mardi 22 septembre 2015

A trout season ends...

Sunday was the closing day of the trout stream fishing season and I of course did follow the ritual of the last fishing day. It has often rained during the last weeks and the stream I did fish already wears its autumnal finery: high and cold water spoofing the first fallen leaves. But the season is done, if one missed his season it is too late to make it better. To me it is a last opportunity to say goodbye to a stream I like fishing, it is only better if I catch a few trouts.

So I was leaving home in the beginning of the afternoon with minimum gear, what a tenkara angler should always keep in mind: rod, line, kebari. The great Charles Mingus once said: "Making the simple thing complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." In the morning the sky was overcast but now it was sunny, it was even hot. 
I walked along the stream without fishing before I was at the spot where I wanted to catch the very last brown trouts of the season. On the way I did not meet anyone, we are fewer and fewer every year to fish this stream. 

The upstream part of this spot is shallow, the current makes the water rich in oxygen before it reaches a right angle turn where the depth grows. Depending on the level of water and its temperature trouts will place themselves in the fast or the slow part. I did fish with my faitful Oni type 2 rod, a five meters tapered line and a Takayama sakasa kebari. After a few casts I got the first brown trout of the day.

I did lose a big one just after this one, it went away after making a maximum of fuss so I was expecting a long moment without catching anything. I decided to take a break, left my rod on the bank and went in the woods on the other side of the stream but did not find any edible mushroom, the only things I brought back were crow and pigeon feathers. Useful but inedible! 
Back on the stream banks I did take the rod back but decided to skip the fast part of the spot. I walked a few meters upstream to fish a quiet stretch where I caught a couple of very nice brown trouts. The both of them were very nice typical brownies from Normandy with grey and yellow flanks. 

It was hardly four p.m and I was already feeling the temperature has begun dropping, the light intensity was going down so after the second trout was gone back to its shelter I did collapse my rod and rolled back my line on a spool. It started raining just at the moment when I closed the door of the house. 

A trout fishing season just ended, not "one more" as they are all different and to me the 2015 season has been awesome. 

mardi 8 septembre 2015

My encounter with Masami "Tenkara-no Oni" Sakakibara (Part 3)

The next day we did fish the same torrent but a little bit further upstream.
I have watched videos on the  web and seen a lot of pictures of Japanese anglers fishing at the foot of dams and this time it was my turn to try this exercise in style. There is indeed some iwana at the foot of the waterfalls but it is not easy to reach them with a kebari. After a few tries I managed to sink my kebari in the depths and got a strike. The fish unhooked itself when  emerging from the water but Masami-san congratulated me because it is very difficult to feel the strike of an iwana in a such violent current.

We slowly ascended the banks of the river, exploring one by one all the spots likely to harbor these very discreet fish are that are iwana. 

The Iwana being a fish that does not move a lot it is to you to get your kebari convincingly drift in its field of vision. Masami-san never insists on a post, if the fish does not react when fishing upstream, he goes up the river a few meters and may try the same spot fishing downstream. His approach of the fish spots is stealthy and it pays off because he excels at catching fish at very close range.

A discreet approach, accurate and delicate casting and drift control are the keys to success in tenkara. I was also pleased to take another Yamato Iwana before we arrive at the highest point of our adventure. Having not the necessary gear we could not climb the waterfall that was in front of us when we came down in the valley.

We did find a river whose water was well cleared, the level still seemed a bit high to Masami-san but it probably seemed correct because he invited me to fish.

This time I was the only one to fish and it was my great pleasure and privilege to practice on this stream under the watchful eye of my friend and master.

I did catch some beautiful  amago that were in great shape. I was satisfied with this result and the water level being a little bit high was a good thing for the amago. They were in great shape and were a lot of fun to fish.

The weather that had been sullen and capricious turned to great weather as we were leaving the mountains. All good things come to an end and I had to return to Tokyo to take the plane that would bring me back to Paris. I thanked warmly Masami-san and Coco for their hospitality and for sharing with me their vast knowledge and experience of tenkara. Bye my friends!

