A NEW BOOK NOW OUT. Targets set and achieved.

My third book, 'Targets set and achieved' is now complete and ready for sale. As the title suggests it reflects the past seven years of my fishing. Twenty different rivers where double figure barbel were caught, crucians and roach to near record size, perch, chub, tench and bream to make the mouth water. All will be in the pages and well illustrated with lots of colour photographs.

There is a 1000 copy print run of the hardback edition and a further 40 leather bound copies for the connoisseur.

Copies available from myself just email phlpsmith9@aol.com or ring 07980 394864 for details

Still a limited number of leathers available.

Alternatively use the web page http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ where you can order by Paypal or credit/debit card.

Sunday 26 January 2014

A fishing adventure in Suriname

Mention the Amazon Rain Forest and you are probably like me, able to imagine what it would be like to stand there and see all the wildlife and creatures that live in the surrounding trees and such, in truth it does not happen like that.  At the river’s edge the tree growth goes from the water up the top of the canopy and is quite impenetrable.  In the very rare places where there is a gap to allow you to land, and just has important solid land to actually stand on you can get inside this river’s edge barrier.  Everything that is growing is reaching for the light and the trees stand tall and straight without the lower branches that so many of our native trees have.  That barrier is just a case of the trees going out sideways to the light.  Visibility is very restricted and this stops you from seeing much wildlife.  You can hear birds and things moving through the undergrowth but few are seen.  The occasional butterfly will make an appearance and dazzle you with their vivid colour but prove very difficult to photograph since they rarely settle.  One particular butterfly, perhaps 6 inch across and the most vivid blue lead me all over the place but I failed to get a single usable photo.

                                  Left to right - Danny, Joe, Nick at back, driver, myself

                                                 The rain forest.

On my recent trip to Suriname, it is positioned on the bulge of South America that faces towards the Caribbean, our group travelled some three hours up river a left civilisation behind.   The group comprised of Joe Taylor who organised the trip, Nick Berridge who has done many such trips, Danny Sherlock who has been a few times, and me going to this country for the first time.

                                                Camp on arrival, poles always left for next group

                                                     Camp set up, four camps and beds under cover

The trips are organised through Paul de Boer and we had two boatmen/guides, David Hope and Ashok Manray both of whom were capable of putting the boat in the right position on the river to catch the mighty laulau catfish that were our target on this trip.  Paul’s organising skills are tremendous and the time went by without a single fault, a somewhat unusual event when travelled out of civilised areas where if you have forgotten it you go without!

                                                  Paul works his wonders on basic cooking gear.

The plan was that Joe and I would stay for two weeks on the river while Danny would return home and Nick would travel onto another river after one week.  The first week I had Danny has my boat partner and it was he who first landed a 100lb plus specimen with a fish of 1.75m and weighing in at 155lb.  This was my first sighting of one of these monsters and very impressive indeed, both in the fight and in their looks when held by the captor.

                                          The first fish to our boat, around70lb.

                                                The first hundred landed at 155lb to Danny.

Still, I’m ahead of myself and I’ll explain how we were going to fish and what the countryside was like to give you a feel for the place.  First and foremost is that we were there in what is known has the small rainy season, that means it rains every day but not all day, the all-day rain comes in the big rainy season.  The rain we experienced could be the lightest shower that passes in five minutes or a really heavy storm with gale force winds that lasts considerably longer, but more of that later.  As mentioned, the bankside growth gives very few areas where you can land a boat and you travel miles of river with no sign of a break.  Just occasionally a break appears and most times the local fishermen with their nets will have stayed there having travelled upriver for a few days to make the cost of fuel worthwhile with their catches of silver fish.  This not a problem and indeed we only saw one other boat over our two week stay and they were villages travelling home not fishermen.

Lots of Blue & Gold Macaws but difficult to photo as they fly over a height.

                                       The two macaws breathed again when he went past.

The river is tidal even though we might be 50 miles or more inland, this made it very difficult to relate to where you were when on the river.  Generally your first reference point is the direction of the flow, but with it changing four times a day and by one hour a day it proved quite a problem.  The tree lined banks all look the same and other than the occasional bend that was it, fortunately the boatman always got us home.  The change in the depth of water was something else, miles of less than six foot and then great holes going down to 100 feet.  The first few days I thought we were fishing in six to fifteen feet only to notice the sounder was set to metres not feet, the thirty plus feet I thought we had fished were over the hundred, the leads had seemed to take a long time to hit bottom! 

                                          My first Lau, small but very welcome.

It proved the case that you needed to fish in deep water to avoid the piranhas attacking the bait even to the point of biting through the 100Kg Kraken Braid, losing not only the bait but also the rig in use as well.  The bait was gained by the use of nets being laid out along the tree line edge, this produce various species in the 8oz to 2lb range all of which could be used.  One of the better baits looked like a roach until you checked the mouth and saw the set of teeth there, it appears most of these fish have teeth so care was always taken, especially with the piranha.

