I arrived late Friday afternoon when the sun had almost disappeared behind the trees. The weather was cool(relatively speaking) and the water was calm. Perfect conditions for sitting out on the old abandoned pier and casting a line out. There were a few other people fishing who had arrived before myself but no one seemed to be having any luck. No worries, that is why they call it fishing and not catching. I sat down in my chair and began setting up my rods. Standard sliding sinker with a two foot leader, tonight’s target was catfish. I had previously been fishing pandan flavored bread baits and only managed a few small carp the week before. Now was the real hunt, the walking catfish, known locally as pla dook. This is quite possibly the most common fish on the dinner table in the country.
The bait was on and the lines were out, now began the waiting game. The sun had finally vanished and the only light was coming from the few ships moored just up the river from where I was fishing. Minutes turned into hours without a single nibble then it happened. The rod tip started twitching in the unmistakable fashion that only comes with that of a fish sampling the offering. Wait, wait…I told myself. Don’t get impatient. There is always the urge to set the hook and risk losing the chance. Tap, tap, tap then all of a sudden the line moved and there was a steady pull. That was it, I set the hook and there was a fish on. I started reeling it in and got it to the surface when I realized what I had assumed all along. The fish was a tiny Chao Phraya catfish. Not exactly what I had been after but a fish no less. Now I could go home with my head held high that I hadn’t been skunked.
As the evening rolled on, I managed to catch two more small catfish but nothing even worth eating had i been fishing for dinner. I decided it was time to pack it in for the night. It was getting late and I had run out of bait to use. As I was packing up the group of fisherman next to me began to grow excited. Then I heard the buzzing sound of line being taking out. Fish on!! I looked over to see a man struggling with a severely bent rod and a smile on his face. This is the reason we fish. There is no better felling than hooking into a monster.
The struggle ensued for another 15 minutes or so until the beast finally began to tire and show itself out of the dark murky depths. One of the men shouted, “pla dook!”
It was huge. The only question now was how to bring it over the railing without losing it. There was no net in sight and the only option was to risk lifting it by hand. There was some discussion and then it was decided. As the group worked together and began hauling it in my biggest fear was realized. The sound was horrible. With a quick flap of its mighty tail the fish snapped the line and escaped back into the darkness to live another day. There were groans of despair from all those watching. That was the end of the struggle and the fish had won.
These things are all part of fishing and the reason many of us keep coming back to enjoy the sport day in and day out, in search of the one that got away.