Cherry Salmon • The First Stage  --Vol.35--

A Challenge -- Fishing with a Shooting Head

5 years passed after I first saw the Kuzuryu River as an angler in 1981. My fishing changed very much during those years. I had fewer opportunities to fish small mountain streams and more opportunities to fish wide main streams. It was mainly because the improvement of tackle and skill enabled me to get bigger fish, my unchangeable aim.

Almost every year I visited Canada to fish coho (silver) salmon, chinook (king) salmon and my main target, Steelhead. Through those fishing I developed a new method that was later called power wet fly fishing that means fishing with a shooting head. Now I started fishing cherry salmon. It was perfect timing.
Everything was under snow. It is unusual scenery but the banks are covered with snow several times a year.

I knew cherry salmon were sometimes caught in the Kuzuryu River but only with lure. There was no catch record with fly or no fly fisherman tried. Even after anglers knew cherry salmon fishing was not illegal most of them said it was impossible to get them with fly and persuaded me not to be silly to go and try. As I wanted to fish there for a long time, their advice never changed my mind. The problem was that the Kuzuryu River was too far from Tokyo to know its newest conditions. I wanted someone to collect necessary information for me. Then Mr. Masayuki Mori offered his help. He was an owner of a fly shop named 'Tail Walk' in Gifu. He was not only familiar with the information of neighborhood but also very sympathetic to my aim to get fish no one had ever caught. He and I decided to challenge together.
I was standing on the bridge to look at the high water. I wanted to say something but could not.

Snow World

Our first challenge came in the end of February. I met Mr. Mori in Gifu and headed together for Fukui via Sekigahara. It was very warm for February in Gifu but suddenly became cold at Hokuriku Road. There was some snow by the roadside. When we got to our destination, the Kuzuryu River, I stood on the bridge in amazement, looking around. The whole embankment, large banks and waterside were covered with snow. Only the tips of pampas grass and the like appeared on the snowy field over the large banks. That taught us how deep the snow was. There was no footstep as far as we could see. We had no idea about what to do but walked down the banks from the side of National Route 8.

All anglers must have thought fishing was impossible but my heart leapt for joy. I was excited when I put the salmon reel to 15ft. rod named Landlock.

We prepared for fishing and waded to the waterside. The snow reached our waist. My dream to fish cherry salmon in the Kuzuryu River finally came true. I was happy. "I" knew well that there was no fish in the shallow rapid current in front of me in this season but another "I" began to cast the fly and enjoyed it.
The pool at the junction was suddenly struck by snowstorm.

My standing point had only a little snow due to a small creek flowing from the embankment. But I found a snow wall 20m ahead along the waterside. The bank slope and the waterside conditions taught that the bank was not flat. It was dangerous to walk more in the unknown river. We gave up fishing and waded up the bank through the snow.

I should have waited until the cherry blossom season. I came here impatiently but February was too early. I will come back again after the snow disappears and fishing conditions are improved. I admitted that there was no other way. It was only some ten minutes fishing but I was satisfied with the first step of my dream fishing.
I fished the Jintsu River for the first time, instead of the muddy Kuzuryu River. It was 1986.

The Muddy Water

A month later, in the end of March, I started preparation, hoping the right season was coming. I phoned Mr. Mori. He asked his fishing companions in various areas about the river conditions. Then I knew that rain had changed the river into muddy water. My plan came to nothing again but no one can conquer the nature. I was obliged to put off my challenge until the next week.
The river rose due to snow melting water and the whole banks disappeared at Hatayaura.

The next week cherry blossoms were in full bloom in Tokyo. Cherry salmon has its name because they come upstream when cherry blossoms come out. I know the weather is different between Tokyo and Fukui but I thought they were surely coming upstream in the Kuzuryu River. I waited impatiently for that day.
The Asuwa River in late spring. The river flows into the Kuzuryu River in Fukui city.
It was famous as the river where cherry salmon came upstream in early season.

When I was thinking when to meet Mr. Mori he phoned me to say that the river had been in good condition for those several days. I headed for the Kuzuryu River full of hope.

The scenery of Hokuriku Road in April was completely changed from the end of February. It was mild spring now. I could not imagine everything had been covered with snow a month before. Then I came in Fukui on the motorway and looked down at the Asuwa River. I was very shocked to find the river muddy in spite of fine weather. I was worried very much because the river is a tributary of the Kuzuryu River.

Then I left the motorway and arrived at the bridge over the Kuzuryu River. Immediately I looked down. To my amazement the muddy water was swirling. Ah, the banks were covered with snow in the previous time and brown carpet this time. Bad luck again! I heard there had been a considerable amount of rain near the mountain the previous day but who could imagine such a bad situation.

The river was too muddy to be called ordinary high water. It was clear the river conditions would not improve in a day. I had to give up fishing cherry salmon without any attempt again and return to Gifu to fish yamame trout in the Takahara River.

-- To be continued --
2002/01/13  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake