Arriving at Gillhams (near Krabi) the previous afternoon I quickly began to see activity of the water. Cruising Red Tail Catfish, Arawana, Rolling Arapaima. I got an early nights sleep and got ready for the 7am lake opening.
When you are about to begin a fishing trip you begin with a bunch of false assumptions based what you have read, experienced and been told. Quickly you begin to evolve your techniques and thinking until you finally come up with a working formula based on inputs and reactions.
False assumption 1 – They are predators and will eat anything that moves and looks attractive.
For the first 11 hours I changed flies every after each hour of blind casting with various rates of retrieve.
I was starting to get despondent. I had been casting to visible fish with no reaction, perfect presentations right in front of their noses and nothing. I had given up on the visible fish and my tail was now properly between my legs.
These are fussy fish. They know exactly what they want and something with a silhouette and movement isn’t enough.
And then the lake would give up its first secret.
I started to notice baby Snakehead raising for air on the fringes. And they looked nervous, which I would later get to know is strange for this species. They are extremely aggressive fish. I walked the banks umming and aahhing thinking about what to do next… My brain was telling me to tie on the brown/white leftys deceiver I had been recommended, but my gut was saying Snakedhead imitation.
And thank goodness I did. I noticed a fish about 40ft off my 11 o clock, I did a reverse cast and the fly landed half a meter past the fish, 20 cm in front of its head. One strip and the fish reacted, my heart started racing. With the fly static the fish opened its basket of a mouth, exhausted the water through its gills and ate the fly- I lifted my rod and struck violently 3 times. And then all hell broke loose.
The fish took off, not as quick as a Giant Trevally, about half the speed but you could feel the strength in the butt of the rod. This fish was unstoppable. It was my first fish so I let it run. Drag on full and its still peeling line off. And then I noticed something odd- I looked to the right of where the fish was headed and along the bank was a submerged fence. The fish was heading straight for it. It reached the fence and swam along it for about 30 m after which it made a sharp turn right and must have gone through a hole. Im going to have to swim. Im going to have to swim in this lake full of monsters. Shit. And I jumped.
Being towed through the water I reached the fence. The guide Joe was in the water now and instructed him to jump over the fence and hold the line taught. On feeling his hands on the line I grabbed the tip of the rod and swam through a hole in the fence a few feet down, terrifying, awesome. It went around a dead tree and then back out the hole. By now I have an audience and Sean Gillham (owner Stuarts son) is also in the water. I swim back through and miraculously the fish is back on the reel. A short time later we had the fish beat. The fight of my life. The fish of my life.
In the fight the fish knew exactly where to go, how to do it. It swam backwards as fast as it did forwards (common Arapaima trick), found holes, located obstacles, pulled at the worst times for me/best time for it. I have never seen intelligence like this in a fish. Ever.
I sat on the bank sopping wet and couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. Unbelievable. I cant believe I beat this fish. This is going to be easy- false assumption #342. I would later find out how lucky I had been.
Later that day on a blind cast I got my first cat on the same Snakehead fly – A Sorubim Lima of about 18 lbs. A beautiful fish covered with freckles and skin that feels like silk. Almost its entire back is bone.