Genryu Fishing of Japan #38

My first memory of Keiryu fishing

I started fished when I was in the first grade of elementary school. I learned crucian carp fishing from my father at our neighborhood pond. Afterwards, I often went fishing with my father, but when I was 8 years old, I got allowed to go fishing alone to that pond only because I was able to swim then. At that time, I had got my own fishing rod and fishing gear and felt myself as a full‐fledged angler.

My grandfather and my father’s brothers also liked fishing. So, there were many bamboo fishing rods at my home. Most of them were 4.0 to 4.5m crucian carp rods, but there were some 8.0m to 10.0m ayu rods too. I thought how great fishing they do with such a long and heavy fishing rod. I reduced some sections from the butt section and made a fishing rod of about 3.0 m and fished in the pond. Every time I needed a fishing rod, my grandmother chose a fishing rod that would suit me from the bunch of fishing rods in the storeroom. 


It was the time, telescopic glass fiber rods finally appeared at last, and they were sold at expensive prices at fishing tackle stores. Some adult anglers were starting to buy glass fiber rods, but all the children were using bamboo rods which were sold cheaply at neighborhood candy store or fishing gear shop. The fishing rod sold at the candy shop was about 300 yen (I think it was about US$1.00.) with a set of tackles such as fishing line, fishing hook, bobber etc. Those fishing rods were of minimal quality to do fishing, but my fishing rods were of good quality made by fishing rod craftsmen. I was a little boast about it.

In such a boyhood, perhaps it was when I was 9 years old, I went to Yamizo mountain with my family on a beautiful Golden Week Holiday of May in fresh green season. Yamizo mountain is about 1000 m in height and located in Kitaibaraki (North part of our prefecture). Our plan was to go to the peak of Yamizo mountain by car and have picnic lunch, then drop in the fishing pond by the mountain stream for rainbow trout fishing. There are several mountain streams running through the foot of Yamizo mountain. Yamizo River in the south, Yamatsuri river in the east and Kuji River in the north of the mountain. The size of the streams was all small, but they were flowing through some beautiful hardwoods forests remained in places and mountain villages where the old houses with thatched roofs studded in the rice fields.

I think, the views of the villages of Yamizo that I saw at that time were exactly the original sceneries of the mountain villages of Japan. I, being a child at that time, felt sorry to those people living in such old houses because I imagined the living must have been very uncomfortable, and I thought they should build new architectural houses as soon as possible. Forty years have passed since then, there are no old private houses of the thatched roof in the villages of Yamizo now. The country roads, that were narrow just for one car wide but pleasantly winding following to the natural terrain, turned into boring roads that was wide and straight. I have passed fifty years of age now, and when I look back those day's beautiful landscapes of countryside, I feel great regretful feelings from the bottom of my heart realizing the size of what Japan has lost in exchange for becoming an economic superpower. 


Well, back to the story, we went to the peak of Yamizo mountain by car and enjoyed the view in the morning. Then we moved to Yamizo river and had a picnic lunch by the stream. The stream was only about 4 or 5m wide, and the depth of water was just under the knees of an adult person. However, clear water that we can see each of rocks at the bottom of the stream was rapidly flowing through between the many rocks. “We can fish mountain stream fish called Yamame here in this stream.” My father told me. I could not believe there was fish in such shallow and too clear water.

After a while, one angler was walking towered to us from the downstream. He was wearing a thick shirt for mountain climbing and work pants, and on his foot he was wearing waraji (straw sandals) on the work tabi (Japanese -style socks with a separate division for the big toe and the other toes). He also had a small daypack made of canvas on his back and a creel braided with bamboo chicks on his waist. His appearance was typical style of keiryu angler in those days. When I was a kid, those waraji or bamboo braided creels were sold at every fishing tackle store. Even some countryside people were making their waraji by themselves.

