Friday, 27 July 2012

Day 6 Japan Trip

Mr Hirawa and Geki chan
After another reasonably late night I knew I was in for a struggle getting up in the morning, another humid and hot day like all the others before. Today we were heading for Lake Gogowa an amazing piece of water up in the mountains that is known for big Bass. The numbers of fish were not huge but if I was going to get a big Bass this was the place to do it in the weather conditions. As luck would have it, my host and founder of Gan Craft is an expert on this water way so the best guide I could ever hope for, I would also be trying some big baits, the Gan Craft Jointed Claw and if I can pull off landing a fish on the big bait it will be more significant and special. 

Timber in the water
We arrived at Lake Gogowa at about 0645 am, like many parts of Japan there is no boat ramps here, an important factor to note about Japan is that the access to the water for boat owners is not like Australia so boat ownership is somewhat rare and expensive. This particular lake had bass boats fitted with outboards and electric motors, a service that gets a lot of use and a great idea for trophy fishermen who want to take advantage of the possibility of finding that one big fish. Upon arrival I noticed that the water was somewhat brown sediment filled and had lots of floating timber, a bit like a logging loch used by timber harvesters in the USA, some logs were big enough to stand on so another good reason to have a rental boat and not your own as you make your way through the menagerie of timber. On board was myself Mr Kake and Mr Hiraiwa, with Mr Hiraiwa behind the wheel of the boat we made a slow trip through the timber mess and received constant reassurance that it would clear up even though at times sounded like a wood chipper with the prop constantly hitting all manner of objects in the water. 

Lake Gogowa
We made our passage safely and started to get some speed up as we headed to our location, the water was still very coffee looking but again more reassurance that things would clear, 5 minutes later as if a magician had waved a wand i could clearly see the bottom of the lake in about 8 meters of water and also the bottom at an angle from about 50 meters away. It was truly amazing how clear the water became in an instant, from some of my earlier photo’s you could probably see the amazing aqua coloration of the water.

Electric motor down  we made our way up a long back water that is river fed, casting a jointed claw up current and drifting the lure back under slight pressure gave the lure an amazing action, the colour I was using was Ayu colour, after seeing the Ayu in the flesh I now know how important the colour is to the Bass fishery in Japan, if anyone is interested to know what an ayu looks like just have a look at the lure on the Gan Craft web site, its uncanny how much it resembles the real deal. 

Killers Bait Bass
While casting and cruising around on the lecky we could see bass in abundance but they we not active at all in feeding and we could not entice a reaction bite so we made a slight change of plan, we went back to the area where the dirty and clean water met it was much like someone had drawn a line in the water to establish a border, fishing the dirty side we put the jointed claw away and went for something a bit nosier, Gan Craft produce a spinner bait called Killers Bait, released for the stores only weeks previous in Japan they were still very new to the market. I was using an outfit that belonged to Imazu a new Gan Craft  employee, and the rod was a Gan Craft Superbrain teamed up with a Shimano Alderbaren, perfectly balanced with the spinner bait for someone as new to using a baitcaster this outfit made it a fairly easy exercise (still a few back lash events though) I punched about 15 casts into the bank edge and under the advice of Mr Hiraiwa was told not to allow the bait to sink but to retrieve as soon as the lure hit the water, keeping the rod top high kept the spinner bait high in the water column, something new to me. Did not take long but about 3 feet from the bank a bass of about 40cm smacked the spinner bait, Bass have a large mouth and can easily throw a lure not matter how well you set a hook so the pressure was maintained by high speed retrieval and then a lift of the fish straight into the boat. Now for me any Bass was a bonus but a 40cm model was bigger than I had hoped for, just for Geki San I let out a massive “MAKE SOME NOISE” from the top of my voice, so loud in fact that Mr. Nakahira and Geki San heard my screams over the mountain range in the other rental boat and came over to have a look. I was wrapped lots of high 5’s and laughing on board. The pressure of fishing a donut was off and now I could relax and just enjoy the guidance of one of Japans best bass  anglers Mr Hiraiwa. For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase “Make some noise” a quick search on you tube for Gan Craft or Geki Yoshida will bring you some action packed bass fishing and “Make some noise!” is his catch phrase.

