Tie your fly, take your aim, cast your rod, and lure the fish. Of all the popular types of recreational fishing, fly fishing is considered an especially stylish and intellectual outdoor sport. Though fly fishing might first bring to mind freshwater fishing in the mountain streams, in recent years, another form is catching on in Japan too—saltwater fly fishing in the sea.
“Amami Oshima is a miracle island for fly fishermen,” says Yoichiro Yasuda, now a resident of Amami Oshima. Yasuda discovered saltwater fly fishing about 25 years ago, when he was a student. He was already experienced in all kinds of fishing at the time, but became fascinated by the fun and challenge of saltwater fly fishing. While working in the fishery industry as an environmental consultant and a marine engineer, he continued to brush up on his technique mainly in Okinawa. In 2016, his passion led him to settle in Amami Oshima. And in 2018, he opened Far East Heaven, his shop specializing in saltwater fly fishing, and has since spent his days also working as a guide.
The shop is a five-minute walk to the sea. Yasuda built the structure himself, using his self-taught construction skills, although one wouldn’t guess that from looking at the sophisticated interior. Here, Yasuda explained to us what makes Amami Oshima such a miracle.
“Fly fishing is best done in shallow waters, so a mudflat environment is essential. Amami Oshima is one of the few fields in Japan with many remaining mudflats. Okinawa has plenty of similar locations too, but Amami Oshima has far fewer people and far more nature. What’s more, the island is just the right size. The quick access between the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea offers a great variation of both target fish species and fishing locations. There are more than 20 hotspots in the north of Amami Oshima alone, but sometimes I go out to the south of the island and even to Kakeroma Island. I switch spots according to the best conditions at any given time, meaning I can play all day long, from low tide to high tide. Amami Oshima a really generous field.”
Yasuda targets mainly large fish like Okinawa seabream as long as 60 centimeters, giant trevally weighing over 20 kilograms, triggerfish, and wrasses. “Even now, every trip has a new discovery in store for me,” he says proudly. “The waters around here are never boring!” Yasuda says he enjoys the process of trial and error toward building his repertoire of yet unknown target species. The waters of Amami Oshima are still full of potential, since they were practically untapped except by a handful of locals. And this makes the richness of the field all the more worth conserving—another powerful feeling that has taken root in Yasuda’s heart.
“The mudflats are a habitat for shrimp and crab, and a feeding ground for fish and birds. They’re an important ecosystem that thrives on balance. However, they’re also flat and easy to build on, meaning they’re perfect sites for the development of ports and airports. Mudflat environments are diminishing, and the ones here are some of the few remaining in Japan. I hope to encourage fishermen to practice catch and release, and observe spawning periods and permitted fishing areas, and to raise their awareness about the burdens we place on the environment. Fly fishing is a great sport that relies on the player’s knowledge and understanding of nature. The reward for me is a firsthand feel of the subtle changes in the environment. I feel it’s my duty to pass that on to others.”
Far East Heaven
2579-1 Ushuku, Kasari-cho, Amami-shi