The Ultimate Jungle Fishing Adventure

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Monday, January 28, 2008

How it started.... The beginning of Jungle Ulua Fishing Adventures

Wake waves peel off the GT's dorsal fin.  Their pectoral fins spread out horizontal, like a jet fighter for maximum accuracy at the moment of lure impact.  Then it is game on!  Their heads thrash wildly a few seconds, when the fish realizes it is hooked.   Your reel screams, as one of the strongest game fish in the world stripes line with lighting speed.  And best of all your on a secluded beach in the middle of a wild Jungle!  These are the moments we live for.  'Fools missions' are what my best friend Michael Owen, and I called our fishing trips for years.  We called them this because of the missions we would go on in search of the ultimate grounds for that would give us that feeling described above time after time. Michael, 20 years senior to me, instigates these trips.  We met several years ago and discovered we had a common obsession with fishing.  We are two guys from separate continents, who meet yearly in a foreign land that constantly tests ones will.  Our fishing trips are more than a hobby to us.  We enjoy bagging all kinds of game fish in any number of ways, but spinning from the reef for Gaint Trevally is what we seem to have specialized experience with.  In the beginning we went on a few 'easy expeditions' together.  I proved that I could keep up with Michael's enthusiasm and endurance.  And he was stoked to have a strong willing porter and friend...
After years of fishing the remote Jungle location we finally found the best grounds we have come across in Indonesia!  (Current camp site of Jungle Ulua Fishing Adventures)  It took place in the summer of 2005.  Without exception it too started from a "fools mission....."

Every year around February the e-mails start heating up between me and Michael as fishing and surfing season get closer.  I write "Where are we going this year's season?" The reply "I don't know where, but I know we got a date on the reef with a GT."  That is music to my ears.  I love looking forward to another trip out on the reef.  It would take me through my teaching day in a half dream like daze.  I was a P.E. teacher. There was plenty of time to day dream about fishing while the kids buzzed around me.  School let out for summer and I was running out the door. Excitement was bubbling out of me, like a kid heading off to Disneyland.  I couldn't wait to start fishing.  Our trip in 2005, when we found Jungle Ulua Fishing Adventures prime grounds, started in June. 

I met Michael.  We decided to start the season at our most familiar fishing grounds.  One or both of us have been fishing these grounds for 25 years.  That doesn't mean we are knowledgeable about the entire potential this place holds for fishing.  The reason for this is location.  See, these grounds are located 12 hours drive from civilization.  When you reach the grounds there is over 100 miles of beach to explore.  The beach is white pebble sand that feels like your walking in powder snow.  The interior is a full blown South East Asian Jungle.  25 years has let us scratch the surface of this places full potential.  Mainly do to the harshness of the location.  Fools missions to find fish are part of the package in this place.  June 2005 was no exception...

The local driver was waiting outside our hotel in Bali at 9p.m.  Although we had done this 12 hour drive many times before, we still dreaded every bit of it.  Our destination was once again fishing command and control.  At about 2am when we arrived at the ferry crossing that takes us to the Island we fish on. After a peaceful forty five minutes on the ferry the drive takes 2 more hours and then a fast speed boat ride to base camp.  Some time between 7 and 9am we arrived at fishing command and control.  This was our base camp while we surfed and fish.

