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Fly Fishing in Thailand - an Introduction
Capt. Max Mackenzie Skues
- Fly Fish Thailand IGFA Certified Guide -

  Thailand offers a plethora of unique fly fishing opportunities & experiences. Many waters await discovery, while recognized venues provide exceptional fly fishing in remote, scenic & peaceful environments. Primary fly fishing target species include Barramundi, Giant Snakehead, Red Tail Catfish, Striped Catfish, Alligator Gar, Arapaima, Striped Peacock Bass, Pacu, Black Pacu, Featherback and Jungle Perch. Thailand currently holds 56 IGFA World Records - with many record breaking fish caught but not claimed.

A typical fishing situation in Europe & America. Crowded waters, restricted permits, waiting lists to join syndicates or clubs and stress. Overfishing and declining fish stocks. All at high cost to the angler and the environment.
A typical start to a days jungle fly fishing in Thailand. A private traditional Thai fishing boat awaits the angler, boatman and guide. If there are 2 anglers fishing, an additional boat and boatman is hired. Fly fishing provides a vital income for local boatmen and their families; promoting environmental awareness through catch & release policies to preserve fish stocks.
A remote jungle destination, the anglers paradise Khao Laem Dam lies deep into the jungle. Famed for it’s record breaking Giant Snakehead and Jungle Perch. Fly fishing here has minimal impact upon the environment whilst bringing much needed revenue into the local economy.

  An agreeable climate, abundant multispecies fish stocks, value for money and a multitude of high quality fly fishing destinations allow for yearround fly fishing in Thailand. The fly fishing beginner and the world travelled, trophy hunter are always surprised and delighted with the fly fishing opportunities enjoyed in Thailand. Fly fishing is available in ponds, lakes, vast jungle reservoirs and rivers, all at a modest cost and open for 365 days a year (366 days for 2008!) Unlike migratory salmonoids - Thai fish are caught here every day and their presence is not reliant upon rainfall and / or water height.

  Thailand caters for visiting anglers with a variety of budgets. Six of the worlds top 100 hotels are located in Bangkok, three of which have been voted “Worlds Best Hotel”. Some of the best fly fishing in Thailand (if not in the world) is within a short 45 minute drive from Bangkok. Three current IGFA World Records were taken within this area.

For anglers seeking the ultimate Thai fly fishing & hospitality, a stay at Fly Fish Thailand’s luxury Bangkok Villa is recommended. Where Everything for the visiting angler is provided. Their Package Deals offer exceptional fishing & value for money.

  Bangkok is the ideal fishing base for single or multi-day fly fishing excursions. Returning to Bangkok between fishing trips to enjoy this vibrant city’s unrivaled world class exciting, exotic night life adds to this unique fishing holiday destination. Fly fishing can be physically and mentally tiring, especially when fighting numerous trophy fish throughout the day. By dividing the fishing into manageable one or multi-day day excursions, the rest days in Bangkok (with the aid of a Thai massage) are both restorative and refreshing.

  Why Fly Fish in Thailand

  Increasing worldwide fishing pressures upon diminishing migratory salmonoid stocks; coupled with ever greater fly fishing demand from an expanding number of fly fishermen creates an impossible situation. The fly fishing angler is quick to condemn other activities which may affect the quality of fishing, yet slow to take responsibility for his / her own impact upon migratory fish stocks.

  High quality freshwater game fishing is available worldwide. By choosing a vacation destination, other than traditional migratory salmonoid destinations; the angler expands his / her fishing horizons and engages with new and exciting quarry species. This informed decision relieves excessive angling pressure upon migratory salmonoids. Thailand is the first choice fly fishing vacation for the discerning fly fishing traveller.

  Fly Fish Thailand - Fly Fish the World!

  Stable water conditions, an abundance of food and a tropical climate facilitate the successful introduction and propagation of numerous game fish from Australia to the Amazon. This makes Thailand the world’s top multi-species fly fishing destination.

