fishing in a river

Ayacho, Miyazaki, 2018.07.26

To take a break from the fishing, we headed into a woodland preserve in Kyushu's interior - but things did not go as planned. Mari had remembered a small town called Aya in the rugged mountainous area in central Miyazaki prefecture. There was a substantial woodland preserve and a variety of things to do including a winery where we could eat lunch. We set off early as planned, and arrived at our first activity as planned: a 250m wide pedestrian suspension bridge that spans a ravine some 140m above the water.

pedestrian suspension bridge

pedestrian suspension bridge

We set out to cross when Mari's fear of heights kicked in, and she decided that she'd be unable to do the hike back down the ravine to a second bridge. She suggested that we instead double back to a place we'd spotted at the river's edge where we could rent some fishing poles for 500 yen. When we had used up the bait that would come with the poles, we could have a splash in the river then go back for lunch.

Well it wasn't a break from fishing, but if she insists!

nervous smiles on a pedestrian suspension bridge

nervous smiles on a pedestrian suspension bridge

We finished the bridge crossing, went back, and toured a small museum of truly excellent bird carvings (which had been translated into katakana as "bad carvings" for some reason, which only made us want to see them more). Then we piled into the car and headed back to the fishing site.

The temperature had climbed into the high 30's by this time and we rented three poles. Dripping with sweat, I helped both kids get set up. The equipment was dead simple: slender bamboo poles, a few meters of twisted monofilament line, a tiny bobber, a very small (size 8?) hook, and a ball of tacky paste to use as bait. Looking about the river, I identified a likely spot or two, and attempted to fish while teetering on some rocks.

Emma caught a fish immediately. But it was only tiny, and I released it. She then continued to fish by attempting to pluck fish out of the river with a mighty swing of the pole as soon as there was a twitch on the line. I got my own line set up, and tried keeping an eye on both kids.

three anglers
three anglers

We quickly deduced that the amount of bait we had to use with each cast was truly tiny. We also figured out that we'd have to move to a spot with deeper, slower water as our original spot was overrun with truly tiny fingerlings. Then Emma decided she'd had enough, and set aside her rod. Ken decided to move upstream a bit, and I followed him while Mari went to get changed with Emma to do some swimming. Ken and I found a spot that looked productive we tried our luck.

After fifteen minutes or so, it was clear with the gear and the conditions that we'd have to learn to avoid the tiniest fish, attract the larger ones, and then figure out the specific knack of landing the fish we did catch. The heat remained oppressive, and I was sweating so much I had to leave a small towel over my neck to catch it all. The direct sun pouring down meant that the larger fish were likely deeper in the water than our fixed gear could manage. Our drinking water was already getting low. It was going to be tricky indeed.

But I could catch one of the trout-like fish the river was known for. I thought of the last time The Boy and I fished for trout (in Alberta, with an old friend) and how once again I'd lost the only fish I'd had on the line. Challenge accepted.

We spent ninety minutes fishing, and caught maybe a dozen fish of the trout-like "ayu" variety (most of which were so small we threw them back). I'd caught a couple of keepers, though, and we decided that it was enough. We picked up the gear and made our way back to Mari and Emma. We told them we'd change and come join them in the river.

But then Ken saw the lower stretch of water and decided he had to fish that, too. So we tried, but it was clear that the water was too swift and shallow in that boulder-strewn patch (I suspect it was the remains of a rock slide from the mountains above us) to contain large fish. So we decided to pack it up for real.

But Ken was disappointed. Knowing that we would soon part (I was heading back to Canada) he wanted to keep going. So we headed even further downstream and found another pool with deeper water. There were no anglers about. We approached quietly, and set up at different points on the water.

our fishing spot

our fishing spot

And we started catching a lot of fish of the day, including a specimen that was maybe 20-23cm long but with a red patch on the lower half of its face from which a row of tooth-like bumps emerged along the fish's jaw. To be honest, it was a bit disconcerting: had I caught some kind of mutant? It turned out it was a species called a "kawamutsu".

kawamutsu (this is not my photo)

Two more hours slid by while we were at that pool, and the girls had not shown up. We packed up and went back to find them just emerging from the water. Emma was upset that we'd left them for so long, but Mari seemed pleased with our results. Mari insisted that we hop in the river as we'd been sweating all day, and we agreed to change but then suggested that they follow us back to the point we'd found as it would make fine swimming.

Emma happily waded right back into the water with me, and Mari took a couple of pics. I told Emma that we were completely surrounded by tiny fish, and showed her. She made her way back to the river's edge, saying, "I was comfortable in the river, Daddy, until you pointed out the fish."

Emma shies away from the fingerlings

Emma shies away from the fingerlings

So at last, we got out and made our way back to the car. It was 16:30 by this time, and we headed back into the small town to find the winery and have a meal.

Only to find that the winery's restaurants were closed. We then tried a couple of restaurants in town, but it was all shut down. Some staff at the grocery store next to the tourist information spot told us that everything shuts down at 17:00 except for a "family restaurant" - a chain of inexpensive fast food. So that's what we did.

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