In the River TAKAHARA  --Vol.77--

Sedges at Dawn

In 1987 the rainy season ended early and hot summer came early. Beautiful flow after the snow melting season did not last long. In the latter half of July the river already had low water.
A big yamame trout with a huge belly. What are there inside?

As the River Takahara flows at the highland area, it usually gets cool in the evening however hot in the daytime. But in this year hot wind kept blowing after evening. Usually in this time of the season, big-fish hunters can enjoy the most exciting evening rises. But this year there was no evening rise or almost no sedges were found in the evening although a large number of them had been flying a little while before.

It looked like all fish disappeared from the river. Where are they staying now? When do they eat and what? Anglers usually move to another river when they give up catch in their usual river. They go to a highland river in summer and come back to a village river in autumn. But fish can not travel freely from river to river. How do they lead their lives in low water in midsummer?
Karukaya at dawn. In summer sedges disappeared before it got as light as this.

Now I remembered my old rivers, the River Oshino and the River Katsura. Actually I had frequented the River Oshino for many years, which had a very limited range of stream, and had found some interesting facts. For example, even in early spring when the area is surrounded by snow, fish actively make rises in the evening as far as sedges are flying. In early summer, big fish do not come up while countless mayflies are drifting on the surface in the daytime but attack sedges in the evening. In the first half of August, the hottest in a year, when there is no hatch of sedges even in the evening, big fish are the most active at dawn, when the temperature and water temperature are the lowest. Actually sedges fly around only at dawn. That must be true with the River Takahara. I decided to give up fishing evening rise but to focus on dawn.

Late in July I headed for Kuzuyama, farther down Tochio. I had no difficulty in fishing there at dawn because the point was easily found due to big stones spotted around there and also because the river flowed near the road. At 3 a.m. I parked on the embankment and turned off the light. Suddenly I was left in darkness. I looked outside to make my eyes accustomed to darkness. Within 5 minutes I could see my surroundings little by little. The sky was clear but only several stars were seen in the moonless sky. It meant that the daybreak was coming soon.
A big yamame trout. Does a big one look like this from ordinary-sized one’s eyes?

I got off the car. I jointed the rod and put the line through the guides. Then I turned on the light to make sure and put the leader to the line. The flies had been put to the leader in advance. Without turning on the light again, I finished preparations and went down the embankment slowly.

My eyes had got accustomed to darkness and I had no difficulty in walking on the bank. I walked to the waterfront where laid a big rock I remembered. I watched the surface. I could not see through the water but dimly see how the river flowed. The eastern sky became slightly yellowish. Good timing soon!

Standing beside the big rock, I cast the fly to the opposite bank downstream. The river was only 3m wide. The stream flowed fast between stones and then a gentle-flowing pool spread downstream.
Peacock King became famous as a killer fly suitable for evening and lakes.

I thought that the fish were staying now not in the end but the head of the pool. I had learned from many personal experiences that the fish which had come up in the end of the pool in the evening returned near to the head of the pool at dawn. Now in low water the head of the pool is only here!

My fly crossed the stream only for several seconds. I took a step downstream and cast the fly to the opposite bank in the same way. 4 or 5 seconds later it came near to the centre of the stream. Then I got a bite with thud. Immediately I raised the rod the fish tried to creep under the stone at my feet, swinging its head violently. I turned the rod to the opposite bank with my body thrust forward at the waterfront so that the fish could not creep under the stone. Then the fish tried to creep under the bubbles in the head of the pool.
Yamame trout is rather greedy among all sorts of trout.

I was forced to take several steps downstream. Then I pulled the fish to my feet and slid it up to the sands in front. I pressed the struggling fish down and managed to remove size 6 Peacock Queen deeply stuck into its upper jaw. The fish struggled so hard on the sands that the leader got inextricably entangled.

I tried to unfasten it in vain. As the lead fly and the dropper were entangled, it was not easy to unfasten the sticky leader. The more eager to try, the more entangled. I tried to unfasten without a flash light with my back against the eastern sky. The sky had changed from yellow to orange. No time left. Use a new leader!
Big yamame trout often eat small fish, even their own young.

Putting a ball of the entangled leader into my pocket, I took another leader set of the same flies from the wallet and put it to the line. Then I hurried upstream. There was one of the best points 50m upstream. It was not so big but a channel ran threading through big stones. It was a perfect point around here in low water.

At my third casting, a fish, without a moment’s hesitation, bit Peacock Queen which was crossing the surface. There was no more good point farther upstream for some distance. I was satisfied that my guess was right and fished upstream without haste. The eastern sky was red, while the overhead sky became slightly blue.
In low water in midsummer sedges did not fly even in the evening.

Dancing Fog

I saw cars with head lights running on the road now and then. Drivers still needed the light but I did not. My eyes already got accustomed to darkness because I stayed on the bank before dawn. When I fished upstream I felt fog or mist moving on the surface, as if a lace curtain had been dancing in the wind. Is the light reflected due to the change of the temperature or does lack of sleep give me an illusion? I rubbed my eyes and watched again. There was nothing on the surface.
In August yamame trout became thinner due to lack of bait.

When I moved to the next point upstream, I saw the lace curtain dancing away in the wind again. I held the leader with my hand and stood still to watch the surface. Soon something like mist flew from downstream to upstream. When my eyes followed that mysterious thing, the first ray of the morning sun shone into the mountain. Countless drops of the moving fog were shining in the light.
In summer the best hours for wet fly fishing came at dawn.

What was dancing on the surface was a swarm of sedges. As they did not appear even in the evening I had thought they disappeared from the river. But now they were dancing on the surface. They were active at dawn when the temperature and the water temperature were the lowest in a day. Yamame trout, the big eater of sedges were active at dawn, too.

I was fascinated with the mysterious scenery. The swarm of sedges was flying around on the surface, swaying from right to left, as if a flock of birds had been dancing above the grassland. They suddenly disappeared when the morning sun shone them. 10 minutes later when the banks were completely covered with morning light, sedges were nowhere to be seen, however hard I tried to find. It looked as if I had had a dream or an illusion.

Now the morning sun felt hot to me. This cool comfortable world would turn into a sun-baked bank quite soon. I returned to the hotel with 2 yamamme trout in my hand. The first one was 32cm long and the second one 29cm. The belly of the first one was abnormally swollen. I pressed it and felt something strangely hard. It must eat something unusual.

It is not a pleasant job to check inside the swollen belly, whether yamame trout’s or char’s. Anglers are often surprised to see something odd there. Definitely this abnormally swollen belly would have unusual things. Half driven by curiosity, I cut up the belly.
I often caught bluish fish at dawn.

Only a little cutting made me show the inside. At first glance I lost my words. What I saw at the slit was a pretty parr mark. I pulled it out. It was a yamame trout more than 15cm long. My fish swallowed what was half the length of its own body.

In midsummer the mountain stream had scarce bait in low water. I had seen the same scene before but my old fish had eaten a much smaller young one. It was a yamame trout, too. Although char are said to eat bizarre foods I never saw a smaller char inside a bigger one. Probably a char, living in a tough and limited situation, never eats its own kind to protect the kind from extinction.

-- To be continued --
2003/12/28  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake