Time to start having a bit of
adventure again, dipping my toes in the famous Lake Kenyir, encountering
some stormy weather, scam merchants, bad food & shitty
accommodation... with the flip-side of some of the loveliest people you
could meet and, at
long last, some proper fish!
So it was with great
sadness that I finally waved goodbye to my new-found friends on the
Perhentian Islands and headed off back to the mainland and some further
travels in deepest, darkest Malaysia. The ubiquitous bus journeys were
negotiated, but not without the usual sting in the tail that I'm becoming
accustomed to at nearly every turn in Asia.
A young lady had
shown me to a spot at the side of the road in Kuala Besut where the bus to
the south would pass by and I could flag it down.
I was told that it would
grind it's way past at about 5.30pm, and it would cost 8RM to my chosen
destination of Kuala Terrangganu. So I stood, sat, paced and waited, melting
in the afternoon sunshine. At 5.25pm, a taxi pulled up in front of me.
"Where you wan go?" he asked.
thanks. Waiting bus- Terrangganu", I explained.
"Oh, bus that
come here only slow bus. Take 3 or 4 hour to Terrangganu. I can take you to
Jedah. There you get fast air-con bus. I take you 8 dollar".
"Hmmm. How much
fast air-con bus cost?"
Ramlah. Nice roti, box of frogs.
Arrival at Tasik Kenyir as the sun
leaves us for the day.
"Same same as
bus you wait for- 8 dollar". I did a quick calculation.
"Ok. Take me
for 5 dollar?" reckoning that it would be worth spending a couple of
extra pence to arrive and sort out a room a bit earlier in the evening in
in. Ok" he says, and we're off.
Half an hour later he pulls up at
the bus depot in Jedah where I paid my 5RM, unloaded my gear... and then
discovered that the fast air-con bus actually cost 12RM, not 8, and that
it didn't leave until 9.30pm, precisely the time the slow non air-con
bus would have arrived at my final destination. And it was still going
to take about 3 hours. I swear I saw a cheesy smirk on the taxi driver's
face as he drove off. When will I learn?
eventually I got to Terrangganu at around midnight (two and a half
hours after the 'slow' bus...) and checked into another cheap,
windowless, concrete-floored room near to the bus station where I
worked out my path over to Lake Kenyir. Another three bus journeys
and two taxi rides later I finally dropped my rucksack on the tarmac
at the surprisingly deserted dam end of the lake.
local tour operator pounced, having no other prey to devour, and as
I sat having a coffee at the cafe, he was pointing at all kinds of
stuff on my map of the lake and running through his inflated tariff
of 'entertainment' options available. Only when I mentioned that I
was here to do some fishing did he stop briefly, and then grin the
crocodile smile of a man about to do the deal of the century.
Unfortunately it isn't possible to rent a boat alone and just set
off out into the lake, since the likelihood of getting lost in the
hundreds of flooded gullies was a near certainty. I also had to
remind myself that Tasik Kenyir is the largest man-made lake in
South East Asia, covering thousands of hectares, so the task of
locating a few fish would be a problematic one without a bit of
"That Durian Moment".
Keeping all this in mind, I managed to do
a deal with Mr Operator by going through what is becoming my
favourite bargaining technique here in Asia. That is, that the guy
tells you his price for one day (or whatever the commodity in
question may be), then I double the price and ask him for four days
for that price. Often this isn't quite 'deal enough', but after a
little more head shaking and waving of hands, it's usually possible
to finish up with at least three days (or whatever the commodity in
question may be) for the original price of two. Job's a good 'un,
and it saves a lot of fannying about.
And so it proved in this case, and I was to
report to the cafe at 8am the next morning for an attempt at dishing out
some sore lips to the Toman population of the lake. In celebration I
ordered another coffee and some roti canai from the lovely Ramlah (who had
already been over and introduced herself and her husband), and she brought
over the food and sat talking to me as I ate, nattering on about subjects
as loosely interconnected as "why my wife and children weren't with me?"
to "how much a coffee costs in your London city?", her wide and crazy
eyes boring into me as she listened to the answers, as if she didn't
believe a word she was hearing. Her nutty eyes were probably about
Students and Durian.
when I told her the price of a coffee in London. At 8pm the cafe closed. And
that was it for the night. Nothing else to do. Nada.