He was doing bait fishing with about 4.0 to 4.5m bamboo keiryu rod. He looked like same age as my father. He was talking about fishing with my father and showed me yamame in his creel. There were some small (about 15-20cm) but very beautiful yamame. I was impressed that yamame was such beautiful fish. The angler talked with my father 2,3 minutes and waded upstream for fishing. That sunny day in May, the scene of encounter with the yamame angler in the stream surrounded by fresh green forests was carved in my memory.

I sometimes talked with my father that we would do keiryu fishing someday in the future. After that we have done many types of fishing like lake fishing, carp fishing in the river or saltwater fishing, but we always felt that keiryu fishing would be the last fishing we would do. May be, we were feeling that mountain stream is the last place we would do fishing.

In fact, my father and I took up keiryu fishing when I was around 30 years old. It was fly fishing first and sometimes later we did tenkara fishing too. Since then, I had enjoyed keiryu fishing with my father for about 12 years until he passed away. We sometimes went to that Yamizo river or Kuji river. Those small streams are called “Sato-gawa (Village stream)” by anglers in Japan, and those are good streams for early mountain stream fishing season. Even now, I go fishing to that area sometimes in April or May, and every time I go there I think of that yamame angler, but I really can not figure out where the place I met with that angler was.

2017 Tenkara USA Summit

I've had this photo dump in cue for so long and I've been so busy writing about other things, I'm letting it go and letting the photo's speak for themselves. It was a wonderful summit, very large. I'm proud to be a part of it. Thank you Tenkara USA and Daniel Galhardo.

Genryu Fishing of Japan #37

Far and away Miomote River

Our last genryu fishing trip this year was planned to Main stream of Miomote River. Miomote River is a river that I planned an expedition together with Sebata-san in the same period three years ago. Unfortunately, the expedition was canceled at that time due to various circumstances, so the trip that was canceled had been caught somewhere in my heart.

Miomote River flows through the center of the Asahi Mountains (Mountain region spreading between Niigata Prefecture and Yamagata prefecture 60km south and north, 30km east and west. the mountain region has rich virgin forest of hardwoods such as Beech and Mizunara.) to The Sea of Japan. The genryu of the Miomote River is still like a big mainstream with a large amount of water, and it has many rugged but beautiful tributaries such as Takeno-sawa and Iwaimata-zawa. The area is a top-rate destination for Japanese keen genryu fishers and sawanobori (Stream climbing) experts.

Also, Miomote area is one of Japan's foremost heavy snowfall areas. In the mountain streams, the snow bridges remain until June or even July, and we can not wade and fish due to heavy run-off until then. It is possible to do kebari fishing in July, but from the end of July to the end of August it is impossible to do fishing because plague of blood-sucking horse flies “Mejiro-abu”. The remainder we can fish is only one month in September, that is, the period during which fishing can be done is only about a month and a half. Also, the harsh valley inscribed by the torrent does not let people go enter easily. It comes very difficult to wade even with a slight increase in water due to rain. This is a truly limited river that only several parties of real experts visit a year. So, this great nature protects and nurtures a lot of large iwana in Miomote river.

Asahi mountain area is covered with virgin broadleaf forest such as Beech and Mizunara. Wild animals such as black bear, Japanese serow and birds of prey such as golden eagle and goshawk live in this rich nature. Spring is a wild vegetable, summer is Iwana, autumn is mushrooms, winter is hunting. Since ancient times, people in Miomote village lived their lives with mountain blessings, doing Matagi(Hunters), picking wild vegetables or mushrooms.

Now, Miomote village sank to the bottom of Oku-Miomote dam, and all the villagers moved to towns. There are no village people entering the genryu area of Miomote River for a work. There used be a good zenmai path along Miomote River to the core genryu part, but almost of the path has been disappeared into the bush now, and it is hard to trace it. Since there is a mountaineering path to the main peak of the Asahi Mountain area "Mt. Oh-Asahidake", it is possible to use a steady climbing path to the Miomote Evacuation Hut in the middle part of Miomote River. Also, this evacuation hut will be of great help in the event of a sudden weather change.

Earlier in September, we go on the annual 2 nights for 3 days genryu fishing camp. Tohoku region of the Japan Sea side, it is just time Mejiro abu(Horse flies) just disappeared, there has been no anglers for a while and often good fishing can be done. This year, Tsurumi-san, Ito-san and I planned a trip to Miomote River. The aim was to go to the most upper part of genryu area called “Ito-zawa”. I have asked and heard a lot of information about routing and fishing from Sebata-san. I had heard a lot of information about routing and fishing from Sebata-san. He kindly always talks us the very useful and important information about the rivers to us gladly. I can not find a word of gratitude for him. By the way, the weather was very bad this summer. There were many rainy days, and there were extremely few sunny days like summer. There were also some typhoons generated.

We had checked the precipitation and the weather forecast since two weeks before the fishing trip. A couple of days of rain fell a week before the fishing trip. It seemed that it did not rain so much after that, but we did not know the situation in the mountains. Unfortunately, it seemed that the typhoon occurred in the Pacific Ocean was approaching to Japan. It looked come closest to the Pacific side of the Tohoku region on the third day of the fishing trip. There seemed to be a risk of landfall.

We can go to the 1st tenba (Camp site) of Miomote River without crossing the river using the old foot path along the river in case of bad weather and water level rises. We may be able to escape to the evacuation hut, but once it starts heavy rain, we can not even walk through the river, not to mention fishing. We discussed carefully until 3 days before the departure and decided to make this trip 1 night for 2 days

We thought the trip would be an investigation for the next fishing trip. We wanted to check the foot path which are almost faded into the bush, exact location of 1st tenba in the middle part of the mainstream of Miomote River and points we go down to the stream for fishing. As for fishing, we thought it would be OK, if we could do fishing in the middle part of main stream even for a short time.

A night before we enter the mountains, we parked the cars at the parking of climbing gate for Asahi mountains where we parked the cars also in July. There were full of stars in the sky. The weather forecast for the next day was fine for whole the day. We left the parking early next morning. The mountain climbing trail to the Miomote Hut was comfortable. We arrived at the hut in 2 hours and half. When I peeked in the hut, it was used cleanly, and when coming out of heavy rain it would be a comfortable evacuation place for a night.

After a short rest, when we tried to rush into rinse bush that we hear to the rumor, we found there was remarkable stepping trace. We traced the footprints carefully and also found there are pink ribbons of the route mark were hanging. After that, the pink ribbon was hanging exactly to the key points where the route became unclear. Sometimes there is a group to lower the ribbon of landmarks, but this one was a wonderful job. Thanks to the ribbon, we were able to reach the descent point to the mainstream very smoothly.

Just in case, we secured it with a rope and got off to mainstream, but we got stuck there. There was a lot of water, and we could not wade through the river at all. Without any help, we climbed the slope and again advanced to the stepping trace of the pink ribbon. The route after that was pretty bad, but we managed to get to the 1st tenba by 13:00.

The time was already past 13:00. We had to make decision here. It was an option of camping here or to fish as much as possible and going back to the hut. The confirming of the route and the tenba which was the object of this time had already been completed, and there was a high possibility that it would be raining next day from the morning. We chose to stay in a less risky shelter hut after a quick talk. We had quick lunch and prepared for fishing.

The time we could spare for fishing was only an hour and half. Also, the high water was not good for fishing. As Sebata-san was saying, the Miomote River in that area was a good fishing spot where riffles and goros continued. Under the blue sky of the summer color, the rich forest that continued from the mountains, the river bank of pure white granite polished by the torrent, the beautiful flow of light emerald green color, we stood on the bank of the Miomote river and took our breath. Unfortunately, the water was very clear and beautiful, but current was too strong for fishing. Only Tsurumi-san fished a couple of 28cm class iwana and time was orver when we reached to the big deep pool.

We felt we had to come back Miomote River next year again checking the weather and rainfall to choose the best timing. We pledged to challenge the mainstream of Miomote River and Ito-zawa next year again at our hearts. With only for a few hundred meters and for an hour and half fishing, we were completely fascinated by Miomote River.