Other Games

Spinning rod, which I picked up only as a diversion, turned out to be an eye opener. The new tackle, the new methods, and most importantly, the by far wider coverage of fishing potential thrilled me. Apart from seabass and breams, there was such a surprising by catch as this - Buri, a close kin of Kingfish, came assaulting the hapless Konoshiro right at our door steps. Looking forward to the next season hunting our new and old quarries high and low.

- Next

By mid June, the algae had all gone making fishing easy. But Breams had become more selective. Even after following the fly several meters, they could still refuse it at the very end. Eeven when they did nibble, often the hook caught them by just the skin of their bill and didn't bring the fish to the net.

July and August saw a mild recovery of their appetite - after spawn I presume - but for some reason the average size dropped to 38cm, with few fish above 45cm mark. This is a theme for further observation next year.
Sayuri was good at this game and nailed down this biggest bream of ours to date - 50.3cm.

While it lacks the finesse pleasure of Flyfishing, lure casting is fun in its own right, and I must admit the average size you catch this way is bigger than those on crab flies.
September sees gradual drop of the temperature and the weather still good, making for a pleasant fishing. Feeling the change of the season perhaps, breams became less selective to well presented flies too.

Rhey became more interested in the bait fish, too. As the schools of small baitfish comes into the flat, or the spawned out Ayu floats downr, breams showed their predatory instinct enough to push seabass away.
Breams are wary fish normally. But the are opportunistic enough to grab at bait fish half their own length at times, especially when those tasty Ayu is on the table.

They are intelligent hunters too. They form a pack of 5-6 fish, round up the bait fish to shallow corners for the moment of kill. A good angler shouldn't waste time blind casting. You wait for that moment when all hell breaks loose, then shoot your fishy bullet right into the carnage that typically lasts for 5-10 seconds only.
Japan in August is very hot. The air heats up to 37c, while the water to 32c. Wading wet, I felt as if bathing in a bath.

Not as willing as the spring fish, but they remained active even at the height of the summer and, once hooked, proved much more powerful than the spawners in May.
All in all, we spent some 20 days on bream fishing, landing 74 fish in total. Of which, 10 fish caught on spinning.

As for sight fishing on fly, Sayuri and I (always sharing one rod between us) we had 150bites, 112hook ups, and 64fish caught. Breams have very solid jaws and they struggle more like a brown trout than a rainbow, which results in fair number of fish lost as you can see from the stats. Must explore more productive flies and methods in the seasons to come.
May is the most pleasant time of the year - not too warm not too cold. The fishery is easy to wade around, so we could go fishing nursing the little one - she never allowed us to concentrate though.

As in most parts of the inland sea, fluffy green algae sprout as the water warms up. A nuisance as we had to clean the fly at every cast, but breams were very active, feeding on creatures that apparently live in the weeds.,
From our experience in the previous autumn, Breams becomes less active once the water temp drops below 20c. Assuming the reverse of the principle, we focused our effort in the afternoon when the water floods in on the sun baked flat. And sure enough, their came feeding with such gusto, and Sayuri was to nail down a 48cm big bream within the first half an hour.

Great fishing continued through the afternoon, and in fact, through to the first half of June. This is their pre-spawning season and the big fish become more aggressive needing protein. What they didn't know was that our crab flies didn't contain any protein.

On Bream Games

Discovery of bream fishery in September '12 was the corner stone in my SW renaissance. 2013 was the first full year to see its full potential, and with pretty good successes now looking back.

March and April did not give us the conditions needed - sunny day with small tide. So we had to wait till early May.
Looking back on my log, 73 total catch may seem modest compared with Tokyo bay. But the rate of lunker fish, say, 70cm and above is by far higher here in Hiroshima. Learning the seasonality of our waters, I am confident I can improve the success rate further.

I invited Sayuri to fish with me only 6 times this year - 6 times that I thought the condition was good. As a result, she landed three trophy fish topped by this 90cm whopper. This is a tell tale indication that seabass fishing is a strategic game of data analysis.
October sees the start of Konoshiro's spawning run. They live in the brackish water but come into the rivers as the water cools down to 18c. They form giant schools and at times fills up the entire length of the river to the extent no lures can swim through it. Throw in big hungry seabass into the equation, you get spectacular carnage in our urban waterways.

Smaller Konoshiro of 15cm class show up first, but they grow in size as the autumn deepens, to reach 30cm by Christmas. We are forced to throw giant lures though casting becomes a drill.
The critical challenge of this game is to follow the movement of Konoshiro schools. Here in Hiroshima tide can go up and down by 4meters in 6 hours, which could carry the bait fish schools miles up or down. As Konoshiro tend to swim not directly on the surface, they are difficult to spot after dark, therefore daytime scouting plays an important role too.

Highlight of the season was a colossal battle with a 90cm lunker in central Hiroshima. I stalked on it in a inflatable kayak to throw a big lure deep into the shadows of a big bridge.
By mid December Konoshiro schools became thinner. Filling its place was garfish but they are much much harder to imitate with hard lures. My friends and I spent many a frustrating nights - seabass boiling everywhere but none biting at our imitations.

