Fly Fishing for Sebarau

My friend and I face off, to see which method is more effecitve in catching sebarau.










Sebarau chasing down the lure
















Hooked up on a small stream sebarau.


















Got you.















Finally, I get to show off a fly caught sebarau



















Lots of sebarau



















He just sat there and pulled in sebarau after sebarau!
















More strikes from this pool.



















Pic 2

Fly fishing goes head to head with spoons and spinners

by Christopher S.G. Tan

Fly fishermen can be rather sensitive personalities. Put them together with other anglers, especially with other lure anglers, and sparks may fly. I remember many years ago, there were informal competitions at a commercial pond in the Klang Valley where these advocates of their own preferred fishing methods faced one another other head on. Some of their claims and counter claims made the situation quite comical to the observer. Everyone there was out to prove his method was the more effective one, though I suspect it was the personal ego that was the source of the drive to win.

Sometimes this rivalry can blow out of proportion. When this happens, things get rather ugly, especially on the internet forums which allow anonymous postings. The posts can often get rather abusive and personal, and unfortunately nobody can agree to disagree. For me each method has a time and place. I am fortunate that my non fly-fishing buddies are patient chaps who put up with my fly-fishing idiosyncrasies when the fly-fishing bug hits me.

It is fine when you fish with a fly-fisherman; he understands what you are doing (or messing up), but as for a non-fly-fisherman, he wonders why I struggle with the fly line that seems to tangle all over the place. Furthermore, for every cast I am able to get out, he gets out three casts! To those competent fly rodders out there who make fly casting look easy, forgive me for making fly fishing look inefficient, but there are those of us lower down in the fly fishing skill level that do struggle to place a fly just so.



Recently Ong, who is not a fly-fisherman, patiently endured my efforts to catch sebarau on flies. We had been happily catching small sebarau (hampala barb) on conventional gear all morning. By eleven in the morning I had the itch to feel a sebarau on the fly rod.

Ong kindly agreed to give me first go at the fish holding snags that had been so productive the day before. He had been very successfully casting a chrome spoon to all the snags around a stream mouth and pulling out sebarau after sebarau.

I reckoned I should be able to easily emulate his success with a fly. Had I not been able to catch heaps of sebarau at other locations using a fly rod? It should be easy. After assembling my five-piece 5-weight fly rod and stringing the floating shooting head and mono running line I was ready to go. I selected a small fly, a ubiquitous baitfish pattern that I made up for fishing the dams. It had had a very proven track record in the past.

Motoring over to the snag that sat right next to the stream mouth I prepared to place my first cast there. I was confident I would be able to pull out a sebarau from this snag. There seemed to be plenty of them lurking in there. How wrong I was! I was not wrong about having plenty of sebarau there, but wrong about being able to pull them out easily on fly!

Why? Because my casting was in shambles, I had the fly line flopping all over the place and the fly line at my feet would keep tangling up over various objects. I could see Ong shaking his head, figuratively of course. If I were in his shoes I would be thinking that there are a lot more effective ways of catching sebarau than with fly gear. Using a simple spin reel or baitcaster would do away with the mess of having all that fly line at my feet tangling on any protruding object.

When I finally got my fly out to be retrieved past the snag, absolutely nothing happened. No shadow flashed out to grab the fly; zilch! I repeated the cast a few times, with no response. Then I turned to Ong and reluctantly gave him the go-ahead to cast.

Pic 2His spoon sailed out far more gracefully than my rusty fly-casts, and plopped into the water and wriggled back aggressively. As it wobbled past the snag, one of the many sebarau lurking in there darted out and hooked itself on the spoon’s single hook!


My fly fisherman’s ego was still intact and going strong (my ego still was sure that my earlier poor result was a one-off occurrence) so I positioned the boat a little further upstream to tackle the snag a little further in. It took me awhile to get my casts right where I wanted and in the meantime Ong hooked up another sebarau.

When I did get my act together by placing the fly just smack next to the snag, a sebarau darted out and ate the fly. Hooray! I brought the sebarau in and gave Ong a triumphant look. I had recovered a little of my fly fishing ego.

