This past weekend (July 18-20, 2010), my girlfriend and I decided to set out to Hua Hin for some rest and relaxation from the city. She was excited to go swim at the apartment’s seaside pool. I was excited to catch some exotic species with my brand new bait-casting set: a heavy Iwa brand fishing rod armed with Fuji brand guides and the sturdy Shimano Tekota 500 baitcaster reel.
We set out of Bangkok right after work. So long city folk! Hello peace and quiet! But no, I was not greeted by the serenity of driving on an empty road out of town, instead, I was greeted by a traffic jam that would have made Buddha cry. Unfortunately, as I was escaping the city, the city was coming with me to Hua Hin to attend the annual jazz festival. It was as if every single car in town was on the number 4 highway heading out of the city. The usual two-and-a-half hour drive became an excruciatingly slow four-hour crawl on the road. What’s up with Thai people and jazz anyway and why does it have to be at a beach? When I think of jazz I think of people in formal clothing smoking cigars in a Casablanca-esque setting not a bunch of half-naked Thai people dancing awkwardly on a beach. When I googled “jazzy atmosphere” I didn’t get a single picture of a beach, just this. No offense to jazz fans here, my dad’s a jazz fan himself but it’s genre of music I just get unless I am eating oysters.
When we got to my family apartment in Hua Hin we finally settled down, watched some Glee (yes I’m a Gleek) before passing out early in order to get to the fishing pond at 9am.
The next day I was up bright and early. The girlfriend had woken up before me to go for a jog and take a splash in the swimming pool. When she returned she was wet with sweat and not the usual chlorinated water found in swimming pools. With a disappointed look on her face she told me that the pool was closed for repairs.
“I’m sorry to hear that babe… Let’s go fishing”. I’m a great boyfriend.
The pond I visited on that Saturday morning was Hua Hin Fishing Lodge (page to come). It’s a fishing pond run by a British expat that is frequented by both Thais and foreign tourists for one very good reason: it houses some very exotic and endangered fish species and it wouldn’t cost you B20,000 to catch an Amazonian arapaima like in Bungsamran.
I was super excited to finally catch rare and endangered fish like the arapaima, the red tail catfish, arowana, Julienne’s price carp and the alligator gar. I was so excited that I barely noticed the dead person under the blanket lying on the side of the road surrounded by the body snatchers, policemen and the paramedics. Apparently there was an accident involving a motorcycle and a car that left the cyclist in a permanent state of inactivity. Sadly, having seen enough of this on Bangkok streets I was too desensitized to be shocked so I drove on. My dad once joked to me that Thais have something like an immunity to the fear death thanks to their strong belief in reincarnation. With newspapers like Thai Rath posting photos of dead people on their front cover on a daily basis, a dead body on the road is usually greeted with curiosity and not much empathy.
Finally after many wrong turns, some dirt roads and u-turns in the Hua Hin mountains we reached the Hua Hin Fish Lodge. A small gorgeous property with two modest sized fishing ponds. One pond had the majority of the Thai fishes while the other pond had the majority of the international variety.
I set up the gear and got to fishing in the international pond in hope of landing that arapaima. That’s where I met Jad (the Thais called him Jid but I found Jad to sound cooler) the pond assistant of the Hua Hin Fishing Lodge. This friendly Cambodian migrant taught me the basics for the pond: a sinker rig with a long braided leader line and some chicken meat or fish for bait. After chatting for a bit Jad brought out his gear to fish with me. I was beginning to really like this guy.
I noticed his fishing rod was a special edition Shakespeare Ugly Stik, a rod that has a market price of around US$120. Nice rod, I told him. He thanked me for the compliment and continued to tell me a story of how a guest had enjoyed having him as a guide so the guest took our friend out for a drink and give him the Ugly Stik.
He’d tell me in Thai, “drop your bait here” and I did as he was told. Soon enough we had our first fish: a black pacu, the friendlier cousin of the piranha. The pacu took the bait from Jad’s rod so he tackled it for a while and landed the Amazonian fish within seconds.
Suddenly my phone rang. It was grandma. “What are you up to?” she asked. “Um, I’m on holiday in Hua Hin,” I replied purposely not mentioning fishing to avoid the karma conversation. “OK that’s good to hear. Just don’t go fishing today, it’s a monk day” she continued.
Whoops. Too late. I don’t know why but lately I’ve been fishing on a lot of monk days, I don’t try to but it just happens.
As I waited I sat with the girlfriend watching the second volume of the season one of Glee on my laptop computer. To cool us off we used the fishing lodge’s fan, a big clunky metallic device that has obviously been ripped out of an old air-conditioner.
It was hard to concentrate on the episodes knowing that a fish could strike any minute so I continued to try and fish for the bigger fish but there were no nibbles save for one striped catfish taking a piece of chicken (something that never happens because they are mostly vegetarian! Wish my vegetarian friends could learn from this fish) so we switched to the Thai fish pond for the time being as I left the Iwa/Shimano set’s line in the pond just in case something bites.
In the Thai pond Jad taught me some new techniques. The first one is used for catching top-feeding fish similar to the British boilies method. Jad threaded the hook through three folded halves of bread slices before squeezing them together to form an uneven ball. He cast the bait out and it floated on the surface of the water. Then he would throw some bread on to the water to lure in the shoal. Soon enough the hungry shoal surfaced to take the bait.
He then showed me how to catch the giant Siamese carp, a species that I’ve been meaning to catch for a while. The bait was a combination of bread wrapped in wheat germ on a single hook. No float, no sinker and not even a swivel, this was a very simple rig that worked wonders. Soon enough I had landed my very first giant Siamese carp weighing in at 11.5kg.
All the sudden we heard a rattling sound. My girlfriend yelled out my name and told me that it’s coming from my new reel. Holy shit Batman, something’s on the line! Something big! I literally dropped everything, ran to the rod and tried to set the hook but failed. The fish must have been biting the side of the bait missing the hook completely.
“The way it pulled out the line, that’s definitely the arapaima” said Jad. Oh great.
Then I had a second chance. After putting on some fresh tilapia meat on as bait and casting the line into the water I had another bite within minutes. This time it was the red tail catfish, another monster fish from Brazilian waters. After minutes of fishing things were starting to look good, the fish started to tire, this fish is going to be photographed! I yanked the rod up to pull the fish in but all the sudden snap. And the fish was gone. The braided leader line had been snapped from the force of the fish. I had made two mistakes: underestimating the size of the fish and not using quality braided line. It was my mistake and there was no one to blame but me. I’ll remember to bring some better line next time I visit.
Not only had I lost the fish but I also lost a rod. When I literally dropped everything to go for the rod with the arapaima I had dropped my other rod on the ground and it was soon dragged into the water by another powerful giant Siamese carp. Whoops.
Oh well, a couple of lessons learnt today. The rod will show up eventually, it’s not the biggest pond. I also got to catch a new species of fish so that was pretty awesome. Don’t worry Hua Hin Fishing lodge, I’ll be back real soon to get some photos with your arapaima. By 7:30pm I head home and left Jad a big tip. He was very shy about it all and had someone else take the tip for him and said good bye from a distance. What a nice guy.
I told my girlfriend that we were done fishing for the weekend. She was happy but understanding enough to let me go fishing again the next day at Chaam Fishing Park. I have a wonderful girlfriend.
Photos from Hua Hin Fishing Lodge:
Photos from Chaam Fishing Park: