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Japanese Fishing – Going for Taimen (Japanese/Asian Huchen)

Posted by on October 10, 2019

Of all the places that I would imagine going fishing, Japan was NOT on that list that I initially drew up. However, after reading up on some reports of people catching some incredible fish species that I definitely interested in, I knew that I had to do it! I couldn’t just do some typical tourism stuff in Land of the Rising Sun and NOT fish! Targeted fishing location was Hokkaido, Japan’s most-northern main island.

And the targeted species here in Hokkaido for me was Taimen, a fish species very similar to the Danube Salmon (probably in the same fish family species) that I tried to catch in Slovenia last year, but nevertheless this is always a tough fish to land! But I believe that I’m ready to catch one! I chalk up all that fishing practice in the past 2 years that has gotten me ready for this: Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, California, Mexico, United Kingdom, and most recently in South Korea… hell, I could go back several years to fishing in Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and even further back to Argentina, New York, etc. I would like to think that I’m ready for this! I won’t fail like I did with the Danube Salmon and the Atlantic Salmon in Scotland. I almost faltered in Slovenia but I succeeded in catching a Marble Trout there and caught its ultra rare Hybrid Marble/Brown Trout!

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This was the first place where I fished for Taimen. I would see them jumping at the surface as they would be cruising and hunting down baitfish but NOT once, did I get a bite. Reminded me too much of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland – lots of fish but no bites.

I actually had some of my own fishing gear for this trip because you never know that what you use at home will work very well in foreign waters since the fish are NOT at all used to seeing something different which might induce a bite very quickly. Some fish get used to seeing the same thing over and over again that they get smart REAL quick. I figure that I would use something similar to a blind side sucker punch to hook and land the Taimen!

…. There was only one big problem… these Taimen do not want to cooperate. A lot of them would look at my fly and not take it! C’mon! I came all the way to Japan to catch one Taimen at least but noooo. Through the first two days of Taimen fishing, I only got 1 bite! And it wasn’t much of a bite either as it held on for 2 seconds and then bam, gone! It was giving me flashbacks of the Danube Salmon I hooked for 2 seconds and that was gone. Deja vu… of failure.

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My third and last day to go Taimen fishing. I have to be truthful here – I was not 100% positive that I would catch a fish here, let alone a Taimen because I didn’t see anyone else catch a fish.

The third day was the last day for fishing for Taimen so the impending feeling of failure of doom was impatiently rapping at my brain’s side. It looked like the grim reaper of failure wanted to ax me another one into my side since on this stretch of the river, I saw that there were 5 other fishermen already fishing away, trying to catch a Taimen with 2 of them, one to my left and one to my right, were using Spey fly rods (double-handed) meaning that they could get more distance on me than my one-handed 10 weight fly rod. Oh great, I’m already at a disadvantage since the Taimen were stingy with their bites. What made things worse is that I found out that my waders were leaking during a cold day with rain showers. This was an uphill battle. After several hours of feeling sad for myself, I hooked onto a stick… which my guide helped me get it off. As I cast it into the water, I got another snag. Great, another stick….. only to find out that this one actually fought back! Alright! A fish! A small one at best, at least. Turned out that I hooked a small flounder which I wanted to take a picture of to do research on it but my guide just dropped it into the water. “Don’t worry!” He said. “This is a good sign. You’ll catch a Taimen.”

fisherman in brackish japanese waters saltwater freshwater estuary high low tide tides fishin'

One of the 5 other fishermen on that same stretch of the river that I was fishing Taimen for. That meant that I had some competition and being me the new guy, the foreigner, coming in…. well, I needed a lot of luck competing with the native experienced fishermen.

Easy for him to say because I didn’t see any of the other fishermen catch anything. After about an hour of regretting of not getting a photo, I pulled up another snag again. Great, another stick or weed…. and then I kept pulling and I felt a head shake! FISH ON! It wasn’t a big fish but at least, I got some action! Finally! As I kept fighting the fish, I initially thought that I hooked a Chum Salmon… oh man. A Salmon, here? But as my guide holding the net looked at the fish, he said the words that sounded like music, “It’s a Taimen!” About 10-15 long seconds later, he netted the Taimen and it was over!

Yesss! The Fishing Gods have blessed me once more! I know it’s not BIG, but it was still a Taimen!

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I was very ecstatic as soon as my guide netted the fish which meant that I finally caught the targeted fish species: Japanese Taimen! It kind of looks like a Brown Trout with all the spots but not quite. I initially thought Salmon but not enough chrome color on it. The fish did look a bit weird in the water when I hooked and fought it.

Upper and middle Sarufutsu River Japan Fishing pesca en Japon Taimen big fish fly fishing fly-fish freshwater tourist best kept secret lone traveler traveling Hokkaido Northern North country island Japanese secrets style of fishin' big long fishes East Asia NE Asia Asian Rising Sun fishermen guided really fun culture outdoors environmental healthy catch release Hucho taimen Siberian taimen, Siberian giant trout, Siberian salmon threatened vulnerable endandered Salmoniformes Salmonidae

I cast and cast and cast… yet nothing for 3 days. And then finally, all that hard work paid off as I was rewarded with a Taimen. I know it’s not big but after all that work, I was blessed to be on this long, arduous journey to catch a Japanese Huchen/Taimen. I used my 10 weight Winston fly rod with an intermediate sinking line and a 16 pound saltwater leader with a green streamer. Yes, I used a saltwater leader because I was in the salt marsh area and besides, the leader worked!

Japan Fishing pesca en Japon Taimen big fish fly fishing fly-fish freshwater tourist best kept secret lone traveler traveling Hokkaido catch release huchen taimen

After about a few minutes of fighting this fish, it was time to let it go unharmed and let it get bigger. According to the Japanese fishermen, this is NOT a fish to eat as they don’t have the greatest taste in the world. It probably makes sense as these are muddy fish and even though they might be in tributaries and estuaries, they don’t actually make runs to the ocean which explains why they are not eaten but released; the fish are more valuable as a sport fish.

After several more hours of casting and casting, there was nothing to be seen, heard, felt. It looked like I was the only one that I got bites and landed fish. And that was the end of it for me going after Taimen since I had to leave early in order to move on to another location within Hokkaido to go another fish species: Whitespotted Char. This was an interesting species because I’ve gone after Char before but there was none during that time of the season (when I went fishing in Iceland)…. and again, another issue: bad weather. With lots of rain and wind, that doesn’t make a good time fishing especially for fly-fishing. Crosswinds just absolutely suck as I personally experienced the day before after catching that Taimen. So basically, the next two days I was supposed to go fishing but all of that was pretty much a complete cancellation due to the Typhoon coming in and bringing in tons of rain and wind. Not good for casting and not good for the fish that cannot see my fly especially when the rivers are completely blown out. Yeah, it sucked because I really didn’t have anything to do productive-wise when I was dead-set on hooking and landing some Char!

But that’s where my traveling and adventuring are completely different from other people whereas I can succeed or fail. For other people who travel, there is no failure. You just practically go from point A to point B to go see some stuff and then back to point A. The only restrictions are really time and money. That’s it. For me, however, I have to actually perform the task at hand – when I’m fishing, I have to catch the targeted fish species. The same goes for hunting – I have to successfully hunt the targeted species. Scuba diving does not generally targeting something but rather, I have to do everything safely and correctly so I enjoy my time underwater.

And that’s why I think Japan is a great time for fishing – it’s highly underrated and those who like a fishing challenge, then this country is for you. Many different species can be caught with a fly rod here so let the adventures continue in the future!


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