And I hadn't arranged
anywhere to stay either. I was told there was a campsite further along the banks of
the lake, so I dragged my bags down there, and although I hadn't got a
tent, managed to rig my hammock up under the lean-to roof on the side of a
building. So there I swung, wondering what the hell I was going to do
with myself for the next ten hours or so until dawn.
in luxury in the 5 star store cupboard.
At this point, some students from
Kuala Lumpur who were staying at the site came across and introduced
themselves, and as seems to be normal in this part of the world,
insisted that I join them for a cup of tea and some food. They were
really good kids - very kind, very generous and very polite. But as
we sat talking about Kuala Lumpur, favourite bands and other things, suddenly I became aware of
smell. The smell that pervades all others throughout all of Asia...
Durian. Yup - they had Durian with them. Lots of Durian. And so they set
about hacking open the prickly green husks to expose the mushy
yellow slop within.
"You like Durian?" they asked.
"Nope. It sucks" I replied.
"But it is the king of fruits!" they
"Listen, mate, this time you're wrong. It sucks",
and they all laughed.
But still they insisted that I had some. And
they were so persistent that no matter how much I protested, they still
tried again and again until I finally relented- against all my better judgement, not
wishing to appear rude or ungrateful. For those of you who have never been
subjected to The Durian Experience, I can only say it is like an malicious battering
of all your senses in one fetid package.
The smell is bad, very bad,
like a sweet oniony kind of smell with more than a touch of the sebaceous about it.
The taste is horrible, again, like a kind of sweet oniony flavour that can't
make up it's mind whether to be properly sweet or just give up and be
savoury - with the added bonus that you can have it on repeat and shuffle for
the next 24 hours with every belch too. And the
texture is simply foul - like cold custard with a mat of very fine pubic hairs in
it. It really is one of the worst things I have ever eaten. Enough to make
you boke, which the students thought hilarious as one of them even picked up
my camera to record the moment for posterity. Cheers kids. "King Of
Fruits"- my arse.
I was up and about well before 8am due to a
splat of a rain storm that rumbled through in the pre-dawn half light (nowt
to do with the Durian), soaking my sleeping bag and luggage as it blew in under my temporary canopy.
At this point I realised that I was going to need a place to sleep and to
lock my stuff in while I was out on the lake during the day. This in itself
could have proved to be a problem, since accommodation on the lake was
pretty bloody expensive (by current standards), and I wanted to keep as much
of the money I had with me for fishing and eating purposes.
But good fortune
smiled on me in this case, because as I tried to dry out my stuff one of the
students told me that there were some cabins for rent for a couple
Why do they call them Snakeheads again?
of quid a
day especially for storage of bags etc, and in fact they had rented one
themselves for the exact same purpose. He even offered to show me the office
where they could be rented. So off we went, up the hill behind us, and half
an hour later I had rented a small hut for another 3 nights with a padlocked
door, all for the aforementioned fee. What I didn't realise was that the hut
had obviously been intended as accommodation at some point cos it had a
toilet and an air con unit. I tried the on/off switch to the air con unit
with some trepidation, and was amazed to find that it worked perfectly. An
air con room for 2 quid a night? Ok, so there was no bed or other amenities,
and the toilet must have been a cousin of the one I had in the
islands, having another 'white water log-rafting' flush, but I still couldn't believe my luck. It was certainly a lot flashier than
any of my
residences had been for the previous three or four weeks in any case.
I met my expressionless boatman for the day (a
day on Kenyir being about 4 and a half hours...apparently) and with a nod we
set off to collect a few livebaits for the session. When I indicated how
many of the small carp I should get (I was thinking maybe 10 to 20), he held his five fingers up.
seeming a particularly optimistic amount, this disturbed me a bit. Holding
up five fingers of my own, I checked again; "Five?". He nodded,
and I thought (hoped!) that maybe there were some aboard already in a
bait-well, so went through with his request and took five tiny carp from the
bloke at the side of the lake, before discovering that there was no
bait-well on the boat, so five baits it was. "Not much margin for error on
the miscasts today then" I thought.
Toman success at
Altogether now...... "I know I am... I'm sure I am... I'm
A P P Y".
Close friends and how to lose them.
And so began another of those days fishing in
Asia. A quick list of the mishaps and misdemeanours? First spot was a 2 feet
deep muddy swamp and looked more likely to produce a Tapeworm than a Toman.