At one venue there are

  • Arapaima (Pirarucu) to over 300 pounds (136 Kg)
  • Amazonian Red Tail Catfish over 100 pounds (45 Kg).
  • Red Tail Catfish, Alligator Gar and Black Pacu up to 40 pounds (18 Kg).
  • Surubi Catfish, Arawana, Pacu and Barramundi reach 20 pounds (9 Kg).
  • Striped Peacock Bass are around the 7 to 8 pound (3 Kg) mark.

  This venue is reserved only for fly fishing and lure fishing. The relatively high cost of fishing here ensures only light fishing pressure. The fly fisherman enjoys the highest success rate because few flies are presented to the fish. All of these fish will enthusiastically take the fly.

Dave Williams with his first fly caught Barramundi. A difficult fishing day delivered a first class specimen weighing in at 6 lbs.

Read his story about this fly fishing trip in Thailand at:


  Many fly fishers associate Barramundi only with Australia. Barramundi, however, thrive in Thailand within the Chachoengsao district. 3 IGFA world class records have come from this area - only a 45 minute drive from Bangkok. This has to be the worlds most productive fly fishing venue for Barramundi. Such is the confidence in this location, the two premier Thailand Fishing Guides, Fly Fish Thailand www.flyfishthailand.com and Fish Thailand www.fishthailand.co.uk offer customers a 50% refund if they fail to catch a Barramundi at this venue !

Jungle Perch

  Jungle fly fishing presents the angler with two primary native species. The Giant Snakehead, from 9 to 33 pounds (4 to 15 kg) and the Jungle Perch 4.5 to 11 pounds (2 - 5 kg). This quarry is found in vast man made reservoirs deep inside the Thai jungle and provide an unforgettable fly fishing experience. The deeper into the jungle one ventures - the better the fly fishing.

  Fly fishing in the rivers of Thailand is almost unheard of. In association with Eddie Mounce (ace bait and lure Guide www.fishthailand.co.uk), amazing locations are being discovered almost weekly. The current target river species is the Striped Catfish, recently found at a location near Bangkok, where they were seen rolling and feeding in the topwater. River confluences form natural pools which hold an array of species providing an idyllic fly fishing venue.

  Some Techniques & Tackle

  Fly fishing techniques employed in Thailand are the same as those used in Europe and America. For example, boat fly fishing for Giant Snakehead in a jungle reservoir is conducted in the same manner as fly fishing for salmon in a Hebridean Loch. The boatman maneuvers the boat parallel to the shoreline and islands whilst the angler casts to cover fish laying close to the shore adjacent to rock outcrops and similar cover.

  Red Tail Catfish and Arapaima are caught both by stalking the margins or prospecting the water at different depths using different retrieves. An excited flurry of baitfish on the water surface indicates a feeding predator and is always worth a cast.

  Jungle Perch both shoal and hunt in packs. The shoals can be located near underwater reefs and islands. Whilst the hunting packs are stalked in a boat. Jungle perch will herd the prey fish into a tight shoal and then attack. The attacks are visible on the surface and a fly presented in the attack area results in a vicious take.

  Barramundi are frequently seen rolling just subsurface and will often move to and take the fly presented just sub-surface. Sometimes, the Barramundi will sulk on the bottom and need to be winkled out with a sinking line and weighted fly.

A selection of rods and reels to cover a variety of fly fishing situations in Thailand.

Top: Sage 9 ft 9 wt Xi2 rod matched with a Tibor Riptide QC Reel.

Middle & Bottom: Pair Sage 9 ft 13 wt Xi2 rods matched with Tibor Gulfstream QC Reels. Note the cork fighting grips for big species.

  A 9 foot 9 weight rod will cover barramundi, jungle perch, pacu, striped peacock and the smaller giant snakehead and red tail catfish. However, when the arapaima, large catfish and alligator gar are the target species an 11 weight or heavier rod is essential. In all instances the rod should be capable of casting large, heavy flies - 1/0 to 3/0. Saltwater rods have the best action for these situations. Reels must be strong and capable of holding a minimum of 200 yards of 30 lb. dacron backing.

