Thursday, 31 July 2014

Eging Summit 2014 - Day 5 Lake Biwa


Today started off nice an early where we checked out of our hotel near Lake Biwa the Bass capitol of Japan and made the short trip to the marina to meet with our guide for the day Koji Hasagawa from Flashpoint. He had already put a plan in place as to how the day would plan out with some open grass bed fishing, then some rock wall reed structure followed by lunch. After lunch we would head North and fish the top lake grass beds and central weed fields.
We loaded the boat on dry land and then launched at about 0800, the banks were lined with local anglers targeting Funa. Funa is a native carp species that is very particular in its technique, any one who has been into a tackle store in Japan would have seen the copious amounts dry powered baits that you need to mix with water to get the consistency right, rods do not have reels and it is generally done with the assistance of a float. The rod holders are hand made from timber and are quite ornamental in their design. In many cases the rod holders and the rods out price most of our high end bream gear.                                                                                                                            We made our slow exit from the harbor and made a short trip south down the lake to a shallow grass and sand bed that is known for holding good sized Bass. I started with a Jointed Claw 178 tied to some 20lb G-Blood fluoro which was wound onto a Gan Craft T-3 Mago that had found itself seated on a Gan Craft Killers series Dead Sword Rod. We made plenty of casts with not a lot of activity. I made the quick Change to a Kilelrs Melt and Luvius spin outfit and had a crack at Gan Crafts new prototype 10 inch worm rigged weightless whackey. 

After the change I managed to get a solid hook up on a good fish, it was at his point we realized we left the net back at the marina and after a short fight and lots of jumping by the fish it came unstuck at the boat, I am sure we got it on film for later reference. Nothing really happened for a while after that so we continued further south to some 30meter water with artificial concrete structure on the bottom coming up through the water column to about 7 meters, we switched outfits and went to the Jointed Claw 230mm Magnum sinking model, big casts and lots of sink time  was needed to get the lure down. After a short time we could not see any fish on the sounder and could not raise any interest so it was time to change that plan we had.

 The sun was coming up so we headed across to a bank that had plenty of shade covered area's. Although we had some heart pumping follows we could not get the fish to commit to eating a lure. All hungry we decided to pack it up and head off to lunch at a nearby restaurant. for a feed, we tied the boat up jumped in the car and went and sat in a nice Air conditioned placed for lunch - I cant remember what I ate but it was pretty nice. On the way out I could not help but notice a soft serve icecream shop glistening on the promenade so I had no choice but to get icecream, on a nice warm day with the sun out who can refuse it, not me that's for sure. The restaurant was located in a tourist spot that showed a significant interest in the native Ayu fish and statues and fountains adorned the exterior. It amazing how much influence this native fish has in some regional area's.

All fed and with icecream stains on my t-shirt it was time to head back to the water, all pumped for a fresh session on Biwa. This time we bolted straight out and North under the bridge to the upper lake section. We fished a section of the lake that is massive meadows of grass. We both decided that a worm was the best option so back to the 10" whacky worm. We had only been there for about 10 minutes when a few boats around us started to bang a few smaller fish, we stuck with what we knew would work with some bigger models and kept at it. 

Mr Hasegawa was first to pull a fish with a cracking mid 40's fish pulled off the grass, I was having a bit of adjustment time getting used to the feel of the take from a bass on a 10inch worm pattern lure. Its not like most other plastics takes as you get a series of bites and then you need to wait until you have a solid take before setting a hook, for me that is a fair adjustment as over here you normally strike as soon as you feel a fish and was was struggling a bit to be fair. I felt a lot more comfortable with the Jointed Claw tied on my outfit so we made a short burst out to the middle of the lake where in 4 m of water you could see the weed touching the surface. This looked much better for me and kind of reminded me of the timber at many of the lakes at home that we would cast around in the hope of pulling a Cod or a yella from. We made a few drifts along one bank and we both experienced follows but again fish not committing. Another short move to another bank of weed and more casting. The water clarity was amazing and I could clearly see the bottom in 4 meters, it had a saltwater feel to it with the weed being very much like the Kelp forest we get in southern Victoria.

