So what did you do last weekend? Question: How long does it take to mix, roll, boil and dry 10 kilos of bait? Answer: Too bloody long! For more information visit www.thecarpcatcher.co.uk
Back in the east bay for a dawn start and there is somthing pulling my string that leaves me confounded. Later in the day I catch one of the better fish in the lake and it simply takes my breath away. For more information visit www.thecarpcatcher.co.uk
I arrived at Bungsamran Lake at 6am on the dot, just as the daylight was beginning to appear. It was a beautiful morning with very little breeze, the surface of the Lake was like a mirror only being disturbed by the appearance of some of the huge fish that lurk in this world class fishing water.
Khun Boonsong mixed the bait while he waited for me to set my rods up, the apprehension of the first cast still makes my heart beat that much faster here. Khun Boomsong is one of the leading carp specialist guides working here and what he does not know about Siamese Carp is not worth knowing.
The bait that he had mixed was a combination of baby milk powder, custard cream flavour, sweet corn with a few other secret ingredients (he calls it his mega mix carp bait); all this was added into the base mix of rice bran. This blend is a much wetter combination than the one we use to catch the Mekong Catfish.
Nothing had happened for the first half hour, so Boonsong had gone to buy breakfast; he had not been gone thirty seconds, when bingo, I had a bite, the fish ran and the line was screaming off the reel, then it just stopped (probably sensing the hook). I wound the reel to take up the slack line, I thought, maybe it had shed the hook, suddenly the line tightened as the fish moved, I immediately struck and set the hook firmly in its mouth; the fight was on!
After the initial excitement of hooking into the fish, I had started to look for hints as to what kind of fish it was. From my previous experiences, the Striped Catfish and the Mekong Catfish are similar; they tend to run with the bait stripping line off the reel at a fantastic rate. The Mekong and the smaller striped Catfish give long hard runs, which slowly curve in a “C” or a wide “S” shaped course.
The Siamese Giant Carp tend to run deep and turn suddenly in an almost zig zag path. It is hard to believe that these fish when in the water are completely weightless and you are just fighting its sheer power.
My line carved a classic letter “Z” and I was fairly certain that I had a carp on the end of the line. I knew I had to take my time and play the fish, unlike the Giant Mekong Catfish the Carp has a very soft mouth and too much drag will pull the hook out. I decided to back off the drag slightly; I used an Accurate Boss Magnum 870 with Lever Drag, very fine consistent adjustments to the drag are easily achieved without moving your hands from the rod and reel. They are much easier to use than a fixed spool reel especially when fishing for the larger specimens.
My aim at this point was to tire the fish as quickly as possible and keep it out as far as I could; the Siamese Giant Carp are renowned for appearing to give up and roll over, then at the last minute making a dash for freedom (there are many bungalows surrounding the lake and a pier splitting it in half, many fish have been lost in between the supports and stanchions).
The fight was ten minutes in and I had made progress, the fish was tiring -it was not the only one, my arms were beginning to ache. After another five minutes of struggle, it made a determined sharp turn, which actually brought its side out of the water, it was a Siamese Carp.
The Carp made several more sharp turns and then typical to these creatures, it feigned submission, which I had been ready for. I shifted to one side and instead of letting the fish run underneath the bungalow we were in, I moved it towards the left, increasing the drag slightly and with some fancy footwork (I new those ballet lessons would come in handy one day) the last ditched run for the snags was foiled.
The carp made its last attempt to go deep, kicking up the silt -causing lots of bubbles of natural gas, which is trapped in the bottom of the lake- but by this time it was exhausted so was I, but the fish did not know that, Boomsong appeared, with the landing net in hand I was never more pleased to see him, he quickly prepared the deck to receive the fish.
We unhooked the line from its mouth and we also removed another snapped line from a previous battle which it had obviously won.
The Siamese Giant Carp weighed in at 25.3Kg 56lbs which was quickly returned to the lake after a couple of photographs for the album.
