The Joys of Japanese Style Bait Fishing

I have done Western style fly fishing since I was a teenager. Not well. I can barely tie my own flies, and my casting technique has been flawed. But I stuck with that method and managed to land some decent fish through the years.

Then I discovered the Japanese method of tenkara, and immediately threw myself into that form of fishing. It was like regular fly fishing without all the overhead. Simple and to the point: no reel, one line, a little bit of tippet, and a few simple flies.

Both have served me fairly well here in Japan, but my last major fishing trip, had me completely enthralled by another popular (but not without its fair share of technique) fishing method here in Japan. It’s called keiryu. And it’s now a big part of my fishing life.

A second breakage of my uber fragile Nissin Pocket Mini, sent me back to Sapporo’s one stop fishing emporium Amerikaya (アメリカ屋魚具) to check out new rods. Having so much success in Tokachi, lining yamame after yamame with relative ease on salmon eggs, I decided to completely break from the fly fishing roots and run with the devil. I was going to become a bait fisherman.

My wife wanted to get in on the act as well, so I quickly found us a couple of sturdy (not easily breakable!) rods to get us on the water quickly and without fuss. First I went with a ¥6,000 3.02 meter Daiwa that wouldn’t break the bank. As a less expensive alternate rod I found some off brand 3.6 meter Chinese rod for under ¥2,000. Though the later rod is quite a bit heavier (160g vs the lighter 59g of the Daiwa), I am certain that it won’t be snapping anytime soon.

Keiryu Techniques for Tenkara Anglers
As you can see, the rigging for a keiryu rod is pretty straightforward. I generally tie 3 or 4 feet of 3.5X fluorocarbon tippet material to the lilian, followed by about two meters of 5X (connected by a Surgeon’s Knot). Finally, I loop connect Japanese hooks which are pre-tied to about 20 centimeters of 6X(ish) line. I’ll put some split shot about 8-10 inches up from the hook. Somewhere long the midsection of the line I put 3 indicators to help see the line’s positioning (these are not bobbers, or strike indicators).
Keiryu rods
Keiryu rods are telescoping, fixed line rods. They are typically sold in these plastic rectangular boxes and come in a variety of lengths (2.5 meters to 8 meters or more!)

The real reason I suspect my wife wanted in on the action was so that she could use our K9 Sport Sack to bring our dog along on our fishing expeditions. We already have done long bike rides, day hikes, and snowshoeing. Fishing seemed the next logical experiment. Fly fishing and tenkara style had been out of the question, all those hooks flying around your head on back casts seems a bit dangerous. But keiryu is relatively harmless, just hold the end f the line and underhand fling it where you like. After a few times it becomes fairly natural.

With a supremely light line, with almost no slack from rod tip to the split shot, strike detection is immediate. Just follow your lines indicators (keeping them above water and adjusting for depth) and fish!

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3 thoughts on “The Joys of Japanese Style Bait Fishing

  1. Hi. As above – same comment and question. I too would be very interested to know where to source the Keiryu Indicator Yarn. Thanks in advance.

  2. Great article. Where do,you get your yarn sighter material from? I am trying to obtain some and it is proving difficult here in the UK.

What do you think?