Ruffie's Adventure with Cast_and_Blast in Laos!

Last week Ruffie and I had the privilege to host Jean-Francois Helias on a one-week fishing adventure in Laos. This was a very unique opportunity we had since he was not coming to guide me but rather to explore new waters with me. Since he had never been to Laos before I was able show him around and in turn I was able to learn from probably the best Snakehead fishermen in the world.

Ruffie and Francois got along well right from the start.

I always want to see the tackle box of accomplished anglers. Here is what a Snakehead box should look like.

Day 1

The first day on the water we were focused on Snakeheads and we did a lot of experimentation. We had only one confirmed sighting of a Snakehead the whole day. We then realized how low the Snakehead populations were in Nam Ngum due to over-fishing. We heard that the locals were harvesting the Snakehead fry for food. The devastation to the reservoir this has caused was clearly evident. Snakeheads are very vulnerable to overharvest during the spawn because the baby snakeheads stay together and can easily be caught with nets. You guys in the Midwest need to be thankful for the “Catch & Release� ethic that is widely practiced on your waters.

Despite the poor Snakehead fishing, we were still able to catch a few Hampala and Eye- Spot Barbs. The following Eye Spot Barb was a new lifelister for Francois.

I caught a nice Hampala Barb in the 4+ lb. range.

This one inhaled the spoon.

We stayed at this really nice resort on the lake which had brand new bungalows.

Day 2

This was a tough day on the big lake. We actually blanked out today but at least had a few strikes.

We fished the rock islands extensively but nothing.

Our boatman took us to a place on the lake where they raise the Redtail Cats for sale in the market. This guy caught them in the lake and then he keeps them in his fish pens until they get big enough to sell. The interesting thing was that usually these Cats have a solid red tail but the dark water in this lagoon made them almost all black in color but they are the same species.

At the end of the day, Ruffie and Francois discussed the needed adjustments to be made in order to put some fish in the boat.

Francois and Ruffie helping the waitress take our order.

Ruffie also likes the ladies.

Day 3

This day I learned another aspect that makes one a great angler. It is something that you usually wouldn’t think about but it is connecting with local knowledge. Francois is quick to make friends and searching for good fishing locales is his passion. Since the day before was so tough for fishing, we made friends with a local who was eager to help us find a new fishing spot to try.

With the help of our new friend we arrived to new place on the river. A new lifelister made its appearance—the Sicklefin Barb.

Back at the lake I tried for an hour and picked up another new lifelister—the Redtail Barb.

Day 4

This day was a travel day so we did little fishing but still ended up with some new species.

Here is one of the many Banded Loach species.

And a Golden Swamp Barb…

Ruffie also got in on the action.

Day 5

This day started by taking Francois to my Mahseer spot. We started by going to the village chief to ask for permission to fish there. We explained that we wanted to release all the fish we caught and were not interested in eating them but only for pictures. After hearing our intentions he kindly gave us authorization to fish there. We paid him some money anyway just to show our appreciation. We didn’t have to but it makes all the difference when you do this. The generosity we shared with this village has opened up doors to us. As we explained our passion for new species, they were over eager to help us reach our goals.

We started out with a couple nice Poropuntius laoensis specimens. I cannot even find a common name for this species yet.

The Village Chief and Chief of police came down to check what we were doing. Making friends with them was the most valuable move we made. Ruffie also helped with this key relationship.

Francois with a nice Silver Mudminnow.

We caught several Stracheyi Mahseer in this size range.

A new lifelister—Brown Puffer

These kids followed us around everywhere. They were so curious to see what we were doing. We bought lunch for all of them and Ruffie was a hit with the kids.

More fish…

We caught fish on both doughbait and these fruit berries that the kids went and got for us.

This was my personal best Mahseer.

Here is the next IGFA World Record fish caught by Francois. The first world record fish from Laos.

Francois caught the biggest Mahseer of the trip here.

We had such a great time fishing and afterwards we had dinner with the Village Chief and other village officials. Francois very generously gave a large sum of money to help this poor community out, specifically the school. They were so thankful to receive such a gift. I was impressed by what I had seen. I think our fishing privileges there are secure.

Day 6

Francois with a nice Mahseer, Carp, and Koi.

I found this other gorgeous spot just up river but I only had one good bite.

I ended the day with another new lifelister—Spiny Barb.

This has been a very cool experience for Ruffie and I. I learned so many things, some of which I am not allowed to even share on the internet. It was nice to just talk fishing every day with someone as knowledgeable as Francois. I ended the week with 7 new lifelisters and a pb Mahseer.

About Jean-Francois Helias:

Jean-Francois Helias, the IGFA International Committee Representative for Thailand and freelance fishing writer, is well known to the international sport fishing scene. He is an accomplished angler and professional fishing guide as illustrated by his skill, record catches and angling knowledge.

Raised in France, he relocated to Thailand in 1986 with the goal of putting Thailand on the map as one of the world’s premier freshwater fishing destinations, as well as helping to promote catch-and-release.

Helias, who operates Fishing Adventures Thailand, a guided fishing tour agency serving the international community, has established over 170 IGFA world records, both as a guide and angler. He has been featured in numerous worldwide publications educating anglers about Thai species, and has been featured in several TV fishing programs, including ESPN Outdoors’s Get Wild with Cindy Garrison channel’s and National Geographic channel’s Hooked, Monster Fish. He also contributes material to fish scientists and museums.

Jean-Francois Helias has received in 2008 the IGFA Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to sport fishing.



smurph's picture

That koi is pretty extraordinary. Its awesome!cool

andy's picture

Its so cool that you included ruffie in many of those shots, how cool is that!!?? Great to re-read this trip report, mike.