I just got back from a business trip to Japan and while I was there I managed to sneak in a couple of days fishing on one of their steep gradient mountain freestone streams Northeast of Tokyo. I fished with a person that I met on the internet; Hideto Yoshida, a real trout afficionado who loves to fish for wild trout in these mountain streams.
He picked me up at my hotel in Tokyo at 4:00AM and by 7:30AM we had reached our destination; high up in the mountains near the picturesque town of Nikko. Once we got there, the first challenge was to see if you were "balanced" enough to even get to the fishing (see below pic of the "bridge" to the lodge).
Once across the stream (yes, I made it!), you were at the lodge (below). Very simple, very quaint, very friendly.
There you were greated by Hiro-san (below pic), the river keeper and the owner of 10 square kilometers of mountain woodland called Shalom's Forest; which just happens to have a wild trout stream running through it; a main stem and two branches. Hiro is the 4th generation owner of this property, which was originally purchased by his great-great grandfather for logging; to support the considerable building that they did during the early part of the Meiji Restoration (mid-1860's). Now, the woodlands are virtually worthless, from a lumbering standpoint; but the trout fishing is worth a lot! And only 8 anglers per day get to fish for them (a fishing pressure of about 600 anglers per year spread out over about 10 miles of steam - not bad!)
I mentioned that this was steep gradient fishing. What I didn't say was that it's steep enough to be part of the Japanese national flood control system. The dam below is a "little" one; about 40 ft. high. In the spring, they say that it barely holds back the water! (below pic)
Here's the "big" one. It's an easy 100' from top to bottom! I'd love to see it in the Spring when the river is really running. Think of the volume of water that can get through the lower port holes. Not bad from a small mountain stream! (below pic)
And, of course, nice water gives up an occasional nice fish, like this rainbow. Not stocked, look at the mouth. About 14" and a real pleasure to land on a #16 parachute Adams! (below pic). Yes, US patterns definitely work in Japan on their native trout.
Here's what the water looks like. This is from one of the two branches, which is called the "L" branch; yes, there is some English influence here. (below pic)
More of the same. For a person like me who likes to fish pocket water, it was great! (below pic)
Did I mention that the climbing in was challenging - well, it definitely was - one third climbing down / one third sliding down / one third falling down! The climbing back out was even more interesting! (below pic)
One more shot. I love this kind of water!
And here is the native trout; called a "Yamame". Yes, they're all little fish; average size is 4-7 inches. Give me a break and think of the background stones as boulders and think of the net as the largest trout net you ever saw! Thanks. It was a 5" "troutlet" - but it was fun on my 7'6" 3 wt. Sage ZXL rod. (below pic) Caught, by the way, on a #18 parachute Adams.
At the end of the day, my new friend, Hideto, had to hit the road back to Tokyo (he works as a Product Manager for Dell computers), but I decided to stay on and fish another day. I stayed at a traditional Japanese Inn, called a Ryokan. The little blonde Japanese woman was the owner and can she ever cook! Yes! (below pic)
The room was typically Japanese spartan. Very nice, clean; futton bed, tatami mats; small Zen alter, etc. I liked it a lot. (below pic)
And when the two days were over, Hiro packed me up in his pickup and took me to the train station; with a little train that leaves every hour on the hour like clockwork. This is the Sori (pronounced "Souri") station. From there, 3 train changes, 3 1/2 hours later, and I was back at Tokyo station.
It was great! I will go back; yes, even for the little fish!
I forgot to mention that on the second morning I was making my way down the "R" branch; it was early and the sun was just coming up with a thin fog still in the valley. I rounded a corner and there was a "two log" stairway across the river gorge, with a little path leading from there up a steep hill to the base of a huge boulder. In front of the bounder was an ancient Japanese torii; the name that they use for the "gates" that they place in front of sacred places (Shinto religion). Just at that moment, the sun broke through the mist, the bridge, the path and the torii all lighted up. I dropped my rod (no, I didn't place it on the ground - I dropped it!), walked across that bridge and just enjoyed being under that gate in that moment. A couple of minutes later, I caught my first fish of the day!
I feel another Japan fishing trip coming.
Hope you enjoy the pics, as you can tell, the camera wasn't the greatest.