Then a bit of engine bother while moving spots, which is only to be
expected, I guess. Then Mr Boatman just taking it upon himself to use my
spare rod (why do they do that?)- casting off one bait, losing another when
it swam into one of the sunken trees, and then going on to use the last bait
to catch the one and only fish of the session- a junior Toman of 2 or 3
pounds from a spot I'd asked him to move to cos I'd seen several fish
jumping. And that was it, so when I lost my final, completely knackered, bait
on a twig of the underwater forest, my day out on the lake was drawn to a
slightly premature close. Not inspired, you could say.
Speaking to Mr Operator upon reaching dry land,
I told him that the next sortie would require much more bait, and he looked
a little perplexed, but then agreed to my request (demand). He apologised
for the fishing, but said that the rain was the problem and that it put the
Toman off feeding. Not that that would have helped much since we had next to
chuff all to give them even if they were.
The next day dawned, as they
often do, and
after a quick coffee, Stoneface and I were speeding down the lake,
apparently to a different spot- and with 12 or 15 baits in the bag today, which I
have to say looked a good deal more healthy.
fish cages- and the surrounding lake was home to more than just a few thousand Tilapia.
As we made our way through the maze of
channels, we passed one of the houseboats that work on the lake, and waved
as the Chinese occupants were loading their fishing gear onto the small dinghies
tied to the stern, ready for their day out on the lake, and about 10 minutes later we were tied up to the top of
a sunken tree down one of the many arms and were working a few baits
A short while after setting up, the sound of
outboard engines gradually grew louder and louder, and we were joined by the
two dinghies from the houseboat. I could barely believe what was happening.
We were fishing on a lake about the size of Belgium and we end up sharing
the same acre of water with the only two other fishing boats in a 20 mile
radius! What was even more amazing, was that the smaller dinghy (about 8
feet long) contained three anglers and their gear, and the slightly larger
one (about 10 feet) held five anglers and their gear. How they never ended
up with a scene from some kind of Fishing with Jackie Chan & The
movie I will never know. So there we were, ten anglers sharing one small
puddle in the expanse of Tasik Kenyir.
Stoneface had taken the hint from the
day before and brought his own rod along, but at least we had enough
This weeks 'knackered engine in Asia' shot
is brought to you from Lake Kenyir...
go around. In fact, we had plenty of bait to go around, because despite
working the baits around the trees, watching Toman 'popping' on the surface
all around the boats, and then working all the lures I had with me in every
square of inch I could cast them into, we all sat biteless, fishless, and
basting in the merciless, breeze-less heat of the tropical sunshine.
Feeling almost claustrophobic, and pretty pissed
off with it all to be honest, I turned to Stoneface;
"Sucks" I said, "We go. New
"No" he says, "Toman
here", these being the only words I had heard him say in two days to this
Say 'fusses' one
of his pets. I guess
sometimes you have to cut a guy some
2 years alone on a
floating pontoon in
the middle of
So we carried on roasting, me with my chin planted firmly on
transom of the boat. Then as if just to prove his point, we heard a
commotion from the 'five man' dinghy and saw one of them playing out a
fish, skull-dragging a small Toman to the boat through the snags in front of him,
while all his mates clung grimly onto the sides and tried to avoid a
morning dip. They only relinquished their grip to cheer the fish aboard
and give a polite round of applause.
"Toman here", he repeated with a
'told you so' nod towards our angling companions. And so there we sat and
waited it out, as the heat increased and the chances of some action
Later, and back at shore I was sat feeling pretty down about the fishing again.
Everything seemed to be about ten times more difficult than it ever should
be. I was trying to keep my confidence up, thinking that I had at least
one more day on the lake. I also remember being in a dilemma - this being
that I felt that maybe I should just stay at the lake until either I
worked it all out and everything came together, or my money ran out -
whichever came first - but at the same time feeling that if I did so I
could well be just flinging good money after bad. But then I guess I
should never have doubted my lifelong edict: 'something always turns
or cattery? It was hard to tell at times.
was sat having some roti and a coffee as Ramlah busied herself telling me
about her sons and their college work, gazing at me with her unblinking
eyes, when Mr Operator joined us at the table. He apologised for the lack
of fish. It seemed that today it was too hot and sunny. I truly hoped that
one day I would encounter the correct combination of rain/sun/cloud/temperature/barometric pressure and relative humidity that
would allow me catch one.
"I have a friend here today. Ranger on
lake. He like to meet you. Talk fishing. Ok?"
"Yeah Ok. That's fine", now
becoming accustomed to the
That poor, poor pussy.
curiosity that being a
fat farang with a fishing
rod can instigate at times around these parts.