Jointed Claw Big Bass
We did some more searching around for some more bass in the dirty mix but could not entice a hit from anything so it was decided we make a move to the North West end of the lake, a spot that was known for big fish, not massive numbers of fish but some crackers. The water in this area is also great for using the big baits with some current and water where Ayu are likely to be found. Fishing with big baits is a lot different to fishing crank baits or any other lure for that matter, because of its size it has to look real or otherwise the fish will simply spook at such a large offering. With some practice I reckon I had it sorted, we had made our way to a section of water that had a deep run of current with rapids in the shallow on a bank in the middle of the river that comes into the lake, Bass could be seen from time to time holding on the deeper section. Mr Hiraiwa asked me to come to the front of the boat and cast into the back water so we did not spook the bigger bass holding in the current. All of a sudden a school of Ayu was being pushed up the shallow rapids launching out of the water as a big Bass chased them and herded them up, quickly I was instructed to cast up river above the school and wind as hard and fast as I could causing the lure to resemble a bigger version of what the Bass where chasing and make it an easier target. With a massive boof noise a big Bass grabbed the lure and took off, again maintaining pressure the bass was pulled back to the boat and again was instructed to just lift the fish into the boat. This was made easy with the heavy gear I was using and that is required when casting such heavy lures, Rod was a Gan Craft  Dead Sword with a Daiwa Ryoga  and what felt like about 15lb line so lifting the fish is quite simple when using the fishes own momentum. Before the fish was on the deck I knew it was much bigger than the one I had previously caught, this time not only were high 5’s being thrown around but also a little bit of dancing on the boat. I had done it, under the guidance of Mr Hiraiwa and the translating of Mr Kake I had managed to catch my first Bass on a Jointed Claw, a very special moment. This fish was going to be hard to top. Rather than continue pumping lures into the same area we moved away for a short period to give the fish a rest, so we spent half an hour or so having a smoko and a drink while I dangled my feet into the cool clear water. I have never done this before, normally I would just keep plugging away with the lures, however, not only did the fish have time to get some confidence up again but I also had time to just sit and enjoy the moment of catching a nice fish. If you have never done this before take some time and do it, the images imprinted in your mind are so more vivid and the memory of the even become much clearer.

Killers Bait Big Bass
After a break we moved back up to the same piece of water and started the whole process over again as we knew there were more big fish in the system. We kept getting lots of interest in the Jointed Claw but the fish just would not commit to a strike. I changed back down to the spinner bait to try and encourage a reaction bite from a fish both hunting and protecting its territory, we motored up to a shallow edi that was out of the current, Mr Hirainwa instructed me to make a long cast as far as I could up the back water and then like before as soon as the spinner bait hit the water start winding keeping the tip high, it took about 10 turns of the handle and again  a massive boof and another big Bass was on its way back to the boat, so happy this time I actually started to dance a bit before the fish was even in the boat, As I had switched down to a lighter outfit lifting the fish in was not going to work as the line was only about 8lb mono so Mr Hiraiwa was able to lip grip the fish with his hands and lift the beast aboard. This fish was another cracking fish and I could not wait to get back to land and measure them up, photo’s taken  and it was off to meet up with Geki and Chube’. We dropped Mr Kake off onto the other boat and got Geki San to get onto our boat so we could do some quick film bits, now Geki is Bass royalty in Japan and would be hard to impress, we had not told the others how we had gone yet so after some chatting on camera he opened the live well to expose my catch. The look on his face was priceless, to get one big Bass in a day is amazing but to manage 2 for some one of my experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so to see the look in the face of some one who is not easily impressed, I was stoked and could not believe how good a day it had been.

BBQ festivities
Still not quite up to speed of the significance of my catch I soon found that a BBQ was being orginised to celebrate my capture, wow, it was a big deal. I was dropped off at the hotel for a quick shower and change then back to Akio’s restaurant for a BBQ in his carpark, now normally he is closed on this day but he orginised people to come and help set up and cook while others orginised meat and food to be cooked. I could not get over the measures they went to in such short time to celebrate my catch, I was really humbled by the effort. Mr Hiraiwa orginised a couple of steaks for me to eat and he cooked them himself to perfection, I was honoured that he prepared and cooked my steak personally. We had lots of fun mucking around and joking in the carpark as the wine and drinks were flowing in a very homely feeling celebration. 

Kotaro and Iwatchi Karaoke
Just as I thought the night was coming to a wind up at about 0100 it was decided by Mr Kake that a taxi into town for more whiskey and more Karaoke was in order. Oh dear it had been a massive day already but I would have given anything to see Mr. Kake put on another performance. Geki, Iwatchi and Shogun also came along for the ride. Lots of singing by everyone except for me and drinks galore again for everyone except for me, I just stuck to 1 beer and water and coke. 

Today was massive, its amazing it seems that every day is getting bigger and better. Massive thanks to Mr Hiraiwa as without out his expert guidance in this region like many other anglers on the day I would not have caught a thing, also a massive thanks to every one who helped get the BBQ sorted it was a massive effort on short notice.

