Cherry Salmon • The Dawn  --Vol.28--

Cherry Salmon -- I Want to Catch Big Fish

I am not sure how old I was when I first went fishing. It might sound strange but I had already enjoyed fishing when I learned my age. People might say, "be born with a rod in my hand." Actually my father was every inch a fishing mania. Fortunately or not, I was born and bred as a son of my father.
Any kind of big fish in the mountain stream is beautiful and awesome like eagles and hawks.
Lake Ginzan in Okutadami, where I often went in my early days of lure fishing.

In my childhood I challenged any fishing as far as my little body permits. Before 7 I caught small fish like Japanese dace, crucian carp, shiner, goby and the like. I could not hold a heavy rod for bigger fish. At the age of 10 I caught a great number of goby with one rod in each hand. Sometimes my catch was bigger than my father's and I was No. 1 catcher in the anglers' boat. Since then it was not uncommon I caught several times more fish than other anglers. But my greatest concern was to catch the biggest one. The biggest one of some hundreds of small fish like goby and pond smelt was only a quarter or half inch larger than the rest. It sounds ridiculous but I wanted to catch the biggest by all means.

At the age of 11and 12 I often stood in the garden with a rod for sweet fish in every season. There was no glass fibre rod, much less lightweight carbon rod. A Japanese bamboo rod of at least 21ft was too heavy in my hands. I could not walk into the river with it on my shoulder but only practised holding it in the garden. Anyway, I had to wait until I was a junior high school student at the age of 13.

Then I was absorbed in fishing sweet fish and wanted to catch big ones more eagerly. Soon I started fishing flat crucian. My younger brother and I were famous among anglers in Lake Sagami, a mecca for big fish seekers. We often went fishing together and caught a great number of big fish in front of many grown-up anglers.
In 1970 I fished yamame trout in Tanzawa. I stopped lure fishing in the mountain stream from that year.

However, it did not mean I aimed at only big fish. Probably I was so greedy. I also caught a lot of small fish. If I miss small fish I will not be able to catch big ones. That was my point of view in those days. Once I went fishing sweet fish, I always wanted to catch all of them in the current in front. Once I went fishing flat crucian, I always wanted to catch all of them in the inlet.

Then I started lure fishing and aiming at completely different kinds of fish. Now I aimed at large mouth bass in my old favourite Lake Sagami and Lake Tsukui. My target changed from sweet fish to yamame trout and rainbow trout in the Tama River, the Katsura River, the Doushi River and the Kano River. I sought after sea bass in Tokyo Bay, where I used to fish goby in my childhood.

I felt very strange to fish the different fish with different tackle on my old same bank in my old same water. Probably I might grow up or the time changed. Well, I cannot describe my feeling well.
A male brown trout. It was always trout with crooked nose or jaws that were chosen as a trophy.

I thought fishing any kind of fish gave me its own pleasure. Although my fishing changed into lure fishing I had never lost interest in sweet fish or flat crucian. Only change after trout fishing was that I found how beautiful fish were! Big char and rainbow trout as well as yamame trout looked beautiful and somehow noble. Extraordinary big sweet fish and flat crucian also have the same character a little but much less. When I caught a big yamame trout, char or rainbow trout I often stood speechless, fascinated by its beauty. More times I caught those big fish, less interest I took in catching a lot of small fish.

Then large mouth bass were not my target any more because they are not beautiful. The time passed and I caught over 40cm yamame trout, over 50cm char or cherry salmon in the lake. Soon I stopped lure fishing, which I used to consider smart. I felt that the lure that was placed on the tip of the fish mouth did not match the beautiful and noble fish.
In 1971 I entered in the salmon derby in Vancouver, Canada. Only king salmon got the trophy but almost all salmon caught by anglers were coho (silver) salmon.

After the salmon derby I flew north. Even a small stream was nearly overflowed including snow melting water. I was overwhelmed with its scale.

Sea-going Trout

In the beginning of 1970' I was more absorbed in fishing big trout. In those days char in Lake Ginzan and Amur taimen in Hokkaido were at the top of the big fish list in Japan. I had often visited Lake Ginzan and got some big char and rainbow trout. I caught them with lure, aiming at the spot where the high water of melting snow flowed into the lake. I could not have caught them with fly even if I had made full use of my fishing skill, technical know-how and tackle in those days. As for taimen, I had never seen it. So fishing it was unthinkable.

Then I chose salmon and cherry salmon as my target. I read through every page of published rules on leisure fishing and checked whether I could fish those fish. Unfortunately, the rules taught me it was almost impossible. To catch a salmon with a fishing rod was illegal in Japan. It was written in the Conservation of Natural Resources Act, which I knew for the first time. I could not find the name of cherry salmon in the published rules but a lot of terms of Sea-going trout instead.

Probably Sea-going trout means cherry salmon and pink salmon. Was sea-going char also included there? No one gave me a clear answer and nothing was clear to me. Anyway, I found in the published rules that we could fish Sea-going trout in several prefectures. I jumped with joy. I felt as if I had found a beam of light in the dark. But, alas, I noticed a proviso that the close season is from January to August. After all, the published rules taught fishing Sea-going trout was almost impossible.
On the way to the fishing spot I got off my car and cast the fly without any preparation. I caught small Dolly Varden. The stream would be called a nice-sized mountain stream in Japan but here it was a small creek with no name.
The Copper River turned into dirty high water, so I moved into its tributary, the Spring Creek. I caught some small rainbow trout and white fish.

Salmon and Steelhead

I found it almost impossible to fish salmon or large trout in Japan. But I never gave up so easily. Books and magazines abroad showed me a lot of pictures of giant fish beyond all Japanese standard. I adored every fish and each of them looked extremely beautiful. I dreamt of fishing them some day. Then a lucky offer came to me. Japanese anglers were invited to the salmon derby held in Canada every year. In those days it was very rare to go fishing abroad. I had no idea of what would happen and my worry was endless. But I thought I would manage to fish once I went there. I shook off my worry and joined the derby.

In 1971 the salmon derby, my first fishing abroad was over with nothing to mention. If I had come back immediately, my fishing would have taken a detour for a while or made only slow progress. But I stayed in Canada for another several days after the derby. I flew north from Vancouver to Terrace. I met salmon and steelhead for the first time there. My shock was beyond description. Fishing them was nothing but fighting with giant fish in a big river, judging from Japanese scale of fishing. That was my dream fishing. After that encounter I considered fly fishing of steelhead as my supreme target.

-- To be continued --
2001/11/25  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake