Proof that Jungle Fish Feed in Muddy Water

by | Nov 29, 2023 | fly fishing for red kaloi | 2 comments

red-kaloiYou could probably tell the way I ended yesterday’s blog that I wasn’t confident in a rainless night.  Things looked good but they looked good the night before too.  At 10 pm the lightening flashes started and distant thunder gained on us fast.  Disappointingly, I could hear the rain falling a mile away.  It was coming down by the bucket load and the sound echoed through the rainforest.


fly-fishingSoon the rain reached us along with strong wind.  The tents Fajar uses here in the Borneo jungle are amazing.  My rainfly was zipped tight and despite our overhead tarp flapping badly, not a drop of rain came in.  When the storm was directly above the thunder rumbled the ground.  I’m on an inflatable mattress and the earth literally shook me.  Honestly, it was kind of scary.




While the heart of the storm only lasted an hour, the downpour and flashes of lightening continued.  It was another deluge and as I began to doze off around midnight, I presumed we were sleeping in.  There was absolutely no way the river wasn’t going to rise again.




At 3 I noticed the rain had stopped.  The only sounds were from the insects and frogs.  My favorite serenades in the jungle.  Perhaps I was wrong in my assumption we couldn’t fish today.  But no.  So much rain fell in the one storm that when we got up, despite the sun already poking, the river was higher than yesterday.  Torched.


To put things in perspective, yesterday the Jeromai River was the highest Fajar has ever seen it.  Today it was at least ten feet higher.  See in the two photos.  Same spot – 24 hours apart.


borneoTrapped at camp again.  Austin, Fajar and I, and even our boatmen were so bummed it was terrible.  As of this morning we’ve missed the first two days of the trip because one of our boatmen had a family emergency.  Monday we only had the afternoon because of rain.  Yesterday we only got two hours on the water late afternoon because of rain.  And this morning it appeared we might miss another full day.  The first five days of a nine day trip and we’ve had barely two half days of fishing.  Rough!


Austin-Kane-BorneoSitting around camp was sad and boring but you make the best of it.  Today was hotter and muggier than yesterday.  To add to the mental challenge, the bees were worse too and I got stung five times.  Austin was smart to bring a book and read from the river.  Fajar slept and read.  I went for a couple short hikes through the mud then accepted the reality of the highwater and lit up my computer.



It’s hard to write solid blogs when not a lot is going on fishing wise.  But I wrote about my Sultan barb and continued editing the photos I have so far.  That is until the battery ran out on my computer.  Then I switched from work mode to watching a variety of colorful butterflies and tracking down some huge grasshoppers.


Fajar-SetyawanThe river started dropping around 2 pm.  Fajar told Austin and I to be ready to fish by 4.  Conditions were horrible and it would likely be like last night but at least we’d get out.  Fajar headed downstream back to the Dayak village with one of our boat men in our second boat to see the chief.  We were supposed to meet the chief before we took the boats upstream to camp on Monday but he wasn’t around.  Fajar says its important to visit the chief as its his village that lets us fish here.


Borneo-red-kaloiThere’s another river upstream of camp about 20 minutes called the Dason that enters the Jeromai by the old houseboat I mentioned two days ago.  Austin and I headed there from camp expecting the Dasan to be lower and more fishable than the Jeromai.  Instead we were surprised to find the Dason huge and red with mud and choked with debris and the Jeromai upstream of it in better shape.


We headed up the Jeromai and although it was way better looking than below the Dasan, it still looked awful.  My shoulder has been acting up so I didn’t even give Austin a chance to put me to work.  I kicked back to let him cast in the mud.  He fished the black popper I caught my Sultan barb on a few days back.


flyfishing-BorneoThe river is so high over its banks a red kaloi could swim back in the rainforest and avoid us altogether.  There’s no way to penetrate the flooded forest with a boat or a cast for that matter.  Austin chose the spots landing his fly carefully feeling out where a kaloi in highwater might feed.  Ten minutes in, I was still getting comfortable, and Austin went tight!


Austin-KaneI’m not sure anyone in our boat could believe Austin had a fish – including Austin.  It was only about his 20th cast.  But in seconds he was doubled over hanging on tight.


jungle-fishAll jungle fish fight like a “trout only angler” can’t imagine.  Peacock bass, golden dorado, tigerfish – they’ll all break a normal tippet of 20lbs or less in seconds.  We step it up and fish 60lb and that breaks sometimes.  And when the tippet doesn’t break often the rods or fly lines do.  Jungle battles with these gangsters is hard to describe.


red-kaloiIn a sense, jungle fish are our perfect match.  They give you all you can handle four about three minutes, then they give up.  After an amazing tug o war, I slid the net under the first red kaloi of the week.


Borneo-red-kaloiThe Borneo red kaloi (Osphronemus septemfasciatus) is crazy looking.  I’ve seen most fish species and for sure at least a member from most families of fish, but the kaloi is bizarre.  He’s a giant species of gourami.  Gourami species are popular aquarium species but I’ve never seen a big one like this eye to eye.


Austin-KaneWow!  There was a lot of emotion.  We were absolutely elated that a fish could come out of such poor water conditions.  A true confidence builder to work with.  I flicked off a handful of pictures then we let the alien-like fish go.  So much for resting my shoulder.  It was my turn already and as you can imagine; I was motivated.


red-kaloiIt didn’t take long before a kaloi gave me my first heart break.  One rose slowly for the popper then drifted with it several feet then spooked away.  If you’ve ever had a huge brown trout refuse your dry after a serious look, this was it.  Then I had another show just as I went to cast.  Yanking the fly out for the cast scared him away.  And just as it got too dark to see, I hooked one next to the base of a tree.  I went tight on this one only to lose him after a few strips towards the boat.


red-kaloi-foodsWith todays late 4 pm start we didn’t get much time on the water.  Things got dark quick but the time we had was excellent.  Anytime you catch a kaloi it’s a win and to see several adds to the hope for tomorrow.



jungle-snacksWe returned to camp at dark and no Fajar.  We’re assuming with the super high water they couldn’t make it back upstream to camp in time so we’ll catch him tomorrow.  Our chef on the other hand was out foraging and shared these interesting little fruits from some nearby trees.  They start sweet but the final flavor is sour.  It’s probably what the kaloi eat so I consumed a bunch!


We just chowed down camp dinner.  As like our first two nights here at camp, the skies tonight look good.  But there’s no way we’re trusting Mother Nature and guaranteeing ourselves our first full day tomorrow.  But lets hope so.  I came a long way to get my first red kaloi!


trout-sunshirtsIn the meantime, please visit my webstore for “Christmas Gifts for the Angler that has Everything” and stuff those stockings with my fish decals from “Pescador on the Fly”.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Lance

    Way to hang in there!! Your luck with weather is something to behold… you really need to see a witch doctor Buddhist monk , Shaman or somebody who can change your monsoon status! Love those jungle fish!!

  2. Jeff

    Thanks Lance. You know I’m not giving up. And yea, this particular fish is a cool one!

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!