Some more pics:
Kilers Bait Bass

Killers Bait Bass

Chube, Imazu and Geki

Mr Hiraiwa, me and Geki

Double Big Bass

Geki and his normal joking around, funniest guy ever


Rock Fish Sashimi, caught by Akio that day

Spoiled rotten with a cracking steak cooked by Mr Hiraiwa himself

More Karaoke fun
Chube, me, Kotaro and Geki

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

DAY 5 Japan

Today was off to a good start, sleep in time, we were going to a local reservoir in the promise of landing my first Bass and see some sights along the way.

Some time ago I was made the promise of a better tasting hamburger from a chain store than what we had in Australia, the guys were going to live up to that promise as we headed for the local Bass spot. We came upon a sighn saying MOS Burger as the car made a slight turn into the carpark, we were here. MOS Burger is very much like Burger King in Australia as in the layout and style of food, I was not much good as I could not understand anything so Mr Kake translated most of the menu for me and I asked him how big the servings were, I had a look at a few
The view from MOS burger

other people meals and decided on 3 Burgers, 1 was a Teryaki Burger, second was a cheese burger and finaly what looked like a burger BLT. The meal came with onion rings and fries and a coke, Content with my order we went outside and sat down to wait for our food. The view from the back of the MOS store was great, on the water in a small fishing fleet village and the perfect setting for a feed. Food was brought out to the tables and placed in front of the diner as if it was a proper restaurant, and I have to say the food was really good, that said when I am overseas in the future a safe option for me will always be the golden arches.

The big rock
Food scoffed down and off to look for some Bass, via some local tourist attractions and some company related landmarks, First stop was a massive rock with a hole in it, I do not remember its name but it was pretty impressive sitting in the middle of a bay protruding out of the water, apparently for the domestic tourist market it is a must see attraction and holds some significance to the Shinto beliefs. The next stop was a place that holds company significance for Gan Craft and after some icecream we took a small walk across some water shaped rock to a place called Jomon rock, for any one who has looked at the Violent Jerk series of rods they would know the name Jomon from the rods, this point is where the Jomon gets its name, when testing the product the Jomon rods were tested here for some brilliant results and then rods were so called Jomon. Thats enough of the touristy stuff back to the fishing.

Bazinga, my first Bass
The first place we tried was a local water storage that had been stocked by local bass anglers a long time ago, when we arrived the signs of a healthy water sytem were evident, turtles, frogs, baitfish and baby bass lined the waters edge,  being a water storage it was fairly square shaped so the options for casting at structure were fairly slim so I found an overhanging tree that look fishy, I put 2 casts in and nothing but stuck with the same place and again cast in under the tree canopy, I was using a Gan Craft Straight Betty for a soft bait, a 5 inch worm that I had rigged whacky style, after a slight sinking  pause a shake action was imparted and bang, my very first Bass, now this small thing was not going to re write any record books but alas it was my first Bass, a very happy moment. We persevered at the same place  for a few more casts for nothing and a move was decided. We spent the next 4 hours in various local water holes that had been stocked for zero results. Time to call it a day.

Birthday Party
The guys figured we should stop and get something to eat and to my suprise a birthday party had been arranged, lots of Gan Craft Pro staff and the staff from Gan Craft had arranged to meet at a quiet little western style restaurant for a birthday party. I was chuffed to say the least, I had kept a fair lid on the event as I did not want any fuss but a little birdie from Australia had told some one here that it was my birthday. The food the drinks and the company was sensational and a lot of thought had been put into the ordeal. Just when I thought we were done I was given a Gift wrapped box from Mr Hiraiwa. As I unwapped the paper it became clear. I had been given a Daiwa Certate Hyper Custom 2508. OH MY GOD what a gift and what a very humbling experience. Then a cake with the number 36 arrived at the table and also a larger one with Happy birthday  in English and my name in Kanji, I do not have a pic of this as I was totaly taken by suprise, I am sure one of the others has a pic I can pinch later as there were flashes going off all over the place. The smaller cake was orginised by my wife Kim who had gone to the trouble of orginising the cake through Mr Kake and as I could not be with her on the day it was a perfect gesture and perfect ending to a perfect day, the though and planning that had gone into the evening was sureal and very humbling I am starting to know how it feels to be king. Huge thanks to the staff at the restaurant as the lengths they went to as to ensure my evening was perfect were incredible and huge thanks to all my friends from Gan Craft for the thought and planning to make the night the most memorable night I will have for a long time, my trip is not over yet but this will be hard to beat.
Geki and Mr Hiraiwa
Either I am a sucker or this says Melbourne 6360km from Jomon point
The rock on my right shoulder is Jomon point
A gift handed to me by Mr Iwatchi's Fiance, I love fish and I love candy. WINNING.
This will give an indication of the dedication and detail put in by the restaurant, this was the art on top of my after dinner coffee

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Day 4 Japan

The night before Whiskey fest meant that both Kotaro and myself were going to get a sleep in, today we were going to head up into the mountains to have a look for some Black Bass (Large Mouth), it was about a 1.5hour drive from the Gan Craft office in Tanabe. Kotaro picked me up at 1200 and yes I was feeling seedy to say the least, I do not normally drink so smashing Japanese whiskey the night before killed any enthusiasm that I had from the day before.

