Even before prehistoric times it had been a special place. The rock formations filling the vista had risen up, created from sandstone erosion, into the Thai landscape, leaving behind a set of stone teeth that would last long after the dinosaurs had come and gone. Even today while gently swaying paddy fields sit in their shadows they are enough to stir the imagination about a place that time forgot and indeed not all the monsters have gone. For where the lush green vegetation gives way to water huge ripples spread across the surface from seismic explosions as creatures writhe snake like across the surface, these however are not reptiles of the past but fish with an equal god like status known to the locals as the Buddha of the lake and if, like me, you are ever fortunate enough to worship here and pit your wits with rod and line then you too will have arrived at Jurassic Lake and be witnessing its stock of arapaima!
My own adventure started from Heathrow and minus temperatures before 11 hours later and with complete ease I stepped off the plane into 30oC and the bustle of Bangkok. Asia hits the senses immediately in an explosion of sound, colour and smell but a placard bearing my name by a friendly taxi driver meant that the only thing I needed to do was sit back and enjoy it. Then I was out of the city and into the suburbs where I gained fleeting glances of Thai life through the window before this gave way to a rural scene bathed in the glow of the setting tropical sun. When everything is new time goes so quickly, especially with a journey that lasted only 2 hours, leaving me to wonder how I had got there so easily as I have had far more gruelling journeys in Europe. I could see how it might have been a little bewildering for a travelling angler as I stepped from the taxi into the lodge but the smiles from owners Sam, Jules and Eddy immediately put me at ease as well as a bottle of ice cold ‘Chang’ thrust into my hand. Alcohol is a heady concoction when mixed with words of big fish and they came thick and fast as I was fed and watered. By the time I fell asleep in a luxury lodge my mind was a blur of Siamese carp, red tail catfish and, of course, arapaima,
I had arrived in darkness so as I stepped, a little blearily, into the light of early morning my senses were once again assaulted in every direction but none more so that with the lake and its ancient backdrop. It was a scene straight out of the movies but no blockbuster could ever compare to the sight that suddenly drew all my attention as a fish the size of which I had never witnessed before in freshwater broke free of its home for a lung full of air displaying a never ending flank of silver and red scales. So focussed was I that I hadn’t noticed Eddy nearby until he spoke the words I wanted to hear ‘are you ready for Jurassic?’
Eddy Mounce speaks fluent Thai and has explored the country’s fishing potential for 11 years. He has tamed the mighty freshwater stingray and explored the jungle for snakeheads so it’s not surprising that the like of Jeremy Wade and John Wilson have called on his services to unlock Thailand’s secrets. With such a pedigree it’s easy to imagine someone aloof and maybe a little arrogant but that was not the man I met. Yes he was knowledgeable but a nicer, friendlier man it would be impossible to meet. As we strolled towards the swim he had suggested laughter was close at hand and my mood never changed when he showed me the equipment I would be using. I may have been new to the country but I wasn’t to the tackle and the superb quality was immediately evident. He explained that there were 3 main methods with the first 2 being legered pellet for cap and the same with a small herring like dead bait for the predatory species, but we would start higher in the water column with a pellet waggler for the indigenous Siamese carp. Ironic really that I had come all this way and would begin with a Peter Drennan float.
The tactic was to feed pellet continuously as well as fish the hookbait on the drop. Eddy did the catapulting while I cast repeatedly until I struck into a speed boat that spun the reel spool so fast that I swear a puff of smoke appeared. Every time I made a similar connection to this thick set indigenous species the same thing happened and no fight was over in less than 15 minutes. Little wonder the cool box and the refreshments inside were required on a regular basis and by the time a lunch of Thai delights was delivered from the superb kitchen a suggestion to try dead baits was happily agreed to.
It seemed that lunch was also on the red tail catfish’s mind giving us little time to digest the green curry and rice. These Amazonian fish replaced the speed of the carp with a dogged fight, but certainly put no less strain in the arc of carbon in my hand. As the name implies the first sight I got that I was anywhere near winning the battle was a bright red tail waving in front of the net, followed by a flank and head splodged with orange, yellow and brown as if buckets of paint had been poured over the beast.
I didn’t know what more I could have hoped for but Jurassic had plenty more to give ensuring I had my own very special story to tell over another Chang in the bar that evening.
When the bite came I was prepared for the strike but not the havoc that came in its wake as the water rocked so much it nearly spilled over the banks and into the paddy fields! A smoking spool now wasn’t the issue but the braid setting fire! Fortunately it was wet leaving me to do my best not to be straight rodded. I was in no doubt that an arapaima was on the end and this was duly confirmed when a 7-foot wall of silver and red suddenly filled the horizon. Then with braid still going down in a blur I followed Eddy’s lead and jumped into the water as the fight needed to be continued in its home! Patience was all I could use against it, positive that its energy and anger would abate although I did question this on its 6th and then its 7th run leaving me totally bewildered. Eddy, a stalwart of many such battles, was happy we were taking our time so that the arapaima’s wrath was tempered, a lesson that he learn the hard way by a head butting fish and the need for 3 false teeth!
Slowly and eventually the serpent-like fish swayed instead of charged no longer in control my companion cautiously prepared to net the leviathan and end the duel. Head first and the upturned jaw appeared, followed by a body of silver and ruby scales, each one the size of a tablespoon shining as bright as the Thai sun could. It was time to pay homage and worship the Buddha of the lake and in the shadow of Jurassic mountain I witnessed a dinasour!
I was so impressed with Jurassic, the fishing, the accommodation and the friendliness of everyone there that since returning home I have become their UK partner. There is incredible fishing, 4 star accommodation and amazing food – from a day trip from Bangkok to a longer holiday; solo angler or a group or family with children – all needs are catered for.