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.
On Teganuma today.
It was very cold and windy out today but at least the sun was shining. The fish put up a fairly good show.
If you are not careful, some of the local residents may sneak up on you and attempt to eat your catch whilst your attention is devoted to the fishing!
Many thanks to Mr. I. as always for the great fishing on Lake Teganuma.
Last Sunday saw my annual haze fishing charter out on the Bay on a golden, sunny winter’s day. Not a breath of wind (until after lunch) and so warm under my thermal waterproofs I took my hat and coat off and had to put sunscreen on my nose and ever-expanding forehead.
The fishing was very easy, pleasant and the fish gave plenty of sport taking the bait, although this year the fish seemed much smaller than usual. The smaller haze I tended to release if hooked well, and only keep the bigger-sized fish. My homemade bamboo haze rod is still giving good service but its tip needs to be re-straightened over a fire after two seasons of use.
Come lunchtime and Captain Yukio as ever outdid himself in the galley, labouring over a giant pot of boiling sesame oil and serving up the most amazing tenpura comprised of whiting, cuttlefish, kuruma prawns, vegetables and things, all served by the deckhand hot-and-hot as soon as they came out the oil. A great many number of cold beers, kanchuhai and other drinks helped them down, as well as pickles, rice, misoshiru and littleneck clams lovingly skewered onto bamboo sticks and roasted and basted with a sweet soy sauce marinade.
Unfortunately the wind suddenly began to blow from the south very strong after about midday, although I don’t think anyone begrudged not fishing after the giant tenpura meal and we packed up and headed home. The trip was only slightly marred by a spot of engine trouble soon after weighing anchor, but a quick radio call and an obliging fellow sport angling boat came alongside and a man with a magical box of tools went below and sorted everything, saving us an ignomious paddle twenty yards to the shore (aside from those who can’t swim, who of course would be lost). On reaching home, some of us more hardy anglers headed off to a local izakaya to further refresh ourselves, and one of my fishing buddies gave a detailed account of a particularly well documented ghost. Thank you to all my fellow anglers, and to the captain, for another great day out.
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.
Whilst I like to think I can make my own tanago fishing gear sometimes the temptation is too great, to buy the rods made by professionals. Whilst this rod is by no means the pinnacle of craftsmanship, it is still way, way beyond anything I can possibly make at home. So I bought it.
8-piece tanago rod, with fitted baleen tip and spare bamboo tip (not shown) and the all fits inside a lacquered bamboo case. Many thanks to Mr. M. as always, for the fantastic tackle. I look forward to using this rod in the upcoming spring tanago season.
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.