“Genryu” is the most upper part of a river, even upper part of “keiryu(mountain stream)” and here in Japan [the] image of “Genryu” is always with fast flow of gin clear water running through big rocks in a beautiful valley surrounded by flourishing forests of the mountains.
Tenkara Fisher March 2014 “‘Genryu Fishing’ of Japan” by Keiichi Okushi
You can find Genryu (it is pronounced g-en [as in Ken but with a ‘G’ or Again without the ‘A’] roo) pretty much anywhere there is a mountain in Japan (Japan is 80% mountains so there are a lot of genryu). Unfortunately they are some of the more threatened waterways in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. A lot of the genryu tend to be overfished and consequently there just aren’t very many, if any fish left. A general rule of thumb in Japan is that if the fish is longer than 15cm (a length typically achieved in one season of growth) you can take it home. A good sign you are fishing a heavily pressured genryu is if all the fish are tiny. This is because none of the fish live through a season. The biggest threat by far though is the Japanese affinity for dams. There are over 100,000 dams in Japan and it has really hurt the fish populations, especially in the genryu. So while there are genryu all over Japan finding ones that have not been decimated by the lack of a catch and release culture and dams can be challenging.
I had a great conversation with Go-Ishii about this during my visit to Aizu. One thing he told me that I found very encouraging was that foreigners (those who are not Japanese citizens of Japanese ancestry) have a real opportunity to fast track a revolution in how the Japanese view fish, angling, and proper land stewardship. It seems hardly a week goes by that I do not get an email, read an article, or watch a video about how dams are being torn down, river habitat restored, and native fish are being reintroduced into areas throughout the United States of America (and Britain too). While there is a lot of work left to do and a lot of battles to still be fought, it is encouraging to see a nation waking up to the realities of how several centuries of un-checked greed has damaged their precious resources. If this attitude of protecting the land and its natural inhabitants is just getting on its feet in the “west” it has barely been conceived in Japan.
In my article “Conversing In Japanese” which was featured in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler, I said that I “believe[d] that every Tenkara angler should make a pilgrimage to Japan not just for the fishing but to immerse themselves in another culture. Too many of the problems currently facing the “west” today, could be easily resolved with a little perspective, grace, and respect. Something that Japan, its people, and its culture can offer in spades.” While there is definitely something we can learn from visiting (or even better living for awhile in) Japan there is also something we as anglers can teach them. Namely the merits of catch and release (along with proper handling of fish during the release process) and how to be good stewards of the land through habitat restoration and realizing the consequences of the unchecked construction of dams, bridges, tunnels, and roads.
Now just so you know, there are a lot of genryu with plenty of fish near heavily populated areas like the Kanto Plain (where Tokyo resides), you just have to be up for an adventure to get there. If the access is easy, then the area will most likely see a lot of angling pressure (isn’t this true though on every continent?). So strap on a pair of sawanobori shoes, throw a rope in your pack, and be prepared for some excitement.
Case in point – my latest (and the last proper genryu) trip for the 2016 Tenkara season was an absolute blast and the genryu was LOADED with Iwana.
To continue reading about my latest adventure in the Genryu of Japan click page 2