Tenkara fishing for amago in Japan

by Jeffry Gottfried
(Portland,Oregon )

My family and I just returned home from two weeks in Japan. I have been corresponding with Yoshikazu Fujioka, a tenkara angler and painter of fish from Kyoto, who I discovered from his beautiful web page:www.hi-ho.ne.jp/amago/index2.html. We have traded kebari, photos, fishing reports for about a year.

At 6:30 am, the morning after a fantastic dinner with both our wives and my daughter, we left to fish the Kitagawa River. I was shocked to discover that despite his excellent English language www page, Yoshikazu-san speaks and understands very little English. I studied Japanese from a set of CDs for about a month before the trip and it served me well but communications about lots of subjects was simply impossible. The thing that we had going for us was our shared love of trout, fishing, and nature that had already been communicated through written correspondence.

On the way to the Kitagawa, I saw my first and only monkey of the trip. We were travelling through quaint mountain villages as the road got narrower and narrower. Finally on a road lined with snowbanks, Yoshikazu stopped the car and indicated that we had arrived.

After putting on the waders and Korkers wading sandals that served for minimal wading boots, we slogged through deep snow to the river. Just like the larger rivers that I had seen in the previous three days, the Kitagawa was lined with rocks and mortar. There was no way for the river to go to spread out, just downstream, and fast!

At first, I questioned whether this water could hold trout but I forged ahead, fishing traditional kebari on my 13' Ayu rod from Tenkara USA. Ironically, I thought, my host, one of the noted experts in tenkara fishing, was using a brown, size 16 dry mayfly pattern. When he caught his first fish, he urged to switch to a dry fly. I did just as a very nice hatch of stoneflies was coming off. Apparently my black size 16 mayfly pattern was close enough because I had many rises to my fly. Unfortunately, many of them did not result in a hook-up but it was still very exciting to see the beautifully spotted and streaked amago rising and even jumping out of the water. Eventually I hooked a 10 incher and then a few larger fish, one as large as 12-13". In all I landed 5 amago and another two of non-trout species that looked like a large minnow or dace.

It was a windy day. Under the guidance of Fujioka-san, I used the wind, my rod and line to suspend my fly in the air, downwind, until it was right where the fish were rising. Then I lowered the tip, placing the fly in the back current on the far side of the river where it drifted right into the feeding window of an amago. How exciting!

Now that I am home in Portland, OR, I am continuing my tenkara teaching/guiding with Educational Recreational Adventures. I have been teaching tenkara and guiding trips for almost 4 years now. I will cherish the time I spent with Fujioka-san and the lessons he taught me through his casting and technique. I invite all readers to come fish with ERA in one or more of the outstanding tenkara fishing waters that we have discovered. Jeffry Gottfried era@gottfried.net 503-750-2416

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