Tuesday, May 16, 2017

UglyMuddaFucker (UMF) Fly

Here is the fly I had success with on the last outing for bass.  This idea came when I was fishing for snakehead in Taipei with a gear angler and his topwater lures were making such a ruckus while my popper fly sounded like a fart from Richard Simmons.  I wanted to create a loud obnoxious fly that moved a lot of water and had a lot features that trigger predatory fish.  It is articulated so it will move side to side but also since only the head is buoyant while paused the fly will sit ass down creating a hinge motion when you start stripping again.

Hook: 2x Gamakatsu B10 Stinger 2/0
Tail:  Marabou
Body:  Baitfish Emulator (pre-cut to taper before wrapping)
Collar:  Marabou
Connection: Beadalon + Red Bead
Head: 3 Evenly Cut 3MM Foam Folded Over
If you don't get the reference to the name of the fly:
See the resemblance?
If you still don't get it:

I recommend fishing this fly with an over loaded 10 weight with a reverse leader to help with turn over.  What I mean is use the heavy end to the fly and the lighter end to the fly line.  I generally use old 3x-0x used leaders with about 2-3 feet of the tippet end cut off.  Tie the butt end to the fly with a nonslip loop knot.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Back in 'Merica Fishing for 'Merica's Favorite Gamefish.

Got a text from Luc asking me if I wanted to come over Saturday and fish Canyon with him.  It didn't take long for me to respond "You bet I do."  Jet lag or not I was going fishing.  I tied some big obnoxious articulated poppers when I came back from Taiwan.  I wanted to create something loud the next time I go and fish for snakeheads.  When Luc asked me to fish with him I thought it be a good time to try the fly out.  I managed five blowups connecting with two.  Luc had just as many blowups and I believe two fish to hand as well.  All in all not a bad day having fished only from 5am to 9am.

The fly proved its worth and I gave the fly to Luc as I told him I'll tie more.  Next time though I promised the new ones would have weedguards,  something Luc had suggested but I did not have time to retie any more before our outing.  Luckily I didn't really need the guards this time.  More about the fly in future posts.

Taipei (Fly Fishing) 101

Photo from Shin-Yung Hsiuh
My trip originated in Taiwan for personal reasons but I was able to jet over to Tokyo for a bit to catch up with old friends, do some sight seeing and of course catch some fish.  I returned to Taiwan, extended my trip a few days so to do some fishing with some new friends in Taipei.  Initially I planned to fish with a fly fishing friend who planned on taking out to Hsinchu to hit up a river to catch some Taiwan Mahseer (or as some call it Holland's Carp though I don't think there is an official common western name).
My friend Donny with a Taiwan Mahseer.  The precise fish I wanted to target. (Photo from Donny Wang)
Due to foul weather we were forced to cancel that trip which is quite unfortunate as that was the particular species I had really wanted to target in Taiwan.  Also the fishing would have been in the solitude of nature rather than the hustle and bustle of the city.  But that is life and that is fishing.
A suckermouth catfish.  A fish no one wants to catch in Taiwan but me. (Photo from Shin-Yung Hsiuh)
So instead I hooked up with Peter at Fishing-Traveler, a fishing exchange program.  They show foreign anglers the ropes in Taiwan, in exchange when they travel to your country they expect you do the same.  Pretty cool concept actually.  So if these boys show up in SoCal I'll have to figure out where to take them.  Unlike Donny though they did not fly fish.  So I was on my own to figure it out.  I asked them about their terminal tackle and tried to imitate it with a fly.  We set out for African catfish, Indo-Pacific tarpon, and snakehead.  When we arrived at the river in the outskirts of Taipei I could see fish rising all over.  Fearless.  They could care less about people. Peter told me those were junk fish.  No one in Taiwan ever fishes for them.  "Garbage" he called them.  He didn't know what they were called in English at the time.  Later he facebooked me the name suckermouth catfish.  Whatever they were I wanted one.  I casted a dry fly billion time in the hopes one would take.  I left my box with small flies at my grandma's, thinking I wouldn't need them.  How I was wrong.  I couldn't tell what they were taking but it was tiny.

