Freshwater Fishing in Thailand

Freestone rivers - fly-fishing in Thailand

Freestone rivers with good stocks of very large Thai, Blue and Golden Mahseer and good fly fishing opportunities. Location is the remote river valleys of Mae Hong Son Province…

Freestone river fishing in Thailand

Access is not easy into the upper reaches of some of these rivers. Some freestone river locations are only possible outside of the Wet Season, and only then by using 4WD vehicles. Locations are remote – over 100 kms (60 miles) from the nearest town, and there are no hotels, phones or electricity. That generally means an overnight stay in a Karen village, enjoying the hospitality offered at the house of the village headman.

Mahseer fly fishing in Mae Hong Son province, Thailand

Regardless of the access impediments, the bigger the water, the bigger the fish… Large Thai, Blue and Golden Mahseer behave exactly like big browns in terms of where they lie in the current flows. They feed aggressively, and smash big dry flies with reckless greed when there are cicada hatches on…

Cicada hatches - freestone river fishing, Mae Hong Son province...

Cicada & Beetle Patterns

Any large dry fly will coax fish to the surface – favourites are Royal Wulf, Dave’s Hopper etc… Adding a #16 tungsten bead-head flashback Pheasant Tail nymph on a dropper 18 inches or so below the top fly is also VERY effective in all size streams… In shallow choppy runs, especially when water temperatures are high, big fish sit invisible in the fastest flows, and react quickly to big dry flies.

Caddis & Mayfly Patterns

The freestone rivers and streams have very high mayfly and caddis populations. Fishing can be spectacular if you encounter hatch conditions. An afternoon shower in late Hot Season will often trigger a Caddis hatch. A #14 Elk Hair Caddis is lethal in such conditions, with a take on almost every cast! The smaller fish feed ferociously on hatching Caddis…

Mayfly nymphs - Pheasant-tail nymphs - fly fishing

In low fly conditions, big fish sit clearly visible on foam lines, vacuuming up every morsel drifting by. They will sometimes move several feet to take a flashy #16 nymph!

Streamer Patterns

All the normal big streamers will coax interest from big mahseer – Woolly Buggers, Zonkers etc. Rivers have a rich diversity of biomass, including numerous species of minnows and juvenile mahseer and Burmese Trout.

Streamer fishing in freestone rivers, Thailand

Mahseer are accustomed to feeding on these offerings and for that reason, streamers can be very effective flies for a greedy Mahseer.

Mahseer Streamer Patterns, Salween River tributary

The clear freestone rivers in the jungles of S.E Asia, along the Thailand / Myanmar border offer some excellent fly fishing. Along with that comes a unique cultural experience… A day out with local Karen guides is always enjoyable…

Karen guides - Mahseer fishing, Mae Hong Son province

There is also some stunning scenery to savour throughout the day. Aside from the landscapes, it is humbling to see the circumstances in which parent raise their children, living in bamboo huts far from town… Despite the amenity-free lifestyle, children are invariably cheerful, respectful and playful.

Quote from Ben Kemp, retired New Zealand fly fishing guide -:-  “I’ve spent over 50 years fishing for Brown Trout in New Zealand. In 40 years of fly fishing, including more than a decade as a fly fishing guide, I’ve never encountered a Brown Trout that matches a big Mahseer for sheer power and speed

Despite the warm water temperatures, Mahseer are capable of demonstrating astonishing acceleration, and invariably head for the nearest log or boulder sanctuary at full speed. With the rod butt jammed into your hip, brake hard on and full side-strain on the rod, a big Mahseer seems oblivious to your efforts to turn his head from the course he’s set…


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