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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 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 503-750-2416

Comments for Tenkara fishing for amago in Japan

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Apr 16, 2012
Great Report
by: Morgan Lyle

It's fascinating and cool that you caught with dry flies in heavy current with snow on the ground. Your experience with the wind also shows that sometimes tenkara definitely is dapping -- and it's the most sensible alternative under the conditions you described.

Apr 20, 2012
Thank you for reporting!
by: Anonymous

I have had the pleasure to have passed e-mail and links to Mr. Fujioka's work since he has been sharing online back in the mid-90's. To read that you fished with him is very cool and I appreciate that you took the time to share with him and finally go fishing with him in Japan. So very cool. I will be doing the same thing soon enough.

Apr 21, 2012
Fishing with Fujioka san
by: Anonymous

I thought for sure that anyone who could produce such a beautifully written, grammatically correct www page in English could certainly communicate in English. I studied Japanese from a CD for a month before going to Japan and learned some basic grammar and vocabulary. I'm glad that I did.

His English was a bit better than my Japanese but nowhere near as good as I had imagined. Still enthusiastic/fanatic anglers speak their own language and can get pretty far on gestures and demonstrations, rather than verbal explantations. We managed very well.

The message here is, do your own homework and prepare yourself as best you can to communicate in Japanese in order to maximize your chances for an enjoyable and productive trip.

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