I kept punching away with the Jointed Claw, we cam across a nice patch of tall weed and I had the perfect cast opportunity between 2 sections of weed, I could see some timber in the distance on the bottom laying on the sand, it just looked good. About 4 cranks into the retrieve 'BANG' this little bass took this 178mm Jointed Claw like it was its last feed, it made a good account of itself and fought to the end, this time I decided that i was not waiting for a net, the rod and line was much heavier than previous so I just pole lifted the fish straight in and high 5's were issued all round. The pressure was off I had a fish in the boat, that's the thing about fishing, you can go from the struggling low to a confident high in a matter of seconds. We worked this area for another 1/2 an hour or so, the only real interest we had after that was from a stonker 60cm model that nudged Mr Hasegawa'a Pink Jointed Claw 230 Magnum. The sun had slightly hanged its position and the conditions back on the grass meadows seemed  favorable so armed ith a new sense of confidence we headed back to the field of grass to rig some of the new prototype worms

We punched these things around for a while and got lots of attention, we ended up landing a few more for the day. For those who have not experienced Bass fishing in Japan or the States it is something worth doing, they do not fight like our bass, they do not bite like our bass and they grow a lot bigger than our Bass. There are plenty of places in Japan that you can simply pull up and target Bass but the price of a guide is reasonable and Flashpoint with Koji Hasagowa who is located central or Masaki Onaka who works in the Northern reaches of Lake Biwa. They both have an incredible knowledge of the Biwa system and work very hard to keep the punters happy.

We finished up for the day and made a quick trip back to the hotel for a freshen up before heading out for dinner at a traditional Japanese eating house located near the hotel, because much alcohol can be consumed during your dinner the eating house was kind enough to pick us all up from the hotel and take us for the feed. Upon arrival it looked just like you would imagine in a movie scene, dark timber building with bonsai all around, we slid the rice paper covered door open to a large open area where hard wood met the tatami mats with wall mounted pigeon holes for shoes. We were ushered into a small private room where another sliding rice paper door was closed behind us for privacy. Kotaro explained that this restaurant was one that was traditionally designed to feed Sumo wrestlers and that the meal we would be eating was a staple part of a Sumo diet, this sounded like it was going to suit me down to a tea.

We took our seats (yes seats) that were very low to the ground at a low table that had a hot pot, a large tray of veg and a large tray of meat sitting next to it and more sauces and spices as you could poke a stick at. An older lady came in and put a fire under the hot pot and took our drinks orders. It was beers all round. When she returned with the beers the hot pot was beginning to boil so the tray of veg was added to the pot - I am not sure how she got it all in but she did. she returned a short time later to top up drinks and added the meat to the pot after the veg had reduced. The smell was amazing with the stock veggies and meat bubbling away. 

Now that smell was only to be short lived as Kotaro had decided to order dish called Funazushi, this dish is fresh Funa that is scaled and gutted through their gills keeping the body and roe of the fish intact. The fish are then packed with salt and wrapped in fermented rice, a traditional lacto-fermented rice dish and aged for a year before being repacked annually in rice for up to four years The fermentation of the rice prevented the fish from spoiling. The fermented rice was discarded and fish was the only part consumed. Now this thing looked terrible and smelled like old sweaty socks so I kept my chopsticks well clear of this dish and stuck to the hotpot. After smashing the first one I thought that was it but the staff returned with yet another tray of meat as there was still broth bubbling away you need to use as much as possible up for the next process of the meal. We destroyed that tray of meat and polished off the last of the vegetables. The staff returned and took the pot away with the small amount of liquid remaining. They then added rice to form a savory style kind of porridge out of the remaining broth. Now I have to say that I am not too bad on the chew but I was getting full. This dish knocked me around a bit and must admit that I had to stand and pace around the room for a bit to make room to finish it off. 

All in all an incredibly memorable day on Lake Biwa with some great company in Kotaro and Koji Hasegawa. I can not wait till I return to this place to give it another crack.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Eging Summit 2014 - Day 4


After a cracking big day at the summit the day prior it was time for some relaxation so a short road trip was planned to head up into the mountains for a spot of land based Bass hunting.

Kotaro picked me up from the hotel at about 0930 and we headed south east from Tanabe towards a fave place of mine in Japan the beautiful Gogawa Dam. This was the place where Mr Hiraiwa the Gan Craft founder guided me to a 50cm+ Bass on my first summer trip to Japan on a Jointed Claw so this place holds some very fond memories. It was about 1 hour from the office of Gan Craft to the crisp clear waters of Gogawa Dam through twisting and winding mountain roads, if you have issues with tight spaces then this road is not for you, you often feel as though the tall mountain cut outs are closing in on you as you wind through the countless valley's, tunnels and mountain towns. The road although a main road has spots only wide enough fro 1 car and can fully understand why so many small trucks are on the road in Japan. There is no way a B Double or even a semi is making it up into some of these places.
We arrive at our first point of call after crossing the bridge that passes some o the best looking water on the planet, the color of the water is amazing, the bridge is about 30 meters above the water but we could see Bass swimming freely in 3 meters of water, I took an opportunity while we were on top of the bridge to take a photo of a Bass through the water, it sat almost as if it was suspended in air almost as if there was no water at all. To give you an idea of scale the pic on the left shows a large rock to the left in the water, this rock stood approx 3 meters out of the water. We traveled about 300 meters past the bridge and began our decent into the forest to the water below. Half way down the steep decent I mentioned that I should probably have gone first as if I loose grip I am taking all 4 of us out with me.