My stay in Japan was a great moment in terms of fishing of course but above all a great human experience because I met simple, welcoming and generous people. And I have no doubt that this trip where I had the chance to meet some of the best connoisseurs of this fishing technique will have a great influence on my own experience of tenkara.

dimanche 6 septembre 2015

My encounter with Masami "Tenkara-no Oni" Sakakibara (Part 2)

The typhoon had striked the area and made plenty of damages as we were seeing at the TV news in the morning. But it also meant that we would now have warmer weather and we would gather our tenkara gear before leaving Masami-san's home  to go north to fish a river he likes a lot.
When we arrived in the coveted valley it was a scene of desolation that we had in front of us, the level of the river was very high and the water was muddy. So we do not have any other option but to go further to the north and the high mountains for a chance to find clear waters.

We did find our happiness rather quickly because Masami-san knows the area very well. The first fishes were caught pretty fast. This torrent is full of beautiful iwana and despite a very capricious weather I put to good use everything I had learned in Tadami, on the Itoshiro and of course Masami-san valuable advices. He is a first class guide who knows how to give you what you need to meet success. 

Thanks to Oni's advices and the casting lesson the day before I had the opportunity to really improve my technique. Success is based solely on technique. I will not say I "master" everything tenkara because it is a perpetual learning, but I think I have done credit to those who shared some of their knowledge with me.

Masami-san fished as well obviously, it was an opportunity for me to pause and learn by observing. We all know his honryu style of tenkara but his genryu style is also very effective. 

That first afternoon of tenkara fishing was obviously a memorable moment for me, fishing in the mountains with Masami Sakakibara as a guide was a dream that until recently I thought unachievable. I did not see hours passing by, totally absorbed by fishing which was really enjoyable. The light was beginning to fall when we left these majestic mountains to go back home. If Japan is the land of the rising sun is also that of the setting sun, night falls early even in summer.

The evening was an opportunity to meet Masami-san's friends who would join us the next day to fish. This was also the opportunity to taste the best okonomiyaki I've ever eaten. The atmosphere was really friendly as it was expected to be for the Team Oni. 

samedi 5 septembre 2015

My encounter with Masami "Tenkara-no Oni" Sakakibara (Part 1)

I originally had the project to enjoy my stay in Takayama to go fishing on the Miyagawa but unfortunately this was a project failed because of strong thunderstorms that night had given the river an opaque grey stain. So I took advantage of these three days to visit the city and once again I had the chance to host a Japanese family with the opportunity to live in the historic center of the city, just a few meters to the Higashiyama walking course.

If you visit one day Japan I invite you to visit this city that will give you a very good overview of not only the rich culture of Japan but also of provincial life that is very different from what you might experiment in Tokyo or even Kyoto . Everything here is much quieter and serene than in big cities. Do not be surprised if walking through a residential area you see a man wearing a samue and sugegasa working in the rice field adjacent to his house. 

I devoted my days and visit the old town still making a few detours to go watch the river that was still greyish and spent the evenings with the Shimizu family. Although I have not had the opportunity to fish in this river where was born the famous Takayama sakasa kebari this stay in this beautiful city will remain an everlasting memory of my stay in Japan.

After a little more than three hours by train I arrived in Kakegawa, where I was greeted by Masami Sakakibara and his wife Coco. After nearly three years of contact only on the internet I was finally in the presence of the person by whom I discovered tenkara. His blog is definitely from that day my biggest inspiration and I would not even remotely consider going to Japan without meeting him. 

We had dinner in a restaurant whose food was delicious and the owner seemed a bit eccentric who seemed not to believe to have a French visitor! Masami-san and Coco are wonderful people who know how to put you at ease immediately and this first contact was very positive. As it was often the case during my stay strong stormy rain did on us while we were strolling in the city which gave us the opportunity to go home and watch DVDs among others devoted to tenkara. Thanks Masami-san for sharing with me these documentaries and answering my questions.

The next day I will know the house's cats trio while Masami-san was interested very closely to weather forecasts that were not really good, the least one could say, since a typhoon was announced to strike the area where he had planned to go fishing. Masami-san will decide to postpone the date of this fishing trip. 

When the rain finally stopped, we take the opportunity to visit the city and its beautiful castle. We will also visited an antique shop and the one of a manufacturer of samurai armor. For me who has been interested for a long time in history, civilization and culture of Japan this afternoon was really excellent.