I gave up on them as I didn't have the proper size flies to attract them.  Since Peter was using a popper lure I decided to try the same in fly format.  I was fishing from an elevated position and the current of the river was somewhat swift so getting the popper to properly pop was difficult.  So I switched to a flashy rattle eye clouser.  I managed to get two Indo Pacific tarpons to attack my fly but I failed to get a good hookset on either.  My chance of catching a fishing in Taiwan was dwindling quickly as more anglers started to arrive at our spot.  After a while we left and decided to try a nearby spot that held snakeheads.  I retied a popper and we scootered 10 minutes away.
Photo from Shin-Yung Hsiuh
Our approach needed to silent as these fish were extremely spooky.  My first cast I hooked into some weeds and had to hand line all that garbage back to me.  We went up and down this canal but managed no fish.  My Taiwan mission was a bust.   Peter apologized to me but I told him there's no need.  It's fishing nothing you can do but try.
Peter refused to let me treat him to dinner and he took me to the best dumpling house in Donghu.  He said most likely there will be a long queue.  Fortunately there was not and we only needed to wait a breif moment before getting a seat.  Thanks Peter for everything.  I'll be back for sure as I have unfinished business here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Land of the Rising Sun (and Fish) Part Three: Last Day Fishing

Day Two.  April 30. 
Koto River, Tributary of Fuefuki River.  Morning.  Okizoku River, Tributary of Fuefuki River. Afternoon.
Koji had emailed me a link to a hotel days before I arrived in Japan asking me if that hotel was sufficient.  I really didn't care as my only concern was catching fish.  When I replied that is fine, he then responded if I was okay with camping and sleeping in a tent.  I told him again whatever it takes.  Given the holiday all the hotel rooms booked quickly.  When we were done fishing on the first day I asked him where's the campsite?  He said we're not camping at a campsite.  All booked.  We actually had to camp in a road stop parking lot.  These are areas where camper vans are allowed to park and sleep in their vehicles.  There is a rest stop which sells local goods for tourists in the area.  This area is known for agriculture, wine and sake production so most of the goods are such items.
I awoke to a stunning view of Mount Fuji and slept pretty nicely considering it was concrete.  Actually it was nicer than some campsites I slept in here stateside.  At least the ground was level albeit a little hard but no complaints.  Again my only concern was the trout. 
Koji slept in his "mini" van.  After buying a new day pass and some breakfast at the local convenience store in the morning we set off to our first destination.  When we arrived at the gate we found a car already parked.  We looked through the windows to see if we could tell if it was a fisherman.  We concluded it most likely was and chose to move downriver to the power station. 
Koji said this section will be mostly iwana with a sprinkling of amago.  That wasn't the case though as we only caught amago here. The fishing seemed to pick up from the previous day.  Fish were definitely more active here.  We made our way upstream eventually reaching the gate with the parked car before stopping and heading back to the van for our next destination.
This day I was able to relax more and actually enjoy being out now that I'd finally caught my trout the day before.  I still was getting frustrated with all the tangling but even more stressful were my wading boots.  I had specifically bought new boots for this trip as I need a lightweight somewhat compressible boot I could pack easily.  So I decided on the Korker's Redside with removable soles.  I only brought the rubber soles leaving behind the felt.  I've had success with Vibram rubber soles on all my Simms boot.  I've never worried too much about slipping and so I thought the Korker's would be the same.  Oh how I was wrong.  I fell multiple times and I was gingerly moving through the water the whole time adding to my stress levels. 
After a brief lunch at the van Koji thought hard about our next destination again with more views of Mount Fuji.  There were more fishermen this day and we ran into a few with Koji having a conversation with some.  He decided on another tributary, small and brushy.  This area would mostly consist of iwana.
Fishing here was tougher here and we noticed some relatively fresh footprints.  Perhaps this water was already fished this day of the the day prior.  Despite that we managed a handful here within a few hours before calling it a trip.  We lost track of time and soon it was time to hike out of there before it got dark.  It would take three hours for Koji to drive me home but not before stopping by one his routine restaurant stops for some Japanese-style Chinese noodles on the way home.  Thank you Koji for showing me a good time and guiding me to my first fish in Japan.  I never did get my suzuki nor did I get my yamame (which we didn't target) so I'll promised him I'd return when I could.
A very small black stonefly.
I was about a week late for the Sakura (cherry blossom) but there were some late bloomers.  None on the rivers we fished.
Koji's pics:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Land of the Rising Sun (and Fish) Part Two: Amago and Iwana