Again, Fishing was great this trip.  Most of these trips were to our first spot only 40 minutes away.  After 4 days of that we needed a change of plans.  Our legs and shoulders were shot from hauling fish and walking. We talked with the dingy captain to see if the little outboard motor had been fixed.  He said yes.  This motor has been at base camp for 25 years.  We knew what fixed meant.  Our muscles liked the sound of a boat ride even though our minds knew the troubles the engine had.  So we planned for a relaxing morning of trolling. 
Like any normal day trolling we started out at 5am sharp.  We loaded up the dingy.  The engine sputtered to life.  It wasn't pretty sounding, but it was running. So off we motored out of the channel and into deep water.  It was a perfect day.  No waves and very light wind.  Some of the best trolling conditions ever for this area.  Usually high winds and waves make trolling in the dingy as foolish as our walks up the beach.  We went out to deep water in hopes of a Spanish Mackerell or Tuna.  This was unsuccessful.  So we told the local captain to go in close.  We wanted to check the reef to see if we could spin for GT.  Motoring close to the reefs edge we realized the potential for the day.  The waves were so small we could access our favorite spots from the boat and spare our legs the walk.  Any fish would be in the boat saving our shoulders.  "Yes"!  Smiles broke out as we thought of the easy fishing that lay ahead.  By boat our favorite spot was only 15 minutes away.  We spent that time tying up 5 oz Luhr Jenson Krokodile spoons to our lines.  The GT around the area love these spoons and we use to use them as our first choice every time.  Just outside the rip current at our destination we slowed down.  The captain watched the surf for a while to be safe.  Then he revved up the motor to position us right on the prime spot to spin.  I was up on the bow, bale arm open, ready for my first throw.  Michael was at the stern in the same position.  What could go wrong now?  We knew fish were there.  It was a perfect day.  Then "bang", "Sputter", "Clunk".  Our faithful engine of 25 years went dead.  Rip Current quickly drifted us out of the prime fishing spot.  It wasn't going to dampen our spirits.  The engine had clunked out before.  Captain would simply fiddle with it again and it was ok.  We were so confident we started fishing while the captain worked on it.  Then out came the hammer like piece of rusty metal.  "That's a first" I thought.  Then it sunk in quickly.  We put our rods down.  We weren't going anywhere in this boat.  The motor was dead.  Now we had a new dilemma.  How would we get this boat to the beach?  There was a strong rip current taking us out to sea.  The speed of the current was fast enough to hold a 5 oz lure horizontal with an extremely slow sink rate.  The waves were small but not completely flat.  Either side of the rip had 3 foot waves breaking.  The boat would be crushed even by a wave that small.  Our only hope of making the beach was going straight into the rip current.  This would keep us out of the surf and in deep channel water.  Onboard was fishing poles, half a bottle of drinking water, gas, rusty metal object for banging, bamboo push pole, and an anchor.  After a few more bangs on the engine it was understood the engine was broken.  We decided to crab line through the rip current.  This is a technique by which you throw the anchor and pull.  Timing and a good arm are a necessity to make this work.  Any delay with a current will at best cause you to stay in the same place.  Other than that the theory is simple.  Throw anchor, catch reef, pull boat closer, quickly pull up anchor, and repeat.  We had about 400 yards to cover in order to reach the beach.  It took us 2 hours crab lining to do this!  That was the end of our day trolling. 

It was not the end of our crisis.  There was still the half bottle of drinking water.  That was quickly drunk after the crab lining work.  High tide made the walk time back to camp double.  Normally a 1 hour walk turned into a 2 hour death march. It was 11am now.  Just as the heat index goes from hot to "damn hot"!  Smiles turned to frowns as we started thinking.  Then just inside the jungle we saw some local fisherman with a camp site set up.  They had a thatched roof for shelter.  The roof was put together from all the jungle fauna lying around.  It was a nice set up and a very beautiful spot to be.  There was fresh fish smoking high above the fire.  The make shift camp for these locals was pushed far enough back in the jungle.  Tucked in the shade the camps heat index stayed in the hot range.  Very nice range as compared to what the beach felt like.  Thirsty and tired seeing this camp still set off Michael's thinking cap.  "Hum" was my only verbal hint that he was thinking of something else than the current crisis.  Knowing him well I knew it was about fishing.  I was too thirsty to worry about future missions.  I ignored him and talked to the local fisherman about a way to get back to base camp.  We had to stay in the jungle.  Being that thirsty on the beach for 2 hours in the heat would have lead to heat exhaustion at the least.  The locals said there was an option.  A jungle trail could take us back to our base camp.  We were wary of the certainty of this advice but had no choice.  Quickly we set out in the direction they pointed.  It took us a short hour to arrive at base camp.  The jungle was refreshingly cool.  The shaded cover from the canopy above kept the direct sunlight down.  Humidity was more, but the heat index remained at hot.  Within minutes of stepping out of the jungle and into base camp the light bulbs went off in Da Hounds mind.  "Cyrus" he said enthusiastically!  "You realize what that trail means to us!"  It means we can set up our own camp at our favorite spot. From there we can explore further into the unknown.  This trail is the new frontier. Still I had water on my mind.  Nothing else mattered.  These thoughts hit me too once I chugged 4 glasses of water.  We had discovered a way to fish a place we had never gone before, and to our knowledge no other Caucasians had seriously fished before.  This crisis turned out to be a blessing.