Working the snag further, Ong and I had a few follows but were unable to entice any more sebarau to bite. I now got out of the boat and waded upstream to try a few deep corners that looked promising while Ong followed by paddling the boat. I had to beg him to let me have the first cast as the way things were working out, he could clean out the snag with his spoon even before I could get a cast out!

The first snag I tried yielded nothing. The second snag saw a nice sebarau hit my fly, but only after many futile attempts where I kept getting my fly tangled on some vines hanging down behind me. A sebarau hit the fly on the third retrieve past its hangout, near a secondary outlet of the stream into the main dam. It seemed like that in this dam I would have to work hard with the fly to get the attention of the sebarau.

After releasing the second fly-caught sebarau, a third sebarau, albeit a very small one, was hooked up from the same spot. In the meantime Ong had paddled the punt up to where I was and parked himself to cast out to the secondary outlet. He had endured my fly-casting antics, patiently holding himself back while I wasted time trying to prove that I could catch sebarau on fly.Pic 2

He cast his lure into a pool where the stream met the dam; immediately there was a commotion as a sebarau took interest in his lure. Swirls and splashes followed his spoon. Obviously the lively swinging spoon drew the attention of some sebarau! After many repeated casts, he finally persuaded one sebarau to get itself hooked up. Each cast would elicit a follow or swirl. After he had hooked up and released a second one, I told him to take a break and give me a chance to hook up a sebarau there before he cleaned the place out!

Wading closer in, I positioned myself between the standing timber and tried to get my casts out. “Try” is the keyword here. My initial attempts were futile because I kept getting the fly caught on the tree stump behind me. Ong patiently kept quiet, though I could tell he was itching to get back into the action.

Finally I started to get my casts sorted out and place the fly where I wanted it, but the retrieves were totally ignored! I tried slow retrieves, fast retrieves and jerky retrieves. There was no indication at all that there were any sebarau there. The place was dead quiet. Maybe Ong had hooked up all the sebarau there were to be caught?

It was time to test out this theory. Ong put out a cast and immediately there was a follow! That meant the sebarau were not interested in my little fly at all. Ong reluctantly held back from doing more casts while I dug into the fly box to look for a fly that would push some water, hopefully stirring the sebarau into action.

I found a red deerhair slider fly, something like a dalhberg diver that would stir the water up, hopefully making enough vibrations in the pool to attract the sebarau. I cast that out many, many times and it did not even attract the sebarau to come and look.


Changing tactics, I now looked for a large shiny fly. I found one that I tied up to attract queenfish. It had plenty of tinsel and mylar to give lots of flash. To cut to the chase, that large shiny fly too was unattractive to the sebarau.

Now to see if any other lures worked, I gave Ong a size 2 bright fluorescent red Bluefox spinner to cast. Well, in short, that spinner that produced a high frequency vibration had several follows and one hookup. Seeing how effective these hard vibrating lures were, I put away the fly rod and joined in the fun with my spinners. It was now very clearly evident that the “quiet” fly certainly had no attraction for the sebarau.

I do not know why the sebarau at this time were not interested in the fly. Well there were places here where I managed to get the sebarau to take my fly, but it was obvious that when it came to a face-off between the lures that gave aggressive vibrations in the water and the soft vibrations of the fly, it was the hard powerful vibrations that lured the sebarau out.

This was quite different from other instances where I had fished with Ong. There had been times when he had to convert to spin fly to hook up sebarau because with conventional spoons, spinners and crankbaits he could not get them to bite at all, whereas I had a great time hooking up sebarau after sebarau ( hampala barab ) on flies.

In short, is there a simple answer to the fly versus hard lure challenge? The answer is yes, sort of. It depends on the species, time and place. Every method or fishing system has its place. We just have to know when to use either system most effectively and this certainly was not one of the times when fly fishing was productive enough to warrant me using it. No prizes for guesses as to what sort of tackle I used there for the rest of the trip!



We need to protect and conserve our resources by practising catch and release of our sportfish and protecting the habitat of our fishes.


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