The sky was hardly seen. I felt as if I had been walking deep into the ground.
The sliding waterfall just below me had a shape of corn, whose slope was smooth and whose bottom had some water like a bathtub. It seemed to be nearly 2m deep. Therefore, I would not be seriously injured even if I fell into it as far as I was not hit by the rock, so I thought. I did not worry about falling into the second waterfall below because the water amount flowing down there was very little.
I was standing on the high-positioned edge of the corn. Its space was as small as a notebook. It was the only space where I could stand upright, from where I was going to hold fast to the big rock in front and where I would land in case I had to return.
I watched around again and again and made up my mind to crawl up the rock. I handed my rod and camera to Mr. Shohei Katoh just below me. Then I clung to the big rock with my cheek almost rubbed by the rock surface. I crawled up very carefully.
I’ve got it! Standing on a safe foothold, I climbed 2m of the rock and peeped into the upper reaches of the valley through the narrow space between the rocks and the rock wall. Flat banks were there. No more sliding waterfall! I was relieved. But at the next moment I found that the big rock I was standing on was in the form of a sheer cliff at the upper reaches. In addition, the rock walls on both sides overhung the valley.
We got out of a dangerous spot just to find another. A choice of route was of vital importance.
It’s all over for me now. It will be possible to jump down but impossible to return. If there is a closed spot ahead, we will be confined in the rocks. There was no way but to return.
“No way, Shohei.”
“We can’t go ahead.”
Twisting my head, I said aloud to Shohei below.
My plan was not realized. I felt exhausted. Now I had to think of safe return. I felt very nervous. I took every step slowly and walked down on the lowest foothold. Next I had to descend on the rock on the falling part of the waterfall. But I could not see the very spot as far as I was facing the rock wall. I wanted Shohei below to support my body but the spot was too narrow for two people to stand on.
I turned around, replacing the position of right and left foot. Now I had to jump down on the top of the rock obliquely below me. Preparing for this situation, I had scrubbed the rock surface with my shoe soles while I had been climbing. But the place was still slippery.
Our way was barred again.
I had planned to ask Shohei to climb very near the rock and to support my body when I jumped. But we both would fall down if we failed, which sounded more disastrous. Instead, I asked him to climb down near to the basin of the waterfall and wait for me. If I fall down into the basin, he will immediately give me a helping hand. So I thought.
I watched the waterfall below again. If I fail in landing I will have to be careful not to hit my body against the rock. I must not cling to the rock wall but jump into the basin of the waterfall from my legs. So I imagined in case of trouble.
I bent my body as low as possible and jumped quietly to the tip of the rock obliquely below me. Fortunately I could land on narrow space of the rock with a sound of bang.
Anyway I could return to Shohei but we had still some dangerous spots ahead. How to pass them? Remembering a low ridge to the right side at the lower reaches, we climbed down 2 sliding waterfalls.
We almost gave up but managed to pass.
It was easy to climb the ridge to the right side. The problem was whether we would be able to walk down at the upper reaches of the big rock which blocked the valley. Just before we reached the top of the ridge I found faint footmarks in front of us. They went upstream along the ridge.
“Shohei, a route here! We can go upstream”
What a simple solution! Following the footmarks, we walked along the rocky ridge and reached at the upper reaches of the big rock quite easily. Anyway, what an adventurous angler the footmark owner is to come to such a valley!
We were blind to our reckless adventure and walked down to the bank. The footmarks went through the sandy place just before climbing down the bank. There I first knew who the footmark owner was. On the sand there were clear hoof prints of a Japanese serow.
The gentle slope spread at the upper reaches for a while. The both banks formed soaring rocks somewhere but became flat soon. There I even felt as if we had been walking in the forest. The valley bottom was rather buried. There was no noticeable point. Char sometimes appeared but they were small.
Probably lack of bait made the char thin.
No more fishing chance? When we half gave up, we saw another rock wall in front. We walked near to it and found a narrow channel ahead. Little sunshine gave us only a dim view. I cast the fly. No response. Usually there is no fish at a sunless spot, even if it is deep.
The channel was deeper than I had expected. Fortunately there was almost no flow. It would have been very difficult for us to pass it if there had been just a gentle flow. We sometimes waded chest-deep before we crawled up the falling water on the rock.
My camera and film were covered with water.
A Big Deep Pool
Standing on the rock, we saw a large deep pool surrounded by rock walls in front. It was deep to the other side and got a lot of sunshine. Its size assured us that it was the best point in the valley.
Thank God! Finally we’ve got to a perfect point. I remembered that the big deep pool below the sliding waterfall had a fish of 36 cm. We can expect bigger ones here!
I tried to snap at the crucial moment when Mr. Shohei Katoh landed a big fish. Taking several steps back, I picked up the camera bag and opened it. Oh, no! The plastic bag wrapping the camera was loose for some reason and wet inside. Is my camera all right? Isn’t the film wet?
It was too late to worry. Anyway, the lens did not get fogged, which meant that the lens got water when I passed the channel just now. I wiped some drops of water from the camera and looked into the finder over Shohei’s back.
I pressed the shutter several times. Somehow, the scenery of the deep pool drew my attention. I moved my eyes from the finder to the scenery around.
Somewhere I saw this deep pool. Ah, it is that quiet pool we fished last week.
I was sure. The perfect pool in the valley in front was nothing but the quiet pool we fished the last week. As we had just seen it from the upper reaches, we identified it so late.
The quiet pool we saw the last week made us dream a lot. That was why we did not mind taking the trouble to come upstream to this steep valley, heading for a fishing utopia. But there was no better deep pool than the first quiet pool. I felt as if we had caught big fish as beginner’s luck. We expect to catch bigger ones but such luck seldom comes to us.
To carry the camera safely, I asked Shohei, who already passed the deep pool, to throw the line. I grabbed it and he pulled me to the falling water through the deep pool. I crawled up the water-dripping rock and looked down the lower reaches of the valley. Our old scenery spread below my eyes.
“Well, let’s call it a day and go home.”
Those words came from both of us and we climbed the staircases to the woodland path for the first time, instead of usual climbing down to the sluice gate.
-- To be continued --