Battle for the Red Kaloi on Fly

by | Dec 1, 2023 | fly fishing for red kaloi | 3 comments

red-kaloiWith only 2 ½ days left of a nine day fishing trip to the boonies of Borneo Indonesia, the pressure was on to catch my first red kaloi today.  The peculiar species has eluded me and it’s not exactly a hop, skip and a jump to get over here.  Our location is basically the antipode from Hayward Wisconsin and with some of the issues getting here, it took exactly a week from my door to first cast.  My flight home would seem three times longer if I went home empty handed.


flyfishingThe way the weather has been I was a bit uneasy when I zipped my tent shut and put my head down last night.  And we had two small storms.  One at midnight and another at 1:30 am.  When first light came I literally ran to rivers edge.  I was relieved, delighted and pumped to see the water down another 5 feet.  There are actually rapids in front of camp.  I had no idea but with the lowest levels of the week they are exposed.


Currier-flyfishing-red-kaloiTo help make up for lost fishing time this week, Fajar organized both boats today to make the long run up a river I’ve yet to see, the Pari.  Austin Kane and I each had our own boat.  No breaks while watching the other guy fish.  Off we went on a nearly two hour boat ride.


rainforestAs always the scenery during the boat ride was breathtaking.  The Borneo rainforest is spectacular.  Unfortunately, like all the worlds rainforest, this one is getting cut down fast.  This is shot of logging bridge in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  Days like today you can’t help but think and worry about earth.  Not a minute passes where I’m not aware of how fortunate I am to be here.


jungle-fishingI should have been extraordinarily confident on my first cast with the best river conditions yet.  But yesterday’s struggle lowered my sureness.  There was uncertainty lingering in my mind.  Yes, it happens to everyone.  But I picked up my 9-weight Air Max and went to work.  Austin generously sent me downstream first while his boat lagged behind.  Fajar went with me.


Fajar-SetyawanWhen you’re already low on confidence to start, it drops fast.  An hour passed and I didn’t raise a single fish.  Fajar offered plenty of support from the floor of the boat.  He was chilling out, rooting me on.  I placed a lot of nice casts only to watch my huge Chernobyl drift along, untouched.


Another fishless 30 minutes passed then one of those cool side channels like where Austin caught his snakehead day one popped up.  Fajar suggested an off current visit.  It looked great and we eased our way in.  I plopped my fly in numerous good spots.  Nada.


Chernobyl-AntWhen we returned to the main river Austin’s boat was just catching up.  We had a short visit.  They hadn’t seen anything yet either.  Austin sent us in the lead again.


By the time two hours passed, my oversized Chernobyl, Fajar calls it a hopper, had been in so many kaloi looking feeding lanes without a look it was unnerving.  For the first time this trip I thought to myself, “I’m not going to catch a red kaloi”.


BorneoBut with me that never causes the mental collapse it does with some folks.  Nope.  For me its like lighting a fire under my butt.  I took a four minute break for water, a Kate’s Bar, I checked my knots then slid the point of my hook on my nail.  Everything was ready.  Then I moved a cute little snail from the floor of our boat to a rock on shore.  A good deed perhaps for better luck.  We pushed off again.


It wasn’t five minutes later when a red kaloi took a swing at my fly.  It was a smaller one and I don’t think he ate it.  Regardless, it was step in the right direction.  And just like flicking a light switch, suddenly I knew I was about to catch my kaloi.


flyfishingThe next fish ate my fly for sure but I never saw it happen.  I took one of those risks where you let your fly drift ahead of the boat deep under some overhanging trees.  It was dark under the branches and I lost sight of my fly.  I calculated when it was time to start stripping or get snagged.  When I started that strip a huge kaloi exploded.  It was a bowling ball splash with high tension on the rod.  But he came off.  I didn’t turn my strip into a “strip set” fast enough.  Tough break.


red-kaloiThe third times the charm.  With two fish showing themselves in a very short period, I was sure a third was coming.  And it did.  I made a cast into a swirling back eddy near some classic jungle trees.  I flicked a few mends for my drift then watched a kaloi rise for my fly so slowly it was like that of a Snake River Cutthroat – a fish I know so well.  I waited for the eat.  For the mouth to close.  Then I sank my hook right into his upper lip.  Kaloi on!


jungle-fishI’ve repeatedly elaborated on the power of jungle fish.  Its power of ridiculous proportion.  These fish aren’t built for speed and when you look at their tail, you wonder where the strength comes from.  But they play dirty and pitch every fish trick in the book to screw you.  Lucky for me, dishing the “down and dirty” right back at them comes natural after lifelong history with all kinds of fish.


