Sabah Fisheries Department has identified fly fishing, linked to the tagal system of river fish conservation, as a new tourism product to boost the economic well-being of the state.

Jephrin Z Wong, deputy director of the department, disclosed this at the closing ceremony of a two-day training course for a group of 29 fly fishing enthusiasts at Kampung Babagon Bawah in the Penampang District yesterday.

The training, conducted by Mohd Amin Rahmat, a well known fly fishing expert from Singapore, was organized by the department to help Sabah enthusiasts in the hobby improve their casting skills.

The majority of participants came from a local club known as ‘Gerbang Caster Sabah’ (GCS) that has a membership of around 150 drawn from various parts of the state.

“If they are good in casting (the fishing line) in fly fishing, then they would stand a better chance to catch a fish, Wong explained.

He said the objective of this and subsequent training courses is to train local fly fishing youth to become guides for tourists who come for fly fishing in river tagal sites that presently number 477 spread throughout Sabah.

By next year, he said, the number of river tagal sites would increase and break the 500 mark, adding that many such sites along rivers in Sabah are suitable for fly fishing.

Wong said this is the contribution that the Fisheries Department is making to eco-tourism in particular and to the overall economic growth of the state in general.

He believed this new tourism product linked to the tagal system would also result in the creation of jobs for youth from communities where tagal sites are located.

“We are working closely with the committees of local tagal sites to ensure that this creation of job opportunities shall become a reality, he said.

“This is a new aspect of tagal system, promoting angling tourism, targeting specially at fly fishing for professionals and the potential is great. That is why we have this plan to train local youth from tagal sites to serve as guides.

According to him, Sabah is in a much better position for this niche for the tourism industry compared with other states in the country since there are many suitable sites for fly fishing linked with the tagal sytem.

An important requirement, as in fishing sport elsewhere in the world, is that it has to be on a “catch and release basis, he stressed.

The reason for having trained guides from the local communities of tagal sites concerned was to ensure that no tagal rules and regulations were broken by such fly fishing visitors, he said.

Mohd Amin, the trainer from Singapore who is better known as Pak Amin, noted that fly fishing professionals from around the globe would “go crazy with the chance to fish for species like pelian and black bass, also known as ikan kanai, at tagal sites along Sabah rivers.

He said such species are found only in Papua New Guinea and the Borneo Island.

“Because of these rare species, they will come and would be very surprised that within a matter of a 20-minute drive, they could get to such a fly fishing site here in Sabah, said Pak Amin who has visited many fly fishing destinations around the world, including those in New Mexico, USA and in Mongolia.

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