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The Sagamigawa

October 16, 2015

Last week I came across an interesting article in my Twitter feed from the good folks at Hatch Magazine.

The article, which was written by Constantin Huet, starts off praising the merits of Tenkara and how the sport has grown in the last six years. But he quickly points out one shortfall of Tenkara: wind.

A conventional fly rod, as we all know (actually I had no idea - I know next to nothing about 'traditional' fly fishing), has a weighted line, whereas tenkara lines unfortunately do not have nearly as much weight. Thus, casting with such little weight in blustery winds can seem quasi-impossible.

Constantin makes an interesting point about casting style and its importance during high wind fishing but the real meat and potatoes of his articles comes when he lays out an idea for a uniquely modified tenkara line. Constantin suggests stringing together four different types of line, which is supposed to then help with casting into the wind (you will have to check out the article for the recipe). I liked the sound of the idea and figured it was worth a try so I hopped on the train to Yokohama and stopped in at my favorite fly fishing store.

Sansui Fishing Store in Yokohama

Sansui Fishing Store - Yokohama, Japan

Everytime I go to this fishing store I am tempted to max out my credit card but I resisted the temptation this time and consigned myself to only a few spools of tippet, a nipper for ¥900 (it was the cheapest one), and one spool of 25lb test Rio SlickShooter (Hatch Mag recommends Rio Powerflex Shooting Line but the shop did not have that in stock so I opted for the Slickshooter instead). Back at home, with my wallet mostly intact, I rigged up a line per the directions in the article, and tied on a big juicy Cicada fly. Now I just need to get out and test Hatch Mag's hypothesis.

Carp pool

During the last Tenkara season and my many trips into the Tanzawa Mountains I had driven along the Sagamigawa (相模川). This river emanates from Lake Yamanake at the foot of Mount Fuji and flows some 110 km down to Sagami Bay. While the last half of the river flows through fertile rice fields, industrial centers, and under highways most of its banks are lined with cattails, reeds, brush, and trees. From the highway it looks like a halfway decent river in terms of fish habitat. So, I told myself, once the mountain stream season had ended, I would go check it out.

Lots of fish

Fast forward to the present and I decided I would go to the Sagamigawa to test out my 'new' Tenkara line. The night before I checked the weather, it was supposed to be warm and sunny - not so great conditions for testing out my modified Tenkara line but I had not been fishing in over two weeks and I was starting to get depressed. When my alarm went off at 0600 I noticed that it was pretty dark in my room, groggily I dragged myself from my bed and looked out the window - it was pouring rain and very windy. As I made my coffee I wondered how meteorologists in Japan keep their jobs. It seems that the nine times out of ten their weather predictions are wrong (take for example last winter when they said it was going to be warm and sunny but instead it snowed). But like I had said it had been over two weeks since I last went fishing - the only thing that would keep me from heading out this morning would be a typhoon and there was not one of those in the forecast...

cat tails

After a long drive I made it to the river and found a place to park. I quickly put on my waders and walked down an overgrown path next to the woods. I could hear the river and I was itching to get my line wet (and hopefully tight too). Once I had found a path through the jungle and was standing knee deep in the river I pulled out my Tenkara rod, rigged my new line, and let her rip. I was very surprised at how well the line performed. The wind was blowing very hard from upstream which would have relegated me in the past to fishing solely downstream. However, with this unique Tenkara line I could easily cast across the wind, downwind (obviously), and even upwind (although I did notice a decline in accuracy). I should mention that the 7:3 action on my WISCO Rod was perfect for this setup (it is the recommended action in the Hatch Mag article) and I did appreciate the added bit of stiffness when pushing the rod into the wind. I tied the lines together with a Double Uni Knot for the thicker lines and a stopper knot in the 1x tippet and a speed knot in the 6x tippet to round it out.


The first part of the Sagamigawa that I fished I did not see any fish. However, after moving downstream a bit I came across hundreds if not thousands of fish in several pools. They were darting about in huge schools, jumping out of the water, swimming between my legs, and generally going bonkers under the water over something. I even saw a Carp who started swimming towards my fly but then redirected himself straight at me. When he was within a meter or so of me though he spotted me and took off. Despite the massive amounts of fish I could not get them to bite. They were just not interested in any fly I tossed their way. After awhile I got out of the water to watch them and it appeared that they were eating the algae growing on the rocks. So I am pretty sure that they were Ayu. Since Ayu primarily eat algae I felt much better about having not caught any. Check out this video I compiled of my day on the river (I even got some footage of the fish jumping out of the water).

To see more photos, check out this Google Photos Album here.

Isaac Tait

Fallfish Tenkara is the brainchild of Isaac Tait who now lives in New England but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter.