Cherry Salmon • The First Stage  --Vol.48--

A Nightmare

The sun was about to set behind the motorway. I was thinking about Steelhead because the sunset is the most suitable time to fish them. They are hiding in the pool during the day and appear in the end of the pool in the morning and the evening. Especially when the shadow is cast on the water surface in the evening they become bold enough to come near to the border of the end of the pool to take bait.

Today I saw a cherry salmon eat mayflies. Then I missed another one in spite of getting a faint bite. Are cherry salmon changing from coming-upstream fish to staying ones?
Cherry salmon move to a new place as the season changes.

Cherry salmon keep coming upstream, unlike Steelhead. Considering that habit, I had succeeded in catching cherry salmon for these 2 weeks. But 2 weeks might be long enough for them to change into double-trophy-size yamame trout of different habits.

If Junction pool has cherry salmon I will get one in this mysterious flow in front of me, which is the core part of the pool. But nothing happened. That means this was an empty pool or they stayed in different parts of the pool. Nevertheless there was no part available except for the shallow end of the pool in front of me. Nothing had happened there, either, although I tried for many hours.

I knew that but there was no other part left.
Just before the sunset a double-trophy-size yamame trout appeared at the shallow end of the Junction pool.

A Giant Yamame Trout

The sun nearly disappeared behind the motorway. The river shining in lead-colour was spreading downstream as far as I could see. If this pool has yamame trout, what part of it? Now the evening rise is beginning at the tail of the pool. I should cast my large wet fly down and across to make it drift just under the surface.

I took Aquamarine from the hook-keeper and cast it towards the red sky. There was more than 20m of the gentle flow available, which would have turned into a fast current if the river had had high water. Now it was at most 1m deep. If I had still used type II sinking line I should have worried about snag at the bottom.

The water surface spread smoothly and there was no big stone. I intended to go farther off shore but gave up. Pebbles underfoot flowed away even when I was just standing. The river flowed more rapidly at the end of the pool than it looked.
Somehow its slim body suggests that this cherry salmon has been changed into a double-trophy-size yamame trout.

I cast the fly near to the opposite bank downstream. It flowed regularly, drawing a large arc. I cast ten times, moving a little at a time. Now it was a few metres to the border of the end of the pool. The fly was flowing in the same arc. If Steelhead stayed here they would be most likely to be here.

When the fly drifted across more than half of the river width I started retrieving the line to avoid causing snag. But after I retrieved the line three times the fly stopped. Why does it suddenly snag without a big stone?

The next moment I found that it did not snag but a big fish bit the fly! Immediately the fish broke the surface, swinging the head from right to left, and spit out the fly. There were some large splashes and ripples left on the surface.
Fall of the water level, rise of the water temperature and strong sunbeam. Every thing changes rapidly.

Ripples completely disappeared only a few seconds later. The water surface became calm again.

"Does it really happen? What a shame!"
"Please say it's a bad dream!"

Unfortunately it was true. A clear picture of a big cherry salmon's head that appeared in splashes was imprinted in my eyes.

I would have fallen down if I had not been in the water. I could see nothing. I did not remember how to walk up to the bank.

I made right guess again. A double-trophy-size yamame trout appeared at the shallow end of the pool without any sign beforehand. But, ah, I missed it again.

If I had caught it I would have succeeded in getting 2 cherry salmon a day for 3 successive weeks. I was rather irritated than disappointed. I almost fainted, indeed.
Cherry salmon eat a smaller amount less greedily as they are changed into yamame trout.

Successive Defeats

Until the next fishing day I could think nothing but my failure.

How were 2 missing fish different from the other ones I had caught? How was my guess wrong? If I was in the same situation again, would I catch the fish? In this way or that I thought about the problem.

Whatever conclusion I draw, I do not want to say that I was unlucky. On the contrary, I want to say that I could catch fish even though I was unlucky. To achieve that task I have not only to cope with the present situation but also guess what will happen in the future.

Then I considered 2 missing fish not as cherry salmon keeping upstream but double-trophy-size yamame trout which took a rest in their favourite spots. Cherry salmon are changed into giant yamame trout when they are adapted to the river bait, giving up the sea bait. But I had no idea what was the cause and what was the trigger of their change.

It seemed to have nothing to do with how long they spent in the river after they came from the sea because both new and old fish were caught in the huge amount of snow melting water. The change of the season is the trigger? I thought it was true in a wide meaning. Then what makes the fish feel the change of the season?

A usual answer is that the change of sunshine hours has the greatest power on the living creatures. It must be true. But the change is not so big in a week. There must be something more drastic.

I thought about water temperature, water amount, muddy water, bait, sun shine and so on because those factors are easy to see and check. There is a big difference between the cold and less transparent snow melting water under the weak sunshine and the transparent low water of high temperature under summer-like sunshine. Scarce bait and rich bait makes difference, too.
The fish quickly respond to the fly just after they come upstream.

Then I felt that it is quite natural for fish to change. Many things are changed, as I cited some factors above. Some catch in early spring never guarantees that the same fishing method is always effective.

I read some books on Atlantic salmon to know the background in which a huge amount of salmon flies grew up. It was difficult to find what I really wanted to know but I learned that the change of the season and of the water level put much influence on the habit of the fish and their eating.

I had another difficult problem to answer. How to deal with the fish which come to the fly when it drifts straight downstream? The worst case is that the fish bite the fly when the fly drifts to the end and I start retrieving the line for the next casting. I am due to face the fish which struggle to remove the hook from their mouth. They are at the shallow part straight downstream of my standing point. Soon they break the surface and swing their head. I have nothing to do. Then the hook comes out of their mouth.

At that time I tried every effort to make the fish bite the fly earlier.
This cherry salmon appeared from the snow melting water. It looks like a sea fish.

Right Guesses but ----

According to Mr. Ichimura, almost no angler comes to the Kuzuryu River after the 2nd week of May because there is little chance of lure fishing although fish are seen there. When I arrived on that day there was no angler around. Anglers who had tried hard until the 1st week gave up catching cherry salmon and left for another river.

I watched the river covered with fresh green, standing on Gomatsu Bridge. The water was much lower than the previous time and more transparent. Where do the fish stay in this situation? Looking and thinking for a while, I headed for the fast current which flowed from Hatayaura pool into the pool of the front of kindergarten.

A week later the bank was covered with muddy water after a long time because of rain. I walked into a stagnant pool in the middle of the pool of the front of kindergarten.

The next time the river was as hot as summer. Just before sunset I passed the end of the Junction pool and walked into the border of the tail of the pool.

I came fishing three times above and made right guesses each time. I mean that I could hook cherry salmon at those three spots I had prospected. But I missed all of three. I knew their whereabouts but could not catch.

After I got 4 cherry salmon successively I missed 5 successively. I looked up at the sky without a word.

-- To be continued --
2002/04/14  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake