The terminal tackle that is used in Thailand is different to that used in western countries and is somewhat bewildering for visitors. This article aims to cover the essential bits and bobs that are needed to fish in Chiang Mai using the common methods employed by locals and expats alike.
Strong Line of a Recognised Brand
I recommend at least 12kg (25 pound) breaking strain line if you are targeting the catfish. If specifically targeting the Giant Mekongs at Bo Sang then you should really go for 14kg (30 pounds) as a minimum. Of course, the stronger the line, the thicker it is. Make sure that your reel can hold at least 150m of 0.40mm line (14kg line is normally 0.40mm).
Many people actually prefer to bring in fishing line from “back home” because they find the line here to be unreliable. I haven’t found this, but then I do avoid buying the line from a brand that I have never heard of and is sat gathering dust in the tackle shops. I’m guessing that long-term storage of line in this heat is not a good thing…
I have always found this “Okawa Astro” brand to be reliable, and it seems to be a line that the shops sell a lot of, so there is high turnover.
These are used to wrap a ball of bait (groundbait) around before each cast. This tennis ball sized bait ball then acts as the casting weight and provides a chunk of groundbait exactly where you want it – next to your hook!
In the UK this method of fishing is called “the method”. Here in Chiang Mai it could equally be called “the method” since it is by far the most common fishing method that you will see at the many lakes; except, of course, where people are targeting predators.
The feeders shown here are the most common types:
- A feeder with a heavy central weight. Use them if you need to in order to make your casting distance, but I find I get far fewer “takes” with a weighted feeder. I never use them.
- An in-line spiral feeder. Ideal for suspending beneath a float, as shown here, but not ideal for bottom feeding rigs since they are fixed in position and don’t allow line to fun free when a fish takes your bait.
- Standard “cage” feeder. This is really all you need; they can be used both within a float rig and when fishing on the bottom, as shown here.
To use these you put your line through a wire loop on which each one of the beads is stringed and then pull the bead off the wire and on to your line. They are great for holding a float in place, or fixing a feeder in position, should you wish to do so. They have the advantage of being easily moved up and down the line without damaging it, but they are a one shot affair – once taken off the line you can’t reuse them.
An alternative is to tie your own in-line stopper knot; see here.
Small plastic beads used to protect knots where feeders or floats would otherwise push up against them. They are available in Chiang Mai as rainbow colour assortments, but for the life of me I cannot see why we would choose to use brightly coloured beads in our rigs. I stick to green or black, but up to you…
Hook sizes that I am familiar with are sized such that the bigger the number, the smaller the hook. As with many things, the opposite is true in Thailand… The picture below shows hooks of common sizes that I keep in my tackle box. The coins are in the picture for scale; they are 1 Baht coins.
For catfish fishing I mostly use sizes 13 and 14, but I know others who use hooks both bigger and smaller than these. Your choice of bait, its size, and how you choose to present it will have a big influence on hook choice. Bread is the common bait for catfish; ways of using it are shown here.
Hooks that you buy in thailand are mostly of the barbed variety. If fish care is more important to you than landing every fish that you hook then you should consider flattening the barb with pliers, effectively creating a barbless hook. If you are skilled at “playing” your fish and maintaining line tension you will lose very few due to this change.
Long-Nosed Pliers and a Discorger
These are essential items if you are going to easily remove the hook once your fish is landed. In general the pliers should be all that you need (or forceps that you can buy from the tackle shops). Either will allow you to firmly grip the bend of the hook and so easily push it free (especially if you are using barbless hooks).
The main advantage to forceps is that they can be locked into position, making it easier to wriggle deeper set hooks free. Where hooks are so deep that you cannot get to it with pliers or forceps a discorger can be used, since it slides down the line and can then be used to push out the hook – even if you can’t see it.
Landing Net and Unhooking Mat
You will see many locals fishing without a landing net. I choose to always take one and use it rather than dragging fish up from the water and have them flapping on a dry gravelly bank! It means that by default they are in a wet net, and I always then place this down on my pre-wetted towel, before unhooking.
The wetted towel is my low-tech unhooking mat, but it works just fine – not so good for household use afterwards though… I have never seen unhooking mats for sale in thailand, but I urge you to use something (I used old curtains for a long time). This sets a good example of appropriate fish care and may, in time, change the behaviour of locals (who have often never even seen this). Do your bit for the fish…