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Thailand 2013

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I've been back a week or so and I've been looking to write the trip up since I got back- but works been ridiculous.

I’ll try and get it wrote up in blocks- so apologies if it takes a while.


I’ve been fishing at Gillham’s since it opened around 5 years ago. It will be familiar to most- but to those who haven’t heard of it- it’s an 8 acre lake (which will be extended to 12 acres later this year) owned by Stuart Gillham.

It’s stocked with 44 species of fish which are split roughly into mini species (EG. Gourami, Snake head, Java Barb), Predators (EG Redtail catfish, Arapiama) and Carp (EG Siamese, Mirghal, Julians prize).

There’s roughly 25 swims around the lake, but they limit the amount of anglers on it to guarantee everyone their ‘own’ water. The lake has depths down to 30 feet, but has various ledges, plateaus and bars that come up to 12 feet- with the majority of the lake being around 18 feet. As you would expect the fish can be caught anywhere, but location is the difference between a tough day and a few fish in the net.

After a few days in Bangkok to get over the jetlag we arrived late in the afternoon. A quick chat with the guides revealed that the lake was fishing hard and the fish weren’t playing ball. The good news was that the Mekong were playing ball- I had planned my trip to catch the Mekong and had sifted through catch reports over the last few years to give me the most chance of catching them. So whilst the fishing was ‘slow’, at least I was in with a shout of catching my target fish.


A couple of bottles of Singha later I was off to my peg. I was to have three days in a peg halfway up the lake and then the remainder of my trip in a peg I know very well (which happens to be called “Cobleys”).

The first evening came and went with little action. I was slightly disappointed, but not overly concerned. After a day travelling I was just happy to ping some singles out and get comfy. But I was a bit surprised that I didn’t pick up a fish- knowing the lake as well as I do, Its rare to sit for an evening and not have one run.

The following day was a bit of trial and error. My favourite method on the water has always been to fish the float. Its essentially a pike bung with a feeder underneath that you mould groundbait around. Much like Matchmen- the art is in the activity and work you put into it. Most of the time spent rebaiting and casting- which in 100 degree heat dissuades most from doing it right. But if you persevere you can get the fish feeding very competitively and bag 6-10 fish a day.


However- Stuart has now stopped the use of groundbait at the lake as it was polluting the water quality. The ground bait has now been substituted with pellet- which (although trying for a couple of hours) I just couldn’t get to work.


That said I can see why he has done it- the water quality is through the roof and the fish are piling weight on.


After a frustrating morning, I found some spots with the marker rod and set to work getting some bait down to fish over.

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Sorry mate; second instalment for you.


I didn’t want to overdo the baiting as I knew that I’d be upping sticks in a couple of days; so I was effectively fishing for one fish at a time. However, with the average carp weighing over 40lbs and 200lb+ mekongs swimming around any baiting I had to do had to be substantial enough to make them get their heads down.

My usual bait out there is Trigga, with Pineapple, High levels of GLM and Betaine. I’ve always done well on it; however after an initial session with Blue oyster last year I was convinced that it would make a good substitute. As a back-up plan I also took a tub of Pineapple particle glug. I’ve always done well on Pineapple out there and looking back it could have been risky taking a new boilie. I also took six pots of different pop ups, to twin up with a pellet approach. In addition to this I had put as many ziptop bags of big halibuts as I could in my cases to take me to my limit. Halibuts seem to work the world over and a few kilo’s in the back pocket always gives me a fall back plan.

The two days in my first swim plodded along steadily. I had no real strategy other than putting a bait in a likely spot with a few kilos of bait around it. I took a couple of medium sized carp (a mid forty and a mid fifty), which probably represented the amount of effort I put in.









There’s no doubt it was tough fishing with quite a few anglers blanking.

