lake and helped cage the fish, when above the noise a wailing buzzer could be heard. The rod in the secret spot was away, and with Keith up to his neck in water, I had to dash and strike the rod straight away. I knew this was a special fish, and handing Keith his rod back he played the fish perfectly, probably because he was not under so much pressure, as we had one in the bag. After some 45 minutes a huge fat arapaima rolled into the cage amongst shrieks of joy, and whoops from the film crew. Upon grabbing the fish to hold for recovery, I noticed a familiar orange birthmark on the fish’s face, and upon closer inspection we realised it was in fact the same 330lb fish from October! What a result – not only had we got the big fish for the film crew, but the one they had come to make the movie about – spooky or what? The fish was measured at 6ft 4ins long, with a colossal 3ft girth from behind its head all the way to its vent, which believe me is one incredibly fat Arapaima. Once the fish was safely returned, it was a very relieved and happy fat controller who got out of the lake to do the obligatory cuddle with the film crew. One cuddle was good though, as the producer Julia was nearly as pretty as my arapaima! The film crew thought I was the dog’s gonads for ordering the exact fish they wanted, and being the modest sort of honest chap I am, I took a bow and replied, “No problem at all, just another day at the office for us.” So that was it, or as they say ‘a wrap’, and the crew went to town and got annihilated, but as we had clients the next day it was an early night for all of us. At around the crack of 2pm the next day it was a very sorry looking film crew who returned still half sozzled, and looking like they had slept rough on the beach (it’s a small close community around here, but don’t worry Julia, your secret is safe with me!)

And lastly, the final embarrassment must go to top Swedish fisherman Per Brannstrom, who came on a day ticket with his friend Luther. Upon arrival we set the two likeable Swedish guys up in a swim before the entrance to arapaima bay. Within an hour Luther was into a 150lb arapaima, followed by a 20lb Siamese carp, while Per landed a 35lb red tail plus a 20lb pacu. After lunch Per informed me he was an avid fly fisherman, and was in fact sponsored by Loop, one of the top fly tackle manufacturers. Per had with him a nice Loop fly rod, complete with a salmon reel, and upon showing me his tackle I commented that the reel would not stand up to our monster fish. Per’s reply was that it’s good for salmon in Sweden, but my reply was that these are not salmon, but let’s give it a go. I took Per to a good fly fishing spot on the lake, but he was dubious that our fish took fly, and when he started fishing I could tell by his body language he was not convinced that it was not just a sales gimmick on our website for fly fishing. After six or so half-hearted casts, suddenly Per’s rod was nearly wrenched from his hand, and a huge bow wave was going up the lake at twice the speed of sound, with a grim faced Per wondering what the hell he had latched onto. Just then there was a crack like a starting pistol, parts of reel were showering around us like shrapnel, and Per’s leader parted. With a sheepish grin on his face, Per turned to me and said, “No, they’re not salmon, are they?” After we both stopped laughing, I lent Per one of my reels, and a few casts later he hooked another big fish, which went on an unstoppable run. As it slowed down and Per was taking control, disaster struck when his knot parted. With a shrug of his shoulders, he announced, “Bet you’re impressed with me!” That is what I like about the Swedes; they have a good sense of humour as well as being very good fishermen. This was not Per’s day, as later he lost one more through no fault of his own, but he did get a bonus Black Pacu of 15lbs on his fly, and Luther finished his day with one more Siamese carp of around 40lbs.
There are many other things to report this month, but space and time prevent us telling you all. As for next month, well folks, April is rocking, and Gillham’s is on fire – lake records are tumbling, with a 98lb carp, a 70lb red tail, plus a near-400lb arapaima, but that folks is for next month, so don’t miss it.
The show here goes on, so get booking for that trip of a lifetime at
Bye ’til next month from Stuart and all the gang here at Gillham’s in Krabi.