Bigger than a Spielberg Monster!
A fish of ginormous proportions rolled in front of me to reveal a body as wide as an oil drum. It was an arapaima, an Amazonian species, but I wasn’t in the jungle instead Thailand, the land of smiles. The year round warm temperatures found favour with both the fish and I, but not the small tilapia that I had placed in the monster’s lair for bait. This was the stuff of nightmares, ended when the 8-foot long beast inhaled its lunch and my alarm sung out across the surrounding paddy fields. I now had my chance to hook the largest freshwater fish I had ever seen let alone try to catch. The braided mainline and sharp hook gave me a fighting chance to penetrate the bony and small, for the size of fish, mouth and engage the bail arm with trepidation because in a split second I would know the outcome. My answer came with a wall of silver scales the size of tea saucers as it breached and a tidal wave that pushed the floating vegetation that had been its cover for the attack back towards the bank. I held on in awe relying solely on the tackle’s quality because the dinosaur needed to make the first move, deeper under cover and possible snags or open water and a fighting chance for me. The dice was rolled and it went right away from danger.
Now I would like to say I had time to smile but I was in the angling equivalent of a rodeo and I just had to hold on, endure the power and hope for the best. After the initial surface display it stayed deep but when its tether could not be snapped the true assault on smashing my dream began – the fish wanted to go aerial! I watched in horror as the arapaima rose countless times in the water the braid’s angle increasing. Without action take off would be achieved, leading to either a hook pull or 80lb braid snapping like cotton as it gained some slack before whiplashing it taut, I had no option but to bow to the king.
By lowering the rod and giving line I could change the trajectory and the missile still reached the air but breached, still staying in in contact with the water before diving again. An incredible sight to behold that left you wondering if a fish of such proportions could be banked – a question that only intensified in the next final deadly stage of the battle. Tail and head slaps that sprung the rod back straight and tried to catapult the hook from the mouth. On a dozen occasions I was convinced that the arapaima had been lost as never at any stage of the fight did I feel in control or confident of a winning outcome. No wonder many anglers declare after an arapaima fight ‘never again’! I could do nothing but rely on fate and gillie Steve who slipped into the margins with the net.
I could now clearly see what was on offer and it was magnificent, a fish like no other. Steve couldn’t end my panic until the arapaima’s energy was fully spent, a total of 45 minutes and I was convinced the hook would pull but today was my day and I punched the air as he closed the mesh around a monster, its tail still poking out by a long way. At least 150 kilos but so big weighing it wouldn’t be possible. I cared not for the exact number, just a moment with a fish that looked more at home in a Spielberg movie.
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