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Saturday November 18, 2006
This happens to me every time I go on a fishing trip. My wife puts it down to a kind of fishing affliction, and I agree.
I have gone through tying more leaders and tippets than I would need for the day’s fishing, choosing, arranging, and rearranging the flies I would carry for the giant pacu I would catch, hoping the weather would be kind and the fish, cooperative.
Finally, I go to sleep “with a smile on my face”, so my better half says.
It’s now 6am, and right on cue, the doorbell rings, announcing the arrival of my two fishing buddies for the trip to Semenyih.
Half past seven sees us at the Sukida Resort, one of the better recreational fishing ponds in Selangor, where catch and release is encouraged. The ponds are stocked with various local species of fish like patin, jelawat and the odd sebarau and haruan.
But our target today is the pacu, an introduced species related to the man-eating piranha of South America. Fortunately the pacu we have here are mainly herbivores, but will eat most things.
They grow relatively fast but do not breed easily in our environment, if at all. The record catch to date here is a fish of 11kg, but a 4.5kg pacu on fly fishing equipment is enough to give one an adrenalin rush.
The weather is cool and hazy, which is good, as too bright a sky would keep the fish down. All equipment is set up in silent anticipation, mainly 7 or 8 weights, with short five-foot leaders and tippets of 20lb to withstand the sharp human-like teeth of the pacu.
No wire traces are used because the fly then behaves unnaturally. We employ two ways to fool the fish into taking our fly: one is to scatter the area with white bread and bring up the smaller fish. This activity attracts the bigger pacu, which would then attack both minnow and bread.
All it takes then is to cast a “bread fly” and to hold on tight as the fly is taken.
The more conventional way is to spot the fish as they come up to feed. This happens especially in the early mornings and at dusk. Then you cast and wait.
I choose one of the smaller ponds. C.K. Ling, my fishing buddy, throws out bread and we wait. I admire a white-breasted kingfisher diving for its breakfast, its iridescent plumage catching the morning sun as it emerges from the water. Before long, the smaller fish are pushed aside by the bigger ones.
There is a rush to cast towards the feeding mob. In the excitement, my fly catches on the branches of a bush behind us, but Ling’s bread fly lands gently in the midst of the fray and is taken at once.
“Fish on!” he shouts in glee. “Big one, big one!”
The line strips from his 8wt. black Able Fly Reel. Despite a tightened drag, the fly line disappears into the backing in a flash. He lets the fish run, because to force it at this point, would surely be to lose it.
As the fish slows, pressure is applied to turn its head. Then the line goes out again as the pacu makes countless runs and a couple of jumps to throw the hook. Ten minutes on, and the tiring fish is slowly brought towards me, net all ready. Then one last lunge as it sees me.
Ling keeps his cool and allows the fish to strip the line again. The fish is finally netted and I heave a sigh of relief. Quickly weighed and photographed, it touches the scale at 6kg, the biggest caught on fly thus far. Congratulations all round.
We are there again a week later. This time it is a late trip, as we plan to fish from about 5pm to 7.30pm. As usual, the offerings of bread bring them up. There is a sudden electrifying jolt on my 7 wt. rod as the pacu tears away with me hanging on and praying the 17lb tippet will hold.
It takes to the air after two line-burning runs and would have dislodged the hook if not for the #2 circle hook I used to tie my bread fly. The circle hook catches at the outer lips where the sharp teeth of the pacu cannot do any damage, either to the tippet or the hook itself.
Pacu of this size have been known to bite through or straighten thinner wire hooks. It is finally brought to net and weighed in at a respectable 4.7kg.
After the usual quick photo, it is released. The fish splashes me with water as it swims off.
Ling, meanwhile, is trying to fight away two of the resident ponies who are aggressively going after his loaf of bread on the ground. These ponies are so used to bread-rich anglers, they have no qualms raiding your fishing bags if left unattended.
Having lost his bread to the four-legged thieves, Ling changes tactics and starts casting to the fish coming up in the main pond. A long and accurate delivery in the oncoming gloom brings on another good take, and prompts the usual shooting runs that nearly empties his reel on three occasions.
This pacu is big – bigger than the rest we have caught so far. Losing it at the net would be unthinkable, and especially as the fight has attracted an audience of four other anglers. Our pride as fly fishermen is at stake, and landing a pacu of this size on fly rod would guarantee bragging rights, with photos to prove the point.
After a see-saw battle of countless runs, this particular pacu, a hefty 7.5kg (16.5lb) specimen, is finally landed, truly a record so far, at least on fly. Ling must have slept well that night, with a smile on his face dreaming of the upcoming trip next week. W
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