And so later we were joined by Surailim
(hope I spelled that right), the ranger, and a thoroughly nice bloke he
turned out to be too. Over another coffee he was telling me about friends
of his who live at a fish farm floating out somewhere on the lake, and
that he was going to visit them later that night. "You want to come see tonight?"
Not really sure what that would entail, I
soon decided that whatever it was it would be more interesting than laying on the floor of
my cabin for 10 hours. So I agreed to meet him at a boat ramp further round
the lake at 8.30pm - after asking if I could bring a couple of rods along
ambled my way down to the ramp just before the allotted time and
stood looking around in the darkness, not quite sure where exactly I
should be looking or hanging around.
"Please, come down my friend.
Welcome," came a voice out of the gloom. I looked down the set of
steps to my left and could just make out the tip of a cigarette glowing
down on the pontoon beneath me. I picked my way down the steps and hopped
onto the platform.
"Welcome, welcome. Please take
seat" nodded my host at a broken plastic chair. "We wait my
friend call. Then we go".
So we sat and waited for a while, me
answering the stock and standard questions common to most conversations
here: ("where you from", "where you going", "how
long you been here", "why your wife not with you",
"how many children you got" etc etc etc), until with a quick
call on his cell phone we were summoned down to the fish farm.
"We use this boat" he said, and with that we jumped into one of
the ranger boats for the lake.
"Your boss ok with this?" I
"He never know" came the reply.
Excellent! And with a powerful burst from the brand new 130 horse powered
Honda four stroke on the back we were flung off across the lake and into
the darkness, yours truly hoping that Surailim knew exactly where he was
going in the pitch black,
because I sure as hell didn't have a clue.
Some 20 minutes or so later some lights
came into view, and we pulled up at the side of our destination, a
floating wooden platform with a lean-to roof and wooden hut on it, TV inside with some kind of karaoke Pop Idol
blaring away over the sound of
the rattling generator wobbling around on an old tyre in the middle of the
Cat-fish bite alarm. Be sure to wrap the
line around the neck and both back legs though. Just messing,
cat-lovers. In Asia, if that worked they'd all be doing it already.
has it's pay-off though, cos they're the best fed cats in Asia.
Surrounding the platform I could make out lots and
lots of nets, and as we tied up the boat and jumped onto the deck, we
were greeted by a little Indonesian bloke called Say (probably spelled
wrong again, but that's what it sounded like), who, Surailim translated,
apologised for the absence of his work mate on the farm, Marawan, who had
had to go to dry land for some reason that evening. It turned out they had
been living on the pontoon, without leaving, for almost 2 years.
only accompanied by some of the healthiest looking cats I'd seen in months-
they even had all their fur and I couldn't see a single rib poking out. I
guess living on a fish farm they really were the cats that got the cream.
When asked if his wife minded him being away from home for 2 years, he
simply replied "She trust me".
"Fair enough", I
thought, looking at the dark expanse of nothingness all around, the only
light bulb in sight blinking away on the horizon somewhere over to the
set up a couple of rods, and as I did so, Say skipped off along one of the
walkways around the pounds, reappearing a moment later with a net in which
he had scooped a few small catfish for bait and two of them were soon
exploring the world outside their nets, but probably wishing they were
As we sat and waited, it began to rain the type of rainstorm
that confirms why it's called 'tropical rainforest', huge raindrops
pounding the surface of the lake and a swirling wind springing from
nowhere to blow the stuff over everything under the lean to as well.
Surailim acting as translator and mediator, Say was quick to point out that
catfish was the best bait for Toman (excellent...), that there were many
Toman living around the cages (very excellent...), that some of them were
very big indeed (very, very excellent...). He also added that "Toman
no eat night time".... Oh great.
Say also said something further to
"Say say Toman no eat rain" he translated.... Oh-so-very great. How to pick a
bloke up and then kick him in the clems in 30 seconds flat. Whether what Say say was right or
not, it had a profound effect on my already fragile confidence, and I
decided to just sit and take in the experience for what it was anyway-
after all, it's not every night you sit at a fish farm floating in the
middle of a jungle lake in South East Asia as a tropical storm lights up
the skies all around you is it? The rain relented a little, and Say again
disappeared into the darkness with a net, and quickly reappeared with 4 or
5 Pangas Catfish flapping in it.
"We eating now", said Surailim
"You join us please?" How can you refuse? So, "in for a
penny, in for a pound" I thought and nodded - "Thank you".
