In 1976 I could not wait for the opening season of Marunuma, a small lake in Nikkoh in Japan because my first trout fishing there in the previous year was very much exciting. So I went fishing in the middle of July although I knew it was a bit too early. The rainy season was just over and it was the height of summer. Although it had got a clear sign of autumn there in the end of the last August, summer time was in its glory now. It was a little cool because the lake was high above the sea but only at dawn. After the sun shone the water surface it was as hot as the lake on the plain. As the water level was high, branches of the trees hanging over the lake nearly reached the water surface and thickly covered it. I thought I could come to fish flat crucian again like my student days.
Anyway, from the early morning I started casting the fly along the bank but no fish appeared. I could find only several rises, where I could not aim at casting the fly. As the time passed the sunlight became stronger. It was clear I could not fish under the burning sun any more. I chose as large shade as possible and continued to cast the fly that I had newly tied. Grizzle hackle was used for it.
Under the burning sun of July I found a mysterious shadow of a fish in the shade along the bank.
Probably it was 10 o'clock in the morning. When I looked at the fly floating under the branches of the tree hanging over the lake, I noticed something was moving along the bank. It was swimming along the edge of the bank about 15m right of my fly. Although its figure was not clearly seen it was sure to be a big fish. My fly was floating a little apart from the bank. When the distance between the fish and my fly was about 5m the shadow came up to the surface and ate something. It was a big fish, surely more than 60cm. I picked up the line and cast the fly again very carefully at the edge of the bank. The distance from the fly to the fish shadow was less than 3m. The distance became shorter and shorter. I could not breathe and my heart was beating fast. My whole body was pounding, too. Several choking seconds passed and the fish shadow came up to the surface in front of my fly. It swallowed quietly the grey lump that was floating without a slight quiver. After taking a breath I set the hook to the fish. Immediately I felt a heavy weight on my rod that I had never experienced in Marunuma. At the same time the fish fiercely ran to the centre of the lake at top speed. My line was drawn out from the rod tip at top speed, too.
All my fly line went into the water. My satisfaction of hooking a big fish disappeared. I felt my face turning pale. There was no more backing line left. I grabbed an oar with a hand and made a desperate effort to turn the boat to the same direction as the extended line. I laid the rod towards the bow and fought with the fish, using the little remaining backing line on the reel. Then the fish turned around. I never missed the chance to wind the loosing line into the reel. When I wound all backing line I found my boat drifting in the centre of the lake in spite of no wind. The fish took me more than 50m away from the hooking spot. Probably 7 or 8 minutes had passed since I started fighting. The line that had been stuck deeply into the water began to extend horizontally. The fish was coming up towards the surface. Soon large ripples spread across the surface 20m ahead. Although it was not clearly seen due to the glaring sun the silhouette of the fish showed its size. It seemed to me much bigger than at the hooking time. It became much calmer after it came up to the surface. Probably it had no power left to go into the water deeply.
Love Hunter. This name came from "Carp" Hunter, whose pronunciation is the same as "Love" Hunter in Japanese. I had never imagined that I gave it such a name.
I wound the reel carefully to shorten the distance between us. The fish struggled desperately. Moving around my boat, it came up to the surface again. Momentarily it appeared in front of me.
I could not believe my eyes because I felt that I saw some scales.
" Oh, no!"
I tried to pull it up again. The fish swam halfway around my boat and came up to the surface. I could see it clearly now because it floated near and the lighting was just right.
" That's can't be true! It must be a joke."
All at once I lost strength in my whole body. Not only scales but also short barbels were clearly seen on its body of about 60cm. Disappointment made me feel exhausted but I could not leave it. I took the net, pulled the fish roughly by much more force than before and scooped it. What was moving its mouth in the net was a carp without doubt. It was a rather splendid carp. What was placed firmly on its stuck-out mouth was my unnamed brand-new fly for that day. I named it Love Hunter. I imagined no other name because "carp" has got the same pronunciation as "love" ("Koi") in Japanese.
My first catch by this fly was beyond my imagination. But later Love Hunter became famous as a killer fly of Marunuma.
Carps in the lake in the mountain area are so powerful that they drag the boat around. They are from 55cm to 75cm.
Something must be wrong. When I fished in Lake Kawaguchi in Japan I caught some carps, common crucian and flat crucian with my flies. So it was not unbelievable that I caught a carp in Marunuma. But I was completely taken in because both its hooking way and fighting way were completely different from usual carps. I thought such thing would never happen again. But, alas, quite soon two carps swallowed my Love Hunter successively.
In the afternoon when breeze began to blow some rises occurred in the centre of the lake. Good! Those must be right ones. Immediately I started rowing my boat towards the dam site and reached the spot where I had found those rises. Then I stood up in the boat and extended 10m of the line to prepare for casting at any time. Some minutes passed but the lake was still quiet. Nothing happened. What made the rises that I had found before? While I was wondering I found a rise 50m ahead. Another rings of the rise spread further ahead, too. Surely some fish were moving, seeking after the bait on the surface. I hurried to row the boat towards the direction of the rises' move. A chain of rises was moving slowly. I stopped the boat ahead of rises and waited with my fly floating. Fortunately rises came straight to me. I picked up the line quietly and waited for suitable timing as I made false casts. When good timing was about to come, I stopped false cast and put my line down on the water behind me. I was about to cast the fly and what caught my eye were carps swimming on the water surface. A shoal of more than 50 carps, indeed!
-- To be continued --