In the River TAKAHARA  --Vol.81--

The White Valley

Usually this valley seemed to flow in the half dark deep in the mountains but now the light coming into the valley bottom reflected on the white sand and shone the rock surface. Not to give a shock to fish, I walked downstream within the dead angle from the river. When I had to walk along the waterside, I extended the line from faraway in advance and kept size 14 Spent Badger at the tip of the leader sliding on the surface. That was a good way to avoid driving fish away before casting.

After crossing the river twice, I reached under the bridge, from where I had been watching the valley line. I had expected on the bridge that I would be able to walk downstream, following the same route as the char came upstream. But standing on the waterside, I realized that the river was too deep to walk under the bridge and farther downstream although the sand thickly covered the river bottom.
This trophy-sized char was somehow whitish.

I decided to fish upstream from where I had just been walking. There was a good-looking point in front of me. The sand was not so highly piled there because the stream was flowing, hitting the bedrock near many big stones. When Spent Badger drifted down, swaying on the waves above the faintly-seen bottom stones, a beige lump suddenly broke the surface, bit the fly and ran away.

It was a char. It was much smaller than the one I had found on the bridge. Then the whitish body of 25cm came near to my feet, thrashing about. A fish is really here!

Another fish broke the surface at the current upstream. It was a yamame trout of the same size. Somehow both fish looked a little thin. I wondered whether it was because of drainage of water from the dam or it was of average thinness around there. I thought that I would get an answer when the river returned to its usual form.
I would not have walked here if the river bottom had not been thickly covered with sand.

Another 2 fish broke the surface and bit my fly before I returned to the starting point. I could catch one of them. It was a yamame trout, exactly like the previous one.

I could not see Mr. Shohei Katoh, who was fishing upstream. I hurried to follow him although I could not give up casting the fly at the most crucial points.

Turning a little curve, I found him. He had caught a yamame trout of almost the same size of mine. He said that he caught it just after we separated but that he saw no shadow after that. As we moved upstream, the river bottom became thickly covered with sand and monotonously flat. There was no hiding place for fish. It was so near to the dam that the sand seemed to be highly piled up on the river bottom farther upstream.

Looking upstream, I found an old bridge to the left. Fortunately there were footsteps. Someone must walk down there. We decided to try around there later and left the valley.
The first fish came back to stay at a point where the river conditions improved first and the next fish at the next improved point.

A Tail Fin

Half a month later I walked down the white valley again although Mr. Shohei Katoh could not come together. The valley conditions were so completely improved that I thought for a moment that I walked down a wrong place. A proper amount of rain fell many times, which probably reduced a pile of sand by half.

“How lucky I am!”

At the previous time some fish stayed even in a hopeless situation. Today I feel something will happen. I felt excited when I put the line to the rod.

I was going to put size 14 Spent Badger to the line just like the previous fishing but changed my mind. The river conditions improved. It was cloud, hot and humid. The valley was quiet as if it had been the evening. I thought that all those would give me a good chance to catch big fish. Well, I try to use wet flies!
The waterside was completely covered with sand full of granite.

I put the dry fly away and picked up a leader from my cast-wallet I had prepared before. Size 10 Alexandra was put to the tip of 3X leader of 7ft 6in. and size 10 Blue Kingfisher as a dropper. Size 10 was suitable for daytime fishing.

Preparing for fishing, I walked down on the bank to the bridge downstream, just like the previous time. The bank was still covered with white sand but the river bottom looked blackish everywhere. At a glance I knew that the sand decreased.

The water amount did not seem to change but the deep pool where I had caught my first char at the previous time looked twice as large as before. Decrease of sand showed that big stones were piled up under the water along the rocks at the opposite bank. All those gave me a sign that big fish were hiding there.
I walked down to the valley bottom along the creek, holding on to bamboos.

I stood at the spot from where I could look at the deep pool just beside of me. I took a deep breath and cast the line to the head of the pool. 2 flies rode on the waves and flowed into the deep pool. Immediately a brown shadow rose from the bottom and swallowed the wet fly near the surface as if it had swallowed the dry fly.

Within 10 seconds after casting, my rod bent in a large arc. The fish never came to me easily. It was a beautiful trophy-sized char. I removed Alexandra from the jaw and washed its sticky wings and cast it to the head of the pool again.

I made the fly drift just under the surface. My target point was gradually changed into the centre of the pool. I cast several times and my 2 flies drifted around the upper half of the pool. Nothing happened. Because I could not move downstream any more I fished with fly casting down and across to make the fly drift around the lower half of the pool.

The fly causing a drag started swinging just under the surface. At the next moment a brown shadow rose from the bottom and ran after the fly. It disappeared when it passed the centre of the pool. A little while later I felt a strong pull with thud. I caught a nice char, a little smaller than the previous one.

I caught the first char, casting upstream and giving the fly natural drift and the second one, casting down and across and swinging the fly. The fly drifted just under the surface in both cases. The second char rose where I had once cast the same fly, giving it nearly natural drift in vain. I wondered why that char had bit the fly this time. Was it because the fly broke into its territory several times or because the fly was cast down and across?

If the latter is the right answer, it will be possible that there are more fish which rise to bite the fly drifting with the drag. I am a person who can not wait for finding answers. At the next moment I found myself standing beside the head of the pool.
Char never die even in a rough river?

I cast the fly like I drove it into the water sliding into the pool. Then I sent it under the bubble. The slope of the head of the pool was not steep enough that I could not send it as properly as I made the fly go down into the falling water. Fortunately the leader stayed still at the surface for a while. I thought that the fly went down rather deeply and flowed there.

At the right moment I turned the rod to the upper reaches and tightened the line. The leader was extended and the fly came up to the surface.

When I half gave up, I felt something swaying in the water.

“A fish!?”

I cast the fly into the head of the pool again very carefully and gave it the vertical turn in the same way.

When I stared at the fly coming up to the surface, something moved on the bottom again. However dim it was in the water, I was sure because it moved in front of me. Definitely it was a tail fin. It was rather big, at least different from that of the trophy-sized char I had just caught.

-- To be continued --
2004/04/18  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake