Urban Small Stream Fly Fishing

This past year I have reinvigorated my old fly fishing hobby, changing from an occational undertaking to an addiction that I devote myself to nearly everyday. I won’t be out on the water everyday, not even every week, but I am constantly learning about the art of fly fishing through books and other online resources including podcasts(yes, there are fly fishing podcasts – and I listen to them – frequently).

Since I don’t own a car I have relied on a friend to get me to some wonderful rivers and lakes in this region of Hokkaido. With a car you can haul all your gear (waders, vest) and not have to worry about weight. But should I need to strike out on my own, on bicycle, I need a lighter setup.


This past summer I started wet wading some of the upper reaches of the Toyohira River, the primary watershed for Sapporo City. Rumors in blog posts abound about anglers catching ヤマメ(yamame, landlocked cherry salmon) and rainbow trout in the Toyohira’s 源流 (genryu, headwaters). So I busted out my best Japanese translating skills, poured over Google Maps, and have set off on numerous hour long bike treks outside the city center in the quest for a decent stretch of trout holding water.

I pack one box of flies, 2 or 3 spools of tippet (4X-6X), my snippets, fly floatant, and plenty of drinking water. I strap my rod tube to the side of my pack, put my wet wading shoes in my bicycles basket and hit the road.

I’ve set out on about three such fishing excursions, and although I’ve only managed to catch three or four ウグイ(Japanese Dace, a common baitfish), it’s been fun to get on the water within the city limits. The best part is the lack of people, so my 10,000 Yen investment in Mont Bell’s サワトレク boots was well worth it. Japan has a long tradition of waterfall trekking/climbing and these boots are made for serious “Shower Climbing”, as the English translation calls 沢登り(sawanobori). My feet become complete magnets on slippery rocks so I can get to tight spots safely.

Since the headwaters can turn into very tight small streams, fully utilizing my fly rod and line is almost futile. Usually I use extremely short casts and often high stick my leader through short runs and tiny pools. It works fine but a telescoping tenkara rod might be even better, and I can definitely see another purchase on the horizon.