After my three days in ‘quarantine’, I was gagging to get into my proper swim. I was down at first light with the marker rod. From previous trips I know that there is a significant bar at around 60 yards. It lifts by 6 feet and has a flat top to it about half the size of a squash court. I put a spod mix together of small and large pellets, boilies, and halibuts and peppered the area with around 10 KG’s of bait. Both rods were dunked into the area and I sat back and waited. It may seem like that’s a fairly normal thing to do, but considering morning temps are anything up to 90 degrees and the afternoons were around the 100 mark any activity is a struggle other than laying by the pool. It is a labour of love to get a swim going out there as its flipping hard work. Most anglers are content to do the minimum and wait for a fish to come along- but when the fishing is tough I think that’s when the extra effort counts.


So I sat back and waited for the on-slaught of fish.


...and then I waited a bit longer. Lunch came and went.


...Had a magnum (white chocolate if you’re interested)...


...Went for a swim and came back...


You probably get the picture. Things weren’t going to plan. There was no onslaught of big fish or even much action. Around 15:00 my rods finally got their first action with a fish that set off like its backside was on fire. A spirited fight left me made up with what I think is one of the prettiest fish in the world and a new PB to boot.




That was pretty much it for the first ‘proper’ day. Very disappointing tbh. The gold rush of fish that I had earmarked for the day didn’t materialise.

The following day I was up early. I was questioning my approach a little bit. Whilst I had everything clipped up; I felt something wasn’t quite right. I spent a further hour with the marker rod. I over cast the hump and dragged it back up and over and replotted the area. To be honest I think I was fishing on the back edge of the plateau and maybe the bait I had spodded had ended up on the back edge (and therefore at the bottom) of the slope. I re-set all of my markers around 15 feet back and started the process again.

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As a quick word on rigs. They were nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe a bit longer than you would use in the UK at 12- 15 inches. I've used Nash fang x's in size 1 for a few years and had no issues with them...but they are a bit shiny for my liking. Whilst Gillhams is a commercial 'holiday' venue- the fish are pursued 365 days a year by some pretty good anglers so the fish aren't dumb. I've taken different curve shanks out there in the past and had them wrecked. Darth Munga was kind enough, or maybe foolhardy enough to send me some Continental Mugga's in a size 2. They seemed ideal, curved shank, thick wire, sharp and a dull finish. I say 'foolhardy', not as a criticism of Richard at all- but these fish go like the absolute stink and very few 'normal' bits of tackle stand up to the power they put out. Hooklengths were GLT cat cable in 65lb - great stuff that I've reviewed elsewhere. Flat profile, abrasion resistant and sinks like a stone. For the Arapiama I had procured some thick wire 9/0 hooks to 80lb Solar unleaded leader.




Rods were 6lb t/c free spirts couple with big bait runenrs and 39lb GLT UV line.

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I use their rods and reels and take everything else myself. You can literally turn up with nothing - but experience has taught me that taking your own terminal tackle is the way to go if you are there for any length of time.


I'll get the rest written up as soon as I can. The good news is that the fishing just got better and better. :wink::D

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I guess I’d finished spodding by around 09:00 and had the rods bang on the money. I was feeling a lot happier with the position of the rods and of the bait that had gone out. I’d only been settled back and the left hand rod gave a one-toner. The fish took maybe 40 yards on its first run and then settled into a heavy plodding around the lake interspersed with a long straight run. 10 minutes later I had one of the broadest backed carp I’ve ever caught in the net.



As I played it I didn’t think it looked that big as was a bit cavalier with it- but taking a look across its shoulders it was massive. We agreed on 85lb’s and a lot of handshaking and backslapping ensued.





A proper fish and a cracking start to the day. The next couple of hours didn’t produce anything, so I spodded another few KG’s out and retired to the restaurant for a bacon baguette and a cup of tea.

Rods back out and a long wait ensued. I couldn’t work it out- no fish. Checking around the lake- little was happening. That said- any day you catch an 85lb carp is a winner I would have happily packed up and had the day in the bar. At 15:00 I decided that I needed to make a positive approach. I put a mix of about 15kg’s together and put the lot in.

Wet through with sweat, sun burnt and knacked, I slumped into my chair. I cracked a beer and smiled- it might have been a grimace. I finally felt like I was fishing properly. An hour later a one toner screamed from my right hand rod and something set off at an alarming rate. I slipped the baitrunner and hit into the fish. It did little to stop it and it carried on as if nothing happened. I tighten the clutch down and the rod just dipped and flat rodded...oops, dial it back. The line just kept going but the fish was coming up from the deep at 150 yards. It rolled on the top. Holy .... that’s a monster!

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Even at that range I knew it was a big fish. Imagine a small bottle nose dolphin head and shouldering (is it still porpoising for a dolphin?) on the end of your line and your line lifting across the surface of the water to pull tight to the hook. It’s tail was as big as an office desk- it just lifted up and then slapped on the surface. The clutch began to slowly tick, and then just melted as it ripped line from the spool. To put it into some perspective, the 6lb T/C rod was bent through to the but- the clutch was pretty much as tight as I dare put it to stop the 39lb line snapping...and the fish was just stripping line as it headed down the lake. I vaulted into the margin and started to follow it...there was no way I was stopping it and if it ran to the left it would just cut me off. Long story short the fish ran to the far end of the lake over 300 yards away. I apologised profusely to every angler who’s swim I was walking through...they all just laughed and gave me a look of ‘better you than me mate’ as I struggled to keep my head above water as the fish just continued to blaze away from me.

I’d like to say that the fight was measured and I had some semblance of control; but it was a one way street. After an hour- and I do mean an hour! It started to get dark. The resort had a power cut and the fish was showing no signs of coming in. I’d been giving it the full beans for a full hour...leant into it and the clutch locked up. I was dehydrated, mozzies were starting to batter me, my bicpes and forearms were properly jacked up and the fish just ran wherever it wanted. Half an hour later, I was fighting the fish in full darkness. The power was still off at the resort and I was waist deep in the lake, covered in bites with just my head torch pointing into the lake. I knew it was a big fish...I wasn’t sure how big. I needed to get out of the lake as the fish was starting to circle the near margin and I feared the rod would snap if it got right next to me.

So here’s the problem- I may have been getting way ahead of myself- but IGFA rules state that no-one can touch the rod or line if you are to claim a world record. It was a very long shot...but I couldn’t take the risk. Fortunately a small crowd had gathered and a cluster of hands came down into the water and unceremoniously dragged my substantial backside onto the bank.

Tired and looking like a pin cushion I fought on.


...and on...


After 2 hours, we finally pulled it over the net. Some way short of the world record but a huge new PB Mekong catfish for me at around 180lbs. I was absolutely made up. Two hours of a gruelling battle- I couldn’t be happier...and then the guide reminded me I needed to pick it up for a photo. Balls!












Photo’s were done. The fish was bathed in antiseptic around the hook hold and it was released back into the depths. I lost a huge Mekong years ago, which would have taken the WR (A story for another day) and I’ve joked with Gollock (Gillhams longest serving guide) about “Big Mekongs this trip” for years. He’s stood with me in some god awful weather, monsoons and high winds in the day and night (he never moans, bitches or complains- just has a big smile on his face)- when there was no-one else on the lake or at the resort. I had to be honest with him – it made me very happy that it was him that netted the fish for me- It just made it that bit more special that he was there to share it with me.


That was it for the night. I went and got showered and sunk a few large bottles of Singha to celebrate.


I treated myself to a lie in the following morning and came into my swim at around 09:00. What hit was a bit of a shock; on the far bank two anglers had moved into the adjacent swim and were basically casting onto the hump that I'd been baiting for a couple of days.


Not happy.



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Oh yeah...it's worth pointing out at this stage that Mr. Garderners hooks stood up to 2 hours of thorough abuse completely faultlessly. I checked the hook that had played the big Mekong and to be honest I would have been happy to throw it out again.


As I said to Richard, if anyone reckons that they have straightened them out on a carp they are full of something stinky out the back end of a cow. I can't recommend them highly enough.

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