Friday, 13 December 2019

Exotic Fishing Thailand Trip Dec 13th/14th 2019.Mark, Wayne and Anna!

Phang Gna.....a Thai mainland Province dominated by truly spectacular scenery and containing massive lakes and mysterious, myth-laden cave systems. If you visit Phuket then a trip Northwards into the Phang Gna (Thai for elephant tusk) region is an unforgettable experience. 
One of the Phang Gna viewpoints looking eastwards into Phan Gna Bay. 

This is one of those places where it is very difficult to get a good clear photo as it tends to be very hazy; you have to see this for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. What the photo above shows is the remants of the world's largest ever coral reef extending 3,000 miles through Malaysia, Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, North -east Vietnam (the very famous Halong Bay) and into China. Apparently, according to geological evidence, sea levels were 240 metres higher in this region a mere 10 million years ago! When the sea level dropped, the coral was exposed and died. Dead coral turns to limestone. Limestone is very vulnerable to weathering, especially with the increasingly acidic rain of the last and current century, thereby creating these unique and ragged profiles. Some of the Karsts (as they are called) have caves that penetrate right into a hollow interior. These are called in Thai language 'Hongs' or rooms. The memorable John Gray Sea Kayaking trip takes visitors into Phang Gna Bay and uses experienced Thai guides to penetrate the cave systems and the Hongs. 

The 'Hong by Starlight' is THE trip that my guests rave about and say they will always remember.

 Travelling further north-eastwards towards the town of Phang Gna, we enter a landscape of land- locked Karsts before reaching Mike Bailey's Exotic Fishing Thailand. Mike took a long time to find this location and it really is a magnificent setting for his lake.
 Mark Butland, Wayne and Anna Claridge have just returned from a couple of days fishing at the lake and were rewarded with some monster fish. Here's Wayne with a hefty Siamese carp.
 Mark Butland caught three arapaima over the two days. These were estimated by the guides at 70kg, 80kg and 90kg.... I watched Mark play the 90kg arapaima and can assure readers that these fish fight like demons. There's no way you can bully these fish into submission! This photo shows the smaller of the arapaima.
 Wayne did not catch an arapaima....so he'll have to return here next year (good!) but he did catch several hefty red-tail catfish which is a spectacularly coloured fish and another manic fighter.
 Here is Mark with a Vundu catfish which, according to Wikipedia, originates from African sub-Sahara regions. When such species as this come to the net, anglers are reminded of the name of this lake...'Exotic Fishing Thailand' as the  lake contains 60 different species of fish, many of which do not 'originate' in Thailand but come from all over the planet. Many of these non-indigineous species are endangered and these fishing lakes in Thailand are helping to save such species.
 Arapaima are often caught just after dark which means that when the 7 pm whistle for 'stop fishing' is blown there are often fish being played for another hour!
                                                 Mark with a fine red-tail catfish.
 Wayne shows the large mouth of the red-tail catfish which is described as a Predator Species preferring fish or chicken baits and often taking these baits close in at 'the margins'.
 This is a fabulous pacu in the 10kg range. These fish really are also manic fighters and can often leap clear of the water during the battle in tarpon like fashion. Their powerful teeth can easily cut through mono traceline which is the main reason why Exotic Fishing Thailand uses braid hook-lengths.
 This was Mark's 90kg (estimated by the guides) arapaima that he thoughtfully hooked into just as I arrived with the remainder of our current guests who were enjoying a sight-seeing tour with me.
 Our angling team stayed overnight in the Exotic Fishing 5* accommodation. This is the dawn view.....just picture yourself waking up to this! Wonderful!
 Wayne is a keen freshwater angler who enjoys trips to France. He explained to me that a realisitc catch rate in France would be one fish per 24 hour cycle. Many UK carp anglers are very grateful for such hectic activity and may well go days without a bite. Not so in Thailand where our anglers averaged 4 fish each per 11 hour (0800 to 1900) session. I have been at the lake when our teams have got into double figures of fish numbers caught but these lakes are all about BIG fish rather than quantity.

