Most of the my time fishing, in terms of quantity of fish landed, is a utter disappointment here in Hokkaido. Several years back I did get into the high teens on my yamame count out near Akaigawa, west of Sapporo. But most of those were fingerlings barely worthy of that description. I was dying for a day on the water that I could truly call a haul. A day where even a piss poor technical angler like myself could brag about. Well, this summer my wish finally came true.
In late July, at the early/late hour of 2:00 AM, my fishing companion picked me up from from central Sapporo apartment and we set off for a three and a half hour long drive east to the 炭山 (たんざん,Tanzan), deep off the beaten path in Tokachi sub-prefecture. Won’t give away too much about the small river we went to, but local rumor claims that the salmon run in the larger tributaries of the Tokachi river were exceptionally large this year. That helped to explain yamame catches reaching absurd counts further upstream.
We managed to hit the water around 6 AM. I was sporting multiple rods for this excursion. My uber lightweight Nissin Pocket Mini (3.6 meters) and my 9 foot cheapo Cabela’s 5 weight fly rod. I had been using the Pocket Mini with a tenkara rig for a while now and was excited to be at a place with an abundance of fish (or so we had been told).
A few minutes after hitting the water I was not disappointed. Strike after strike came quickly, and I pulled in one of the best yamame I have ever caught here in Hokkaido, a good hand length. More yamame, a small rainbow, and a white spotted char (iwana) followed. The latter I was particular proud of, it being my first iwana. After about an hour I had managed to catch ten fish on my humble Elk Hair Caddis tenkara set-up. Not too shabby.
My friend caught up to me after transcending a small waterfall and I asked him how many he had managed, using a keiyru rig with salmon eggs.
I had to go full ESL instructor mode and make sure my friend was articulating the stress in his words.
Yes, my friend had caught 50 fish in the space of about an hour and a half. I would have been completely stunned, but his father had apparently caught over 100 yamame near this very spot the weekend before. But 50 seemed a bit insane, still.
A few moments later, as I was collapsing my Nissin Pocket Mini to switch to a bait fishing keiryu line, a joint midway up my Pocket Mini cracked. I was pissed. This was my second breakage on this overpriced compact rod within a year. But that misfortune would bring about an entire rethink of my fishing philosophy. (More on this in a later post)
Thankfully, my friend was a bit arm tired from hauling in so many fish and handed over his keiryu rig while he switched over to his own fly rod. First cast on this new setup brought in a wonderful 10 inch rainbow. From then on I was off to the races, bringing about 30 more fish to hand in a just a couple hours. It was exhausting, but a decent education in fish identification (the iwana’s golden underbelly is a easy identifier), and fish unhooking. We were going purely catch and release, so I was happy to handle most my fish with delicacy.
Eventually I tired of constantly hauling in fish and switched to my fly rod after an early lunch. The fish still continued rise to my size #18 Elk Hair Caddis (really the only fly I have used this fishing season), and I managed another 15 after a wonderful meal of tuna/mayo onigiri, teriyaki chicken wings, and leftover unrefrigerated egg salad sandwich that somehow didn’t go bad after 5 hours in the backseat of my friends SUV.
In the early afternoon we decided to retire from the river and make the long trek back to Sapporo. Kudos to my friend for putting up with my horribly broken Japanese over the eight plus hours of transit time. Of course no Hokkaido fishing trip is complete without a postmortem soft ice cream side jaunt. This time we stopped by the Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden, avoiding their endless displays of macrons and baumkuchen