My first bass on fly

Black bass fishing is extremely popular in Japan. When I watch a fishing channel, one third of all programs are about bass fishing. The history of bass fishing in Japan started in 1925 when Tetsuma Akaboshi, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, brought 90 black bass from Santa Roza, California, and released them in Lake Ashino in Kanagawa prefecture.

As I wrote in my older post, I had a terrible time bass fishing in winter. Ever since then, I had not tried bass fishing on fly for a long time.

Last summer, I finally bought my first bass lure tackle, and caught my very first bass. This was almost 10 years after my first trial.

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Then, I tried a pond fishing with my lure tackle and I was able to catch some large mouth bass, as well.

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I said, ok, I think my bass-fishing curse is lifted. I’m ready to try my bass on fly.

But, I wanted to carefully choose the date I was going to go. On the day I had planned to go, it was not only very cold, but it was also raining. So, I canceled my original plan, and waited until the next week.

My fishing friend told me the water temperature of a lake was to rise after 3 days of warm days. I had re-planned to go on Apr 8th. Then, it was very warm on Apr 5, 6, 7th. I was ready, and the lake and the bass must’d been be ready for me, too.

I went there in the early morning. Although I saw some fish right after I started fishing, none of the bass attacked my fly. I started becoming a little uneasy. Is my black bass curse still in effect?

So, I moved to this small island where it was surrounded by reed. I remembered somebody told me the bass hid in the reed. So, I casted my zonker fly to where the reeds were, and this bass was kind enough to take a bite. My very first bass on fly.

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As you can see in the picture, the cherry blossom was still blooming. I enjoyed the scenery and the bass fishing. It was a nice perfect spring day.

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Salmon fishing in Japan

Catching salmon in the rivers is strictly prohibited in Japan. If you want to catch a salmon, you have two options.

  1. Catch them in the ocean before they enter the river.
  2. Join a scientific research.

I tried (1) in Hokkaido in 2015, but I failed. I tried (2) in 2016, and here’s the report of it.

In many rivers in Japan, many fisheries union conduct scientific research on salmon whereby they allow fishermen to catch salmon so they can make records of where they could catch salmon. The research usually happen from September to November.

On this website, you can find rivers that do these researches. (Get somebody or me to help you find out whether there is a river that does the research near you.) You need to send a letter to apply, and you are lucky enough, you will get selected to join. I applied to join a research at Sagae river in Yamagata prefecture.

So, on Oct 27th, 2016, I drove 6 hours from Kawasaki to get to Sagae River. I brought my 8 weight rod and a Tibor Everglades. My fly line was Rio’s versa tip. I wasn’t sure how deep the river was, so I prepared Versa tip line so I can adjust to the depth of the water.

What I had heard about salmon fishing was that it’s very difficult and you are lucky if you could catch one. To my surprise, Sagae river was very crowded with salmon. It didn’t take a lot of time before I caught my first fish. Male fish was extremely powerful, and I had to fight for 30 mins before I could land one.

Please note that in most of the research salmon fishing, you need to stop fishing after catching 3 female salmon.

To be very honest, I didn’t like salmon fishing that much because 1. salmon are not supposed to eat anything once they come into the river. If your fly was in a salmon’s mouth, it’s not that you had them strike, but it’s just that it happened to go into their mouth by accident, 2. once female salmon spawn, they lose estrogen (female hormone) and their body start rotting quickly. One time, I caught a female salmon right-side of which was already dead. (Its right eye and skin had come off.) You see dead salmon everywhere too.

Perhaps next time I do salmon fishing, I should probably go there earlier in the season before the female spawn.

How I survived falling and breaking my leg

After my fishing friends and I spent 4 hours driving and 5 hours walking to get to a white spotted char’s heaven in Shizuoka prefecture at the end of April, I realized how fun it was to get to such a place. So I planned to go to a similar secluded river in Tanzawa by myself.

On May 3rd, I arrived at a parking lot near the hiking path where I spent 2.5 hours to hike up. At the end of the path, there was a lodge behind which you could enter the river that I planned to fish.

What I didn’t know was that before entering the river, the path continued a little more so you could enter the river just upstream of a small dam. I entered the river just downstream of the dam, so I had to find a way to detour around it.

I started climbing a cliff on the left side of the dam. Although there were dangerous times when I almost fell, I successfully climbed up. Then I had to climb down. After I climbed down a half way through, a rock collapsed when I stepped on it with my right foot. I fell 2-3 meters down and sprained my right ankle. (I later found out at the hospital that I had broken the bone.)