One thing for sure is that no-one can ever forget the magnificent setting of Exotic Fishing Thailand with its massive Karst backdrop and wealth of tropical foliage and colourful flowers. Fabulous!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Phuket Private Lagoon Birdlife.


Hurrah...after nearly three years we have our wonderful lagoon back...complete with an Island in the middle which I have named Koh Nok......which means Bird Island in Thai.

I have stumbled upon a 'Thai Species Identification Help' group on Facebook and I am very grateful for the assistance they have given me in naming the various species of birds shown below. The superb bird photo's were taken by one of our current guests, Anna-Marie Claridge.

 This year , 2019, I arrived in Phuket on November 5th to see that our once prized lagoon had completely vanished and had been replaced by a wilderness which had taken root on the silt whch had built up over the past two years. There is a major Government Dam project upstream plus a Floating Market replica village created by a Chinese Tourist Company...which I must visit soon and write about...and these two projects resulted in the disappearance of the lagoon.

                                                     White throated Kingfisher

The difference now is truly amazing. 4 weeks of non-stop digger activity with three machines on the go for 10 hours a day and 7 days a week has resulted in the return of the Phuket Private Lagoon! This time, instead of a completely open lagoon,  an island has been created in the middle with an amazing amount of bird life already visiting and settling. The Island semi floods and is encouraging a range of wading birds from the nearby sea-shore along with various other colourful land based species.

                                                         White-throated Kingfisher

I am not a bird expert by any means but two seasons of skippering the Dorset Wildlife Trust's Fleet Explorer (the dory that local bass maestro Bill Noble made back  in 1995) has given me an interest in the subject. Many very knowledgeable Bird Watchers come on the Fleet Explorer for the hour's cruise along the Fleet up as far as the Bridging Camp at Wyke and I have been fortunate to benefit from their enthusiastic knowledge of the local bird life.
                                                         White-throated Kingfisher

Staying with us right now for two weeks are Wayne and Anna-Marie Claridge, relations of that famous England EFSA Shore Competitor, Dave Lovelock. Anna is a very keen and talented photographer and both she and Wayne love wildlife in general and birds in particular. The Lagoon development couldn't have happened at a better time for Anna who is fascinated by the many different birds and is taking some wonderful photographs. It's a good job I was given a book of Thailand Birds by a guest a couple of years ago...it is proving very useful.


Here are some more of Anna's fantastic bird photographs.....all seen in the lagoon just behind the house.
                                                           Olive backed Sunbird

                                                            Asian Openbill Stork

                                                           Blue-tailed Bee Eater



                                                                     Magpie Robin

                                                             Asian Openbill Stork

                                                           Red Wattled Lapwing

                                                           Asian Openbill Stork

                                                          Asian Openbill Stork
                                                                      Great Egret

                                                          Asian Openbill Stork

                                                            White-Vented Myna


Anna is using a Nikkon Coolpix P9000 camera with a 24-2000 lens which give her a massive close-up to distance photographic range. This is a particulary highy rated camera and has gained rave reviews. It's about three years old now and the design hasn't been updated by Nikkon who must know they have created something special. It comes out at just under £500 which is pretty amazing especially when I recall the first digital camera I bought for my angling journalism work. That was back in 2004 and it cost £1,200. I wouldn't be able to give it away now as it is rubbish compared to today's cameras and Anna's in particular.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Kata...shore diving again! 28th Nov 2019


We have dived Kata Reef many times but it never fails to amaze. And the great thing about this dive site is that so many of you who come to stay are able to learn enough during your holiday to make it out to the dive site and enjoy a lengthy time there. There's so much to see that the longer you can remain there the better it is for  you. It is a darn nuisance when the air starts to get low and we have to return to shore.