Say grabbed each one of the lively catfish
in turn, neatly(!) trimmed off any 'excess' tail and hacked them in half
with his machete. He then pulled out the intestines and stomach, gave them
a quick wash in the lake and threw them in a pan. As he added the turmeric
and salt and a little oil, the poor things little lips were still gasping.
Freshness was not an issue. A quick spin around in the pan over a hot gas
flame, and they were presented with a bowl of rice.
Very tasty they were-
no problem there- but I still can't grab this 'fish head sucking' thing
that everyone does here, especially when the catfish still has 3 inches of
whiskers poking out of his face. My two new friends seemed to like it
though. And the cats, obviously.
A proper Toman at last from under the fish
cages- 3.9kg (8lb 10oz). Thank the lord for that. And thank the lord for the
safety net in the gusset of those shorts too.
But then catfish always
seem to get a bum deal.
Hacked in two and then disembowelled,
these poor little fellas lips were still moving as the seasoning was added, whispering "It's
only a flesh wound... Only a flesh wound..."
A lovely 1.5kg (3lb 4oz) Seberau
fluked on a catfish livebait.
Of course, nothing happened on the fishing
front, but before leaving, Say told Surailim to tell me that I should come
back and fish very early in the morning, because that is when the Toman
feed best. I double checked that this was ok with him, he nodded, and so
with many thanks we sped back across the lake to terra firma, yours truly
already looking forward to a chance to have a proper crack at a large
Toman the next morning.
Up at dawn, I was ready to go early, and I
spoke to Mr Operator and told him I wanted to be taken to the fish farm,
but that I also wanted to move the planned fishing I had with his man that
day to an evening trip. This was no problem, being the only person around
this end of the lake at this point, and when I asked how much it would
cost for a boat ride to the farm and then for someone to come and pick me
up at lunchtime, he surprised me somewhat by saying "For free, my
friend. No problem".
I thanked him for his help and we took the
journey out onto the lake as the sun just poked it's face above the hill
tops- a beautiful time of day to be out on the glassy surface of the
water, the jungle steaming from the previous night's storm. Alighting at
the platform again, I was met by someone who was obviously the other bloke
who worked there, Marawan, who was about a 4 feet 10 inch 'Action Man' of
skin and sinew. He looked at me like I had just landed from Mars. I placed
my bag and rods on the floor and nodded, saying hello as I did so. Marawan
replied with a "hello" back. And then we stood looking at each
other for an awkward few seconds. Deciding to break the ice, I asked
"Can I buy bait- catfish- for Toman fishing".
He shook his head; "No catfish
"Oh" I thought.
"I can't buy catfish here?"
"No catfish here" he repeated.
"Oh shit" I thought.
With that another voice came out of the
wooden shack at the back of the pontoon. Marawan replied in tongues, and
then the other voice, that obviously now belonged to Say, rattled
something back in which I clearly heard the word 'Surailim'. With that,
Marawan smiled, said "Very sorry", and then scuttled off, net in
hand. He arrived back a moment later with half a dozen catfish in his net.
As they say, it's not what you know... He then started banging about with
some pans and stuck the kettle on.
Very quickly one of the little fellas
(catfish- not Indonesian) was swimming about on a freeline under the
cages. I was just dropping a second bait out on the other rod, when the
Baitrunner on the first rod screeched into life. I grabbed it before it
disappeared into the drink and struck. The clutch squealed as the fish
nose dived vertically towards the lake bed, my rod bent double and the
50lb braid zipping through the rings. Then everything went slack...
"Bollocks!!" I shouted, really hacked off that my first good
chance in days had gone AWOL. I dejectedly wound in the line, and found a
mangled looking catfish shredded on the size 5/0 hook.
"More here" said
seemingly trying to raise my gutter-bottom spirits, "casting
again" as he handed me a fresh bait.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Revenge for all the contemptuous
treatment of my bait by the Tinfoil Barbs at Sri Nikharin and the River
Tasted ok too,
although with that many bones it was a bit like a curried Brillo Pad.
It was quickly out there having
a swim about with his mate, and in no time the other rod buzzed into
life. I hit and held the fish hard, and again the line fizzed from the
reel. I plunged the rod as deep as I could below the surface to try and
keep the line away from the bottom of the nets, then the ominous grating
started and then all went slack again. The 18lb B.S. mono had worn through
on one of the securing ropes for the pontoon. For the second time the shout of
"Bollocks!" echoed through the surrounding jungle.
