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Back To Malaysia Part 2 Onto Malaysia Part 4 Return To Home


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.
"I'm ok, 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?"

The lovely 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 Terrangganu.


"Get 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?

Still, 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.

Immediately the 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 local knowledge. 

"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.

justified 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.


Lounging 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 that 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 proclaimed.
"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. 

 Not 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 last.

Altogether now...... "I know I am... I'm sure I am... I'm   H   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. 

The 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 about. 

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 Keystone Cops 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...

bait to 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 place?"
"No" he says, "Toman here", these being the only words I had heard him say in two days to this point.

Say 'fusses' one of his pets. I guess sometimes you have to cut a guy some slack ok? 
2 years alone on a 
floating pontoon in 
the middle of 
a lake....?


 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 diminished.
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 up'. 

Fish-farm or cattery? It was hard to tell at times.

I 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 of course.

I 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 asked.
"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 deck.  

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.

Everything 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. 

Say was 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 south east...

I 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 back inside.

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. 

With 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 Surailim; "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 here". 
"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 Marawan, 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 Kwai!



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 word "Great".

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 day. 
"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 thousand. 
"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 my voice. 
"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.

I 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 gear. 

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. 

And 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 it. 

Above: 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 down!

I 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 something.

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...

Back To Malaysia Part 2 Onto Malaysia Part 4 Return To Home


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