• Going on a fishing trip to a trout paradise from a trout-poor place

    By Satoshi

    I often feel envious of people, more specifically, fly fishers who live in places where there are good trout streams just behind their backyards. Iím envious of fly fishers who live in northern part of Japan. Iím envious of fly fishers who live in the U.S., especially in the Rocky Mountain States like Montana or Colorado. Iím envious of fly fishers who live in New Zealand.

    My fishing trip to northern districts starts from this small local railway station.

    It isn't easy for me to go to good trout streams. I live in a rather warm place, where the water temperatures of streams are accordingly high. In this area, trout are confined to nutrient-poor mountain streams where the water temperature is relatively low. Yet, even those streams are marginal habitat for trout. Trout of 8 inches is a very decent catch here. As I wrote before, the best season here is April, and fishing becomes slower after that. For good trout fishing (in the Japanese standard, of course), I have to go either to high mountain streams in the central mountain area, or to much northern part of Japanís main island. Among them, you can expect better fishing in the northern part of Japan, because the central mountain area is rather close to many big cities, and hence, receives higher fishing pressure.

    The northern part is called Tohoku region. ďTohokuĒ actually means northeast in Japanese. There is also good trout fishing in Hokkaido, the northernmost island among the 4 major islands of Japan, but the fishing in Hokkaido is less predictable than that in Tohoku. Although Japan is a small country, it would take 12 hours to drive from my house to the place I usually go in Tohoku. I donít like to drive that long. So I use trains and rental cars for fishing trips to Tohoku. The trips are very expensive and once-in-a-year event for me. Typically, I first go to a hotel that is close to my final destination by train, stay at the hotel one night, and rent a car in the next morning to go fishing. From that night I stay at a small lodge where fly fishers gather till the end of the trip.

    Of course, these trips are great fun, but it's always very busy before going on a long fishing trip, though "long" means only less than a week. More work has to be done so that things should be OK while I'm off. In addition, I have to prepare for the trip of course. Hotels and rental cars must be reserved. Train tickets must be bought. I also need to check fishing gear and see if I haven't run out of small things like tippets or leaders. More important, I have to tie flies. It should be fun to tie flies while imaging streams and trout I am going to fish, but even this makes me nervous because I'm always running out of time. You may say I should begin preparing much earlier. Yes, you are right, but procrastination is my fundamental nature.

    Oh, there is one more thing! I have to buy a book to read during the long train ride or in the hotel room. Iím a kind of book addict. The book must be easy to read, like a comic book. Well, I often buy a comic magazine for a train ride, but I finish a comic magazine less than 30 minutes. So, their cost-performance (in terms of killing time) is very bad. I like samurai novels. Those are the Japanese version of the "Western". It takes only 3 hours for me to read one of those paperbacks, however, and I would need to buy several books to cover whole the travel. It would cost me much, and the baggage would become heavier. Furthermore, the bookshelf in my house is already more than full and my wife doesn't like it. So, I buy a paperback written in English through Amazon.com. My current favorite for this purpose is Michael Connelly. No, not John Gierach. For the reading during a fishing trip, I somehow feel like a completely different subject from fly fishing. Reading English language takes me much time and I cannot finish a paperback during a trip. (Even just reading is tough. You can guess how hard for me to write these sentences.) I sent out a backpack filled with fishing gear and clothes to the hotel in advance, so that I can travel with just a small daypack.

    Now, I'm all set.

    Finally, the real relief comes when I get on the train. I sit down on an open seat and take the paperback I bought out of my daypack. Now, there is nothing to worry about. Well, there might be actually. Anyway, I don't worry about anything, because it's useless. There is nothing I can do, even if I realize I forget to do something that should have been done or if I forget to bring something. Besides, I don't have a cell phone, and nobody can reach me.

    I change trains at two big terminal stations, including the Tokyo terminal. I usually buy a lunch box at a station, and have lunch in a train.

    The lunch boxes in the showcase of the shop are actually samples made of colored wax.

    This is the actual lunch box I bought at a trip. Though itís cold and not especially tasty, having lunch in a train is fun, because it's always connected to good memories in me.

    Life in the lodge is another fun. As I wrote before, I always stay at a small inn called Kubota Lodge, where the owner, Mr. Kubota, is an enthusiastic fly fisher. He used to live in an area close to my place but quit his business and opened the lodge in the current place ten years ago.

    Most of the lodge guests are also fly fishers during the season, and you can get important information of streams in the lodge. At night, we talk about the results of the day, expectation for the next day, and anything about fly fishing over alcohol. Maps are often spread on the dining tables and information is exchanged. I have come to know several fly fishers there, though I don't know what many of them do for their living. Social status doesn't count there. It's only fly fishing that counts. Thus, I am immersed in the world of fly fishing day and night, completely disconnected from the usual life. This is the experience only travelers can enjoy.

    Fishing? Well, sometimes I catch (or hook) trout almost at every cast, other times I have virtually no response from fish. That's fishing, isn't it? During fishing in those trips, I often wonder what it would be like to live in the area, where there are many good trout streams. Those streams are faraway dream streams for me, but they also often run through someone's backyards (Japan is a densely populated country, you know). For those people who live there, the streams must be just part of the dull, ordinary scenery. If I live there, would I fish the streams every day? I don't know. Maybe I would. I know one fly fisher who lives in that area. He fishes every morning before going to work during the season. I know another fly fisher who lives close to a river that has good masu salmon runs. He often goes to the river to fish masu salmon. I once asked him how often he goes to the river during the season. He answered, "14 times a week". Then again, I might soon get bored and wouldnít' go fishing at all.

    It seems at least certain that a stream shines brighter for a person who admires the stream more. People who have grown in trout paradise probably cannot feel the excitement I feel when I fish those streams. They cannot enjoy the feeling of being in a paradise during fishing there. They can neither feel the excitement before a trip nor sadness of the last day of the trip. Perhaps, they don't have strong admiration for trout fishing itself like us, who live in places where trout and trout streams are so precious that they are almost sacred. This might be the reason the number of the members in this forum from "trout paradise" seems relatively small. So, living in a place without good trout streams might not be too bad.

    By the way, are there any job openings in Montana or Colorado?