Almost three years ago I was in a position where I almost quit fishing out of frustration. Being so new to the game I was like everyone else: super eager to land a trophy fish without the skills or experience required. Already I was disheartened by the fact that I couldn’t catch a snakehead of any kind after so many attempts. What pushed me almost to the boiling point was my introduction to the Texas Chuan Chom fishing pond.
Seriously wanting to catch a snakehead of any kind I searched high and low for a pond that stocked snakehead. At the time my usual pond, Pilot 111, still stocked only barramundi. Soon enough I found Texas Chuan Chom, a lure fishing pond out all the way in the Nong Chok district of Bangkok.
This was where I was first introduced to the Texas rig method of fishing, the primary method of fishing in this striped snakehead pond advocated by, Saek, the pond owner who is totally in love with this method. To fish a Texas rig, you thread a small lead sinker onto the fishing line. The next step is tie on a special worm hook designed with an off-set bend near the eye to accomodate for the lure. The soft lure is then threaded onto the hook in such a way that the sharp end of the hook is protected from snags by using the lure itself as a guard. I’ll add a more detailed explanation about this method in the “some basics” section in the near future.
That day I learnt the hard way that the Texas rig method of fishing was not exactly the easiest method of fishing. Firstly the hook set is completely different from most other lures. Usually when a fish has bitten on your lure the first thing to do is to set the hook immediately to ensure a solid hook-up. This is done by a rapid jerk-like motion of the rod. Doing the same hook setting motion on a Texas rig will almost always result in the lure flying right out of the fish’s mouth.
The proper way to set the hook is to actually wait for two to three seconds before setting the hook which, needless to say, seems very counter intuitive to most anglers. The other difficult part about fishing with a Texas rig is in the bite detection. Before you can even consider setting the hook you have to know when the fish has taken the lure, this is identified by a solid “bump” on the line. What I found was most difficult was distinguishing between this bump and any other obstacle in the water.
My first attempt at Texas Chuan Chom was a painful eye-opener to how much I sucked. I sucked harder than Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. I sucked harder than the other kind of Bangkok hooker. I sucked harder than a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I sucked harder than Alexandra Wallace at addressing racial issues. I sucked harder than Steve Jobs’ fashion sense (STOP WEARING THAT SAME FRIGGIN TURTLE NECK!). You get the point…
I didn’t have the finesse nor the accuracy to make this technique work. There were no bites to even detect. I was seriously thinking about picking up a new hobby. Something less frustrating like knitting punching myself in the face for hours on end.
Luckily I didn’t quit. Instead I kept practicing my fishing skills at fishing ponds and natural settings, improving every aspect of my skillset just like a Rocky montage. I laugh when I think back and realise that around half of all my salary went into fishing gear and fishing trips. As I continued fishing I also realised a big change in me. I was no longer that obsessed about making that big catch. Instead I began seeing fishing as something that made me really happy regardless of how many fish I catch. Just being out on the water whether natural or artificial was enough to put a big fat smile on my face. I simply love fishing the same way a fat boy loves being inside a 5-star hotel’s restaurant during Sunday brunch (btw, that me once upon a time).
So when I returned to Texas Chuan Chom after my long absence I came with a group of friends, some bottles of wine and some cheese. It was the kind of extravagance that strangely fit together like the Luther Burger (beef, bacon, cheese, egg inside a Krispy Kreme donut). We fished all day and caught nothing. I even lost an opportunity at hooking a parent giant snakehead that would have weighed at least 5kgs. But in the end I went back home empty handed with a big smile on my face knowing that I had a fun day fishing. Things are definitely different now compared to a few years back. I guess it is sort of like the difference of going to a party as a horny virgin teenage boy and then again as a college-age dude that just wanted have a good time with his friends.
