One of the things I look forward to are the latest installments of Keiichi Okushi’s ongoing “Stories of Genryu”. Keiichi details trip reports from the mountains of Japan, where he and fellow anglers hike deep into the backcountry to fish pristine headwater streams. The stories tend to make their way around the internet and tenkara social media, however an excellent hub to find them all is at Tenkara-Fisher.
Now I don’t live in Japan, but this past weekend I chose to explore the Florida “genryu”, and the similarities in experience were too amazing not to share.
A solo trip deep into the genryu of Florida is not something to underestimate. There are potentially life-threatening scenarios around each turn, so it’s wise to gear up appropriately. That said, the journey can be particularly strenuous, so it is imperative to pack light.
On this adventure, I chose the Three Rivers Confluence tenkara rod, 12 foot floating line, and a Vedavoo sling pack. Not pictured (stowed) were a few fly boxes packed with store bought kebari and self-tied beadhead patterns, and a bottle of Sawyer Picaridin lotion.
Many Japanese anglers need to drive several hours just to reach their trailhead or point of entry. Fortunately for me, the lead up was generally short. A swift half mile walk on well-trodden paths, the kind that have been etched deeply into the ground from decades of continuous use, led me from my front door to nature’s doorstep.
That being said, it was not a stroll down easy street. There were several impediments along the way. The Japanese are known to navigate muddy trails, climb rocky crags, or even wade in neck deep water to reach their destination. While I left my sawanobori (shower climbing) shoes at home, after much deliberate foot placement, I was able to scale this potential hazard. With a constant stream of 12 year olds in golf carts whizzing past me on the left, and strewn bicycles on the right, the only option was to climb over. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the homeowners were clearly amazed by this feat as I could see them shouting and waving their hands while watching out of their picture window.
Northeast Florida has many natural wonders. One of which is its majestic Longleaf Pine forests. Unfortunately, many of which are currently under attack from suburban development.
I am deeply saddened by the fact that once these forests are finally gone, there will be no more riparian buffer for the aquatic species, but also no refuge for the native underage drinkers. This is especially troubling considering the local water is not fit for human consumption. If not bottles of Captain Morgan, what shall they drink?
Upon exiting the forest, the space opened up to reveal the desired fishing grounds. The pristine waters were like nothing that I’ve ever experienced in the Rocky or Appalachian Mountain systems. Flat, calm, with a pungent odor, these untouched waters of Mother Nature’s creation were just crying to be fished.
Working clockwise around the shoreline, the fishing was a bit slow at first. Never traveling this deep into the Florida genryu, I wasn’t exactly keyed into what these wild fish were looking for.
Plus, while the Japanese have giant hornets, they are a mere nuisance when compared to the Florida mosquito. The latter of which were descending upon me like vultures to a day old carcass. To further the disturbance, the constant threat of man-eating turtles poking their heads out from the depths like a Scottish lake monster was present upon each retrieve.
Eventually, I was able to get the rod bent and line tight regularly. The winning pattern for Florida’s version of the highly sought after iwana, yamame, and amago was a Creekside Kebari stiff-hackle. A choice I know will make Robb Chunco (the owner) extremely proud.
The fish of the day was this “shaku” sized copperhead bluegill, who actually inhaled a beadhead prince nymph. The initial strike was so sudden and violent, it pulled my rod straight. This forced me to drop to one knee and re-establish the rod’s power curve to land it quickly.
After catching my fill and packing out some discarded Slim Jim wrappers and Mountain Dew cans, it was time to make the reverse hike home. Over time, I feel looking back at this outing will be very memorable. Not only for all of the extreme obstacles overcome, but the reality of making the best of an unprecedented bad situation.
Joking aside, this Spring has been tough for many people, for many reasons. I am fortunate to have my health. For that, I am thankful. On the fishing front, the goal of traveling north to visit the cool waters and shaded canopy of mountain trout streams was pushed just slightly beyond reach. The revised goal has been to keep engaged and excited about fixed-line fishing at a local level.
If “Quarantine 2020” has taught me anything, it’s that one’s mind is a powerful tool, and when prompted, it can find adventure anywhere.
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