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Tenkara On The Youzawa Trout Stream Japan

A Trip report from July 2015 by Down Wind Sports Owner Bill Thompson

Tokyo, the biggest city in the world, where visiting is a mind blowing experience! Exciting, unique and fast-paced- Tokyo is fun and there's always something cool to see or fun to do. For the trout angler it can be daunting to try to find a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city but fear not- Japan has world class trout fishing!

The native trout of Japan, the Yamame and Iwana are land locked trout that can be found in small mountain streams relatively close to Tokyo! Yamame, a land locked cherry salmon show large par marks with black speckles and particle of red along its lateral line, giving this trout remarkable colorization, hence the name: jewel of mountains.

The Iwana (white spotted char) are a land locked sea-run char like a Dolly Varden or Bull Trout. Once known as "phantom fish" in main island for reduced number of population, they have become thoroughly available in mountain streams of Japan in recent years due to stocking.

The Iwana of Japan The Iwana of Japan

With the amazing network of train systems in Japan, many trout streams can be accessible in a reasonable amount of time from Tokyo. For me the Youzawa Trout Stream was one of those rivers that I targeted on a recent visit to the land of the rising sun.

The Youzawa Trout Stream was founded in 1955 by the joint effort between 2 Japanese pioneers in fly fishing: Gyoshin Suzuki and Nanrei Meiji; and American officer Thomas Lester Breakmore (1915-1994) working for the legal department of the General Head Quarter (American occupation force). It was founded as the first international game fishery under the GHQ's lesure program, firstly for American officers and Japanese game fishers. Today, Youzawa Trout Stream is managed by the local community and keeps its beauty and popularity among many metropolitan anglers.

The Youzawa Trout Stream is fly fishing only and is the perfect river for any skill level. The lower section of the river is fantastic for beginning anglers with larger deep pools and no trees to foil a back cast. The upper section of the river is much tighter with cold water cascading over boulders dropping into small pools. The gin clear water offers sight fishing and boy did we see the fish!

Fly Fishing the Youzawa trout stream in Japan
Bill Thompson casting his Tenkara USA rod on a trout stream in Japan

Both Blake and I were Tenkara fishing, Tenkara is the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing, which uses only a rod, line and fly. The appeal of Tenkara is its elegant simplicity. There are also other advantages of using Tenkara rods when fishing in mountain streams, primarily the lightness of the line and delicate presentation. A long rod allows for precise placement of the fly on small pools and allows for holding the fly in place on the other side of a current. The other main advantage is precise control for manipulation of the fly. While this method is catching on in the states, Tenkara was prevalent on the Youzawa!

Blake, relatively new to Tenkara, was the most successful of our party on the river. Two beautiful Rainbow Trout were landed and released by Blake while I was struggling to land anything let alone the elusive Yamame that I so wanted to catch! All in all it was a wonderful day on the river with many lessons learned including: If you teach a kid to Tenkara .........he will out fish you!

Blake Thompson showing off his trout caught on the fly in Japan

The Youzawa trout stream in Japan