The Whistling Line
The fish did not move when I walked out of the water and stood on the bank. I reeled in the line slowly to make the rod bent more sharply. Suddenly the fish ran. High pitch sound of the reel echoed in the wind I had never heard except when I fought with a Steelhead. The fish dashed to the opposite side of the heart of the stream and stayed still there.
A big fish! I was thrilled to meet a fish worth fighting with. I used to fight with cherry salmon very gently because I always worried that the hook might come off the fish mouth which is extremely soft. But now I can fight as powerfully as I want.
I was on the bank. The end of the pool was some distance from here and there was no obstacle. The fish and I were on even terms. The pool was filled with snow melting water. The fish was at the opposite side of the heart of the stream. The stream was now favourable to the fish. If the fish go into the fast current downstream I will be a loser of the fight.
Finally the fish broke the surface after fierce fighting. I pulled it to the bank.
But the fish stayed still for a while and I could do nothing. Then the fish started moving upstream slowly and I reeled in the line slowly, too, pulling the fish to the bank stronger and stronger. The rod bent in a large arc and the tightened line whistled in the wind. I heard such sound of the line for the first time after I used 17ft rod. The fish stayed still at the heart of the stream and did not move again like a firmly rooted plant.
I raised the rod high from a nearly horizontal position in order to take the fish off the bottom. The fish struggled, swinging its head several times and ran downstream again. Our fight was put back to the starting point. Soon the fish moved around the opposite side of the heart of the stream, struggling fiercely to remove the hook. I waited and pulled it to the heart of the stream. It ran to the opposite bank. We repeated such tugs of war several times and finally it came to this side of the heart of the stream.
I never missed the chance to reel in the line. The fish came near to me rapidly. The fly line appeared on the waves and came rattling to the rod tip. The fish stopped again.
The cherry salmon was shining like a mirror ball at my feet.
It clung to the edge of the slant of the river bed. I moved to the gentle-slant spot to prepare for landing. Then I held the rod horizontally and pulled the fish to me powerfully. The rod bent in a large arc again but the fish did not move as if it had stuck to a bottom stone.
I worried that the leader was caught in stones. Fortunately the exhausted fish broke the surface. It was shining in the sun like a mirror ball and came near to my feet, rippling the surface. I was thrilled to see it closely.
Its back was transparently pale olive. Its belly was shining in pearl and silver colour. Its body was thicker and wider than any other cherry salmon I had ever caught. I was fascinated with it and came to myself only after I failed in scooping it because the net frame was crushed.
Then I scooped it safely and stared at it again. I lost my word. I just admired it. How long have I been looking at the fish? I had never seen such a beautiful cherry salmon. It was 8lb, 64cm long although its beauty could not be described by size.
The fly was not seen from outside. The cherry salmon swallowed the whole Aquamarine.
The fresh run felt very heavy.
It was March but only warm during the day. It became cold before evening. Then we were in no mood for fishing, while in April evening is the best fishing time.
I went back to the hotel before dusk although fishing was still possible for a while. Other members came back soon, too. None of them got a bite. Probably my cherry salmon was one of the rare ones that came upstream rather earlier than the most others.
One of the reasons I wanted cherry salmon lovers to gather together was to establish the fishing rules and make them spread widely. As for salmon fishing, the rules had been established long before. New comers had to start by learning them.
The rules were very simple. Anglers should start fishing from the head of the pool and moved a few metres downstream at every casting. The rule should be strictly observed except when you are the only angler in the pool. It is not allowed to fish just down another angler or to stay at a spot. Those were the most reasonable rules when several anglers fished the same pool.
The beautiful body of the cherry salmon was shining more brightly under the spring sun.
No Japanese anglers had known such rules of salmon fishing because we had no history of it. If many anglers had gathered without knowing rules they might have made cherry salmon fishing spoiled. Cherry salmon fishing just started in Japan. I thought if we, cherry salmon lovers, observe the rules, other anglers will follow us and all will enjoy fishing without trouble.
Some years later many anglers came to the Kuzuryu River to fish cherry salmon. Then fly fishermen had some troubles with lure fishermen, who had a different fishing style, but no trouble among themselves. They followed the rules. The only problem was too many anglers gathered.
The powerful cherry salmon had a very good proportion.
On the next day, March 7th, it was sunny but there were a lot of clouds in the sky. A chilly wind was blowing. I headed for the embankment of the pool of the front of kindergarten. I intended to fish around the pools I missed the previous day. But the car parked there, whose owner I knew wanted to catch his first cherry salmon. There were only he and I, so enough space for me. But I decided to go downstream.
There were some anglers at the pool down the power transmission lines, the junction pool and also National Route 8. I went farther downstream as the previous day. I fished above and down the previous day's pool and farther downstream as far as the iron bridge, too. But there was too much water everywhere and no proper stream.
It was almost noon. I wanted to cast the fly during this period of the time by all means. I hurried to the bridge girder of Hokuriku Road. It would be a good pool in medium water. But now there was too much water. I went down to the bank but the stream flew too strongly everywhere, unsuitable for fishing in March.
This rainbow trout looked like a goldfish when I landed it.
Nearly 2 p.m. I was very hungry. I gave up fishing for lunch. I thought that the best time was over and that there was no hope of catch. But I wanted to cast the fly once more. I headed for the river after quick lunch.
When I got to Gomatsu Bridge there were some anglers at the front of kindergarten but there was no car on the embankment downstream. I had no time to make sure which pools had no angler. I drove downstream and walked on the bank along the power transmission lines.
It was cloudy and the river looked somehow cold. A lot of anglers in the morning disappeared probably because of no catch. It was already 3:30. The time was left for only one spot. I made a tough decision and passed the pool down the power transmission lines. I chose the junction pool as the previous day.
Is there a fish coming upstream within these 24 hours? Probably no. But I encouraged myself to cast the fly once more. I took Aquamarine from the fly box and was about to put it to the leader tip when another idea came to me. How many times has Aquamarine drifted in this pool since this morning? In addition, the temperature has started falling. I should change the fly or something.
Where did this rainbow trout come from?
I removed Aquamarine and took a newly dressed fly from the other fly box. It was Gray Eagle tied on a copper tube. That was the first trial to use copper tube or Eagle. But I had a feeling that it was suitable for the pool with stirring cold water.
Gray Eagle was difficult to cast but sank easily. When I drew near to the spot where I met the fresh run the previous day, I felt excited but nothing happened. No fish seemed to come in yet. Lucky chance was seldom repeated. My casting chance was limited to several times to the end of the pool. When I half gave up I felt a shock at the rod tip. Surely a fish bit the fly, but not a cherry salmon or a Japanese dace.
I raised the rod. The fish struggled powerfully, shaking its body, but it did not run far. I pulled it up to the bank without using the net. It was as red as a goldfish. Walking near to it, I found that it was a rainbow trout. It was my first and last experience to catch a rainbow trout in the Kuzuryu River. I had no idea whether it had been staying there or came from somewhere downstream.
-- To be continued --