From the rows upon rows of market garden allotments, the mountain air, clear streams and the scarcity of people it is hard to believe that Yozawa is still in fact part of the city of Tokyo. Fly fishing at Yozawa is usually catch and release for me, but at the river there is a stall selling local farmers’ produce and this time of the year means the local specialty vegetable of the Itsukaichi area, norabou (I have no idea what it is in English) which I look forward to cooking with. I also laid in some eggs – not silkie unfortunately, but still free range – and some locally produced honey. The wild boar curry, now a regular purchase whenever I am in the area, was bought at the station shop.
under the sakura cherry blossoms…
Despite the copious, long-winded fetishism associated with fly fishing – if a trout were caught for every word written on the subject of fly fishing, surely the poor creatures would have been extinct in the last century – I have found here stream fishing in Japan, just two flies produce at least 90% of all my catches: parachute Adams and hare’s ear. Today was no exception; this wild rainbow was taken on a green #16 Adams…
did the trick. This of course was a net I bought ready-made last year but raw bamboo, which I lacquered by hand myself and then had the knotted netting replaced with a synthetic knotless mesh.
It was nice to catch a wild rainbow trout on my trusted Thebault silk line and then land the creature with my home-lacquered net. The weather was terrible and precluded catching yamame, but the rainbows, wild and stocker, put up a good show and I was not disappointed, although everything was on nymphs or wet flies. The fishery is always good for ornithology and the crowning glory of the day was, for me perhaps, spotting a very unseasonal wariangle/shrike (Linnaeus’ L. bucephalus) – my first in Japan, and what I take to be a good omen. Thanks as always to Yozawa trout stream and I hope to catch some yamame on a dry fly when the weather improves!
It was nice to get in a day of fly fishing lessons when I was in England last month. I must say I learnt a great deal in just a day of tuition with a professional instructor, with the added bonus of some good fish and at a very nice stillwater fishery. For anyone wanting to get into fly fishing, I highly recommend investing in some fly casting lessons: you will not regret it.
The lake was stocked with rainbow trout of a middling size, but they were well-finned, thick-waisted and very hard fighting fish. Indeed I was so surprised by the power of the first fish I hooked he broke my leader before I could react. So much more exciting than some of the rather sluggish and shop-worn stockers I have sometimes encountered here in Japan. My instructor and guide was very nice and patient and showed me a great variety of tips and techniques, and like so many anglers, was a keen naturalist too. We spoke at length about the wildlife to be spotted around the fishery, and as we arrived in his car an enormous buzzard took off and flew away right in front of us; a most gratifying sight. Even more so when the same bird returned in the late afternoon twilight and perched on a tree almost above my head! Other species I spotted that day were egret, heron and at dusk I was treated to the unmistakeable call of a barn owl. Later some gathering egrets were scattered by a doe deer bursting out into the open and running across the open. The instructor showed me a variety of tactics: wet patterns, buzzer, later a dry fly and then at the end of the day, the infamous Klink & Dink set-up, which produced two takes in rapid succession. For a number of reasons, I did not keep any of the fish I caught that day and all trout landed were released. I was content with what I had learnt that day, a couple of very amusing plays with game, hard-fighting trout, a hefty pie and ale pub lunch and the excellent company. I cannot thank enough my instructor for the day, Mr. Mick Siggery, for the great day out. Though it sounds like lunacy I turned down the offer of having the lesson on the River Test; since I wanted to start learning from scratch at the most basic level I went for a day on stillwater that would not require wading or traipsing great distances. There is always next time!
Windowcat, looking down upon the earth like some kind of Olympian. The joke was on him/her though, as I was going fishing!
I landed some native-born rainbows, but sadly no yamame this time.
I see these Plecopterans (stoneflies) on the river every time I fish there after about midday. They have a remarkably annoying habit of trying to insinuate themselves into your eye-balls and the fish don’t seem interested in flies mimicking them.
My next trip to Yozawa will hopefully be next week.
Grey Wagtail, or Linnaeus’ Motacilla cinerea.
Kept me company on Yozawa Trout Stream today. Sadly I wasn’t in luck with the yamame today – two beautiful takes, but no hook-set – but I landed two brace of hard-fighting rainbows, all on a dry fly, and all released. Proceedings were brought to an abrupt close with an almost Biblical hail-storm in the early afternoon; I should have kept an eye on the glass (when I finally did, it was at 967mb) but the booming thunderclaps – sounding like artillery, in the deep of the valley – had me scampering for cover long before I could get soaked.
Today’s bag was therefore made up of locally produced silkie eggs, monstrous shiitake mushrooms and a curious local specialty, wild boar curry.
I don’t normally use a landing net whilst fly fishing, as the fish I target are small enough to subdue without; those that aren’t destined for the slab I release at the water’s edge. However, I broke down when seeing this net at the excellent fly angling shop Tsuruya as I thought it might come out very nicely if lacquered with urushi. It came already strung with a knotted net so I asked the ever-helpful shop-man to remove it, and he will re-fit it with a knotless mesh net when I have finished the lacquering.
The net is about 22cm across at its most narrow, which is more than big enough for most of the kinds of fish I catch, such as the yamame I photographed in a previous diary, and rainbow trout such as this one:
Whilst the rainbow trout is farmed and released as a game fish around the world – from my own England to the far reaches of Japan and even Australasia – it generally does not establish breeding populations as the water temperature does not go low enough. One exception to this is Yozawa river in west Tokyo, where I caught this creature; it is definitely too small to be a stocker and is most likely the descendant of the rainbows released in the river over half a century ago by the American and Itsukaichi resident Thomas Blakemore. The story goes that the river so reminded him of his own native Oklahoma he bought land in the area and paid to set up a trout game fishery, which exists to this day: Yozawa Trout Stream. His patronage is memorialised by this plaque, which is on display outside the stream manager’s office, and inside are many photographs of the man himself, fishing the stream he loved.
Non-Japanese anglers are welcomed at Yozawa to this day, including an English-language explanation of the river rules and a map, and the staff are very friendly and helpful. They run a 4km-stretch of the river and most parts are accessible without waders. When the fish aren’t biting there is also ample opportunity for bird-watching, including kingfishers, wagtails and birds of prey. I hope to be on the river tomorrow!