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Yes, breaking the bone was extremely painful for 5 seconds. But, I became too busy to feel the pain. I started thinking about how I could get out of there alive. I had to think about:

1. There’s no one around. How do I let someone know that I need help.

2. If in case I cannot contact anyone, I am confident that my fishing friends will start wondering why I’m not back from a 2 day trip after 3 days. So, how can I survive 3-4 days before my fishing friends contact police and rescue team can find me.

So I quickly took my cell phone from my bag, and confirmed there was no reception. I cannot directly contact police to ask for help. Then I took the whistle and started blowing. For a while, I blew the whistle, but I could not get any response.

So, I had to think about how I would survive for the next 3-4 days. Immediately, the following thoughts came to my mind.

– Drinking water: I have a water purifier. The river is 200 meters away. Need to crawl, but check.

– Food: Got 2 days worth of food in the bag. If I eat them a little by little, I can survive for 3-4 days. Check.

– Wormth: It’s only about 1,000 meters in altitude. It won’t rain for a while. I have a sleeping bag and a water-proof sleeping bag cover. Check, I’ll be okay.

So, if everything went well, I knew I would survive this disaster. I started crawling, and I also blew whistles and yell “Somebody! Help!” while taking a break from crawling. I was surprised at the volume of my own voice. I learned that when the volume of one’s voice would decide life/death of his/hers, it could become quite loud.

After crawling for a while to get to the river, I started hearing some voice. The whistle and yelling saved my life.

The people from the lodge came and found me. They contacted police and the rescue team for me. A police officer came about 1 hour later, and put a harness on me. After the rescue team of about 10 men arrived, they tied ropes to the officer and my harness so neither of us would fall while the officer would carry me on his back.

After escaping from the river and the river bank, I got on the rescue team’s car to go back to the parking lot where an ambulance was waiting for me. After arriving at the hospital, they took an X-Ray of my ankle. I thought I only sprained it, but the X-ray revealed that the bone was broken.

The moral of the story:

1. Don’t go fishing alone.

2. Don’t try climbing up/down cliffs that are beyond your climbing skills

The surgery has been confirmed to happen on May 16th. I will not be able to walk for 1.5 months, and then because of iron plates and bolts, I will not be able to go river fishing / climbing for 6 months. I will probably focus on fishing bass in the next 6 months.

Getting to white spotted char’s heaven

From the end of April to the first week of May is called “Golden week” in Japan. You get a few days off due to national holidays. If you add a couple of personal leaves, you get one whole week off.

So, my golden week started two days ago on April 29th, so me and my fishing friends decided go to white spotted char (Iwana)’s heaven in Shizuoka prefecture.

It took a lot of time. 4 hours driving, and another 5 hours walking upstream the river to get to where we set up our base camp. On the way to get there, there were many dangerous spots where we could fall and die. By the time we got there, we were exhausted, but the thought of big size white spotted chars opening their mouths waiting for our fly / lure / bait, we could not help but to grab our rods and start fishing.

So, here’s the pic gallery of our trip.

Practicing to beat competitions

As I discussed in one of my posts, because fishing is an extremely popular hobby in Japan, you get a lot of competitions when you go out for fly fishing. If you would like to get to a place where you get no competition, you need to take an extreme measure to get there.

This can be achieved in a several ways. The method I can think of from top of my head right now are: 1. Get to a place where it takes a lot of time to get to, 2. Get to a place where it takes a skill to get to, 3. Both (1) and (2).

I’ve done (1). It takes a lot of time to get to Noro river because you need to spend 3 hours driving, another 1.5 hours on a bus, and another 4 hour on hiking. Still, you saw a few competition.

Then I read a book written by a journalist about the rivers that are full of shaku-iwana, or white spotted char sized larger than a foot. In the book, most rivers that are introduced are not reachable without a climbing skill. That’s when it hit me that to acquire a climbing skill takes not only a lot of commitment, but a friend who has as much passion to search for fish as you do. Fortunately, one of my colleagues is also interested in learning climbing.

So, before my colleague took a climbing lesson, I went ahead and took a climbing course at West Tanzawa.

 

The trip was extremely exhausting and dangerous. I saw how climbing would repel many fishermen. I should’ve been to a climbing gym first before I went ahead and got to a natural climbing environment.

2017 Trout Opener in Tohoku Area

For the past two years, I spent the trout opening weekend (1st weekend in March) in Izu peninsula. This year, my colleague wanted to go to Tohoku area for the trout opener because he heard the news on the internet that the fishing is already really good. So, we spent two hours partying, drinking beer, and talking about trout fishing on a bullet train to arrive at Tohoku area.

