After a restful night I took the road to Totsukawa, Nara prefecture, to discover tenkara fishing for amago accompanied by Eiji Yamakawa and Nishi-san. I had no doubt that it was going to be a marvelous experience because I had the chance to have a couple of Harima tenkara Club members as guides. They are experienced tenkara anglers and know this area better than anyone.
We arrived near the Totsukawa river after an over three hours drive but what we found was a stream swollen by the heavy rains of the previous days so we had to drive a few miles more to gain altitude for the opportunity to fish a stretch of this river with clear water even though we would also have water level higher than the seasonal average.
Finally out of the car we took the time to relax and watch the river which is at this place about 32ft wide and features all the characteristics of the perfect stream for amago tenkara fishing: a powerful current, alternating deep pools and shallow stretches where the water is very well oxygenated. It would have been useless to us to hurry up, amago can only live in streams and by chance we had one a few meters under our feet.Arrived on the banks of the stream I let Eiji-san and Nishi-san fish first in order to observe their technique, faithful to the tenkara basics "One rod, one line, one fly", and it proved to be effective as the first amago were caught fairly quickly. I was happy for them but Eiji-san told that the water level on this portion was really high and would make fishing pretty difficult so he decided to bring us a little further upstream.
We took back the road and then a forest trail that led us at the top of a steep path traced by unlikely passage of forest animals, serow or sika , that we we were going to walk down for an access to the stream. Nishi-san who has had an accident on this steep path a few months ago decided not to follow us so Eiji-san and I only took this path that the heavy rains had made, as we were going to realize soon, very slippery. After a slow and cautious descent we reached the edge of the river and started fishing. This time Eiji-san invited me to take the lead and fish before him.
I did catch my first amago after a few casts and I was quite happy with it because this fish is not easy to reach as it stays at the bottom of the most powerful current parts of the stream. The hook setting has to be fast when the strike has been detected otherwise success will remain out of reach. This amago released I thanked Eiji-san for bringing me here and offering the opportunity to fish this iconic fish of this part of Japan.
Amago is an endemic salmonid species that lives in only three islands of the Japanese archipelago. I had literally dreamed of these little red dots for several years!
We will wade up the stream for nearly three hours exploring one by one the most promising spots and we caught enough amago to be satisfied by this outing.
We were progressing in a fairly narrow and shaded stretch of the stream ans as the hours were passing by the temperature was rising, we really were feeling the threatening storm and probably fishes were also feeling it because the catch frequency was declining. Still some amago did were catching our kebari and we did enjoy this final moments with enthusiasm.
We will finally reach the downstream of a deep pool supplied with very cold and very well oxygenated water where we had the opportunity to watch amago waiting for insects, this was the last spot we did fish this day. Struggling like a devil at the end of the line he put all the others in alarm and none of them showed any activity after so we decided to collapse down our rods and to go back to the spot where we arrived on the stream.
If the descent of the trail was perilous the ascent was grueling and once at the top we raised our eyes and found a blackened sky: the storm was about to burst. We did not have the time to arrive at the parking lot where Nishi-san was waiting for us before heavy rain starts. We did use the roof of branches of a chestnut as an umbrella in front of the car!
We had a great fishing outing despite the high water level and we shared our thoughts about the day and tenkara along the road back to Kobe. Arrived at the station from which I was going to go back to Kyoto I warmly greeted my friends who helped to realize a dream that may seems banal but that was dear to me: tenkara fishing for amago.