What size is the largest freshwater fish ever caught on a fly? Now I happen to know this as a new record has just been set by an intrepid Brit, but in the spirit of being a know-all I quizzed the office and the Guides. To start off a big Pacific salmon variant in Canada or Alaska got the nod. Then someone proposed that Asian salmonid, the taimen. Mmmmmm most people thought that is a good call. But how about a giant catfish from one of those legendary Spanish rivers? Without reverting to Google nobody really had a clear idea which of the two grew bigger but in the end a catfish at around the 150-200 pound mark got the thumbs up.
Richard Hart with his guide and record fish
Well, actually thumbs down all round. The record caught last week now stands at a staggering 415lbs and the fish is an arapaima. Now I can't pretend to having ever heard ofArapaima gigas that lives in the remote jungle rivers of Guyana and Brazil. It is probably the world's largest freshwater fish which unusually for a fish has to surface to breathe, an adaptation it has acquired over millions of years of evolution to cope with the hypoxic or low oxygen levels of the Amazon floodplain.
These huge beasts, that can grow up to 15ft in length, haven't had a great time in the past century or so. Despite their size they don't seem very fearsome but having to surface every 5-15 minutes for air made them easy prey for spear fishermen who found a ready market for the boneless, nutritious steaks for which they became valued. Today the commercial fishing that remains is a fairly brutal affair but is confined to special areas for local consumption only with some arapaima farmed in river cages.
However, I am pleased to say the same fate has not befallen our record fish though all-in-all catching it and confirming the record does seem something of a palaver. To start with the angler, Richard Hart, a 45 year old auctioneer who lives in Orlando didn't exactly come upon this record by chance. He already holds or has previously set 50 IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) records and had been tracking down a monster arapaima for a month in the remoter regions of Guyana before he came across this one.
In a 20-foot dugout canoe, accompanied by three native guides Richard was geared up for a fight. His outfit? A 16wt Sage more normally used for sailfish, matched with a Tibor Billy Pate tarpon reel and a 100lb mono tippet. And the fly? A modest 7 inch big-game streamer with peacock bass colours that goes under the delightful name of the Chuck-N-Duck. I guess the moniker tells a story all of its own.
"I saw the fish come up for air, which is the way you fish them, and then I threw the fly and he sucked it in. It was an enormous fight." reported Richard, in what sounds fairly typical British understatement.
However to claim the record the fish must be weighed, in this case alive because the Government requires all catch-and-release for sport fishing, on certified scales. How do you do this in a primitive canoe? Well, by using a pulley, a makeshift sling and a heavy rope over a conveniently located tree. And the result 415lbs 8oz, 13ft 5 inches in length and 7 feet in girth.
Richard says he is going back next year to better his record. Somehow I think that might be a tough call; the biggest arapaima ever recorded is 440lbs but then again the Amazon basin is a mighty big place.
Deans Court (River Allen)
Just two this week to tempt the fishing buds, which includes our new beat on the River Allen.
2-for-1 on our teaching lake at The Mill which is stuffed with fish. Sunday August 23rd. £125 for two. Save £125.
Book on-line or call 01264 781988
Himalayan Balsam: the Asian invader
I find it hard to hate Himalayan Balsam; that heady sweet scent that hangs over the river bank on a still summer evening is both exotic and unexpected. I know it is a menace, but those pink/purple flowers are beautiful, so unlike anything native.
But it is an insidious guest, quick to grow and fast spreading. Like our native nettles it has that ability to crowd out everything else, creating the plant equivalent of scorched earth. Look down amongst the stems and all you will see is bare soil.
I think it is fair to say that I approached July with a certain amount of trepidation as the dry spell looked to continue and everyone assumed that the weed after the June cut wouldn't grow much. Happily on both counts I was wrong. Though the fish were resolutely picky some days, the rivers looked great and held up all month long.
The fates have decreed that the July winner, like that of June, was fishing at Compton Chamberlayne on the River Nadder. This time it is Graham Nicholls who has a choice: a signed copy of Life of a Chalkstream in paperback or a Union fly box. I will not be offended if you choose the latter. The end of season draw is for a wonderful Hardy Cascapedia reel.
A trio of questions to either confound you or confirm your brilliance. Answers as the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1) What does a herpetologist study?
2) What is the biggest ever fish caught on rod and reel?
3) Who lives in a holt?
Where are the British youth?
I did hope to bring you news of how the British or any of the home nation teams were doing in the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships that are taking place in Vail, Colorado, USA this week.
I scanned down the list of teams to see how we are doing: Canada, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, USA ...... it is not that we are doing badly it is simply that we are not there at all.
In the middle of what is National Fishing Month wouldn't it have been the coolest thing to have sent a team out to participate? It is not as if the competition is new; this is the 14th year. I don't know the whys and wherefores ofFIPS-Mouche who run both this and the World Championship (by the way in the USA in 2016) but maybe someone out there knows why we don't have a team.