However, last Saturday morning I got out of bed with a solid determination. Something inside me told me, “today is the day that I will conquer Texas Chuan Chom”. Thinking back it reminds me of Wayne’s World when Wayne declares his intention of winning over Cassandra by saying, “She will be mine. Oh yes! She will be mine”. I planned everything accordingly: get out of bed; relax at home until around 2pm; drive to 7 Seas Pro Shop to pick up a new rod; arrive at Texas Chuan Chom at around 4-5pm; and catch a striped snakehead using the Texas rig before it gets dark.
And stick to the plan I did. By 4:50pm I was there at Texas with my brand new light-action rod (which, I had purchased from 7 Seas Pro Shop), setting up a finesse Texas rig using a black and chartreuse Slider worm. Then I walked to a secluded spot in the pond to cast out my lure along the margins. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. It was only about one minute before my first bite! This time round, I had already caught many more fish. The excitement that would have hampered my skills were no longer there. I was completely calm like that time I hooked the giant snakehead parent in Bang Prah. I waited and counted to three.
One. Two. Three!
Boom! I set the hook! However, I forgot that I was using 8lb line and snapped it from the powerful hookset. I was in no way deterred for some reason. By now I realise that fishing is really like many other aspects in life, you can’t let one hang-up discourage you.
I calmly set up another Texas rig and began casting along the margins once more. As I retrieved the line through the murky water I finally felt it. A distinctive “bump” like no rock or tree stump. There is a striped snakehead on the line, I thought. Once again I counted to three.
One. Two. Three!
With my thumb on the spool of the spinning reel I gave the light action rod a firm jerk, this time not going too hard. The fish was hooked! And after a short fight I pulled up my first striped snakehead at Texas Chuan Chom. My first ever striped snakehead to be caught with the Texas rig! Even though this was a seriously small fish I was completely ecstatic. I got the pond owner, Saek to come to take some photos for me.
Shortly after I caught another little striped snakehead. Once again it wasn’t that big but catching it was sheer awesomeness.
As time went by the sun began to set. The sky was lit up into a colour of pomegranate with blotches of golden clouds scattered across. The mosquitoes were also making their appearance. I knew that it was time to head back or risk my chances with dengue fever. With the sky still partially lit I noticed a small striped snakehead launching itself about a metre above the water and almost hit the bank! It was obviously scared of something but what was it?
Curious to see what it was I cast out my lure to the direction of the disturbance. After three casts I felt a very solid bump. Once again I counted to three.
One. Two. Three!
I set the hook and my light action rod was bent into a beautiful upside down “J” arc. Ironically this rod formation is like a hooker’s equivalent of an erection. This was a big fish! But what could it be? Surely the snakehead would not have been spooked by another snakehead, that just doesn’t happen. As the hooked fish came closer to the surface, I saw that it was a silver fish of roughly 3kg. A barramundi? Oh dear, looks like I’ll have to keep this fight light to avoid getting my thin line cut by the barramundi’s sharp cheeks. Slowly but surely the fish gave up. The fight was over.
At a closer look I realised that this was not a barramundi at all. It was a spotted featherback. The first one I’ve ever caught!
I called over Saek to check it out. “Oh wow!” he yelled out in surprise, “I released a total of 10 featherbacks into the pond two years ago and I thought they all died out because no one has ever caught one until now!” So apparently I seriously hit the jackpot. Yay!
Looking back I find this whole ordeal a little eerie. First I have the sudden urge to conquer this fishing pond. Then within seconds I plan out my entire Saturday. Within minutes I achieve my goal of catching a striped snakehead with the Texas rig. Then, just before the sun sets I land my first ever spotted featherback. It was as if some form of higher power is finally rewarding me for learning how to truly enjoy the sport of fishing. It was as if my ability to just enjoy the day no matter what was the reason for the rewarding catch.
Either that or I am just a character in some five-year-old’s head living out a predetermined plot. DEEP! Poseidon, or whoever you are, thank you.
I’ll post a more definitive guide to the Texas rig in a few days.
Until next time, tight lines!