A Brit fighter pilot friend of mine from my days in Saudi Arabia sent me
the below fish story and, from reading your fish stories, I thought you might
like/enjoy it...and maybe even head out for Kazakhstan on one of your
next fishing expeditions. My fighter pilot mate is not the fisherman, he sent
me the article because several of my ponds have a good population of big
channel cat which he enjoyed feeding while visiting my place.
Cheers and all the best from the Eagles' Nest,
Note - my mate scanned the attachment from a British newspaper so the
If cuckoos are something of a rarity in England,
they are a positive pest in that part of Kazakhstan.
They are as numerous as wasps back home. Their
relentless call provides a jabbering backcloth of
sound all day and night, when they are
joined by the croaking of a thousand giant frogs.
If the noise is fantastic, the night skies above are
even more so. I have never seen such starry skies
anywhere in the world. Even on a moonless night, we
could read by starlight alone. And if it was busy in
the skies above it was also all going on in the waters
beneath our boats. The lakes and rivers of Kazakhstan
are teeming with fish.
We had come to assess the potential for landing carp today's "in fish" in
the area. This would be of great interest to visiting British anglers,
especially as regular direct flights to Almaty take only about seven
However, after a couple of days' hard fishing, it seemed that in that one
particular part of that huge country, although there are plenty of carp,
they are simply not very big. I suspect there will be places in Kazakhstan
where they are absolutely enormous, but on the Ili River we saw carp up to no
more than about 15 or 201b. The British record nudges 601b.
There used to be enormous carp in the river - the Russians once farmed
them commercially - but they have clearly been decimated by catfish that are
everywhere. I've never really catfished before but now it seemed clear
that this was the best sport to be had. Anatoly, my amiable Kazakh guide, set
Bill and me up with tackle that seemed, frankly, crude but was to prove to be
only just strong enough. He then took us out on to the river and began
'clonking'. I had vaguely heard of this technique before but never really
under-stood it. The clonk consists of a small, flat, wooden object with
which the guide beats the surface with a strange hollow slapping noise as the
boat drifts down-current.
The baits are fished as close as possible to the rear of the boat, right
alongside the clonk, only about a foot below the surface, and the plan is
to draw the aggressive catfish up from the depths.
It felt utterly ridiculous and looked more so. However, after about an
hour of this nonsense, as we were drifting round an island in the fast current,
the clonk clearly worked. My rod screamed as a big fish took right by
Anatoly's hand and dived straight back down to the bottom in more than
20 ft of water. There then began a fight with one of the most powerful creatures
I've ever hooked in my life. It sulked on the bottom for minutes at a
It screamed off downstream, banging the line with its massive tail,
somewhere deep underwater. It ripped 70, 80, 90 yards of line
off at a time in completely unstoppable runs.
Next it swam upstream against the current and the full power of the motor
on our boat - it felt enormous. And when it began to tire and we saw it for
the first time roll on the surface beside theboat, that's exactly what it was.
Enormous! Huge! Absolutely colossal! It looked like an enormous serpent.
Its head was as big as an armchair. Its huge, tapering body was as long as our
boat, which posed an immediate problem.
Somehow Anatoly got his strong arms around the back of the head of the
giant fish and heaved. Of course, at the pivotal point, once the head was in,
the enormous body had to follow. The problem then was that there was no room
left for Bill or me.
Perched precariously on the very front of our suddenly
all-too-inadequate-looking boat, with the massive mouth of
the catfish only inches from our bare feet, we raced back
up river to our camp, pouring water on
our giant prize all the way back.
We weighed it in the equivalent of a kiddies' paddling pool, took lots of
photographs and then returned it to the depths of the river, into which it
happily sank and swam strongly away. It weighed just over 130lb and was
the biggest fish I've ever caught. Over the next couple of days, Bill had two
more, both over 140lb, Joe Taylor had one of 152lb and I lost a second
fish that was clearly much bigger than my first one.
It had been a fantastic three days. It's probably the best cat-fishing in
the world. They've been caught on rod and line in the Ili River now to well
over 200lb, and there are even rumours of 300-pounders. The fishing potential
We returned to Almaty for a long overdue bath, a change of clothes and a
night out. In a club called the Tropicana we drank Kazakh and Georgian
wine and ate local trout and huge steaks. Also on the menu was a dish' described
as 'deep-fried sea bear' - but none of us was brave enough to ask for it. God
knows what it was.
We even danced to such up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge
music as a Kazakh cover version of the Searcher's Sixties
hit Needles and Pins.