Most weekends, my father, grandfather and I fished on a stream in Worcestershire, while long holidays were spent at a family cottage of my Scottish mother in Banffshire, a few miles from the mighty Spey, one of Britain’s greatest salmon rivers, where I was lucky enough to land my first grilse when I was just 10.
I quickly realised that the most efficient way to get from one pool to the next on these rivers and streams was by a bicycle with fat tires (I don’t think we called them “mountain bikes” until much later). This mode of combining cycling and fishing has remained one of my most enduring passions, and the days I’ve spent enjoying this simple activity remain among the happiest of my life.
There’s something primal about being outdoors all day in beautiful riverside surroundings, pursuing an elusive quarry and expending abundant energy in clean fresh air.
So, when I moved to live in Phuket 12 years ago, I looked for a place where I could follow this passion and discovered the pleasures of Khao Sok National Park.
There were rumours that the mighty Mahseer, renowned as the world’s fiercest fighting fish could be caught in the remoter headwaters of the Sok River and so it was that I recently drove up there on a sweltering day with a mountain bike strapped onto my bike rack.
As we approached the park some three hours north of the Sarasin Bridge, it was like re-awakening into another universe.
We knew we were in for something special when the scenery became at first dramatic and then simply breath-taking, with huge limestone cliffs rising sheer from the verdant rainforest floor and towering majestically skywards above us.
At a well-marked left turn off Highway 401 we found the little road to one of the world’s oldest and most pristine natural rainforests: Khao Sok National Park.
Upon arrival we unloaded the bikes and pedaled past the Visitor Centre at the park’s entrance and across the bridge and followed the trail along the left-hand fork of the Sok River as it climbed a steep hill into the body of indigenous rain forest.
This is definitely mountain biking territory and the trail abounds in steep, often rocky climbs and descents. You share the path with a bipedal tribal ape known as Homo Sapiens, not to mention the elephant, tiger, leopard, gibbons, barking deer, Malay sun bears and scaly anteaters that have also been spotted here at various times. This is not exactly your common-or-garden Phuket ride to the local SuperCheap!
We rode the seven kilometres out to a deep shaded pool under overhanging trees. As I assembled my rod, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of yellow and black snakes, peacefully asleep among the branches.
I cast both spinners and flies using the collapsible rod that I’d stowed in my backpack as I wadded the tumbling waters.
After a couple of hours working the various pools along this section of the river I had tempted only a single minnow-sized fish, which was about the same size as my spinner itself. Perhaps he was trying to mate with it!
Despite my absence of luck with attracting a mighty Mahseer, we enjoyed the most wonderful day of outdoor activity in an environment of stunning beauty. Frankly, a fish would have been a bonus to an already perfect day of cycling with an angle.
To show you that this method of fishing really does produce results, I’ve included a picture of a lovely rainbow trout I caught in New Zealand’s Tongararo River by cycling with an angle earlier this year.