I've been visiting Japan for more than 25 years now, in that time I've made over half a dozen trips throughout  Nippon but never once did I ever get to fish this country.  This is mostly due to the fact I do not speak nor read the language which is a much needed when dealing with fish licensing.  Remember you'll most likely be in rural Japan so finding English speakers will be more problematic than while in Tokyo or any other major Japanese city.  Unlike here in the states there is no statewide (prefecture in this case) fishing licenses in Japan and each fishery is controlled local fishing authority or a "Gyokyo."  Fishing passes issued by the local authority are purchased at a tackle shops or convenience stores who can give you guidance on areas to fish, bag limits.    These tickets can be purchased as day or season passes.   Costs are around 800 Yen (less than $8 USD given current rates) for day and 4000 Yen for season passes.
My First Ever Fishing Pass in Japan.  Bought at a 7 Eleven
It's Golden Week which means a week-long holiday for most in Japan.  This is the time for family vacations and quite possibly the worst possible time to go out to the mountains.  Traffic is a mess and the trout streams will be filled.  When I originally emailed my buddy Koji he expressed to me not to come during this week or the week after but I had no choice.  Koji was gracious enough to take me out despite the huge inconvenience.  Planning on crowds at every major river, he had us concentrate on lesser-fished (term used extremely loosely) tributaries. 

Day One of Trout Fishing.  April 29.  
Okura-sawa river, Morning. Fukazawa river, Afternoon.  Both tributary of River Hikawa.
Koji picked me pick early at my family's residence to drive 150km to Yamanachi prefecture in search of the my first Japanese trout.  Under normal circumstances this is a hour long drive but given the holiday we planned for a three hour trip. The drive wasn't as bad as we expected and I had some nice glimpses of Mount Fuji and rural Japan along the way.  We arrived bought our fishing pass at the local 7 Eleven and drove up a windy mountain road to our destination.  Thankfully no one was parked at the end of the road.  We were the first to arrive which if you plan on catching fish is a requirement for these fish.
I have nothing but respect for Tokyo anglers.  First Tokyo the most populated city in Japan.  Since Yamanashi prefecture is closest fishing area to these Tokyoites it's highly pressured.  Think what the sierra is to LA residents.  The only difference?  These fish once spooked or caught, they don't eat.  There is no "let's wait it out for the pool to reset."  Once you screwed up, that's it move along.  So if you have an angler ahead of you, you might as well not fish that section or river for that matter.  I've heard this before but I never really believed it.  Once I experienced it I came to realization that it's not an exaggeration.  So generally you have one shot at a pool you better make it count.  Sometimes if the fishing gods are forgiving maybe you'll get a a few other chances at least in the bigger pools but for the most part make each cast count.  If that wasn't tough enough add to the fact all waters are shared with all types of anglers.  There is no catch and release fly fishing only sections (for the most part).  There is no limit of catches.  A bait angler can come in and take all the fish he wants.  Koji told me if a good bait angler comes in and fishes out a stream, it takes at least two or three years for it to rebound.  Let me not forget to mention the fact, at least in the small tributaries I fished, there is always a branch, bush, twig or some other obstacle that interferes with either your cast or drift.  There are some open parts to cast normally but there ain't much.  Expect a lot of crouching, kneeling, crawling to these spooky fish.  The catching though is not hard.  The fishing is.  These fish seem to take any fly presented properly.  Its the getting it presented properly that is the difficult part.  Expect to spend some time trying to retrieve your flies from trees and such.
It took me four or five hours to finally land my first amago after losing half a dozen or more.  Koji could see my frustration and guided me more diligently after he landed several amago and iwanas.  He could tell I was struggling.  Having not fished these small types of streams in several years due to our extreme drought, I'm out of practice with this type of fishing.  Had I fished these water five or six years ago I'd be in perfect form as all I was doing was fishing our local mountains which bear similar fishing characteristics to these Japanese streams.  It seemed like my quest for trout was going to end up like my quest for suzuki with a bust.  I thought to myself had I really traveled 5500 miles and waited over twenty years just to get skunked?  Thankfully with the patient tutelage of my buddy Koji I got my fish and confidence restored.  Now with the amago mission completed it was time to for our next mission.  Iwana.  
It was not long after my amago did I catch my first Japanese char, the iwana.  Iwanas are easier to catch, similar to our brook trout they are aggressive and easy to fool unlike their trout counterparts.  Koji told me catching 30-50 is not unheard of in any given day but for some reason this trip would not be so abundant.  We managed several of these feisty guys ranging from dink to less dinky 8 inches.  All in all though quite fun. 
We moved to another river in the afternoon where now relaxed I was able to enjoy myself somewhat. Stress of trying to catch this little devils, not to mention my new Korker wading boots with rubber soles were worthless, jet lag and thin mountain air though were taking a toll and I was getting tired but I soldiered on.  I don't recall how many I caught this day as its all a blur now that I'm writing this post but it wasn't a significant amount.  Just enough to keep me happy.  After all this wasn't a trip for numbers necessarily but simply to experience and document with film my Japanese fly fishing escapade.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Land of the Rising Sun (and Fish) Part One: Yokohama Bay

