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Krabi newsletter November 2008

Hello once again to all our readers. Don’t the months fly by? It’s nearly Christmas again! As I write this month’s lies, gossip and reports, I must touch on the December news. As you will have seen in the news Thailand’s main airport at Bangkok has been blockaded and shut down by a load of, well, I cannot comment further as I live here, so let’s just say the airport has been closed. We lost around 20 bookings, turning what should be a good month into a poor one, and worse still, all the poor people lost their long awaited dream holiday. Sorry you guys – don’t be put off re-booking; it is something that should never happen again. I have many views on the subject, as those who know me will have guessed, but enough said, or I will find myself in trouble with the authorities. The good news though, is that the airports are all open and back to normal. Most of our guests made the most of it, and enjoyed a forced extended stay, the luckiest two being Lee and Jayne Jackson and Dave and Sylvie Woods, who are stuck here for an extra two weeks. They will keep our pub in business while we wait for our rescheduled guests, plus they will keep the Thai wine stock market rising.

Now here is a true bit of gossip about the old git Woodsy, bless him – it’s his age… We were all up at the airport sorting out refunds on flights, and trying to find an airport the lads could fly home from, when Woodsy announced, “How about Ao-Nang airport?” I explained to the old git that Ao-Nang is just a seaside tourist town, only to get the answer, “There is an airport there – look at the bus over there, it says Ao-Nang – Airport.” Bless him – it goes from Ao-Nang to the Airport! It also stops at Tesco, but they don’t have an airport either! Woodsy misses Sylvia, who has also got a new name as she is only one meter tall; she is now called Mrs. Glatt – a glatt in Thai means dwarf! Finally, the car park front wall and flowerbeds are all complete, and at last construction here has stopped, so maybe now we can start to recover our investment. The weather here was just settling down to the dry season when a big weather front passed either side of us, giving us a very wet middle to November. But as I write this report, the weather has settled with every day in the 90’s and blue skies – eat your hearts out all our readers in cold, wet and dark Europe! Think of us in our shorts, sipping iced beer! Helmet the dog has a new hobby; he has taken up fishing! He stands on the edge of the fishing positions, splashing his front paw in the water, and after waiting patiently, eventually a sorubim pokes its head up to see what all the fuss is about, and Helmet leaps on top of it. These antics are keeping our guests amused for hours on end, and those with video cameras have been filming him. A funny thing happened at the beginning of the month; we had a big rainstorm one evening, and as Sean and I were driving to the pub we saw a nice striped snakehead of around 5lb walking across the road on its pectoral fins. We duly stopped, kidnapped the fish, and returned home with our prized free stocking. Also this month we had an invasion of snapping turtles coming from the swamp upstream of us en route for Gillhams. Luckily the ever-observant Gollock spotted them, and gathered a bucketful in seconds, so anyone who fancies turtle curry is being directed to Gollock’s luxury tin hut!

Our dear friend Kevin arrived this month for a six-month holiday, helping with the fish and fishermen. Kevin is the Mr. Nice Guy in the fishing world – a very competent and low profile angler, who has caught many big fish around the globe, partnering his high-profile friend and ours, Joe Taylor. Now Kev is a very hairy-bodied man, so he has taken a lot of ribbing from the boys here about taking off the fur jacket. The national geographic film about arapaima fishing in our lake hit the American screens “Hooked: Man vs. Fish” on October 19th, and within 48 hours our first client from the film, Jim Shea, who watched our arapaima getting caught and decided this was a fish he wanted to catch, was booked in to visit. Fair play to Jim; he travelled all this way for a four-day fishing trip, making it all worthwhile when he achieved his goal, landing two arapaima at 110 and 170lb respectively. Jim also became the second man to land a sting ray at Gillhams, with a fish of 75lbs. Mission accomplished, a top man and top fisherman. Jim has vowed to return for his arapaima Grandma! The show “Hooked: Man vs. Fish” is hopefully hitting the European screens sometime in early 2009, so look out for that one. The fishing has slowed down a bit this month, as is normal when the seasons change. We are in that period where the water temperature is rising, not giving the fish time to settle. There has been a rapid rise in Rohu captures this month, due to the fact we purchased 80 small 4lb to 16lb fish. These beautiful members of the carp family are like rocking horse poo to find in large sizes, i.e. 20lb-plus. It has taken us four years to locate the big ones we have, but these new fish will be up around 20lb in the next two years. At the moment they are great sport on a match rod fished on the marginal shelf with maize.

Ok, so on to the fishing report… 40 fishermen came fishing with us this month, and between them they landed 465 fish of 18 species, made up as follows… 44 arapaima to 340lbs, three Mekong catfish to 120lbs, 194 Siamese carp to 70lbs, 61 red tail catfish to 75lbs, 21 alligator gar to 28lbs, six Asian red tail catfish to 25lbs, 17 black pacu to 40lbs, six Chao Phraya catfish to 50lbs, 49 spotted sorubim to 35lbs, two tambaqui to 27lbs, five Julian’s golden prize carp to 40lbs, two giant stingray to 90lbs, eight spotted featherback to 13lbs. 33 rohu carp to 15lbs, two giant gourami to 13lbs, one striped catfish of 8lbs, three mrigal to 10lb, and eight striped snakehead to 5lbs.

