This was my fourth trip to the fantastic Gillhams Resort in Thailand and I can’t get enough of the place. The setting and scenery are stunning, the food is great with both English and Thai food on the menu and the night life is fun. There’s so much to do in the surrounding area that two weeks is never enough, but first and foremost the fishing is out of this world, with monsters caught everyday and a real chance of hooking into a world record.
In my previous trips I’ve caught arapaima to 260lb, Mekong catfish to 180lb, Amazon redtail catfish to 90lb, Siamese carp to 75lb plus lots of other weird and wonderful species. This trip I really wanted to try and catch a 300lb arapaima, a 100lb Siamese carp or add a pacu to my species list. My friend Scott Russell was coming along for his third trip to the resort as he couldn’t make it last year.
After setting off Monday morning we finally arrived around Tuesday lunchtime and after saying hello to Stuart, Sean, Becs, Benz, Noi and all the guides, a couple of beers cooled us down in the humid heat before we went to our rooms to freshen up and catch up on some sleep.
We were up bright and early for the first day’s fishing but we didn’t get off to a great start when I lost a foul hooked stingray at the net and Scotty lost a big Mekong. As darkness started to fall Scott lost a 200lb plus arapaima at the net and I finally got off the mark with a 33lb Amazon redtail catfish.
The second day was also tough going with the only action, another lost Mekong for Scott. Day three saw me blank again but Scotty finally landed a 50lb Siamese to get on the scoreboard.
A change of swims for day four saw our luck change as well and I had a nice carp of 38lb and Scott had a brace of 40lb and a new personal best of 62lb. We moved again for our next day, this time to the other end of the lake where lots of arapaima get caught. Scotty had one of 75lb first chuck and then after breakfast hooked a monster that after a tense battle was finally caged and estimated to be around 360lb.
A fish of a lifetime and Scotty was over the moon. Shortly after he added a third of 180lb and still had the productive evening hours to go.
I was starting to get a little disillusioned with the lack of action but as darkness started to fall, Scotty’s bites tailed off and I started to get a few indications. My first fish was a 28lb redtail before I hooked and lost three arapaima on the trot. With all three coming from the hooks straightening, it was doing nothing for my confidence! I did finally manage an arapaima of 60lb to ease my shattered nerves a bit.
We swapped swims for the next day but it just wasn’t happening for me and the only action I had during the day was a nice 45lb redtail on a fishery pellet with a Bait Tech pop up. As the witching hour approached I hovered over my dead bait rods and had two screaming runs but lost both when the hook or braided hooklengths snapped!
The power of these fish has to be felt to be believed and the score was now 5-1 to the arapaima.
I was in the same swim for the next day but again it was slow through the daylight hours although Scott had a nice Siamese of 55lb on pellet. With only an hour of fishing time left my fish rod screamed off and I thought it was going to be a case of déjà vu as the fish just kept going and going. It finally stopped and I started to gain some line back, after a tough scrap a beautiful arapaima of 240lb was caged and I was mightily relieved.
I walked up to watch Scott for a bit to calm down when his fish bait was taken and he was in too. He had to jump in the lake to follow it and the fish was eventually netted down past my swim, this one estimated at 170lb.
I cast my rods out again not expecting any more action after all the commotion but with 15 minutes of fishing time left, the rod pod was nearly dragged over as I hooked another big fish. However it wasn’t on long though and snapped the braid hooklength. Scott had another arapaima of 145lb and had now landed five. The score for me now stood at 6-2 in the fishes favour!
We headed back to the middle of the lake for our next few days fishing but struggled with only a 40lb carp to Scotty and a couple of lost fish to show for our efforts. In between the fishing we had a few days relaxing and shopping in the local town of Ao Nang and even had a fantastic massage to ease our aching limbs.
Our last days fishing arrived (where did the two weeks go!) and I was a little late getting down to my peg. As I reached Scotty’s swim I could see he was playing a fish and wearing a rather fetching life jacket, as he’d already had to get in to follow the fish up and down the lake twice. After an exhausting two hour battle in the heat, a 160lb Mekong was finally netted and another personal best was achieved.
No action for me although I fed my inside line with pellets all day in readiness for the last hour. My first run saw me hook a fish which I thought would be a nice redtail but turned out to be a small arapaima of 50-60lb and would be a nice end to the trip but the hook pulled out at the net! I then hooked another fish but again suffered a hook pull and I was beginning to think I would finish the trip with a blank.
One of the guides, Joel Fennel, was sat with me and had just checked the time at 7:59 and was preparing to shout rods out when my margin rod’s indicator sprung into life and with the bite alarm blaring I struck into the fish.
The fish gave me a right run around and after a 30 minute battle my third arapaima of the trip was caged, at 180lb it wasn’t my biggest but it made for a fantastic end to the trip. We freshened up before having a lovely evening meal and few beers and started to contemplate the long journey home to normality.
Compared to our previous trips, the fishing had been a little tough but when you consider we had seven fish over 100lb topped by arapaima of 360lb for Scott and 240lb for me, it’s still fantasy fishing and we’d lost a fair few big fish too.
So I didn’t get any new species or personal bests but I guess that means I’ll have to go back to paradise next year!