Gan Craft FJ Cruiser
As I had a sleep in I missed breakfast at the hotel so we went to Dom Dom Burger for lunch, it is a bit like Hungry Jacks but smaller, I have to say it was not very nice, for me it is difficukt to find fault with any type of burger but these ones were very much like the service station microwave ones. I knew i would be in heart burn hell for the rest of the day. The Gan Craft office was only a short walk away so we wandered down to get stuff ready for the trip to the hills. When we got there, i saw my fave Gan Craft toy yet, its a current model FJ Cruiser mocked up as a Police Patrol car, big lift big tyres and looked great, it also boasted one of the best rod racks I had seen in a car and when you are the Gan Craft car you need to store rods.
Rod storage in the FJ Cruiser

All gear ready Mr Hiraiwa and Mr Yoshida lead the way in the Cruiser while we followed behind,  now for those of you who have never been here before the roads up in the mountains better resemble goat tracks with bitumen laid on top, they wind up through the rock crevisis and for about 15 minutes I saw nothing both moss covered rock walls, very steep and very windey, the forest areas are green all the way through even in the height of summer.
Mr Hirawia and Mr Yoshida looking at bass
We arrived in a tiny village high up in the mountains and made our way on foot down towards the river, at this spot is a suspension bridge so you can look for bass from above and pick your spots. The water was amazing, it was an aquamarine color and it almost lit up when the sun hit it, you could see the bottom for about 300 meters each way, the word crystal clear did no justice, from above we could see some good bass so we venture down to the water to attempt the bass attack. I am not very confident using a bait caster so after a few casts to practice we went to where we could see the fish, I was using a Jointed Claw, with the water this clear you could see the lure working and it was just like watching a lazy fish making its way accross the river. Having such clear water was going to pose another problem, if I could see the fish then they can see me, we saw many bass but converting them to a hook up was becoming a task, they were very spooky, even when you had a perfect natural drift of a plastic in front of them they shied away as if they knew what we were doing, I underestimated the intelligence of the humble Bass. On this trip I was not fortunate enough to land a bass, however Mr Hiraiwa and Mr Yoshida showed their skills as Bass Fishermen and converted tough conditions into bass. looks like I will have to wait until tomorrow.

The Manburger
We were all fairly hungry so we headed back to Tanabe to go to a local place owned by one of my facebook friends Akio, he had heard that I was coming so he prepared a special meal for me as he heard a rumor that I was a hamburger fan, we all took our seats and the atmosphere here was great, every one was happy and laughing, it was not a stuffy place it was a place to be enjoyed. I had some edemame and some thing to drink and then a massive manburger pattie cooked Japanese style with a sweet sauce arrived at the table, it was massive. We all shared this as it was too good to be wasted on just me, the food and drinks just kept coming, I can not tell you half of the things I ate but apart from the octopus it was delicious. We were joined by another Gan Craft Pro Staff, I will update you on his name when I can spell it, we all had a great time with many laughs all round, we were joined by Akio and his son who was 11 years old and learning English so we had a quick chat which was great to see how effective the Japanese school system is at teaching English. After dinner Imazu went to the local convenience store Lawson and picked up some thing for some entertainment and something that you just can not get back home from anywhere let alone a servo style shop,
Let the fireworks begin
FIREWORKS, hell yes. Time to go outside and make some noise. We all had a muck around with the fireworks and again more laughs. This was the best night I have had in Japan so far, the people in the smaller villages are so cool and a lot of fun to spend time with, I can not thank Akio and his family enough for being such great hosts, although we have been friends on facebook for some time now I was a great honor and pleasure to meet with him and his family in person and to be able to receive the best hospitality of any Japanese eating house I have ever been to. I will be back here again, if not on this trip, definitely another.

More random pics:

Large mouth bass from the bridge
Section of the lake we were fishing
Mr Hiraiwa's First
and his second
the spread, note the look on Geki's face, he is the master of facial expressions, a very funny guy
facebook frenzy when we found out hat Akio had WiFi
Make some noise
some of the fireworks
more fireworks
Imazu, Akio and his son
Akio's Shuraku
pluggin lures