“The Compleat Tsuribito” is my personal blog featuring offshore and freshwater fishing, photography, recipes for the discerning angler-cook, Japanese culture and history relating to fishing, eating out and life in general as an English expat living in Tokyo.
I originally named this blog ‘Fishing Japan’, but after finding an older website with the same name, have renamed mine Compleat Tsuribito. The name is a queer compact of Izaak Walton’s 1653 classic treatise on sport fishing, ‘The Compleat Angler’ and the Japanese word for angler, tsuribito. Despite Walton writing over three centuries ago, I consider his philosophy as relevant to fishing today as it was then. His eloquent and optimistic style of writing, complete with flowery song, poetry and references both Classical and biblical, makes quite excellent reading. There are men who go out fishing as an occasional past-time, and then there are men who love fishing as much as their human relatives, and indulge it when and wherever possible as an obssession. Walton very clearly belonged to the latter variety, and one can feel his good-natured and immense enthusiasm for fishing on every page of his book.
“…but he that hopes to be a good angler, must not only bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit, but he must bring a large measure of hope and patience, and a love and propensity to the art itself; but having once got and practised it, then doubt not but angling will prove to be so pleasant, that it will prove to be, like virtue, a reward to itself” from The Compleat Angler (Walton, 1653)
I myself took up fishing here in Japan in 2004. I started off in pier fishing but now since then I have got more and more into the hobby, by trial and error, and these days go fishing about once a week, usually offshore although I also enjoy freshwater fishing. Since I do not own a car, I usually take advantage of the excellent public transport system here. During the various holiday seasons I may head out as many as three times in seven days. I also make several trips each year to the north of Japan, to fish various parts of the Sea of Japan and the Pacific; probably my favourite places to fish in all Japan are Toyama Bay and the Sanriku coastline. The variety of fishing in terms of species, seasonal and regional differences, available here in Japan is amazing. There is no season where all sport fishing is prohibited or made impossible by the weather, and there are fish to catch all year round. I personally can never understand those anglers here who choose only to fish for one particular species when there is so much on offer. Another interesting aspect of fishing Japan is the rich history and culture of fishing, and the host of traditional fishing methods and equipment here, often with no equivalent in the West. In 2008 I underwent eye surgery, and was unable to go fishing for nearly six months; to pass the time I started learning how to make traditional Japanese bamboo fishing rods from a master craftsman in my neighbourhood. This is proving to be a very rewarding hobby and a perfect way to pass the time when the weather is too foul for fishing.
Another of the great pleasures of the hobby for me is cooking with the fish I have caught, and I make a variety of traditional dishes such as sashimi, tenpura and sushi in addition to some recipes of my own. When I am not out fishing or making my own bamboo fishing rods, I am usually at home cooking – if not Japanese then Indian, Thai or Italian. I don’t own a television and I dislike a lot of the fishing shows that are broadcast here in Japan as most are simply long advertisements and rather tiresome.
I still use the first fixed spool reel I ever bought, at the Sansui shop in 2004 for ¥700. The cheap blue monofilament line it came with has long since gone and been replaced, but the reel remains in my tackle bag to this day when others (including one that cost over 20 times more) have long since packed up on me, and I have caught and continue to catch literally hundreds of fish with it. It has taken me a couple of years to realise it but often the best fishing gear is not necessarily the most expensive. The prices for some fishing tackle are outrageous, especially here in Japan, and very often exactly the same job can be done with a set-up much, much cheaper than those seductive glossy adverts you see in the fishing magazines and shows will let on. The idea that buying a certain rod or reel ensures you a good catch the next time you go fishing is utterly ludicrous. A lot of fishing gear you see in the shops seems to be suited better to catching anglers than fish.
One of my dreams is to fish every single prefecture in Japan, the so-called todohfuken…in other words the Tokyo metropolis, Hokkaido, Osaka and Kyoto and the 43 prefectures that comprise the nation. I would learn a traditional fishing technique unique to each particular area, try my hand at it and also liberally sample the local specialty food and drink and hopefully take in some of the sights as well. So far I have fished twelve regions: the Tokyo Metropolis and Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Chiba, Gunma, Toyama, Ibaragi, Iwate, Aichi, Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures. On completion I am going to write everything up into a book; whether or not this will be popular in the fishing press remains to be seen but what is certain, is that it will be quite good fun.
In 2007 I managed to get in a fishing trip whilst on holiday in Sri Lanka, which proved to be a fantastic experience. As well as wanting to revisit Sri Lanka for another go, I have a few other places on my list to go fishing including Cebu in the Philippines, the Andaman Sea, inshore Arabian Sea in Pakistan, trout in the mountain streams of Chitral and also the rivers and seas of Alaska. Although I am not sure when free time, circumstances, local politics, conditions and money will conspire to make such trips possible for me, we shall see.
Up until 2008 I had specialised in offshore fishing, but after a visit to the Izu mountains – and snagging some local amago – my mind was opened to freshwater fishing. In Winter 2009-10 a regular reader of my blog kindly showed me the basics of fly fishing, and this is another form of angling I am really enjoying and getting into. In particular, I found the way trout take a dry fly quite exhilarating.
2009 was a very special year for me, as in the summer I not only completed my first bamboo fishing rod, but I made the trip to Uttarakhand state, north India, in pursuit of the noble Himalayan Golden mahseer, and caught a 30lb specimen; it was the journey of a lifetime and a memory I will treasure for life. In the words of Kipling: “There he stood, the Mahseer of the Poonch, beside whom the Tarpon is a Herring and he who catches him can say he is a fisherman”
Well anyway this is the end of my rather longwinded introduction to my blog, I hope you enjoy visiting. Hopefully my site will be, directly stealing Walton’s words, “not unworthy the perufal of moft Anglers”.
Adam Guy 2013