Carp fishing in Thailand, and the elusive arapaima
As some of you may have noticed in the past, when it has come to catching fish, I have often been the lucky one. This has led to me often being referred to as “Old Golden Bollocks”. Many of my friends to this day call me “Lucky Green”. (As a matter of fact, this originated many years ago. In those days, my twin boys and I fished a salmon/sea trout beat on the River Ness. Being ‘keenies’ we tended to fish fairly hard for the salmon by day, and then the sea trout by night. As a result, our results were noticeably better than our fellow syndicate members. Consequently, I learned at one annual committee meeting, we were known as “The Lucky Greens”!)
That having been said, I have just returned from my second trip to the lovely “Jurassic Mountain Lake” in Thailand. My great pal, Rod, and I caught a ton and a quarter of fish in six days fishing there last year. To say that I didn’t live up to my reputation this time would be somewhat of an understatement!
To put things into perspective, last time good old Rod managed to catch an arapaima of about 100lbs on our last morning, in addition to many Siamese carp and red-tailed catfish. This time my aim was to get an arapaima myself – ideally on fly tackle, but in all events to catch one! On our previous visit I was lucky enough to get an immaculate 60lb red-tailed catfish on the fly, and I felt that an arapaima on the same method would be a real possibility.
Not the best start
Disappointment number one was that the water level this time proved to be 12 to 18” higher than in 2016. This meant that, when wading the margins, the level was up to my armpits. That, with the increased growth of the over-hanging bank-side vegetation, meant that fly-fishing was almost out of the question. I made a couple of attempts anyway, but sometimes you have to accept that you are up against it!
So, it was a question of the standard issue 4oz lead and 4lb test-curve rods. We fished big pellets on one rod, for the carp, and a dead-bait on the second one, for red-tails and arapaima. With very comfortable, 4-star, air-conditioned villas, fantastic food from the restaurant, and a full English breakfast delivered to your swim at the desired hour (by an ever-smiling pretty little Thai girl), this is not exactly a hardship. What’s more, my first morning resulted in several nice Siamese carp up to a P.B. 90-pounder.
So, to be fair, it all started pretty well. Indeed my other friend, Graham Hutchings – on his first visit to Thailand – kicked things off in style. He hooked two arapaimas on that first morning, and got one of them out – a magnificent 150 pounder (from a swim next to mine).
Rod also caught an arapaima of about the same size.
“Surely I will get one in six days fishing!” I thought to myself.
Possibly the best place on Earth to catch a 50lb-plus carp
The following day I had another big carp of 75lbs, which as usual nearly pulled my arm off, along with a few, less worthy “also-rans”. Rod, meanwhile, hooked and landed another big arapaima. Across the lake, another really nice guy, Mark Theobald, landed a 200-pounder, following an incredible two-hour battle! My turn must be coming soon, I thought. (Incidentally, Mark was staying with his new wife, Amy, on his honeymoon!)
While I waited for my first arapaima, I was consoled by a visit from my son, James. He and his lovely wife Anna had joined us for a couple of nights, accompanied by my heart-melting little granddaughter, Ella (18 months). Living as they do in Singapore, only two hours away by plane, they decided to come and see us, and it was wonderful to spend time with them, I must say. The video below shows James and Ella hand feeding the resort’s tame arapaima – something that is definitely NOT for the faint-hearted!
When they left, the following day, it was a case of “all systems – Go!” for an arapaima. In an all-out effort to get my target fish, I decided to fish two rods with fish-baits. I can easily condense the next four days by saying that, if I had neglected to put any bait on my hooks, it would not have made the slightest difference! To add insult to injury, it was slightly irritating to see someone move into a swim where I had blanked the previous day, and remove fish after fish from it. It had to be seen to be believed! “Character-building,” I believe it is called. I hope I managed to keep a stiff upper lip – but it wasn’t easy, I must say!
Everyone was having them, but me
To be fair, it doesn’t reflect one bit on the fishery itself, because basically it was a question of “everyone was having them, except me”.
Good old Rod could hardly go wrong: he lost an estimated 300lb arapaima in an underwater snag, but landed a 100-plus-pound Mekong look-alike, Chao Phraya Catfish. This treated him to a 120-metre surface run, plus an hour’s hard fight, before being netted. Well done, that man! I’m not sure just how many fish he had in total, but I am fairly sure it was more than 40!
The final blow was that a really nice guy called Chris, having had an action-packed day, ended up hooking and catching a 180lb arapaima. I was happy for him, truly, but I couldn’t help thinking that this simply wasn’t my week!!
Although I would recommend Jurassic Mountain wholeheartedly to anyone wishing to catch big fish in a comfortable and friendly environment, I am not sure I will venture there again myself. I’ve never been an avid carp fisherman, so without the distraction of fly fishing in the margins, I found the last four days – sitting behind two static rods – quite a test. If you love carping, on the other hand, you should definitely add this to your bucket list. The fish are massive and extremely hard fighting. While we were there the lake record, “Scarface”, was caught twice – estimated at a whopping 180-190lb.
Carp fisherman – you are or you aren’t
For me, carp fishing has never had the draw I know it has for others. I’m hesitant to admit that I have the opportunity to fish a beautiful private lake containing carp up to 60lbs, but, to the disbelief of some of my pals, I never bother to target them! I know others would lose a limb for that opportunity, and the irony and privilege isn’t lost on me.
Scanning through what I have written, it occurs to me that I am feeling a shade sorry for myself. I’d hate to appear a sore loser – indeed, in years gone by, I’ve been openly critical of others who haven’t been able to take ‘defeat’ on the chin. On reflection, at the age of nearly 76, being reasonably fit, having a lovely wife who doesn’t object to my three foreign fishing trips a year, and having the wherewithal to enjoy such adventures, it doesn’t sound too “unlucky” to me, at all. Wouldn’t you agree?