The content put forth in written and visual form in the latest issue of Tenkara Angler is nothing short of superb, and it is chocked full of inspiration too. After reading Tenkara Transformation by Mike Lutes & Matt Sment I was reminded how when I lived in Maryland I really enjoyed fishing in warmer water streams. The warm streams outnumbered trout streams ten to one, at least in my neck of the woods, so I spent a lot of time fishing for Bluegill, Bass (mainly Small Mouth), and of course Fallfish. With the trout season on hold throughout Japan for another three months or so, I have transitioned to warm water fishing. After a bit of research I came across some fairly detailed information on Tama River Bass fishing (map here & Japanese site). The Inadadutsumi section of the Tama River was reported to be five stars out of five for Bass fishing and was about two hours from my front door to the river’s edge. Doable for a day trip for sure! Before I get into the details of the day I should mention that the Tama River is the southern border of Tokyo, separating it from Kawasaki. The Tokyo metropolitan area is inhabited by nearly 40 million people of which about 90% are reported to enjoy fishing! Furthermore Bass are not native to Japan and are considered an invasive species, consequently if you catch one it is against the law to throw it back (although I doubt it is enforced if you decide to practice catch and release ethics). With that being said I was prepared from the get go for a challenging day of fishing.
To pass the time during my 2+ hour commute, and to prepare for my day on the Tama River, I listened to Daniel Galhardo’s Tenkara Cast Podcast “Big Waters, Long Lines”
The podcast proved to be exceptionally helpful in preparing me to Tenkara on the Tama. Tamabass.net had said that this particular portion of the river was wide, shallow, and clear but I misjudged how wide it was until I got there. I would venture to say the Inadadutsumi section was probably close to 70m across! In the podcast Daniel had defined a big river as calmer, less features, and 40′-100’+ wide – the Tama River was all of that, and certainly not what I’m used to fishing in any way. I quickly realized that my usual line setup was not going to work, especially since the sun was to my back casting my shadow 25′ out into the river! I was most certainly going to need to rig a longer line! Daniel suggested adding a meter or so of line at a time, which I found to be very good advice. My first jump from my usual 15′ line to an 18′ line required a bit of learning curve in terms of casting technique. When I bumped it up to 22’+ though I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. However, after some practice I was getting pretty good at accurately lobbing my #4 Sparkle Deceiver streamer!
“… Almost any big river can be seen as a series of small streams next to each other.”
While I was fishing the Tama River I was very surprised at how many Carp I saw in the river. There were packs of them darting about, playing in the mud, and even some baby Carp swimming with the turtles in the calmer pools! I think that I saw one Bass but it was in the riffles and was traveling so fast I am not sure. I was a little bummed that I didn’t see any more Bass but I have noticed that both in the Tama and the Sagami River there is a lot of Carp so I will probably begin to specifically target them as I’m sure bringing a Carp to hand with a Tenkara rod would be a lot of fun!
After several hours of fishing I hadn’t caught a fish yet, but I was having a blast experimenting with longer and longer line lengths so in that regard it was a great day. In the podcast Daniel had mentioned that it is important to cast before one’s line develops any slack. I found this to be key in my casting technique. If there wasn’t any tension on the fly from the current than it was nearly impossible to cast the fly accurately or with any sort of distance. Keeping this technique in mind I found that it was surprisingly easy to cast a 22’+ line. In the future I think I would prefer to use floating line as I felt that the 3.5 level line did not have enough mass to accurately lobb larger flies (much like Mike & Matt said in their Tenkara Angler article).
Surprisingly the Tama River is pretty clean (at least in regards to detrius floating/submerged in the river) but there is no way I will wet wade in it because local biologists have caught Pirahna in the Tama River! Normally the water would be too cold for Pirahna to survive but the sewage treatment plants that dump their treated and “purified” water into the Tama drive up the water temperatures making them suitable for all sorts of fish that were once pets to not only survive but thrive in. You can watch an interesting video about this here (scroll to the bottom, the video is titled “The Tamazon”).