Few areas in Taiwan offer as many freshwater fishing opportunities as Taichung county in the heart of the island’s western-central plain. Numerous waterways, streams and rivers, drain down from the mountains and cut through the flat agricultural lands and urban sprawl in a dash for the coast. A tantalizing variety of species lurk in these waters — catfish, skygazers (redfin culter), Taiwan mahseer (Spinibarbus hollandi or Holland’s carp), common carp, zacco, to name just a few.
I made a trip down in March to meet up with Tre, an avid fly angler from Canada who lives in Taichung and knows its waterways as well as any expat in the area. On that trip we did a bit of spinning for amur catfish and I was keen to go back. After he mentioned that he had located a prime spot for skygazers and mahseer I was soon putting in for some mid-week vacation time with my employer and making preparations to head south.
Joining on this latest adventure was Russian fishing enthusiast Maxim Filippov who maintains his own YouTube channel devoted to fishing in Taiwan. Maxim was anxious to check the skygazer off his angling bucket list.
Maxim picked me up around 4:30 a.m. and we began the nearly two-hour trek down to Taichung and the GPS coordinates Tre had passed on for his skygazer honey hole. The spot was on a tributary of the Dadu River near the Changhua-Taichung county line. Thanks to recent rains, the water was swift and somewhat cloudy. Once we found the spot, we dropped our gear on the bank and Maxim set up his array of video equipment. I decided to go small and tied on a little inline spinner. Maxim went the other direction and rigged a three-inch jointed jerk bait with a soft plastic paddle tail. To me, this seemed like overkill for the conditions, but I would quickly be proven wrong.
Things looked promising as I hooked and landed a nice little mahseer on the fourth or fifth cast. Maxim followed that with a fat amur catfish that he foul hooked in the tail. Next on the line was a rare and somewhat stomach churning river eel that surfaced in a writhing brown knot before coming off — thankfully — before it could slime my landing net. After the eel, the bite seemed to shut down.
Following fruitless hour of casting and losing lures on snags, we broke for lunch and then moved upstream. Around mid-afternoon we shifted back to the original stretch of water to meet with Tre as he got off work. Tre arrived managed to hook and land a nice mahseer on his first cast. The bite appeared to be back on. Maxim landed two more mahseer after wading out to mid-channel just below a rapid, and then he got his skygazer. Tre netted one or two more mahseer and then it was time for Maxim and I to head back north.
Tre said the relative lack skygazer action was disappointing as the same spot had been going off a week prior, but that’s always the way it is — sometimes the bite is on and sometimes it isn’t. It had been raining for about a solid week before our trip, so that may have played a role.
We were all using light to medium-weight spinner tackle. I switched between small inline spinners, one and two-inch ribbon tail grubs on jig heads, and 6 to 8 gm spoons. Tre was throwing mostly larger gold spoons that were about 8 grams and having good luck with the mahseer. Maxim cleaned up with his magic jerk bait, which has me thinking that I may go with a shallow running crankbait like a Cotton Cordell Big O or small Rapala that I can bounce off the rocks without snagging it. Size certainly didn’t seem to matter with lure success. Though both the skygazers and mahseer have relatively small mouths, they were not shy about attacking larger lures.
More photos from the day can be found in the gallery section and be sure to check out Maxim's video below.