At the waters edge we cast away for about an hour covering a bit of water and although we could get the bass to follow our lures we could not entice the strike. Not worried we kept casting away, fishing is not always about the catching. Just spending time in a place like this can lift about a years worth of stress off your shoulders, as quoted by Michael Caton (Mr Darryl Kerrigan) in the Castle "Ah the serenity!" Punching lures around in both the fast running water upstream to the slow pool below, the sound of water passing by and the tease of the fish that followed our lures I was hypnotized by both the water and the environment that it dominated, time was not a factor when we were in this valley, I could have sat there all day. We did decide to move to another location though so a quick pack up and a move was made. Now its no secret that I have the fitness of an 80 year obese pack a day smoker with a walking frame so my happiness dropped to an oh shit I have to walk back up that hill moment. I did make it - just. The next location although beautiful did not have the same precious feel to it although the activity of the fish was greater we could still not entice a strike, best part about this spot was the access was flatter meaning no moaning about me climbing back up a hill and panting like a tired dog on a hot day for half hour afterwards.

With food on my mind it was decided a lunch stop was required, Iwatchi mentioned a place he knew of in the mountains that we should enjoy, I had no idea where we were going but I am up for almost anything. Back though some winding roads back toward home we came accross a dirt driveway with no signs or any indication of a restaurant, we drove along a very long bumpy driveway to a place that has been built into the forest right smack next to a spotless river that ran off the Gowgawa Dam. It was a timber doorless and windowless building bringing nature into the restaurant. It was nothing short of spectacular and one of those places off the beaten track with no signs and not on any tourist brouchure (It should be) Right next to this timber building was a location where you are required to catch your own lunch, it is an Ayu fishery. All gear was supplied and it only took us approx 20 minutes to have enough for 4 of us. 

This was my first ever time Ayu fishing and I was fortunate enough to catch a couple. Within 30 seconds of being caught and older gent was salting them and skewering them and put them onto some hot coals that he got burning as we arrived. This restaurant was a Sobe Noodle house, while our fish was being cooked we were seated around a table that had water flowing around it. The noodles were added to the flowing water and part of the feed is catching the noodles with your chop sticks before dunking them into a sauce of your choice. If you dont have any chop stick skills get some practice before you go there or you will starve. The fish came out and I have heard this fish refered to as 'sweet fish', for me as a moss eating vegan fish it was quite bitter and not to my liking I should just stick to the Fillet o Fish from McDonalds, good fish is wasted on me.

All fed and full of noodles we headed back top the Gan Craft office to chill out for a bit, it was nice to see Suguru Yoshizaki Evergreen pro staff pop in to say hi and was kind enough to give me a fishing towel with the 100 year anniversary emblem on it. He spoke great English for some one who does not study it or who has not spent long in Western countries, much better at English than I was at Japanese. During the chill out I had a play with the many toys that you would expect to find in the office of a cool Japanese fishing tackle company while catching up with other visitors that often pop past for a coffee and a catch up, one thing I will miss about this place is the 24 hour a day fishing channel on TV. non stop fishing all day every day, this would have me unemployed if we had it here in Australia.

It was getting late and the team had planned a get together at Shyraku with the Gan Craft family, this place is a great feed, run by Husband and wife team Akio and Mika Ogawa I have never been let down by the food and company, they really know how to make you feel welcome and they go to great lengths to make sure I am well fed (Mika Iyashi!!) Every one joined us, we ate, we played, we made Takayaki with sausage instead of octopus to suit my liking and we drank. Mr Hiraiwa even joined us for a drink (rare occasion). I can not explain the awesome hospitality offered by some of the coolest people on the planet. It is beyond words. All good things must come to an end though, we said our good byes and headed home to sleep off the food and drink.

Main road up to the mountains

Bass pic taken from 30 meters above and in 3 meters of water amazing water

Did some one say trout - Bass love eating these things 
View as you drive into the Sobe noodle house

30 seconds after being caught

1 minute after being caught

The view from the table at the sobe noodle house

Out the back - this is just outside the restaurant approx 30 meters from the building

My cooked Ayu
Party time

Chubie' thought my cup and ball skills were amusing - I was crap

Monday, 28 July 2014

2014 Eging Summit - Tanabe, Summit day


Apologies for the late entries - catch up time!!

This was the day I was waiting for, I was blown away to receive an invite but to actually be there was another thing altogether.

