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Scouting the Headwater of the Yozukugawa

March 16, 2015

I recently had heard a rumor that there was an outdoor shop that stocked hand-made Tenkara rods in Yokosuka. The only thing I knew was that it was across the street from a taco shop in the Honch, about ten minutes from my home. Obviously I had to find this place. On a brisk and windy day my Tenkara-partner-in-crime and I wandered the streets of the Honch and quickly found the taco shop which made the outdoor shop easy to find. It is called Kadoya Outdoor Goods (see the Info Page for details). Kadoya Outdoor Goods did not have any hand-made Tenkara rods. However, there were several beautiful hand crafted bamboo western style fly rods. Oh yes I should mention that the outdoor shop also has a sake bar out front! How cool is that? The owner, Kado Toshiaka, speaks very good English. Between his English and my buddies Japanese skills we had a very lengthy discussion. When we left we had some beta on a mountain stream not too far from Yokosuka which, were rumored to have great fishing. We also had an offer from Kado-san to take us Tenkara fishing in Nagano in May!

Foggy forest Small mountain stream Mikuni Pass

March 1st is opening day for trout fishing in Japan. I wasted no time in convincing my Tenkara-partner-in-crime that we had to check out the streams Kado-san had shown us on his shop map. Interestingly, this area was the headwaters of the first place we had fished in Japan - the Yozukukawa. Kado-san had informed us that it was cross country access and pointed out a parking area off of the 413 which had trail access. Supposedly this trail would get us close to the point where we had to go "off-trail". I did my own research using Google Street View and Satellite map imagery. While I am sure you can park on the side of the 413 since I have a Y (foreigner) license plate I did not want to push my luck. It turns out having a big fat Y on your license plate makes you a police magnet. The stories about Japanese police officers targeting foreign drivers are endless. I had my own very close call only a few weeks ago. So, I opted instead to park safely at a trail-head a few miles away.

Lake Yamanaka Tenkara Perfect Trout Stream

The road up to the trail-head is incredibly steep. My Toyota Fun Cargo was struggling to maintain the 30km (18mph) speed limit up the road. Despite the extremely thick fog and snow we made it up the road and parked at the trail-head. The trail was covered in a thin layer of soggy snow. As we climbed up in the fog, following the trail which was covered in snow I began to question the legitimacy of this quest. We pushed on though as the south facing side of the mountain, that we were later going to descend, had considerably less snow. When we reached the approximate point where Kado-san had said we should go cross country we dropped off the trail and zig zagged down the steep and muddy hillside. About half-way down we found a trail. Next time I will take the safe way down by following the trail, that is not on the map.

Mountain top hiking Snowy winter-scape Hiking Trail

When we made it to the bottom the snow had dissipated considerably and springs were seeping from the mountain all around us. As we continued downstream, following an old road, the trickle grew into a full blown mountain stream. It was a beautiful keiryu with cascades, deep pools, and lots of white water. In other words a stream for which tenkara was created. Since it was so early in the season stocking had not commenced yet so there were no fish in the stream. That did not stop us from trying though. I will just have to wait a month or two for the stocking crews to make their way upstream (due to all the weirs there is no way the fish can 'naturally' migrate).

Headwaters Another shot of the lake

After a few hours practicing our Tenkara technique on some of the most exquisite pools I have ever seen the sun was getting low on the horizon. So we decided it was best to begin the long hike out. It was a good thing we left a little earlier than planned as the hike up was much steeper than anticipated and we got to back to the car about half-an-hour before sunset.

A deep pool below a weir Headwaters Tenkara Thank you Kado-san for everything - you are an amazing friend. I will never forget all the adventures you shared with me.

Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter