Sunday, October 2, 2011



By Trevor Tau Fik

Most snakehead anglers would agree that if there is anything better than haruan hunting, it has gotta be bujuk bashing. And if the location has both these bandits, you’d be over the moon and right up there among the stars.

As it is most of the time with pre-trip chatter, the hype about this place was promising, to say the least. My friend, Chin, had pure glee in his eyes when he recounted his previous two visits. He spoke of “Catching more fish than you can carry…” and “Running out of bait after only a couple of hours…” He did not need to say more. I signed up – hook, line and sinker.

The journey to our destination was pretty much an adventure in itself. Leaving Kuala Lumpur just past midnight, we drove at a comfortable speed and met our orang asli guides an hour past dawn at the fringe of a jungle in Rompin, Pahang. With tireless assistance from these tough and hardy indigenous hombres, we had our boat on the river in a jiffy.


As we motored downstream, the jungle served us a welcome cocktail of cool fresh air flavoured with a dash of mesmerizing mist, blended with flitting slivers of warm sunshine nipping out from the erratic holes in the foliage. Sipping this concoction while listening to the birds and insects singing their morning anthem... brings absolute bliss. I could have enjoyed this outing even if we did not catch any fish. But as it was soon to be revealed, zero catch is just not possible at this amazing place.

Fast forward to the part after our boat ride, where we had to trek for an hour through thick jungle. After traversing tricky single log bridges and side-stepping wild elephant dung while looking out for beasts that are above us in the food chain here, we arrived safely at our destination. It was an elongated body of water, about the size of two tennis courts, with tall trees lining the banks like stoic sentries. The jungle was still, but the water was anything but placid. Sporadic splashes and bursts all over the surface made it seem like the place was being depth-charged.

It is perhaps the harsh terrain that keeps this place safe from annihilators.


Without delay, our party of eight got cracking. Chin was the first off the block, making a short flick cast just 15 feet in front of his nose… and instantly connecting with an explosive hookup! At any other place, this would have been phenomenal, but it is apparently common occurrence here. I was told that it takes awhile before the unschooled fishes wise up to the hazards associated with our presence. But even then, they are still idiots if you dangle something that looks edible in front of them long enough.

Chin’s breakfast customer was furious at the service, slashing and spitting on the surface like a hoodwinked hooker. But it was quickly subdued by Chin’s stout stick of a rod, which rendered the beasty beauty spent and breathless. It was an angry haruan that was promptly photographed in a compromising position with Chin and sent back into the water to satisfy another lusty angler some other day.

Top & bottom – Chin with a pair of his dissatisfied breakfast customers.


Our guide cautioned us to pace ourselves and ration our baits, as “there are more fishes here than you have hooks for…” Chin and the guys had about 50 live frogs for bait, so they seemed comfortable with their supply. Since relinquishing my membership to the “frog fraternity” some years back, I only use rubber ones these days. I only had about 30 of the gummy things and that would have been an impossible number to exhaust at any other snakehead location. But of course, this is not just any other location. Crikey, this was bad… but in a good way.

With bad eyesight and perpetually good appetite, these guys would chomp on anything.

I started with an ambitious cast to the far bank, placing my latex frog just at the edge of a weed line. It plopped into the water with a sultry splash, just as if the real deal was going in for a dip. I had a pea-sized sinker attached to the thick mono leader to help the dummy frog sink, so I fed out a little bit of line. I reckon it must have gone down about 4ft, when I noticed the line doing a little skip and began tightening. Showtime! I let the fish mouth the bait a bit more before slowly taking up the remaining slack. When I could feel its weight sneaking away, I let him have it. My rod instantly melted into a contorted curve as the hurt of my hook sunk in, driving the fish into a crazed fit. A series of hammering headshakes came pounding up the 20lb braid, followed by the typical throttle of a simmering snakehead run. Although assaulted critically by the fish, my reel refused to give line and relied on its hard drag setting to stay on top of the game. Against the immortality of my equipment, there was just no way the fish could keep up its physical efforts to dunce me. After about 3 minutes of valorous resistance, my captive showed itself in surrender. It was a badger of a bujuk, snarling with a scowl and looking every bit as mean as that reference. Combining that look with a muscular physique wrapped in its standard camouflage colours of combat green and brown, it seemed like this fish woke up that morning with the specific purpose of fighting with something. Lucky me, I guess.

Another latex-gobbling haruan falls for my rubber frog.

Applying a different perspective to the term “take no prisoners”, I quickly released the bratty bujuk and went on to nab another 3 of its clan from that same spot over the next hour or so. My friends were doing much better, judging from the frequent hoots and hollers from multiple locations around the pond.

By noon, we had caught more fish than we cared to count. I had stopped fishing after my 20th fish or so, preferring to bother the guys with my finicky requests for them to pose for photographs with their catch. The pick of the day was Chin’s 3kg plus haruan that was somewhat dwarfed by his own Herculean physique. Our guide was anything but impressed, as he has seen these waters yield bounty that were easily in excess of 5kgs. But for a bunch of city slickers like us, the haul we had was enough to send us to Mars and back. This is probably one of the very few places where even anglers who do not practice “Catch & Release” would be “forced” to embrace the faith. Even if you had enough fish sacks to store your catch, it’s just not possible to carry them all! And mind you, it is an hour of arduous trek back to the boats. I imagine even our own knapsacks would feel like a log on our shoulders, let alone the additional 10kgs that three of these lunkers would weigh.

Our chief guide, Long, with a pair that he described as “juvenile” sized bujuk.

As predicted by our guide, we caught more than we could hold.

Perhaps to add more colour to our already wondrous day, the chief guide took Chin on a short trek to another fishing hole nearby, where a mysterious specie of blue snakehead are supposedly the dominant residents. Well, they could be friggin pink for all I care, the mention of another trek had me parking my behind at a cool spot while leaning on an accommodating tree for a short nap. Not that I got much rest, as the happy hoots from the other anglers and the unmistakable sounds of a thrashing hooked fish meant that I had to mosey on over to see if the catch was worth a picture. But most times, it was just the standard 2-3kg fare. In fact, the next time my camera was called into service was when Chin returned from the blue haruan hole. He gingerly reached into the fish sack and pulled out a finned cudgel of about 600gms. And true to the description I had heard, it was a bluish steel coloured haruan. Apparently, this was an adult specimen and they do not grow bigger than that. I had previously only seen pictures of such a fish and was thankful that I finally met one in the flesh. After the usual mug shots of the docile captive, the 3 blues that Chin caught were released for good behavior.

Three cousins of the same clan from one village.

Before we knew it, our day was quickly consumed exactly in the way described by the expression “time flies when you’re having fun”. Fully aware of the fact that it gets dark faster in the forest and factoring in the long trudge out, we started packing up just past 4pm. Having burnt up most of our fuel on the day’s fishing, we wheezed and whined with every step and it was all we could do to drag our out-of-shape butts just to keep up with the springy guides.

But true to our fisho psyche, all we could think about was when we would be coming back here again...

1 comment:

hi said...

Hello Taufik, nice read. And equally nice pics. So you are out of your hibernation.Work hard, fish hard and scorch the keypads, man. C'est la vie!