Catching some of Japan's most popular gamefish have been on my mind for ages now.  Long before the internet I have been "reading" (or more like admiring the photos within) Japanese fly fishing magazines dreaming someday of catching some of these fish.  When the opportunity arose to make an emergency visit to Asia I tried to make plans to make a stop in Japan.  I emailed my buddy Koji I had a slim chance of making it to Tokyo and if he was available to take me fishing.  He no longer lives in Yokohama but does visit twice a month for business.  So he let me know to give him ample warning before I came so he could arrange his work schedule to correspond with me being in Japan.  Of course my trip was more of an emergency trip so I gave him little time.  Fortunately he was able to make it happen and fit his business schedule with my trip.  Of course it was during the worst possible time to fish in Japan, a holiday week.  More on that in part two.

Yokohama Bay.  April 28. Night fishing for Suzuki.

There were a few goals I wanted to accomplish this trip: catch a suzuki (Japanese seabass) and as many species of Japanese trout as possible.  The first night we would try for the seabass at Yokohama Bay.  Initially I wanted to hire a boat but Koji said it wouldn't be necessary as the moon phase and tide charts were in our favor so the canals would be loaded with seaworms, the favored diet of these fish.  After a little mix up on which station to meet we left for our proper destination.  When we arrived at the water, only a few steps from the station, there was a gear fishermen already on fish.  We could see suzuki feeding rising on seaworms while we rigged our fly rods.  Koji gave me a few flies and we tried to get me my first fish from Japan but it was not in the cards this night.  After a few hours Koji was able to catch a micro  horse mackerel.  Yokohama bay is quite beautiful at night and with a jazz musician playing his sax on the sidewalks it made for a relaxing atmosphere despite having to watch out for the pedestrian traffic.  This night though was a bust for me so we said our goodbyes to meet up early at my family's residence the next morning.
The night before, the day I arrived I spent the evening in Yokohama at my mandatory stop at one of Japan's premier fly/tackle shop, Sansui.  It took me a while to find it again as the underground has been remodel since the last time I came about 8 years ago.  Just head to the Joinus shopping area and exit North 8.  
Dinner at one of many restaurants at Nodaiwa Yokohama's Takashimaya for unagi.  We ordered the set menu with eels prepared only grilled with salt and topped with wasabi and the traditional sauced version.