Iwana, a beautiful and colorfully spotted char, is mostly a landlocked fish due to the multitude of dams and weirs on the Japanese mountain streams. The Iwana that aren’t landlocked and can swim to the ocean can live for up to nine years and grow over 60cm long! They thrive best in cold and clear mountain streams and aren’t as easily spooked as Yamame. They are a very hardy fish living in areas that one would think would be impossible to survive in. They are also a blast to catch!
In the morning of the beginning of the second day of fishing Kado-san cooked up a very tasty homemade breakfast of Ramen. It may have been one of the best ramen meals I have ever had. Stuffed on a delicious breakfast we packed up, cleaned the cabin, and took our trash to the community receptacle before getting on the road around 7:30am. We took a small detour to look for mushrooms but didn’t find any, instead we came across a Japanese Serow (羚羊) which is a deer/antelope like mammal. At first we thought it was a boar and were getting ready to run back to the car but then the fury little guy turned around and stared at us for a moment before going back to eating a fern plant. I tried to get a photo but she disappeared into the dense underbrush before I could get her picture. A few more minutes of driving and we were at the creek. Kado-san suggested we split up – I would fish down stream he would fish upstream. Keeping a sharp lookout for hornets I scampered down the bank and began picking my way downstream.
While this creek was fairly small there were some very deep pools and the wet wading in the frigid water felt very good on my hornet stings. After about 15 minutes of making my way downstream I hooked into my first Iwana! She was a beauty, about 12cm long. After carefully releasing him back into the wild I continued on downstream. A few minutes later the river I had been fishing dumped into a much bigger and deeper creek unsure of which direction I decided to go upstream. While this river had some exceptional pools and was quite beautiful I did not see a single fish. Kado-san and I had agreed to meet back at the car at 11:00am and so I didn’t make it very far up this new river before it was time to return back to the car.
Back at the car Kado-san and I drove a bit further up the road before stopping at a small turnout. We had passed a small trickle of a stream and Kado-san informed me that is where we were going to fish next. I was very skeptical as the creek was maybe a foot wide. Kado-san showed me the photos of some of the fish he had caught in this very stream a few years prior. They were monsters (for landlocked Iwana)! Close to the road the creek was blocked by a large weir and dense underbrush on either side. Rather than risk coming across another hornets nest I opted climb up the side of the weir. My Sawanabori Shoes performed quite well and I made quick work of the first ascent.
On the upstream side of the weir I began fishing. Kado-san had caught eight fish to my one in the last stream so he let me fish for awhile. The Iwana were everywhere! Some were hanging out in deep pools while others in a centimeter or two of water! These were some hardy and brave fish. I couldn’t bring myself to keep any of them so I released everyone I caught.
We continued on upstream for about an hour and half. The stream was incredibly small and the pools were overhung by dense foliage. It was a very challenging spot to fish. I had a bite in almost every pool but setting the hook with such low foliage was difficult. Still I brought four fish to hand and had about eight more fish on. My Tenkara USA #8 Oki Kebari was raking in the fish. In these tight streams when fishing for Iwana I have found the Oki and Amano Kebari to be the most effective.
With a five hour drive home we stopped fishing a little before 1pm and made our way back to the car. The second day of fishing had been wildly successful and more than made up for the lack of Tenkara action from the first day. Once we got on the road we stopped from time to time to investigate clusters of mushrooms and buna (Japanese beech) trees. It had been a great trip and on the way home Kado-san and I began to discuss plans for next months fishing trip as well as a trip to an Amago filled stream the following month!