                                                    Nick with a 120lb+ lau

Tackle needed to be strong to battle these fish and mine comprised of a Shimano Beastmaster 30lb-50lb travel rod, 5ft of power that only bent under extreme pressure.  I had found a left hand wind multiplier reel this being the Penn Squall 40 loaded with 200 yds. of 65kg Power Pro braid, backed up with a further 100yds of 40lb power Pro braid.  With the clutch set to a very high resistance these fish take off at a rate of knots as though you had not set it and you leave the mooring to follow them or you run out of line!   The hooks were size 10.0 and 8.0 singles and size 6.0 and 4.0 trebles, these being used in various combinations to suit the size of bait being used.  The hooklink would take most of the damage from the cat’s teeth and for this we used the Kryston Kraken in 100kg and it did not let us down.

Over his previous trips Joe had set up a routine that seemed to work well and we continued to use the same.  Get up about 6.00am to 6.30am and have breakfast if that is your thing.  Mine is muesli, Joe has none and the other pair had eggs and luncheon meat or some such choice.  All the meals were prepared to a fantastic level and sometimes you would forget you are in the middle of a rain forest.  Stretch beds in a tent with a mosquito net ensured a good night’s sleep as well.  Once breakfast was complete we would go out on the river about 7.30am and fish through to 1.00pm and then back to camp out of the blazing sun.  A light lunch of a few rounds of toast with whatever topping you wanted and then relax until about 4.30pm and we were back out again until 7.30pm which was just after darkness fell.

                                                  Nick with his 27lb tarpon

Rather than go on about different fish that were landed I’ll relate the story of my largest fish of the three over 100lb that I caught.  With Danny having lost a very big fish the previous day when the hooks failed to hold after playing it for some time I perhaps would not have returned to the area so quickly, but Ashok our guide went straight there and indicated to put the baits out.  The nets had produced lovely looking baits full of colour and banded along the lines of a perch, it almost seemed a shame to use such pretty fish but we were after laulau and they love these for dinner.  We would be fishing in about 14m of water and with the high flow going past it was easy to place the fish in the water near the boat and then work it down the flow in a series of jumps where the 6oz lead is lifted and the flow takes it further away, this would be repeated until the bait was nicely positioned some distance away from the boat.  With the free spool engaged and the heavy ratchet on it was sit back and wait.

The conditions seemed quite nice but then the tell-tale wind picked up and almost before I could get the waterproofs on we were in the most horrendous storm, the heaviest rain you can imagine being blasted by a very strong wing coming straight up the river.  We had all brought a cheap umbrella and these proved useful against the light showers but now mine was under severe attack and I had the lower ribs braced against the side of the boat in order to give it some support.  With Danny in the front of the boat and Ashok at the back we were all battened down to the best of our ability and praying for no runs at this time but you can guess what’s coming.  The noise of the rain on my umbrella was such that I did not hear my clutch screaming until Danny said ‘you’ve got a run.’  Now you are hoping it’s a small one that can be dealt with more easily but that quickly proved to be a false hope.  I struck and the rod slammed down horizontal with the power of the run against the tight clutch setting, time to leave the buoy.  All three of us got absolutely drowned over the next 30 minutes or 40 minutes during one of the most exciting battles I have had with a fish.  We often say that fish fight harder as we get older, but this one stretched me to the limit with Danny laughing at my feeble efforts to lift it off the bottom.  With the rod bent well over I had the bruises on the guts to show I could not have pulled harder.

Meanwhile we had been pulled and drifted the 600 yards or so down towards Joe’s boat where we discovered the Nick had hooked a fish of around 40lb that got them just as wet in the storm.  As we got closer they could see I was into a big fish and their boatman lifted their anchor just in case and perhaps 10 minutes later I had it beat and it came to the surface where a rope could be placed on its tail.  Fortunately the tide was at the high point and we could find a place at the tree line edge where we could get photos.  With the tide at the lower point there is 3 foot of mud to contend with and photos are difficult.  This explains why we so few photos of the fish, it’s just too much hassle.

                                                           Bait for my biggest fish.

Stripping off and jumping into the water I managed to find a place where the roots of bushes gave me some support to sit on and with the help of Ashok I managed to hold the fish such that Joe and Danny could get a pleasing range of photos for my album.  Weighing these large fish is difficult at the best of times but with Nick in one boat and Ashok in the other holding the bar high the scales were read at 175lb a very satisfactory result for my first big fish here.  We were all soaking wet and before long it was back to camp to relate our various stories of the two fish landed, an adventure that will stay long in the memory.

                                                    175lbs of powerful lau.

                                                 Another 100lb+ that fell to buoy fishing by the camp

Over the holiday there were 38 laulau caught with over ten of these being 100lb+.  Nick landed a rare tarpon, most of these come off, indeed both Danny and I hooked and lost these fish, a screaming run, strike, and two seconds later it jumps clear of the water and one second later it’s thrown the hook.  Joe had caught the largest proportion of the fish and he also added a stingray and some unidentified catfish to his list as well.  This is indeed a fishing holiday to experience, contact Paul and arrange a trip you will not be disappointed.

                                             Great photo of Joe's 160lb+ lau.

Paul de Boer    wonotobo@yahoo.com

Fb  Piraiba Fishing in Suriname


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