Japan is an interesting country filled with sharp contrasts. The island is physically smaller than the state of Montana, but holds a population more than twice the size of the US. Toilets literally warm and clean your butt in one place while in another there is simply just a hole in the ground. Japan’s best attribute is the people. Its common to have people say “welcome” when they see a westerner or foreigner on the street. They are required to study English for 6 years in school. Anyone will go out of their way to make sure you know where you are going. It is truly a great place to visit for so many different reasons, especially the fly-fishing. On my original Semester at Sea Voyage in Spring 2006 to Japan I experienced the tug of a Suzuki (Japanese Seabass) on the end of my fly line. So I was determined to do the same this time around. Our gracious host in 2006, Takashi Nakajima recommended I fish with the best fly-fishing guide in Tokyo: Keiichiro Okamoto (Captain K <- another example of how kind Japanese people are. They come up with alternate names that make it easier for westerners to pronounce) of SEAKURO Fly-Fishing. Captain K, lived up to his reputation. On average, Captain K guides 5 days a week. Aside from catering to clients like Tommy Lee Jones, he also fishes on his own every chance he gets. If you get a chance check out his website: SEAKURO. Click on reports and you’ll find sea-bass after sea-bass. Here is his report from our night of fishing:
His report literally translates to this:
Setting sail in the sea bass fly fishing
I was going to guide you through the American guest.
Near the enthusiastic fly fisherman, I can enjoy the highest never better night sea bass.
Boyle spree! Rolled exploded to the top! Spree hit!
In many exciting scene, it was night “awesome!”.
OK just floating line.
Captain K’s report is accurate. There was “never better night” for sea-bass fishing. Captain K picked me up from the ship at 9pm and we were fishing by 9:30. We navigated through the darkness amongst freight ship lights, big highway bridges and industrial ship yards.
With my 9wt we threw his special top-water fly into the shadows, stripping it out into well lit areas. With no wind and a calm harbor we had non-stop surface action all night long. Cast after cast sea-bass would come out of no-where and slam the fly. Most of the fish we caught were in the 1 kilo range, while we managed to catch a few in the 2-3 kilo range.
Like Captain K explained in his report, it was literally a “Boil Spree.” Fish slamming flies cast after cast. If the activity died out in one location Captain K had another we’d motor to in minutes. We probably fished 20 different locations throughout the night catching multiple fish at each. For a more detailed report and pics see CAPTAIN K’S BLOG post from our incredible evening on the water.
After a long night of catching fish after fish, Captain K motored us back to the MV Explorer. He instructed me to throw a few more casts into the corner no more than 75 yards from the back of our ship. On the third cast my fly was nailed, and I was hooked up with yet another hard fighting Japanese Sea-bass. Landing that final Suzuki was a great way to end an incredible night. After, Captain K let me pick his brain on camera while we drifted in his boat with our ship in the background. In his good English (he claims it is Kindergarten level but I told him that most Kindergarteners can’t speak half as good as he can in the US) he talked about Sea-bass fishing in Yokohama and Tokyo bay and how Japanese culture has no regard for conservation, although the growing popularity of fly-fishing is helping create awareness for the importance of catch and release sport fishing.
After the interview, I explained to Captain K that I had such a awe-inspiring experience fly-fishing with him I felt like I was “Turning Japanese.” I even sang the song to him. It was obvious he had never heard of the song and probably thought I was just pulling it out of my ass.
In the days to follow my wife Sara, our friend Andrew and I had the opportunity to travel around Japan. We spent a night in Tokyo giving us a chance to see the city and visit arguably the biggest fish market in the world: the Tsukiji Fish Market. It was an interesting experience. Imagine the best seafood market you have visited multiplied by 1,000.
There was everything from big fish like Blue Fin Tuna and Yellowtail, to mollusks and crustaceans that I never knew existed. It was such a unique experience to see the variety of seafood but a bit sad at the same time. The market was an indicator of what little regard Japan’s culture has for conservation. If you are concerned about eating sustainable seafood its a great idea to abide by THIS GUIDE TO EATING SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD.
After experiencing Japan’s largest city we caught a bullet train to Kyoto. Thanks to some help from Daniel at TENKARA USA, I was linked up with a couple Japanese Tenkara fisherman.
Unfortunately due to the winter season we were not able to go fishing in one of the many mountain streams Japan has to offer. Our gracious hosts were very kind. They took my wife Sara, our friend Andrew and I to an Izakaya, a Japanese style pub. Eddie (right) and Kiyoshi (left) were awesome. They taught a lot about Tenkara fly-fishing, its origins and culture in Japan. Kiyoshi even gave us a few of his Tenkara flies. We had a tasty dinner including, sushi and cod roe in a hot pot. It was an unforgettable night.
The next day we had a chance to explore Kyoto. Japan’s cultural capital.
On the way back to Kobe we stopped in Osaka for some sights and lunch. It is said that Osaka is as if lady Gaga was a city. A friend responded to this with: “so the city is just covered in a meat dress?” I’m not so sure Osaka resembled Lady Gaga but we definitely ran into some weird characters.
The last night we were in Japan Kiyoshi and Eddie the Tenkara fishermen set me and a fly-fishing friend from the ship, Chris, up with another night of sea-bass fishing. This time it was with Yusaku Tsutsui, the owner of Drag Free Fly-Fishing in Osaka. Tsutsui had explained that it may be hard to actually catch a Japanese Sea-bass around Kobe because there is a lot of catch and take fishing. Kiyoshi our Tenkara friend showed us the way to meet Tsutsui. Upon arrival, we rigged our rods as Kiyoshi broke out some pre-game treats, beers and sushi.
As we fished multiple spots that night he talked about how lure fishermen would take 50-60 fish out of each spot. It wasn’t nearly as action packed as the first night of fishing but still a great time. We all had blast but more so Kiyoshi as it was his first taste of saltwater fly-fishing. While we were only allotted about 4 hours to fish because we had to catch the train before it closed, we fished hard throwing flies into the shadows of big ships and industrial ports stripping them out into the lit areas. Tsutsui explained that the constant pressure in the area pushes the fish down, so we threw heavy flies with floating line and sink tips as well as full sinking lines. With no action most of the night Tsutsui recommended to change the fly to one that he had tied, a small white clouser, the ticket for success. While stripping my fly out of the corner created by a concrete sidewalk next to the Kobe Airport I felt a big tug. I strip set, then immediately saw a large fish surface and jump completely out of the water. Yells of excitement came from Kiyoshi, Tsutsui, Chris and I. FISH ON!