Now I was
really getting frustrated. I disconsolately tied on another trace and hook
and dropped out another bait, then sat back to reflect on the unfolding
disaster of the last few days. Marawan made coffee and I sat back in the
sunshine. Some twenty minutes later the first rod that had had action in
the morning was nearly dragged off the pontoon again. This time I meant
business, and struck hard into the fish, only to feel no resistance at all
as another chance was missed and another shredded catfish flopped back
onto the deck.
I really couldn't believe it. Marawan was shaking his head,
and I was stood laughing with disbelief and no small piece of harsh irony.
How does that happen eh? A size 5/0 razor sharp hook in the back of a tiny
catfish and it still missed it's target!? Another catfish was sent for a
swim about. I just sat back to have another drink: "That's knackered
it now" I remembered thinking. And so it proved as I sat out the
final couple of hours of the session without any further action. As the
boatman came to pick me up, I went to wind in the rods, and just to cap
the day off a treat, I found that one of the catfish had swam under one of
the nets and snagged me up.
I ended up having
to pull for a break- no easy
feat with 50lb Power Pro- and when it finally gave way, leaving another
hook and trace down in the depths, I could barely be arsed to mutter the
evening session was no better either. Instead of Stoneface, a different
boatman and myself went out onto the lake for our 4 hour thrash about. On
the way out onto the lake, another boat was fishing in the spot my boatman
obviously wanted to try (he just went '"Oh..." when the boat
came into view), and upon speaking to them, they had caught nothing all
afternoon. So we made our way deeper into the gully, and I recognised we
were in the muddy, brown leech-pit where I had started on the first
"This place sucks" I said,
"we try somewhere else?"
"Later. Try here first. Good place
here. Many Toman".
And so it was that I was left to sigh, shake my
head and seemingly accept my fate. The boatman (again) helped himself to
my spare rod (great), baited it up and then just sat at the stern of the
boat happily fishing away in his own little world. I spent another
dispirited and disinterested hour or so there, and as expected, nothing
happened, and there was no sign of fish, the water being still, brown and lifeless, apart from perhaps the odd insect or seventy
"We go", our man said at last.
And we did too... right to the spot that had just been vacated by the
people in the boat we had seen on the way in. "But the last people
catch nothing here" I said, "Can't we just try somewhere
else.... Plllleeeaaasssse!?", with what almost could pass as pain in
"Maybe later. Try here first. Good place here. Many Toman",
was evidently his standard reply.
The wait is on.
Luckily, it wasn't usually a long one down at the fish cages.
I was getting really, really pissed off
by now. This was further enhanced when I decided to make up a new trace,
and as I twisted it up, my best pair of forceps pinged over the side of
the boat and disappeared into 40 feet of water. The boatman learned some
new English vocab. Eventually I persuaded him we should try another spot
(after a completely interest free hour- from me or the fish). I should have known it
was about due to be honest, and as he went to start the engine to move
out, nothing happened. This necessitated the now accustomed disassembly
and reassembly of part of the engine for half an hour before it was kicked
back into life again. The session finished with not a sign of a fish for
either of us, and as we headed back to base through the gathering gloom, I
was left laid on the seat of the boat humming the theme tune to M.A.S.H.
had already decided that the lake was not going to beat me, and when Mr
Operator came and asked for an update when back at Ramlah's cafe, I asked
him if I could have at least another day.
"Hmmm" he said, "lake not
fishing good. (No kidding!). I think it best you go to fish farm, not on
boat". (No kidding!!)
"Sounds good to me..." I replied
(understatement). Thus the new plan was agreed.
Marawan from the fish farm. Top bloke. And
nice to see that after a career on the silver screen some of the Time Bandits went on to
pursue other avenues too.
And so it was that early the next morning I
got a lift back out to the fish farm, Marawan waving me on deck and
immediately putting the kettle on. While it boiled he hastily scooped me
some catfish and very quickly they were swimming about around the platform
again. Due to the, erm, 'difficulties' of the day before, I had already
decided that today was going to be a 'no messing' day. I had brought my
two heaviest rods, with Baitrunner and 65lb B.S. Tuffline braid on one and
Calcutta 700 and 50lb Fireline on the other.
