So we made a trip. To Khao Sok National Park, Thailand for what might be the most unforgiving, challenging and technical fly fishing. That is, fly fishing for the elusive Mahseer (Tor Tambroides). This time of the year (March) is the dry season, where rivers are clear and Mahseers aplenty. The raw nature of this place cannot be put into words.
A lush green jungle encircles a beautiful emerald lake which is fed by multiple rivers plus the fact that there are hardly any signs of other people out there are reasons why this place should be included on fly fishing bucket lists.
Hiking into the wilderness of the Thai jungle teeming with nasty leeches, sleeping rough inside a hammock in a jungle which houses wild Tigers, Leopards, Bears and Elephants
just to fly fish for fish that are spooked by the faintest ripple on the water? On top of that, hiking up and down the rock-laden river bank with a heavy backpack just to get to what might seem like the perfect fishing hole only to mess your cast up and spook all the fish? Worth it?
Of course! Fly fishing for wild Mahseer is probably the most technical fly fishing in the world but the entire experience is also extremely rewarding once you hook up into one. So what is the difference between my previous trip to Borneo to fly fish for Mahseer? Well, first and foremost, the terrain in Borneo is gentle as compared to Khao Sok. The jungles in Khao Sok National Park are untouched and as wild as it gets. Second, the fishes are generally bigger and 10x more spooky.
Looking back and with the benefit of hindsight, the first cast of the trip was quite an abnormality. I had been instructed to stand by the river bank and to cast into some fallen bamboo. I had made the most beautiful and quite possibly the best cast of my life, not knowing exactly just how spooky these fishes can be and how challenging the next couple of days would be, I hooked up into a decent sized beautiful Blue Mahseer. We thought this was going to be a breeze, but oh boy were we wrong …
Spooky? Yes, these fishes are incredibly spooky. You would be able to sight them in huge pools and as you make your approach from beyond the covers of the jungle, down onto the river bank to make a few false casts but one which “lines” them, that pool is now unfishable. “Lining” a fish as our guide Meik from Thai-Fishing calls it, is essentially making a cast which is too long such that it is your fly line instead of your fly which lands in the area where the fishes are and this spooks them.
On top of ensuring not to “line” the fish, casts to the Mahseer must be absolutely bang on the buck. The fly must land on the fish to trigger an instinctive bite and for this to happen, the fly has to turn over perfectly. Basically, fly fishing for Mahseer involves a heck of a lot of skill in the presentation and the casting departments. No easy feat especially in the jungle landscape.
On countless attempts, we would have been able to make the distance on the cast, but if the fly does not turn over nicely, that would have been a disastrous cast. Not only have we now spooked the fish, we were left feeling demoralised as we watched Meik walk off in search of another spot and mutter under his breath
“fly fishing for Mahseer is unforgiving.”
The rest of the day would be spent feeling gutted, questioning if you could have done something better and if you had, would there be a prized Mahseer at the end of your line? This is not a good feeling at all.
Fly fishing for Mahseer can be tough. It beats you down to zilch and it doesn’t pick you back up. It makes you question your ability and it humbles you.
But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Sure enough for every 5 casts, there’d be one which by a stroke of luck or the alignment of the stars, be perfect. Only under such strict circumstances would one be rewarded.
This was literally his last cast for the day. He had done everything by the book. He sighted a school and made a deliberate perfect cast with the fly perfectly presented and true enough, triggered a reactionary bite. But again, Mahseer fly fishing is unforgiving. His fly line had
very fortunately wrapped around the holster for his pocket knife and had somehow found its way inside the clip of the carabiner, getting stuck! There was a major risk of breaking off. This was when our guide saw Singapore run.
As the Mahseer dashed downstream, a chase ensued and all hell broke loose but this would be a fight to remember.
And above is me with an average sized Mahseer. I roll cast to a school and this bad boy hit it with some speed, taking quite a bit of line, putting me on the reel as it made a dash down stream.
Apart from the Mahseer, the mighty Jungle Perch pays the occasional visit.
It was a tough 3 days of fishing but really good fun with some really brilliant action. The pristine rivers of Khao Sok is definitely worth a re-visit as soon as I polish up in the presentation and casting departments and also with a much better eyesight for dark shadows and silhouettes in the water.
Just in case anyone is wondering, the tackle we used are as follows:
- TFO Mangrove 8wt
- Sage XP 5/6wt
- Loop Opti Stream 5wt
- Allen Reels
- Waterworks Lamson Reels
- Loop Opti Still Water Floating Line
- Royal Wulff BTT Floating Line
- And Meik’s top secret flies
Tight lines everyone!