Tohoku area is famous for its really cold whether and a lot of snow. When we arrived at the river, we noticed there were still a lot of snow left. That means the temperature of the water is close to 0 degrees Celsius.

I would’ve written more about the trip if I caught any fish. It turned out the fishing was really tough. Three of us caught only one fish during the two days of fishing. I brought a dry fly tackle and a lure tackle. I noticed there was very little chance to catch any fish with a dry fly because it was too cold for the flies to hatch and also too cold for fish to rise. I quickly switched to my lure tackle to cast spoons, but still no chance.

So, what we started doing was to enjoy food. Tohoku area’s got great food and sake! I had the best lamb bbq, sashimi, sushi, and sake ever!

Getting rust off my fly casting skill

DA said he was going to Tanzawa home for fishing, and he invited me to join. I wanted to get the rust off my fly casting skill I acquired during the “off-season” from October before the “on-season” would start in March. So, I took my 7ft 3 weight rod and dry flies. (I actually forgot to bring my dry fly boxes.)

This time, DA tried his new 10ft 3wt nymphing rod. His first fish of the year was cherry trout.

It was interesting because once he started using a heavy woolly bugger as the anchor fly, he started catching a lot of fish! The fish totally loved the black bugger. At one spot, a huge white spotted char (iwana) broke his line 3 times.

I had a tough time for a while with my dry flies, but I finally caught this pretty good size rainbow trout.

DA told me he wanted to catch amago, so we’ll probably go to Izu peninsula in April.

Tuna on Fly, June 2016, Kume Island, Okinawa Japan

It’s already been 6 months after going to Okinawa trip, but here’s the report on that one.

In 1609, Satsuma clan of Japan invaded and conquered Ryukyu Kingdom which had been an independent state until then. It kept being a separate state from Japan until 1879 when Meiji government (which is a successor government to the last samurai government called “Tokugawa Bakufu”) decided to include Ryukyu as one of its prefectures as “Okinawa prefecture.” (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1945, allied powers and Japan fought the battle of Okinawa after which Okinawa was occupied by the United States. US handed over the islands to Japan in 1972. (Source: Wikipedia) Lying just in between the East China sea and the Pacific ocean, Okinawa remains today as one of the most important strategic locations for the US-Japan alliance.

Not only for men, but it is also a key location for the tuna. Okinawa’s tuna shipment volume is the third biggest in all of the prefectures in Japan. This is especially true of Kume Island.


To tourists, Kume Island is known for its adjacent sandy island called Hatenohama. But, for fishermen, its famous for having many payaos around the island where tuna, bonito, dolphin fish (mahi-mahi), and other types of fish visit and stay. To saltwater fly fishermen, the island is known as one of few places in Japan where you can catch tuna on fly.

On the first day, the team enjoyed the Okinawa noodles (somewhere between ramen noodles and udon noodles) at a traditional noodle place. I also enjoyed Okinawa’s local beer called Orion beer. It’s interesting because when you drink Orion beer in Tokyo, it’s the worst beer ever, but when you drink it in Okinawa, it’s the best beer you can ever imagine.

In the mornings before we got on boats for tuna fishing, I also enjoyed shore fishing. I managed to catch a pretty good size giant trevally. When the sun came up, the view was unbelievable.

We took two full days of boat fishing. My first tuna that took a bite on my fly was a 30kg (66 lbs) tuna. Just before landing it, the line broke. But, I was able to land some tuna, and this picture is one of the biggest one I caught. Perhaps around 6kg (13 lbs.)  At Kume island, there is a restaurant where you bring the fish you caught and they make them into sushi for you. I’ve had a lot of sushi before, but this tuna sushi was absolutely the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life.

Wild monkeys that take hot spring bath

OK, so, this posts has nothing to do with fly fishing, but here goes.

I went to Jigoku Valley in Nagano prefecture which is the only place in the world where the wild monkeys take hot spring bath.

The monkeys that live in Jigoku valley are the ones that live in the highest latitude in the world. To get by the cold winter, one day one of the monkeys went into the hot spring bath. Thus, the tribe’s tradition of taking hot spring bath started. Today, the people at “Snow Monkey Park” built the hot spring bath specially for the monkeys. It is only the female monkeys and their offsprings that take hot spring bath, and not the adult males.

If you would like to visit there to see the monkeys, please go to the park’s official website in English to get more information. It’s easier for the English speaking visitors to get there than for the Japanese speaking visitors because, from Nagano station to the snow monkey park, many of the signs and guides were written only in English and not in Japanese.

I’m thinking about going there next summer because there’s a river nearby that is probably suitable for fly fishing.