Friday, November 12, 2010

Angling in the Shadows of the Sky Train

When one thinks of world class angling destinations that are located in major urban centres Calgary would probably top most lists. The Bow River is full of big browns and big rainbows and lots of them. It is a trophy trout fishery that has been set up for success by a combination of factors including weers, stocking and effluent. These factors have created a highly productive fishery that is known throughout the world for it's amazing ability to produce huge fish. In the evening on a week day in June the banks begin to line up with anglers who have left the office and want to sneak a few hours in before heading home. Nice way to wrap up a day and I've always been warmed by the thought of this.

When I compare it to my early years in Toronto fishing for ??? in the Don River I am somewhat envious, although I wouldn't trade my years growing up there for was a great city to grow up in. But there's another city that I should mention as an urban angling centre and I have witnessed it's passionate anglers use many different tools to bring in the catch, some crude and some really crude, but hey angling in a major urban centre should serve up some variety.

The city is Bangkok and the body of water Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the Chao Phraya River). This snakes through this city of about 10 million, effectively cutting it in half between the old city, Thonburi and the new urban centre Bangkok. The old city Thonburi is still a city with modern high rises etc. but much of it still exists on a network of canal or khlongs that act as waterways for transport etc.. The new city used to be a series of these canals that branch off the Chao Phraya but are now covered by concrete in order to accommodate the ever increasing traffic volume.

As you travel through Bangkok it is best to use a combination of travel forms if you want to effectively disect the city and avoid epic traffic jams. One way, and my favourite is the river taxi. As you travel by river you see how many people are out angling and the word(s) for fishing is tok phlaa. Fishing is a universal language and I have communicated with very few Thai and English words with many Bangkok fisherman over the years and their zest for the sport is very much there. The river holds various catfish and in front of the riverside temples there are 'sacred' fish that are fed pellets and bread by the river commuters wishing to honour the Buddhist temples. The fish are considered members of the temple and there are hords of them at one river taxi station, with some in the 8 pound class.

That's what the guy in the top photo is likely casting for with his high end spinning rod. Consdierably unethical due to the fish's status, he innocently sits far away from the pier of the temple fish but that rod can cast about 200 feet just enough to get his hook into the fishy water. Unethical maybe but I can't blame the guy, there's probably about 5000 of these fish gorging on bread and pellets and getting fat doing so.

For 14 baht or about 40 cents the river taxi will get you across the city with stops throughout it's course. The air is fresher, the scenery interesting and the traffic non-existent although the river is full of activity. The river taxi links up with the Sky Train station which is the best way to access much of the inner city. It's a fully modern transport service complete with lcd ad screens and air con. It was at this commuter junction where I stopped to wathc this angler (below) working s 'scum line' in the flooded floors of the sky train entrance.

Armed with a net (like a butterfly net), this guy was clearly not your catch and release type....he was going for dinner or lunch or whatever he could muster up out of the murky flood water. I thought his choice of spots was a little odd but with nothing more than a net the swollen waters of the rivers main stem would have proved too much, so this backwater was probably his best option. I didn't see him land anything but he was keen (likely due to hunger) and if I had stayed long enough I'm sure something would have happened....Like I would have broke down and gave him some baht so he could go buy something to eat because his method looked bad I was pretty damn sure that the net was going to keep coming back up filled with debris and no fish. This is when even a bad day of fishing isn't better than a good day of work.