Three words to describe my day: AYU, WIND, & SUNBURN. I had an awesome afternoon with Papa Sato today. He took me down to the Nakagawa River and the two of us fished for Ayu for over four hours! The typhoon that is currently spiraling off the east coast of Japan, however, made for a gusty day out on the water. That aside, the sun was shining and I managed to develop quite a farmer’s tan before we packed up and headed home. Seems some things about fishing are universal.
The actual practice of catching Ayu, however, is almost 180 degrees different from the type of fishing I am used to back at home. Chuck and Andrew, fyi, Ayu fishing is much more difficult. The rod itself is 9.5 meters long and weighs only a kilo or so. You may ask yourself, well why would they need such a pole? Excellent question, you see: the way in which to catch an Ayu is to use an Ayu. Because they are so small (only 15-30 cm as adults) trying to use bait in a moving river is far too challenging, so instead the Japanese have learned to set Ayu against one another. They are extremely territorial fish and if one Ayu enters another’s water, they attack. The yellow spots along the side of the fish show how aggressive they are feeling. If they are at rest, the yellow subsides, but when they strike the spot blazes neon bright.
So to catch a wild Ayu, we hooked our bait Ayu to a line, attached a barbed hook to drag behind it, and let it chase down other Ayu in the river. This is where the long fishing pole comes in handy. By giving the fish lots of river space to swim through, you have a better chance of hooking another Ayu. Actually putting that theory into practice (especially today in the wind) was quite 難しい (muzukashii – difficult).
Despite that fact I managed to snag ONE whole Ayu before the day was up! It was a real thrill once I had the fish on the line. And so when we headed home I had two fish (one of which we bought). I would feel bad but I know that by this point most of the Ayu are already downstream and the best Ayu season will come around next June and July! Until then, I’ll simply have to savor my double Ayu dinner tonight. I’d say I did a pretty good job of finishing them off, what do you think? : ) Mmmmm おいしい oishii – delicious…