With Nakajimasan and Mikamisan, I went out quite a few nights thru to the morning, if only to cherish the fleeing memory of exciting games of the seasons past.
Contrary to my intuition, seabass fishing was slow when the flood is in full swing. Being ambush predator, they may not be able to chase the baits when the current is too strong. It is when the flood starts to settle, but the water still slightly colored, that's when the party starts.

Sayuri fared well to catch this trophy fish of 88cm, and right at the very center of Hiroshima city!
September is a month of typhoon. The overheated land and rivers welcomed the fresh supply of rain water. With that as a trigger, Ayu, our indigenous trout, starts migrating down the river. Seabass are the apex predator of inshore waters and they wouldn't miss the feasting opportunities. I had the most eventful fishing in this period, catching lunker fish beyond 70cm mark one out of every 3 outing.

Big seabass are focused on Ayu so matching the bait size is critical. Plugs around 14cm are the way to go. They are smart grown up fish, locating their ambush spot and accuracy at the first cast is paramount. My good friend and Yokohama's top seabass guide, Okamotosan, nailed down this 80cm trophy fish.
Spring. From mid April to end May sees the migration of baby Ayu - a distant kin to trout family indigenous to Japan. Ohta river is one of the big producer of Ayu and every seabass loves Ayu for a good tasty reason.

Once the water warmed up to 12c., they come into the river with every rising tide. Once the water starts to drain, those hapless little Ayu became easy prey to the ambushing predators. Catching them wasn't always easy - often the baits were too small and too many. I managed one big fish on a lure, and dropped one on a fly. Other than that, I had to put up with many a frustrating nights with lots of feeding fish but not a nibble. Concurring the ''baby ayu pattern'' is a task to be worked on.
August is the hottest month in Japan. Unless thunderstorms come to relieve us, unbearably hot for us the humans and for the basses. At around 30c, the water gets depleted with Oxygen, and the only sign of life in the water were schools of ugly mullets gasping for air.

I went scouting around braving the heat, but after 22 successive fishless outing that went on from late July to early Sept,, I had to accept the fact there're better ways to enjoy the summer.
Since I took up flyfishing 20 years ago, I had been away from the spinning gear except on the occasional blue water outings. Meanwhile the advancement of spinning tackle was phenomenal, which kept me at bay even though I was not entirely ignoring the SW scenes. It was my friend and lure fishing mentor Nakajima, whe helped my come back with advice and on site guidance. This seabass needed not to feel ashamed snared by the state of the art outfit in Nakajimasan's capable hands.

On Seabass Games

Hiroshima and Yamaguchi are blessed with seabass waters. Observation of the seasonal patterns are critical for the success. Let me take you though them with brief month by month summaries.
February and March can see the sea teeming with baby squids. They stay on the bottom during the day, but comes up to surface after dark lured by the city lights. Adult seabass, that spawned in the deeper part of the sea, come back to shallows to feast on this easy meals.

Hiroshima's pro shop FeeD operates a small charter boat. Lure fishing takes upper hand but fly fishing has its own moment when seabass is fixated to slow drifting chewy snacks.
June is the wettest months in this part of the world and dramatic floods are not uncommon. While they pose danger to the riverside communities, they present great opportunities for us anglers..

After nearly one whole month's fishless outing, I was to hit a jackpot on June 23rd in the aftermath of a big flood. The following 2 weeks saw me landing numbers of good fish up to 80cms, often in a broad daylight!
Through the coldest time of the year from January to February, they depend on small shrimps and micro baitfish. They tend to hover around under the street lights, especially upstream of the bridges.

The air temperature at night averages at 4c, cold enough even for the hard core. But seabass can be surprisingly active as long as the microbaits are around. Feast could happen in icy cold water of 2c, but could mysteriously shut down when the water warmed up to 7c. Drifting a small sinking pencil (such as Marib68) right underneath the surface was the best way to see if the night is hot or not.
Rain or shine, in scorching heat or in snow storms the salty temptation kept me going. The chart above counts 158 fishing days in total. Often I fished on though midnight so technically I must have fished more like 200 days. I can never have enough when it comes to fishing but, to be honest, I at times came pretty close to that.

From February onward I went out 10 days a month in search of seabass. Once the bream season opened up in May, every sunny weekend with smaller tide had to be dedicated to them. Squid runs in early summer and in autumn, snapper jigging and blue water games in summer. I couldn't go greet the trout as often - I hope they would forgive me.
While my home streams in the north Hiroshima is an hour and half's drive away, the nearest seabass point is 5 minutes by bicycle. And what fascinated me most is the fact SW fishing is a 'data fishing'. Analytical mind is the key to the success. And that tendency was far more evident than the freshwater game I had become almost too familiar with.
Looking back, it was an absolute fishing year 2013.

Facing the change of family status, I was forced to explore opportunities in my neighborhood. With some advice of lure fishing friends, I succeeded in unveiling respectable bream and seabass fisheries at my doorstep.

2013 was to be the first year to study its full seasonal potentials. Every day and every night gave me a fresh learning or two, and yet more clues to crack the mystery of the saltwater fishing.

'13 Journal