Our first visitor this month was Paul Swainson, who had seen our display at the Five Lakes show in Essex, Paul came for a 12-night stay with his lovely wife Sue, fishing on our ‘rent the bungalow’ basis and fishing odd hours between his family holiday. As with a lot of people they hired a car and hardly used it, as all the day trips do a free pick-up service, and as with most people, once they got caught up in the tranquility of Gillhams they did not want to go out. Paul was a guy I had never met, but I did know many of his friends. He is a very good angler who likes to target all species, but his ultimate target was an arapaima. His first arapaima was 150lb, then he went and really pushed the boat out, landing a fish of 340lbs! Paul went on to land ten different species, with a total of 33 fish, mainly fishing early mornings and evenings between day trips. When I asked Paul what captures stuck in his mind, he surprised me by saying a gourami of 13lb that he stalked in the margins. The other fish Paul wanted to catch, our stunning arawana,but they eluded him, although he did hook two, only for them to leap clear of the water and shed his hook. He had some good fish stalking with bread crust around the weedbeds, probably his most memorable capture being a nice 40lb red tail catfish taken on crust on light tackle.

Arriving at the same time as Paul were Martin and Lee, two fishing-mad guys who fished ‘til they dropped. Now Martin truly scuppered our impressive record of nobody ever doing more than five days to take an arapaima; he even stayed on an extra three days to try his hand, but Martin’s dream fish was not to be. Lee however did get his arapaima at 130lb. One day as I was doing my waddle around the lake, and Martin informed me that there was a stingray in close to the bank, and asked what he had to do to catch one. Upon telling him to use a small legered live bait, and reassuring him that our stingrays have all had their stings removed, but betting him a free day’s fishing that if he hooked one he would lose it, as all our clients have in the past, he then proceeded to prise a free day from me when he landed it at 90lb! This was much to the delight of Gollock, who thought it was a proper laugh that it had cost me. He doesn’t know yet that I stopped the money from his tips, because he showed Martin the bloody thing in the first place! Netting this strange fish was fun, as it was too big for our landing nets, so we eventually formed a funnel of landing nets and bundled the bewildered beast into an arapaima cage. The very next day Jim our American guest landed one of 70lbs, but the claim for free fishing fell on deaf ears while Gollock kept out of cuffing range! Lee taught Martin a lesson in fishing by consistently catching more fish, and ribbing his friend. One day in particular Lee landed 16 fish whilst Martin blanked two swims away, and rubbed salt into the wound by sneaking out an arapaima on his last cast of the day.

For the last three weeks of November we had the pleasure of Manfred and Lilo Ehmanns, owners of Ehmanns tackle in Germany. Now Manfred was supposed to be mixing his holiday between fishing and taking Lilo out on day trips, but arapaima fever set in, and poor Lilo only got one day trip in between being Manfred’s personal gopher and photographer. Manfred landed 83 fish of nine species, with arapaima to 130lb, Siamese carp to 60lb, and red tail catfish to 50lb, leaving him plenty of target personal bests to beat on next year’s visit, that is if poor Lilo doesn’t insist on a holiday away from fishing!
One of my old friends, Chris Turnbull, arrived for a ten-day trip only to be forced to stay an extra week due to the airport problem. Poor old Chris struggled to come to grips with our lake’s fish, but the extended stay did give him time to start getting to grips with tactics, as in his enforced stay he finally caught two arapaima, the best fish being our ever-friendly arapaima who shares Chris’s partner’s name Max. He also landed two nice red tail catfish of 60lb and 70lbs. Now the deal for Chris staying for ten days was to paint us an arapaima. It has long been a dream of mine to own a Chris Turnbull original print, but to get one of one of our own arapaima is the icing on the cake. Hopefully as his trip was extended, maybe we will get a nice red tail picture to go with it! Highly unlikely though, as Chris’s originals change hands for in excess of £3,000, so look out for the prints on sale on Chris’s website and put in an order for the arapaima print – they are sure to become collector’s items.

The extended stay was also forced upon our other guests, and my long-term friends Lee and Jayne Jackson, and Dave and the Dwarf Woods, who are on an extended two-week stay. My other old friend who got an enforced week’s stay was Len Gurd with his delightful partner Fran. I will save gossip and lies on this team ‘til next month, as there will be lots to report by the time they leave, especially on Mrs. Dwarf Woods who is on my target list after spiking my wine with pepper. Between day trips they are all only fishing odd hours to date, but they have landed 30 fish between them, with biggest arapaima to Lee at 250lb. Mind you, Len’s one this month dwarfed it, but you will have to wait for that. Woodsy has landed five arapaima so far, but they are all like his missus – miniatures! Actually they are similar in appearance also, as both species lack legs, have scales, and drink too much! After catching his new PB arapaima, Lee has switched to fish Siam carp, his best to date being a 60lb fish. We are hoping his specially imported Ming oil will get him one over the magic ton. Actually Woodsie’s missus uses Ming oil as perfume! Len has made us a promotional DVD, which will be out in the New Year, and for those collectors amongst you this DVD will probably be Len’s last film, as the old fella came out of retirement for this one.