The gathering of all the good manufactures of squid fishing tackle in Japan for discussions on various topics and techniques on catching squid. This year the even was held in Tanabe the home of Gan Craft in Wakayama and area known for its cracking squid fishing, attendees included, Gan Craft, Yamashita, Valley Hill, Evergreen, Daiwa, Draw4 (Cultiva), Kanji (Clicks) and Sumizoku. Squid tackle as far as the eye can see. The presentations from each company were amazing with so much to learn from each group.

The day started before 0600 with the registration for the Eging Summit Tournament that accompanied the event. more than 300 people lined up to ensure the were registered to compete. This was all happening while I continued sleeping in my hotel room about 2 km away. It was an awesome day weather wise with temps predicted to go higher than 30 degrees.

I arrived at approx 0930 to find the place all set up and ready to go, a stage was prepared for presentations and booths set up for each company I was called to the stage for a preparation of  my on stage presentation with 6 other pro staff from other companies. I did my best Japanese which to be honest was very bad broken English, as we sorted out the days activity.
We all then went our separate ways until the conference started. The first thing that drew my attention was 2 small shallow pools containing small fish, they call these fish Medica, they are carnivorous fish that can be caught on small pieces of worm. I went to investigate further. This could be one of the very reasons why fishing is so popular in Japan. They start the kids off catching these hardy little fish that they can take home and keep as pets, they are simple to catch but they teach the important lesson of fishing is good rather than the constant western message of fishing is bad. Mums and dad would be at the edge of the pool with their kids making it a family activity from a very young age. This is the start of a fishing foundation that ensure years of participation in a sport that has its biggest competition in the form of a playstation. It was exciting to see such keen participation.

I then spent the next couple of hours walking around the various stands meeting with some of the worlds greatest squid fisho's and lure designers. Some that I was very excited to meet again after meeting at the Osaka Fishing Shows from previous years. I was able to take part in many forums and discussions though out the day and bringing many new idea's back to Australia with me. The best info I was able to get was about the squid reef work that many tackle companies and anglers invest so much time, money and resources into to ensure that there is breeding populations of squid that are not accessible to anglers to allow productive breeding with low angler pressure, but more on that another day. Best of all there were heaps of food vendors there with heaps of traditional food including the team from Shyraku my fave izakaya house in Japan. Also local tackle vendors dotted between with the newest and greatest squid fishing tackle available.

Throughout the day the folks who had entered the tournament returned to weigh in squid in the hope of winning the biggest event of the year. Although not many squid were weighed in it was amazing to see how many folks returned to the arena for the rest of the event.

It came time for me to take the stage, our session was MC'd by Daiwa front man Yukinori Miyazawa who was very patient with my language differences. I was lucky to have Kotaro standing behind me to interpret a lot of what was being said and then turn my poor Japanese and broken Engrish into Japanese to the amusement of many. I spoke about area's in Australia that hold squid and how the coast line and locations chosen by anglers to target squid are very similar to the folks in Japan. We also spoke about the numbers of squid in Australia and how we are fortunate enough to have squid all year round and not just during small windows of season. The people in Japan are very envious of our squid fishing and the opportunity for fishing tourism is high with low cost flights to and from Japan now days.

We then had the Tournament presentation where the winners were grinners as they collect the accolade and the prizes. You did not have to win to receive a prize there was plenty of giveaway's and also random draws including a Gan Craft Violence Jerk that I had the pleasure of presenting to a winner.

The day came to an end and all event staff and pro staff gathered for a group photo, it will give you an idea of the size of the event. All in all it was something I am glad I made the trip for, I had a great time and met some awesome folks and caught up with some great people I had met in the past. Looking forward to the next Summit when it comes around again.

A big day had left a fair impression on my appetite so it was good to get out for a feed with the Gan Craft team before they had to leave for the various corners of Japan that they all hail from. During our good byes I managed to get in a bit of a street sumo session in with the leader of the Sharcrazy team. Now that's a memory, sumo in the street outside the restaurant, we even stopped traffic for a second.

Medica - the fish that the young ones practice the fishing on

Second place winner

Exhibitor stands

The things you see at a fishing meet

Very keen crowd

The Tanabe mascot and me

Best pic ever - mum teaching her young son the required skills of fishing

Your Truly with Egipara Host Serika Ochikata and Daiwa Pro staffer Hirohita Yamada

Daiwa Front man Yukinori Miyazawa

Japan's most famous Egi Fisherman Mr Norihiro Shigemi

Having my Engrish translated on stage

Presenting a Gan Craft Violence Jerk to a random draw winner

Evergreen Pro Staff Norihiro Shigemi and Suguru Yoshizaki, both awesome guys

Gan Craft feast after the event.

Chunk of Whale

Done medium rare - yumo