Currier-red-kaloiFajar hardly had time to hoot and holler.  He didn’t see the take.  I never let out a peep.  I was focused and when that fish was on I heaved back hard.  There was no way he was getting me in the logs being I have heavy leader.  It was less than a three minute rodeo then Fajar had my first kaloi in the net.  Mission accomplished!


Currier-flyfishing-Red-Kaloi-BorneoIt wasn’t the ideal place for a photo shoot.  I lifted the net into the boat and gently set my prize on the floor.  I peeled back the fabric and respected the fish found only here.  He was well behaved and allowed me to lift him for the shot.  A couple more looks and I set him back over the side.  Wow – it finally happened.


Even if I had a frosty cold beer I wouldn’t have celebrated.  I saw three fish in a matter of 30 minutes after hours over days of nothing.  I was ready to capitalize.  There was no looking at pictures on my phone or double checking my rig.  Seconds after my first ever kaloi release, my hopper was back under the trees and I got a refusal.


gourami-on-flyThe kaloi were hungry for giant Chernobyl’s.  Each cast I braced myself and held my big fish hooking stance.  The next one I hooked but lost after a few seconds.  But only a minute later I was tight again.  Kaloi on!



Jeff-Currier-flyfishingI landed my second kaloi only about 15 minutes after my first.  Its funny how the fish gods deal sometimes.  This one was slightly smaller than the first but we had a great place to pull over and shoot some photos.


Fajar has another business outside of the fishing world.  That’s photography.  After we knocked off a series of really cool hero shots, I held the kaloi in the water.  While I admired and studied every inch of the fish from mouth to the tail, Fajar shot more photos.  Absolutely beautiful stuff!


How about the dangly long section from the pectoral fins!?!


flyfishingAfter the next release I kept fishing hard.  We saw at least another five kaloi.  I missed a couple, received the occasional refusal and landed one more.  My third and last of the day was a female.  The females are much smaller and don’t have some of the cool head and jaw features of the males.  But she put up a fight nonetheless.


fly-fishing-BorneoAfter I released the female, one of fishing’s mysteries came in to play.  The kaloi stopped.  They flat out disappeared as suddenly as they appeared.  In a period of about an hour, I raised a dozen or so kaloi.  After the third landed of the day, we saw only one more all day.  Was it location on the river?  Feeding frenzy that ended?  Barometric pressure?  Strange, but in a sick way I love the way nature can work.


Currier-fly-fishingIt was mid afternoon by the time it sank in that the kaloi bite was over.  But it had also sunk in that my trip to Borneo went from “pretty cool” to “successful”.  Knowing the kaloi basically retired for the day I did what I had planned to do long before my trip started but couldn’t until I caught my kaloi.  Pull out my 6-weight and strip some Clousers down deep on my Sonar line.  In a matter of minutes I added the tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii) to my species list.


Hampala-barbThe aggressive shiny goldfish shaped fish were abundant and I took five before our day was over.  I also hooked and lost a burlier contestant closely related to the mahseer.  The fish was the Hampala barb.  The good news is that Austin actually caught one.  It’s a small one but a new species for his list and proof that they exist here.  Cool stuff!


Currier-fly-fishingWe drifted out of the mouth of the Pari River at 5 pm.  The Jeromai, where we are camped was even lower and clearer than we left this morning which meant we had to navigate more rapids in the Borneo style boats.  This has to be done during daylight so we packed it in early.


flyfishing-off-the-gridIt turns out that Austin never saw a single kaloi today.  The mystery of fishing never stops.  Are they a one and done fish and I showed them all my fly before Austin got there?  Who knows.  We have a day and a half left to learn more.  And if it doesn’t rain tonight, the fishing should be even better than today.  Time for dinner.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Sunfish Shae

    Yaaaay!!!!! Congratulations!

  2. Jeff

    Thank you very much Sunfish Shae!

  3. Howie

    Way to go Jeff!!!!! What an trial. Glad you got it done.

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!