Should the fisher be someone who enjoys a relaxed and lighter read, then Stu Tripney’s Book Jungle Blues may fulfil the order. The 15-odd chapters are a humorous and descriptive summary of a fishing experience, off the grid, which occurred on a lake in the wilds of the Malaysian Jungle – a destination that probably wouldn’t attract a lot of Kiwi fishing enthusiasts.
However, travelling and flicking his fly rod around Asia is not a new venture for Tripney who also touches upon some of the out-of-the-way countries he’s visited; the purpose of this particular trip was to target the giant snakehead fish, plus a mystical species of fish named gourami.
The script is colourful and bracing, and as the cover indicates, this book is a humorous, up-front account which documents a clear record of this hard-case fisher’s recreational journey to Malaysia and the lifestyle while there, along with a description of the native people, their culture, environment and weather.
The trip emanated from a decision by the author – made midway through the renovation of his home in little ole Athol, Southland – to pack up and visit his friend, Paul, who lives in Malaysia where he operates as a fishing guide.
While the bright lights and social lure of Penang City make it an easy place to live, Tripney’s adventures soon take him a long way from the touristy hotspot to a place called Lake Temenggor, which is a 70km long man-made waterway complete with scattered islands and hopefully the fishing action he’s seeking. Consequently, bobbing around in a tiny aluminium boat named Ronan, the idyllic days are devoted to trying to place his dry fly tantalisingly close to the snakefish’s snout’ – this proves to be a real mission, as these elusive fish are seldom enticed by a fly. Thus, Stu’s efforts involve a heap of hours and days searching, resulting in very few casts. Apparently, the locals use spin fishing or set lines to best advantage when hunting snakefish.
The author’s previous experiences fishing the waters of remote and alien places stand him in good stead to cope with living wild in Malaysia, which often required him to pull his boat up and pitch a fly camp in the jungle at night. You need to be keen sleeping in a hammock with elephants, tigers, monkeys and squirrels rattling around nearby!
Inevitably, Stu’s days are spent travelling at a leisurely pace and fishing solo, but readers learn of the occasional companionship of his buddy Paul, who, working alongside in his own boat, provides more humour and helpful local knowledge. The Malaysian snakefish are deemed to be the largest in the world, and the rod of our Athol fisher finally bends to a decent trophy when he succeeds in hooking one of the fish with his chosen fly, ensuring the opportunity to savour the hard-won moment and capture a few photographs before the sportsman returns the fish to the water.
Tripney’s attention now shifts to his next target – the gourami; the reader is soon aware of the difficulty involved in striking further success, and the final result is one which is probably best overlooked. Yes, Stu did manage to catch a gourami, just not the size he was hoping for.
Within the pages of this book, there’s a section of coloured photographs portraying the lifestyle, the lake and its jungle perimeter. The writer mentions random visits to the city when he takes a break from the wilderness and isolation. These days, it’s become apparent that folk all need to lighten up a bit, so perhaps we should heed the message delivered in a poem by Benny Sip – “Enjoy our time and follow the dream” – just as this jovial character has elected to do.
The closing pages include acknowledgements from Stu, dog Trigger and a brief profile of the author, who is the proprietor of the highly regarded Stu’s Fly Shop. Tripney can also claim credit for starting the New Zealand Fly Fishing School and is currently a Certified Master Fly Cast Instructor and Fishing Guide operating from his Athol home.
By Stu Tripney
Published by Stu Tripney, 227 pages
Available from firstname.lastname@example.org