The sky remained overcast all day but when Masami-san suggested me a casting session I accepted willingly and the fine drizzle that was falling from the sky was quickly forgotten. Who better than the man who designed some of the best rods in the world can provide you the better information on tenkara rods and lines?

I had the opportunity of a presentation on the rods and lines and the best possible combinations and then we started the  casting session and I must say that if  Masami-san's casting  is already impressive on a video that is really nothing compared to a live demo. Incredibly accurate. 

Masami-san is a very good teacher, he immediately identifies small defects in your casting and explains you clearly how to correct these defects. After making me try many rod/line combinations he did seem satisfied with my casting so he and myself were going back home. I had the pleasure and privilege to see him tie his kebari in front of me and then followed a very interesting conversation about that topic. Is it a coincidence that the greatest tenkara anglers, those who like Masami-san developed their own technique, evolved over time towards greater simplicity? Surely not.

Outside we heard a very strong wind and heavy rain, the typhoon was passing over the city. 

mercredi 2 septembre 2015

Tenkara on the Shō-gawa with Ajari and friends

After a restful night of sleep and a delicious breakfast prepared by Sasaki-san I did join my friends at their camp site where everyone was busy getting ready for the day that was going to be devoted to fishing. When I joined the conversation had no other topic, and it was a pleasure for me to make my friends discover the content of my kebari box and I must say that they seem to be surprised to see only Japanese kind of fly patterns as they were probably expecting more contemporary ones. 

It was already hot and it was barely 9:00 a.m when our band broke up, I saluted those who were leaving us and thanked them for the welcome they had given me the day before and then we were off to go fishing the Shō-gawa River, which rises in Mount Eboshi and then runs through the prefectures of Gifu and Toyama.

Arrived on the banks of the stream we did leave Tadani-san fish first and thanks to his excellent technique he quickly hooked a couple of iwana. Then we began to fish and catches did come at a good pace. We can roughly translate the name "Iwana" with "rock fish" and it is no coincidence that iwana is caught nearby stones, in the most quiet places of rivers, making your kebari drift as slowly as possible.

I walked a few meters and watched Ajari and Kura-san fishing and noticed that their successful technique  was very well established: accurate and delicate cast, no contact between line and water surface and perfectly controlled drift.

The first spot where Ajari, Kura-san and I did hook a dozen of iwana with different kebari without any common point but used in the same way, the good one!, will long remain in my mind. 

We fished like this all morning long only a few meters from each other exploiting all the "hot spots" of the stream. We fished every possible fish spot upstream and downstream and we were rewarded for it. This stream stretch has a very nice density of iwana. 

After a little over two hours of fishing we arrived at the mouth of a stream of about twenty centimeters wide. There were fly fishermen a few tens of meters upstream and we were hungry, the temperature had risen so my companions decided to stop fishing. They went up the bank then settled on the deck behind me and I heard Ajari then tell me he saw a beautiful iwana nestled against a rock at the mouth of the creek. I retreated a few steps to place me under the bridge and take advantage of its shadow to accurately locate the fish and said it was made when I deposited my zenmai-dou gently at its upstream. The iwana took it at its first drift. It was a beautiful yamato iwana.

This superb released fish, I collapsed my rod down, I  had the good days smile on my face and we left lunch. After the meal we did take the road to Ishigawa, another river lower in the valley where only yamame live. Once there we first spent a nice time to watch the fish from a bridge but we do not hang out because the very high temperature this afternoon let us think that fishing would be difficult. 

And it was difficult. This is again Tadani-san who caught the first fish. The yamame is a much more spooky fish that iwana and is very sensitive to vibrations in the water. Therefore it is advised when possible to fish from the bank.

Each of us caught a yamame which obviously made us happy but the warmth of the afternoon was goign to defeat our motivation. The fishes were not active on food and we decided to leave the river after two hours on its banks.

We quietly walked up the river and once returned to our starting point it was time to say goodbye to Kura-san and Tadami-san. I have been really happy to meet them after all this time only knowing them through Facebook. Ajari and I had were about to take the road to Takayama. I really had great time with the Itoshiro group. 

Bye friends! I will be back!