A small selection of useful flies for fly fishing in Thailand.

From top left Chartreuse Dilg Slider
Sato’s Blueback Herring
Red Black & Yellow Big Eye Clouser
White Zonker Clouser
Puglisi Articulated Black Popper
Pink Thing
Black & Yellow Popper
White Zonker

  Tropical fly lines are mandatory. A floater, intermediate or intermediate sink tip and sinker will cover all fishing situations. Your fly fishing guide will be able to advise you. It is important to note that fly fishing tackle is NOT available in Thailand. Ensure that your fly fishing guide carries and supplies stocks of leaders, flies, backing, fly lines, wire trace & mono. The most reliable brand of fly line and leaders for fishing in Thailand is RIO.

  Leaders & Flies

  Fish in Thailand are not leader shy, so leaders of about 7 to 9 feet long are suitable. Tapered braided leader butts are not suitable, they lack the suppleness required to turn over a large fly, they also tend to become somewhat soft in the hot climate. By far, the best material to construct leaders is RIO Hard Saltwater Mono.

  Flies fall into two categories - attractor lures and baitfish imitations. The common factor is they are (except poppers) large - 1/0 to 3/0. A collection of poppers, zonkers, frog nobblers, sliders, clousers and tubes will cover a variety of situations. However, your fly fishing guide will supply a wide selection of flies suitable for the different species and venues.

  Finding Fly Fishing in Thailand

  Fly fishing is not recognized in Thailand, there are no fly fishing shops to give advice or assistance. Every taxi driver in Bangkok will promise to take you to a “secret, special or big fish” venue. You will invariably be profoundly disappointed and lose a substantial amount of money. The only way to secure a successful and enjoyable fly fishing vacation in Thailand is to engage a professional, certified fly fishing guide.

  Selecting a Fly Fishing Guide in Thailand - 10 Hot Tips

  The list below reflects real incidents and situations which have occurred and / or are still occurring in Thailand.

  The list below reflects real incidents and situations which have occurred and / or are still occurring in Thailand.

  1. Ensure the fly fishing guide you engage is a dedicated fly fishing guide and not a general bait fishing guide.

  2. Look for an IGFA Certified Guide www.igfa.org/cap.asp scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the search facility.

  3. Check your fly fishing guides credentials and professional affiliations with the cited organization. IGFA lists on it’s website certified guides and official weigh stations.

  4. Avoid guides who operate on a “fishing group” basis. The maximum number of fly fishing clients who can be correctly guided at any one time is 2. If not careful, you can find yourself crammed into a mini-van along with 6 inexperienced tourists out for a fun fishing day.

  5. Make sure your potential guide is resident in Thailand. Avoid the “escorted tour leader”. You pay for your vacation and his!

  6. Email is inexpensive and easy - so contact your potential fly fishing guide directly - and ask him direct questions. Speak to him on the phone, find out if you like the sound of him. This could save you both money and a disappointing vacation.

  7. Be sure your fly fishing guide can supply you with quality branded fly lines, leaders, leader materials and flies.

  8. Beware of cut-price or cheap prices. Remember you get only what you pay for ! Book your vacation early ensuring you get the vacation dates you want.

  9. Ask your guide about accommodation. Are you merely booked into a hotel and dumped there after a day’s fishing ? If staying in a guides lodge / villa ask what amenities are available - is there a rod room where you can make up leaders, spool fly line and tie some flies. Check if your room is single or double occupancy, whilst in the lodge / villa and when traveling upcountry.

  10. Be careful to determine that it is the guide you are talking to and see in his information packs who actually goes fishing with you. Beware of the guide who “fronts” an operation and sends you fishing with a hired hand.

  Getting to Thailand

  Flights from Europe and USA to Thailand are quite cheap. A direct flight round trip from London can be found for around 500. FinnAir have started a new direct service. Flights from New York are about $1000. A search of the internet flight booking services will reveal an accurate figure. Remember - the earlier you book, the cheaper the flight.

  Big Fish... More to follow for each individual species.


Yours Aye Max
Contact me at


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