Fishing Heaven - Gillhams Fishing Resort In Thailand!
This article from Mike 'Spug' Redfern is crammed full of some quite amazing captures, but not the type of fish you're used to seeing him hold up for the camera? As he and a few of the Mainline boys head off to Gillhams Fishing Resort, Thailand!
I won’t start this story by re-counting the years of drooling over the photo's of the fabulous fish that reside in Gillhams fishing resort, or the excitement leading up to the trip and for me two days not sleeping beforehand! Let’s start it at Krabi Airport where myself, Gary Patterson, Kev Knight and Scaff-John were all collected by Stuart Gillham, someone I have been very aware of since the old “Harefield Hauling” videos were released a long time ago! We were on the way to his fishery, his vision and a truly remarkable piece of angling heaven where there are 47 different species of fish. 47 weird and wonderful species that in all likelihood you would have to spend about 2 lifetimes tracking down, and fishing some of the most extreme places in the Amazon etc to even find them, all carefully hand selected, bred and placed into one fishery.
We were hoping to catch Arapaima, Amazon red tails, Mekong Catfish, Siamese carp and basically anything else that came along. If the amazing collection of fish wasn't enough there was an on-site restaurant which served English/Thai/Indian food, with Sky TV and cold beers, oh the "Bivvys" for the week would be air conditioned bungalows, with TV, DVD players, showers etc and just in case it got too hot during the day, a state of the art swimming pool to mess about in too.
Although weary from our journey to say all four of us couldn't wait would be an understatement!
We arrived at the fishery and prepared our tackle etc. Bait was going to be small dead baits, Maize and some pineapple dumbells and pineapple high leakage shelf life boilies, as we had brought as much as our weight allowance would let us.
The first morning I was up at 5am and just soaked in the atmosphere, the sun rose opposite and so did expectations, there were fish showing bubbling and jumping everywhere, I just couldn't wait till the seven o clock start! By midday my left hand rod was away with a dead bait on it and I was soon holding up a 30lb Stingray as all around me, were singing "Stingray.....stingraaaaaayyy!" a great start and time for a quick ice cold tin of coke.
Our guide for the week was an Essex lad called Joel, who had turned his back on a life of pressure and stress working in the city, to become a guide for Stuart, it was quickly becoming easy to see why!
Next away was Kev and after a spirited scrap he was soon holding up an awesome 60lb+ Siamese carp, which had fallen to a boilie, Scaff wasn't far behind with a 60+Siamese carp either, which managed to jump from his arms and escape before being filmed. By the end of day one I had landed a 7lb spotted featherback and we had all become blown away by the place including the fish-care, every fish was carefully netted and unhooked, every fish was treated, checked and lovingly returned. No fish are ever dragged out of the lake, they are all held within the nets and if you want a pic with one, then you simply jump in get your pic and the fish is returned.
The fish weren't the only ones being spoilt either, so were we and all the other anglers at the lake, nothing was too much trouble for the guides, who were constantly flying about getting cold drinks, delivering full English breakfasts to your swim, answering any questions you may have, etc etc, in truth we felt like royalty and it made a very refreshing change, the customer care at Gillhams fishing resort is such that they made all the anglers feel that it was a privilege for them to be looking after us and for us to be catching their beloved fish, not the other way round, something that a few commercial fishery owners should really take note of in my opinion.
The second morning came and after a load of Essex based expletives, Kev landed a Mekong catfish of around 140lb before breakfast and Scaff had treated himself to a big Mekong too. Although the fish were coming in Stuart said the lake was fishing slow and that on day three we should start a little later and fish until 10pm instead of the usual 8pm. Gary and Kev went off with their rods on day 3 and quickly there were cries of "Bring the camera!" and I was soon taking a pic of a 40lb Amazon redtail for Gary, which was then followed by a 70lb alligator gar!
At this point things went silly I landed a 58lb Siamese carp, Kev landed a 100lb Arapaima then one over 200lbs! What a fight and what a fish, as the amazing fish rolled into the cage, out when the cry, "It’s all about the HARRY!" and Kev was blown away, this was the fish he really wanted and you could tell by the look on his face that he was very pleased to have caught it!
The fish kept coming so fast and furious over the next three days, that’s its almost impossible to recount each and every capture, so I will just mention a few. On the 3rd evening I lost 2 Arapaima on the dead baits and was gutted and upon hooking my third right at the death at 10pm it's fair to say to legs were shaking and my back breaking as the fish tore out into the lake and flat rodded my 6lb test curve rod, then everything came to a standstill, with me and my rod creaking and sweat pouring down my back, Sean Gillham was standing next to me and said "Oh it’s just sitting on the bottom taking a breather" I asked him what I could do to move it, "Nothing" came the reply, "It will go off when it feels like it" I was nervous, really nervous I hadn't travelled over 6000 miles to lose them! Luckily with a little help from Sean we got the fish moving again and this time with the help of Joel the great fish came to the net. I lost it big time, finally after years of poverty pursuing carp and years getting straight financially there in front of me, was the fish I had spent years drooling over pictures of, for me it wasn't just a fish capture it was more a realisation of a dream and a reward for working hard to save my money up. 180lbs of Arapaima swam back to the lake and I dived up to the restaurant and helped myself to a box of red wine to celebrate!
Over the next couple of days the fish continued and Gary Landed an 88lb Siamese carp and Scaff followed it nicely with a 80lb Siamese, I landed a 37lb Amazon Kev then landed a 180lb Mekong catfish followed by a 40lb plus Amazon! then Scaff and Gary both landed Arapaima over 200lb Scaffs weighing 260 I believe, truly amazing stuff and finally Gary popped a 150lb Mekong catfish in.
By now it’s fair to say our arms were beginning to ache!
Scaff and Gary then both landed Arapaima over 200lb Scaffs weighing 260 I believe, truly amazing stuff and finally Gary popped a 150lb Mekong catfish in.
Our time was running out and we only had one days fishing left to go left to go but I managed a 90lb Siamese carp and then another arapaima at about 160lb and Scaff managed to catch another Arapaima around 160lb but this time on a fly rod! The battle that ensued was epic and a fine piece of angling by him.
This added up to about 6 days fishing three full days then 4 afternoons really and in fairness much after day 4 we didn't even start fishing until around 12pm, as once the Arapaima had been landed there was kind of a "Job done" feeling about the trip. With one full day left we went out for a meal that evening with Jerry Hammond and his group of guys who were also out there when we were and enjoyed a few of the sites in Ao Nang. On our last day we went down to the beach at Ao Nang, went on a longboat to a secluded beach and drank cocktails and had massages on the beach and prepared for the journey home.
Now from a personal view we made some mistakes, Thailand is an amazing country and we didn't get to do half the things I wanted too and for most of the trip I was running on about two thirds power, we crammed so much into the 7 days we were out there but in truth you need nearer to 14 days, I would recommend that you fish for a couple of days then have a day off, go and see the sights and absorb what this amazing place has to offer, then a couple of days fishing then a day of etc etc, so with that in mind I need to go back again as there are a load of things I didn't do, I think we were just too keen to catch fish and as you can see by the pics we caught some incredible fish and all of us cannot recommend the place enough, the fishing is not technically difficult (And on this point I would advise anyone going out there, to listen to the guides and follow their advice as it will make your fishing a lot easier) the customer service is second to none, the fish are stunning and the views breathtaking.
Thanks to Stuart, Sean and Bex Gillham for the amazing service and opportunity and of course all the guides especially our personal one Joel truly amazing, we'll see you again!