After what seemed like only
minutes of anticipation the first buzz of a reel alerted me to the first
bite of the day. I hit and held the fish hard again, and within a very
short period of time, I was very surprised to see that a very nice Seberau
(Jungle Perch) was in fact the culprit and had been easily outgunned by
the heavy tackle. Desperate at this stage, I was still very pleased to
catch it, because it was a nice specimen of 1.5 kilos. Marawan turned out
to be half tidy with a camera (with a little direction), and after a few
snaps he placed it into one of his cages, and then handed over a coffee, a
new bait already in place. Before I had even finished the coffee, the
other rod burst into life, and this time I was very pleased of the heavier
The Toman burst downwards ripping line from the tight clutch, and
then stopped briefly, before carrying on horizontally straight beneath my
feet and swimming directly under the platform. The rod was again plunged
completely under the water as I felt the heavy braid grating against some
underwater obstruction. I had problems for a second- holding precariously
onto the rod while balancing on my knees on the wooden deck, praying that
the line would hold out. Gradually the fish was worked back from under
it's refuge, the rod bent round to the butt, and within a moment or two it
appeared in the clear water, twisting, rolling and shaking it's head wildly,
gill plates flared wide open, before
plunging again, directly for one of the anchor ropes. Again I held on
tight, but the run was unstoppable, and only a quick bit of high-pressure
hauling luckily brought the fish back round the rope in the direction in
which it had burst. Another bit of a short-line tussle and Marawan swatted
her up in the net at the first attempt. After the previous few days I was
really chuffed to get one on the deck, and a lovely fish it was too, at
3.9 kilos, with its sides mottled with silver and purple iridescence.
spookily of all, in its mouth was the hook, wire trace and braid from when
I had pulled for a break the previous day... it looks like it wasn't the
bait that swam me under the cages and snagged me, but the Toman, and
without even being noticed. I was therefore doubly pleased to catch
An accident waiting to happen.
The fish was photographed and returned, and
I sat back to enjoy the rest of the morning- even though there was no
further action- except for a Tinfoil Barb that I caught on some rice on a
handline. As I was about to return it, Marawan grabbed it and gestured
that it was to be eaten... Oh well, some revenge for all the times they
messed us around back in Thailand eh? Within minutes the fish was
presented in a bowl having been wok fried with some spices. It tasted ok,
but was very bony- like eating a curried Brillo pad or something. This
delight preceded our lunch which consisted of Tilapia Head Soup and rice.
Again, the taste was really very good- seriously, but it's a bit disconcerting to
watch a whole Tilapia head bobbing around in your bowl each time you look
had to go back to the mainland briefly, but returned later in the
afternoon for a final fling. It seemed that news had spread that there
were Toman for the taking at the fish farm, because Marawan had put a rod
out of his own, followed by one of Surailim's ranger mates who turned up
to put a rod out for an hour or two, and along with Marawan's boss who had
also turned up.
And finally a proper Toman- 5kg on the nail (11lbs). I knew I'd brought
my scales for
The family Ramlah.
This led to some precarious rod positioning, the like of
which I haven't seen since Jean Francois' guides after the Siamese Carp at Bung San Lam.
Marawan's boss even positioned his rod in a 6 inch wide gap right in the
centre of the cages at one stage, before tying the rod with string to the
side and walking the whole distance back along the rickety wooden walkways
(at least 50 metres), then sitting down to have a fag, a chat and a drink
in his chair. Not once after that did he even look at the rod - truly an
accident waiting to happen.
Somehow, in amongst all the commotion, lines
and baits, my luck finally proved it had turned for the better when I had
a whole live Tilapia seized- the only bite of the afternoon to of all the
rods now littered around. After a battle very similar to the one earlier
in the day, amongst all kinds of shouting and cheering I finally subdued
the size of Toman I had been after - at exactly 11lbs (5 kilos). I was well
and truly chuffed to bits as I held it up for a few shots before releasing it,
which caused a bit of a rumble in itself! A happy ending!
I finally left the lake early the next
morning, saying goodbye to Ramlah and family (and promising to 'bring a wife to visit her at the lake next
year'... Blimey...), and Mr
Operator gave me his card for when I return, then arranged a lift with one
of his mates who was heading back to the nearest town where I could get a
bus. From there I could carry on my journey down to the south eastern coast- to hopefully
find some more ocean going species (and a mattress too, after four nights
sleeping on a bare wooden floor). I'd had a great little adventure down at
Tasik Kenyir. And like I always say, 'something always turns
up': I hoped this was a phrase which would continue to hold true...