Concluded happily and without mishap. It was one of those days when the tide, wind and fish shoals all contrived to combine into perfect conditions for fishing and the whiting literally hooked themselves all day – amazing fishing, for those who could put up with the cold. My Guernsey frock and a hip flask of rum kept the cold out till the winter sun was up and warmed us all up, but I stopped fishing by about 1pm as I had caught over fifty fish and had no intention of taking any more. This time I had brought my own bamboo rod that I made in 2011 but for various reasons, hadn’t used for fishing yet. It is always good to have a good catch with a new rod (bad luck seems to stick to new rods) and although the rod could have been built better, it fished perfectly well and I am very satisifed with its action and weight. After its first trip like all bamboo rods it needs another firing – the first time it is fished the various fibres and joints undergo the actual tensions and strains of fishing and the firing sets everything into place permanently; I will try to do this next weekend.
Anyway, for posterity I recorded the first fish taken on this rod.
Also the deckhand kindly modelled the rod and catch for me also (I caught the fish!).
Whiting can be eaten in a variety of ways but as I was busy in the evening I made simple English-style fishcakes, a family favourite. “Secret” tartar sauce on the side, of course. Whiting are easy to fillet and the dish was made in about 30 minutes.
Back in England fishcakes tend to be deep-fried or cooked under a grill. Mine were shallow-fried in olive oil and served hot with tartar sauce and a salad of tomatoes. The dregs of the bottle-conditioned Belgian beer went into my nuka!
Whiting fishcakes with “secret” tartar sauce.
Leftover whiting were laid out, cured, seasoned with sake and nori flakes and then sun-dried with the next day’s laundry. In Tokyo winter these are done in a few hours, the air being so cold and dry. These are perfectly delicious lightly grilled over a fire.
Thanks as always to Fukagawa Fujimi, sailing from Monzennakacho!
had a good first run.
I’m lacquering a tanago rod for a friend (I had no part in the making of the rod). It has some quirks but the bamboo is fairly sound and the hera-style grip is a novelty. When working on another rod over the New Year holidays my raw urushi ran out so I ordered some more from Joboji. This is the raw unprocessed urushi tapped from Lac trees and is the most hyperallergenic stuff I use; it also solidifies into the most amazingly rich colour and bamboo rods built using this lacquer end up with very strong, dependable joints.
This time on the Kanagawa shore of the Bay. The weather was good; so good in fact that despite two applications of sunscreen my nose and forehead ended up lobster-red, quite a feat for late November fishing. This did not stop me enjoying a few ice-cold Yebisu beers throughout the day though.
I released about a dozen smaller fish, but there was still plenty in the bag for the neighbours, and a colleague at work who had placed a slightly oblique request for some of the fillets. Somewhat embarrassingly, I also won a prize for my catch. My haze rod continues to give good service, though I think I shall make another one, slightly longer this time. I’ve a whiting rod project in the making also so it will be no great effort to add to it, and I think I will attempt another batch of tanago rods.
Many thanks to Mr. O. as always!
had some good weather so I broke out the charcoal brazier and set to my rod making. This time I would be firing two types of bamboo – just the practice stuff, not the good bamboo for actual rods. Straightening the bamboo over a fire is probably the hardest part of traditional Japanese rod making and I was lucky one of my friends gave me a huge amount of bamboo for me to practise with i.e., to set on fire, to snap into pieces and burn myself with – in other words, getting the hang of it through repeated trial and error, the only way to learn such a skill. Whilst bamboo rod making may sound and look glamorous, it really isn’t; it is mostly hard slog, very dirty, and involves a great number of minor personal injuries, mostly to one’s hands. First off I needed to trim the branches of the bamboo – I do the rough work with a pair of bonsai shears and then the smaller stuff with a Japanese knife after. The branches on this particular species of bamboo are very hard, and after a couple of dozen sticks I had developed a blood blister on my ring finger, and a regular blister on my palm.
Anyway, I was glad to be able to use the set of tamegi – the wood tools used to bend the bamboo into shape after heating the bamboo over a fire – I made last year under my teacher’s instruction. This is the same brazier I use to cook yakitori or chuletas at home so there was a slight whiff of animal fat at first, but soon the fire was nice and hot and drove off all the odd smells. One day I will obtain a brazier just for rod making. The bamboo is heated through and then straightened bit by bit using the tamegi.
The bamboo is heated up till just before it starts to burn – sometimes steam shoots out the cut end of the bamboo, sometimes the wood will catch fire anyway. It was only a matter of time before I burnt myself, right on the pad of my right thumb, and had me running to the kitchen for ice water.
This time round I managed about a dozen passable sticks, and destroyed about the same number again. Since this is only my practice bamboo, the straightened sticks have no further use for rod making, but they do make very strong, ideal cane for the garden; I used a couple to string up my first batch of tomatoes.
I had taken the precaution of putting a couple of cans of Yebisu in the fridge before I started work, and there are few things as pleasant after crouching over a charcoal brazier all afternoon than a nice cold beer. It also dulled the pain in my hands a bit. My rod making teacher always sardonically says, one must break a hundred lengths of bamboo before one gets an idea of how to fire it properly. Only another nine dozen or so to go, then.
Picked up some sundries at traditional Japanese angling outfitters Tosaku during the week, and set them to use. First, I bought a traditional hand-stitched cotton bag for the tanago rod I have just made.
When folded and tied it will fit as easily into your pocket as your tackle bag:
Next I bought a set of bamboo frames, the tanago angler’s version of a line-tidy, which keep your tanago rigs taut and trim and separate from one another. I then made two rigs for Teganuma tanago angling, entirely from parts and tackle I have been generously given by various anglers on the lake, and wrapped them, ready for use. For scale, I added a 1-yen coin, which is 25mm in diameter. These rigs are far smaller than anything you can buy in the stores, and I am sincerely grateful for these gifts I have received – in particular, the craftsmanship put into the floats alone is astounding.
To protect the bamboo frames with their delicate cargo, these are placed in a specially made cotton bag, looking ever like little tucked-in bedfellows.
The whole thing folds up and is secured with a knot, and everything is ready for fishing!
First layer completed. This ground layer needs a few weeks to really fully polymerise and form a solid bond with the bamboo.