Plans immediately went into motion to make this camping trip happen.  It was June when we thought of it.  The actual trip into the new frontier happened in October.  We didn't know what to expect, but we had a good idea that it would be great fishing.  We were wrong.  The fishing was epic! 

The back country fishing expedition was planned for 5 days in early October.  Two days were set aside for travel, and three days for fishing.  I left my house on day one.  This time I took the punishing 12 hour drive in my own car.  I was alone and driving so the feeling of helplessness wasn't too overbearing.  If there was a bus coming head on at me I would simply pull on the shoulder to let them pass.  My concept of close for comfort is different from local drivers.  I arrived safe and sound at base camp.  Da Hound was there to meet me as I parked.  We immediately did some inventory to see what we had for the 3 days.  2 tents, 12 large waters in a box, 2 bottles of red wine, 1 box of camembert cheese, dried fruits, Hawaiian tea leaves for cooking fish on the open fire, and the fishing equipment.  Porters were organized to meet us at 5am on day 2.  We were going on this fools mission in style.  Styling for us is easy.  Fish and red wine, and we are smiling. 

Day 2 started out at the crack of dawn.  We walked empty handed with our 3 porters leading the way.  Using the same jungle trail we had found back in June brought smiles to our faces about how this idea spawned its self.  Full of energy we got to take in more of the scenery along the trail.  First we saw spotted deer.  Then it was large cat tracks following big wild boar tracks.  This place was alive.  It felt rejuvenating to be walking again after working for a few months.  We took a few rest stops for the porter's sake.  We didn't need it. The porters did.  They had over 150 pounds of gear on.  Most of it was drinking water.  At the rest stops you would look up to make out the tops of trees towering above you like sky scrapers.  The trunks on these could easily make a Polynesian style sailing outrigger canoe.  That is what fascinated me.  I hadn't ever seen trees this big with trunks that straight.  In Hawaii they were cut down years ago.  This revelation proved to me just how fortunate we were.  After an hour we arrived at the same spot we broke down in the boat.