Guided by Khun (Mr.) Boonsong
Firstly, I have to admit my ignorance, when I was told that there were Barramundi in Thailand I was very surprised. Thinking they were only native to Australia, it was pointed out to me that these fish in fact populate many freshwater lakes throughout Asia. So I went along to Bor Num Lake with a friend of mine (John); who is also a keen angler and has been living in Bangkok for over thirteen years.
The lake is actually called Bor Num Barramundi fishing park, and the ticket for the day cost 100 Thai baht (approx 2 British pounds or 3 US dollars), excellent value for money. It is possible to hire spinning rods and tackle for an additional 100 baht per person. Bor Num Lake also offers the chance to try your hand at fly fishing; the price is the same which ever code of fishing is chosen. It was suggested to us that we use lures when fishing for the barramundi, we were in total agreement -lure fishing always appeals- as the action and excitement is second to none when fishing for predators using this system.
It turns out that fishing for barramundi is extremely popular amongst Thais, especially at the weekends where many come to enjoy the fishing activities. Though catching and eating your quarry is something that has never appealed to me, many anglers here, Thais and foreigners alike do. You can enjoy these fish in the restaurant for -an additional cost- if you so wish, the fish is prepared by the local chefs to your taste (the lake is frequently stocked, to counter the fish taken for the pot).You can always put the fish back if this is not your bag.
There is not much protection from the sun here, so one must stay well covered up as the sun will easily nuke the skin, even sun block struggles to keep the rays at bay. So a good hat and a long sleeved shirt are the order of the day.
The staff were very friendly giving us plenty of tips and advice, without which I feel we may have struggle to catch; when fishing here one needs to use different techniques than when at home fishing.
The Barramundi have been farmed commercially in lakes here in Thailand for over twenty years, they are extremely aggressive hunters and when hooked give one serious fight. Usually clearing the water with energetically charged leaps, which causes large splashes as they land again, bringing the angler much approved applause and cheer from the local observers.
We found that poppers with a fly attached to a 30lb leader proved to be the most successful lures (as recommended by the guide). Barramundi have a sharp gill plate and the larger fish can cut through 40lb Fluorocarbon shock leader in one swipe. We used bait casting rods 6 feet in length and bait casting reels which are used specifically for lure fishing (they look very much like multiplying reels).
The lake is not a fish farm and it is quite easy to blank here if the wrong methods are used, but if you get it right a fantastic day will be had. The fish do vary in size form 1kg (2.2lb) up to and beyond 10kg (22lbs).
Unbelievably the first cast of the day resulted in John hitting into a monster, with in seconds this Barramundi leapt clear of the water creating much excitement in the camp (the guide pointing out that when the fish breaches the water, it is best to lower the tip of the rod, so as not to give the fish too much chance of shedding the hook) John then proceeded to wrestle for a further five minutes with his quarry, again the magnificent barramundi cleared the water several more times before finally subduing to the net. A 4.8kg fish on the first cast and about twenty more in total, not bad at all for a couple of beginners.
A few tips:-
It is debatable whether to use a tour company or not. If you are confident of finding your way and have your own transport then it is not essential to pay the extra for a tour company. The staff at Born Num is very experienced and probably knows more about their water than the guides from agencies.
If live bait fishing you must buy out the fish, you can not catch and release when live baiting due to the almost guaranteed take.
A small tip is appreciated but not compulsory for the guides at Bor Num – we gave B100 tip for good service all day
The guides are kept very bust usually looking after 5 or 6 anglers at a time.
Food and drinks are ordered via the guide, so you do not have to leave the waters edge.
Toilets are not European Style, but clean.
There is a very friendly atmosphere and the local fishermen are only too willing to help, giving friendly advice and tips without being too intrusive.
So all in all a fantastic day was had by all and we became hooked ourselves and will certainly be returning to Bor Num very soon.