 Here's Kannika who is now a very fine and graceful diver......and is far better at spotting stuff than me! She's the perfect 'Dive Buddy'; calm, gentle, alert and doesn't use any air.
 Yep...this is fish. Zillions of them. On this dive the shoals were so dense we were sure there were boats running overhead and blocking out the sun.  Nope...just fish. All colours and shapes....a real sight to see. Amazing.
 It's very difficult at times to see any reef or structure or even where the surface was with such a mass of fish swirling around us for the whole dive.
 The 'interiors' of the cubes often hold massive batfish. These gentle creatures come right up to you, virtually within touching distance. They show no fear as long as you remain gentle in your movements.
 The surfaces of the concrete cube faces are encrusted with life. There's incredibly intricate patterns and colours from a whole whole wealth of minute shell life. The fragile structures they create are delicate works of art.
          Amazing patterns in vivid blue.
       The more you look there the more there is to see.
 A rare moment today when the fish dispersed for a few moments revealing the concrete framework that attracts and holds so much marine activity.
 I've never seen so many tiny moray eels...there are stacks of them inbetween the crevices created where the cubes have fallen against each other.
   They're always good for photographs...they hold their pose for ages.
Tiny morays popping up everywhere.
 Until last week I had never seen a Robust Ghost Pipe Fish. Our resident Diving Instructor friend, Steve Antcliffe, notices everything and points all these things out to us. And now...everywhere I look I can see Robust Ghost Pipe Fish....so I wonder how many I have passesd by over the years without noticing them. Well...they ARE tiny and do look like thin greenish-brown blades of old grass just wafting about in the gentle current. Hardly noticeable until you are trained to see!!
 They stand out when at the centre of the photo....can't believe I never noticed them before!
 I found one right out in the open on the clear white sand...and it held its position very obligingly.
 On the way back to the shore they Kata reef was also brimming with life......we're lucky to be diving it at the moment with even more than usual going on.

         Coral and fish....unforgettable.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

A great day's carp fishing. Wednesday 27th Nov 2019

We, Mark Butland, Russell Shaw, Dereck Wilson and Sirada Dubsok (otherwise known as Pat; the Boss of the Tamarind Restaurant that we frequent in  nearby Chalong Village) and I enjoyed an extremely lively and productive day carp fishing today but also caught various other species such as pacu and catfish.


 Our target species was Siamese carp. We were using hair-rigs and boilies and trying to approach the day with the same mindset as a keen carp angler back in 'Good Old Blighty'. The big difference here in Thailand is that the fish are manic and don't muck about when taking the baits. Often, as soon as the float hits the water it was gone! These carp are immensley powerful and head off to the far reaches of the lake. It is exciting and hard work edging this creatures to the net.
 We all caught pretty evenly throughout the day stopping only to enjoy the contents of an enormous box of ice packed with goodies from the local market which Sirada and Russell had put together in the early morning on the way to the lake.
 We had the assistance of a  very good Thai assistant called Nung who has just returned from working five years in Israel. Nung, having worked on fish farms in Israel, was delighted to be assisting in the taking of the carp from the wet fish mats where the unhooking and photo's took place back to the water in a cushioned sling we had brought with us.
 Russell with one of many of his carp...it just happened that when this came in, oe of us was free to take a photo...it WAS that busy. Russell is a very keen carp angler back home and so he more than any of us appreciated the difference in the frantic tropical catch rate compared to the somewhat steadier carp fishing in cooler UK climes.
 These fish really are spectacular creatures and designed to be admired and photographed and treated as gently as possibly before being returned to the water as quickly as we can.
 There were plenty of decent sized pacu about. The trick is in trying to avoid them! These pacu seem to be a different variety from last year as they leap clear of the water on the take and often jump around more like barramudi or tarpon than pacu during the fight.
Dereck came with us and also caught...but unfortuantely he's currently rather poorly and was struggling to get down into fish presenting position...thus I have included a fish from last week so make him feel one of the team...which he is!!

I have been asked if I ever go fishing on these trip. Well,  yes I do. But my role,  like when being a charter skipper, is to try and help my guests have  good time catching fish etc. It is rare you will see a photo of me....30 years of being behind the lens as an angling journalist impressed upon me that it is YOU the visiting angler who is important....not me!!