It was previously our favorite spot to fish.  The plan was to get there before the high tide started to come, but we were a little late.  The water was filling in.  It stopped me, but it didn't stop Michael.  What does age mean!  This guy is living proof of it.  Off he went to give this spot a fish.  Water was moving fast and water was up to Michael's neck while casting.  Once again on his first cast it happened.  A large GT zeroed in and smashed his spoon. The spoon flew out of the water from the impact.  The hook missed the fish.  He made a few more attempts at casting.  There were a few more chases but no hook-ups.  Finally the water was too deep.   His desire to continue was overcome. Da Hound struggled to get back to the beach from the reef platform he was using while casting. 
I sat happily in the shade with a smug smile on my face.  Chuckling inside, I knew the feeling my friend was going through.  He missed the fish and now had to face a strong current.  We share these moments of humor between us often.  Every trip it seems one of us ends up floundering in hip to head high water.  Hands raised above the head to keep the reel dry.  Plus there is vigorous water treading with heavy cleated shoes on to keep your head up.  This is floundering at its best.  Gives us a laugh but deep down we know it is serious.  Both of us are very experienced water men, and know the signs when humor stops and action is needed.  It was a good omen, and a fun start to the day.  It was still only 6:30 am.
As our porters packed up our gear and started to walk into the new frontier, we thought.  "Is leaving this perfect spot that has produced so many large fish a good idea?"  "Maybe we should stay here and camp instead?"  "Let's give it a try and see what happens."  "We can always come back if we don't find something better."  Back into the jungle and onto the trail that ran parallel to the beach now.  It was easy walking.  We were happy to be exploring, but our hopes were not too high.  Jungle Jim, our good mate, was the only report of fishing potential around the area we were heading.  He gave an excellent report, but we still weren't sure.  We broke into ear to ear grins as we came upon the fishing grounds.  Immediately in front of us was a quarter mile of prime fishing area.  The reef was broken down in many areas.  This caused many rip currents and channels to appear.  Still we kept our excitement to a dull roar as we searched for a camp ground.  In the search we walked right past what would become the best fishing spot I have ever fished.  I am sure it was the best spot Da Hound has ever fished in the last 10 years at least.  We later dubbed it "Hounds Corner".  We didn't know it was a spot at the time because the tide wasn't high yet.  Hounds Corner was a high tide spot.  We kept hiking for about 500 more meters.  Around the next bend in the beach was our camp site.  It was very beautiful. Small rock islands dotted the reef line about 1000 yards off shore.  The entire stretch from those islands to the beach was turbulent rip currents in relatively shallow water.  The nearest people were some lobster fisherman half a mile down the beach.  We were alone.  World class Gaint Trevally grounds was the view!  We set up camp and went down to try our luck. 

It took merely a few minutes, and I had our lunch.  It was a 5 pound Blue Trevally.  I threw my lure a second time.  Crank, Crank, Bang!  Another Blue was on and weighed about 10lbs.  On 12 pound test with a light rod it was a blast. Plus it was right in-front of camp.  No walking anywhere for me.  This was gentleman's fishing in my book.  I came in for lunch.  The fishing options were so vast me and Michael lost track of each other.  Like usual he turned out to be the kid and walked further than me.  I was cooking our lunch when I saw him returning.  He was about 400 yards up the beach.  His right hand was hauling something.  I knew what it was.  So I quickly ran up to camp and grabbed my rod.  Didn't want to greet him empty handed.  I took one cast out into the water where I was standing and Bang!  Hook up again.  This time a 15 pound Blue on 12 pound test.  Right as I landed my fish Da Hound strolled up to me and gave me a high five.  He looked like my 3 year old after tasting chocolate for the first time.  Ear to ear smile peeled across both our faces.  It was pushing 11am now and we had a dozens hook-ups, and fish to talk about.  I just landed dinner with my Blue.  There stood my best friend with a 60lb GT at our feet.  We took our pictures and went for lunch.  "What do we do with this fish?"  We thought at lunch.  We had no cooler and not enough appetite to eat that much fish.  We solved our problem.  For 10 dollars cash on delivery we had porters take it back to base camp 2 hours away.  Attached was a note saying "pay the man 10 dollars".  "We are safe, liven it up at Hounds Corner sipping our wine" "Enjoy the Sashimi."  It was bliss that evening.  Stomachs stuffed with fish, cheese, and wine we climbed into our hard ground, hot, and humid tents and tried to doze off.  The lack of sleep didn't matter to us.  We were in our element.  It's what we live for.  Hounds Corner was no longer virgin after Michael's fish there today.  However, the potential of the place was not fully realized until day 3.