Another guy who came here for six days fishing is Tony Morrel, owner of Paradise lakes in Limoges, France. Tony stays in Thailand for four months of every year with his lovely wife Mon. He has got the Gillhams bug, and having been captured by the spell our resort puts on everyone, he has now extended his stay for a month. His excuse is he wants to attend our Christmas party, but really apart from the skinny sod needing fattening up, he is after a bigger arapaima than the one Len landed on his last night. He has landed them to 170lb so far, plus he nudged the Chao Phraya catfish world record with a fish over 50lb. Now Tony has very strict rules on his lake, as we do here, only as he is on a busman’s holiday, he is seeing how many of our rules he can break, and to date he is exceeding 20. Oh boy, I can’t wait to go and fish his lake. For those of you who know me, put your money on me breaking double the amount of rules he will manage here!

We also had a fishing mad family here, Lloyd and Lin Clark from Great Yarmouth, their son, Luke, and their friend Glenn. Lloyd is a carp angler in the UK with a PB of 28lb 8oz to his credit, and he is no stranger to big Siamese carp, as on a Thailand fishing holiday last year with Siam fishing tours, in a 24-hour period, he landed two of 117lb and 122lb – now that’s some target to beat, although it is possible here, as we have Siamese carp to 160lb-plus. Now Lin who has never fished before decided that this year she would accompany the boys and play them at their own game by casting, striking and playing a fish all on her own. She showed the lads how to do it, catching a fine 70lb carp off the marginal shelf where she had been trickling bait in all day.
This fish made up for the previous day’s events when she struck into a huge arapaima, only for husband Lloyd to snatch her rod and land it at 340lb! He has been sleeping on the floor ever since! He ended his trip with seven arapaima, Siamese to 50lbs, red tail catfish to 70lbs and an elusive 30lb Julian’s golden prize carp of 30lb. Fourteen year-old Luke came here to target his favorite species, carp, with a PB in the UK to his credit of 18lb 8oz, which he beat six times in a day here, fishing to a plateau at 50yds with maize, topped by a fine 35lb fish. Luke also landed, totally unaided after a one-hour battle, a 90lb Mekong catfish. Luke showed everyone he is a good all-rounder as he is a dab hand on match tackle, taking four striped snakehead up to 2lbs. We reckon young Luke is a star of the future, but don’t write mum off, as she is now yet another carp junkie! Family friend Glenn was not outdone, as he also landed four arapaima to 190lb.

We have been getting a lot of Malaysian anglers here since our friend Anthony of Hook, Line and Sinker did a nice write-up on us. Fish of note to people from this new market for us included Sam Tan, who came on a day ticket, and on his first cast landed his first arapaima at 130lb. Also this month we hosted a lovely couple, Izhan and Mae, who fished for one and a half days for nine fish, and although the monsters eluded them, they loved Gillhams so much they are planning another trip in January. They even tried to take a bungalow home with them! Another successful Malaysian fisher was Dr Ling, who only came for two days, but landed two arapaima to 160lb. Singapore has also just opened up for us – it’s a short flight from there to Phuket, then a pleasant two-hour drive to us. When I had my boat, I had many Singapore clients, and always found them friendly and very good anglers, with conservation and fish care very high on their agenda. One couple in particular this month who visited were Judeana and her fishing fanatic husband, Eujin or his fishing forum name of skunk! Try this link to see his review on Gillhams. The arapaima eluded Eujin on their two-day trip, but he did okay with the Siamese carp, and made the classic statement that when the British government left Singapore they gave us fish and chips. Why could they not have left us Steve’s legendary Sunday roasts? There were many other worthy captures this month, but space is getting short. However, we must quickly mention a last minute capture by Swedish angler Robert, who had picked a slow day for his one-day trip but stuck it out in a rainstorm. As light was fading and time was running out, he got his one fish of the day in the shape of a stunning 330lb arapaima. We won’t mention our regular visitors, oil workers Doug and Grant too much, as Grant took the most tiger beer in a day record, and surprisingly blanked, while his partner in crime Doug did manage five fish with a 150lb arapaima to top their drinking binge off with!

So next month we will be reporting on the continuing saga of Lee, Woodsy, Len and his huge arapaima, plus Tony, along with more gossip and reports on the Christmas party, plus our returning guests from last Christmas. To all our readers and friends, thanks for your support this last year, have a great Christmas, and come to Gillhams in the New Year for that fish of a lifetime. Instead of watching The Sound of Music this year, check out or phone me, Stuart, on +66861644554

Best wishes from all the team at Gillhams Fishing Resorts, Krabi, Thailand.