Muscles aches told me to get up and stretch the next morning.  The hard jungle ground under my tent cover didn't quite qualify as a therapeutic mattress.  Nothing I wasn't accustomed to and quickly stretched out the stiffness.  When Michael climbed out of his tent bent over at the waist from back pain.  I was humored to see him finally look like a man older than me for a second.  That did not last long.  His morning stretching routine was done with his fishing rod directly in front of camp.  10 minutes out of bed and there he was fishing.  First throw a massive fish chased his lure nearly to the reef shelf he was standing on just off the sand.  2 follow up cast didn't bring the fish back so he turned around and walked the 15 yards back up the sand to camp. "Nice way to warm up" I said.  Drinking some hot chocolate, we talked about the plan for the day.  It was decided to go back up to "Hounds Corner" at high tide.  We were so happy that there was now a high tide spot to fish among these grounds.  With the plan decided we still had 4 hours to burn while waiting for the tide to push in. 
I spent most of the time fixing up the campsite and resting.  Da Hound of course spent it fishing directly in front of the campsite.  The water was calm because the tide hadn't come in yet.  This made the fishing action a little slow.  The only major action was a large hook-up.  We don't know what it was but it was big.  The fish didn't act like a GT.  It acted like a large Maries Sea Perch.  We like to call them Lobster Fish.  They take your lure and head straight back to there hole in the reef.  The only way to stop these fish is tighten your drag as much as possible.  If you can do this in time and the fish isn't too big there is a chance of landing one.  This one caught Micheal by surprise and didn't think twice about going back to its reef hideout.  After trying every technique he could think of to coax the fish out of the hole he broke the line and gave up.  No worry, it was time to start the real fishing up at the "Corner" anyway.    

I took the camera with me just in case.  Too bad the battery was dying fast because I could have gotten much more footage.  Hounds Corner was world class.  We were fishing at the confluence of a strong cross current turning into a rip current.  Large GT were every where!  I hooked the first one.  Then Da Hound went 4 cast for 4 fish.  That was a first for him and this guy has been fishing around South East Asia a long time.  He was using a flat sided spoon about 5 oz.  During that 4 for 4 episode the largest of those fish was about 60lbs and the smallest about 30lbs.  Then there was a 2 cast break with only chases.  On the 3rd cast a gargantuan fish hit.  There was no stopping this thing.  It stripped half the spool.  All there was to do was hold him when it took a break.  Then off it went again for the rest of the spool.  Michael fought this fish about 20 minutes before the line snapped at the bottom of the spool.  We fish with 8500SS Penn spinning reels and Da Hound had 30lb fire line on for this fish.  After we lost this fish the action slowed a little.  Still more fish hit and the action continued for the entire 3 hour period we had until the tide started dropping too low again.  We returned to camp in awe of what we had experienced up at Hounds Corner.  We practiced catch and release for the majority of the fish.  The last fish we caught was sent back to base camp with a note attached.  "Enjoy the Sashimi!"  The Sun was minutes from dipping below the horizon when we realized we didn't have any fish for us to eat at camp.  So I quickly ran down the beach and cast until I caught an 8lb Blue Trevally.  Problem solved.  The tropical sun disappeared into the ocean.  Fresh fish tacos were ready.  It was the end of a perfect fishing day. 

Our last day of the trip was spent at the Corner again.  The fishing was world class again!  The tables turned this day and I went 4 for 4.  I was using a white popper with a small skirt on the tail hook.  It was awesome seeing all that top water action.  One of the strikes the fish leaped out of the water completely airborne.  All the fish I caught were in the 30-60lb range this day.  The tide dropped and the action stopped.  We packed up our gear and headed back to base camp. 

It was the end of another fishing season.  I left the jungle early the next morning.  Michael and I have been buzzing about what we experienced at Hounds Corner ever since.  We are going back as soon as possible.  This time with hammocks, lounge chairs, and an air mattress.  Enough roughen it.  These missions don't need to be so foolish after all.  Mission accomplished! 
Our first guest was Mark White in 2006... This is currently our second year of operations......
Happy Fishing,
Cyrus Boyum and Michael Owen
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