ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

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ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り

 ミミズを刺す、朝の県道258号線。僕らは軽ヴァンで中奥方面へ県道を走った。チゴロブチの近くにおじいちゃん一人はぽつんと椅子に座りながら、中奥川を見下ろしていた。そのあと、枌尾地区と中奥地区に人影がなかった。中奥より登りながら、県道が荒く、狭くなった。僕は助手席から中奥川の自然な綺麗さより、ガードレールのない道路と数十メートルの崖の方を見ていた。「誰もいないといいけど。」と友達は軽ヴァンをどんどん走らせながら何回も言った。しかし、道にあちこちにトラックが停めてあった。窓に釣り道具のステッカーが貼ってあった。僕らは昔人が住んでいた瀬戸地区を超え、さらに川の上流へ登った。

 手掘りトンネルを抜け、小さな橋の脇に軽ヴァンを停めた。友達3人と合流して、みんなは竿を伸ばし、長靴を履き替えた。僕は腿まで届く長靴を友達に借り、必要な道具をリュックで運んだ。5人で川の下流へ歩きながら、道路の端に近づかないように言われた。「魚はおれらを見たら、逃げてしまうから。」と友達は注告した。数分歩いてから、川へ降りる道を見つけた。転がりそうな石を踏みながら、僕は不安な足取りで急な斜面を降り、なんとなく河原に無事に着いた。

 竿から伸びた糸。糸に結ばれた針。針に刺されたミミズ。僕らは竿を大きく振り、ミミズと錘を川の上流へ投げた。ミミズは川の流れにゆっくり運ばれ、時々石に引っかかった。僕らはそれを繰り返しながら、源流へ一歩一歩登った。アマゴは警戒心が強くて、石の影で隠れたりしながら、とても綺麗な川でしか生きられないらしい。なんだか親近感を感じる人間もいるのだろう。友達は大きな岩の後ろで体を隠しながら、岩の上から糸を投げた。彼はいくつかの石の間に落ちたミミズをサングラス越しに見届けた。数秒後、糸のついたアマゴは空中でもがきながらくるくると回った。僕は友達と同じところからミミズを投げてみたが、何も釣れなかった。

 5人はそれぞれの場所を狙いながら、川を少しずつ登った。数回、僕は竿の位置と角度を忘れ、糸が木の低い枝に巻き込まれた。長靴のおかげで深いところを歩けたが、どうしても歩けなかったところまだあった。一歩一歩、岩から岩へうまく登れたが、思うどおりにいかなかった。大きくて、急な勾配をもった平らな岩を登ろうとしたら、手の掴めるところがなく、足の踏み場がなく、四つん這いになったまま、進めなくなった。お腹をなんとなく岩に付けようとしたが、それもうまくいかなくて、結局、川に見事に落ちてしまった。

 そのうち、僕らは車の近くに帰ってきた。友達は車から食パンと用意した材料を川の畔まで運んだ。みんなはガスカートリッジとカセットコンロを囲み、ホットサンドをどんどん焼いた。黙々と釣りをしたみんなは、サンドイッチを建てながら盛り上がり、興奮した。スマホの電波が届かない、山奥の渓流で焼きたてのホットサンドを食べる楽しさ。パンの上に具をたっぷり乗せても、お腹がぱんぱんになるまで頑張って食べても、材料がまだ残っていた。あの楽しい時間が永遠に続きそうだったが、雨色の雲に追われた。ゴミや何もを残さずに気をつけながら、持ってきたものを早速片付け、県道258号線を下った。

 白川渡で吉野川の本流へミミズを投げ、釣りをした。中奥川の透明な渓流と比べて、大滝ダム湖までゆっくり流れる吉野川は深くて、少し濁っていた。アマゴはいなかったけど、ものすごく大きな鯉、ウグイ何匹が見えた。僕らは最初に壁の上から川の深いところへ竿を振ってみた。友達は広い川の遠いところまでルアーを投げ、長い糸を手際よく巻き上げた。一人は小さくて、名前の知らない魚を釣った。僕らは川の浅いところに近い岩へ下り、川の上流へゆっくり登った。友達は大きなウグイ一匹を川から持ち上げた。何匹ものミミズは行方不明になった。壁と岩を行き来する数時間。

 雨色の雲が結局、約束を守らなくて、僕らは黄昏どきまで穏やかに釣りをした。夕飯の時間を知った魚の群れが次々に通り、何匹もは友達のミミズを召し上がった。友達はみんなのためのホットコーヒーを淹れ、おかあさんの作った苺大福を出した。手作りの苺大福が柔らかくて、甘かった。朝から夕方まで、僕は魚を一匹も釣れなかったから、「僕は釣りをした」となかなか言えない。「釣りの大半は、誰と釣りしているかだろう」というセリフを子供のころから覚えている。名前不明な、やすっぽいテレビ映画からだ。でも、今までも忘れられなかった。やっと意味が分かったような気がする。

Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

Piercing the worm, the morning Pref. Rd 258. We drove our light vans up prefectural road toward Nakaoku. An old man sat by himself in a chair near Chigorobuchi, looking down onto the Nakaoku River. After him, there was no sign of anyone in the Sogio or Nakaoku districts. As we climbed past Nakaoku, the road turned rougher and narrower. Sitting in the passenger seat, I found myself looking at the guardrail-less road and dozens of meters of cliff, rather than the natural beauty of the Nakaoku River. “It’d be nice if there’s no one else there,” my friend said multiple times as he drove the light van farther and farther. However, there were trucks parked here and there along the way. There were fishing equipment stickers plastered on the windows. We passed the Seto district, where people once lived a long time ago, and climbed higher upstream along the river.

We went through the hand-dug tunnel and parked the light van beside a small bridge. We convened with our three friends, lengthened our rods, and changed into our long boots. I borrowed some thigh-high long boots from my friend and carried the necessary tools in my backpack. As the five of us walked downstream, we were told not to get too close to the edge of the road. “If the fish see us, they’ll all run away,” my friend warned us. After walking for a few minutes, we found a path that lead down to the river. Stepping on rocks that looked like they could crumble anytime, I took unsure steps down the steep slope and somehow made it to the river in one piece.

The line leading out from the rod. The worm pierced on the hook. We gave our rods a big swing and threw our worms and weights upstream into the river. The worm was carried slowly by the stream, and was sometimes caught on a rock. We repeated this, climbing our way step by step toward the source of the river. Apparently amago are a very frightful fish, hiding in the shadows of rocks, and are only able to live in very clean rivers. There are probably some humans who can somehow feel a kinship with them. My friend hid his body behind a large boulder while swinging his throwing his line over it. He watched through his sunglasses as his worm landed between a cluster of rocks. Seconds later, an amago attached stuck on a line writhed and twirled in the air. I tried throwing a worm from the same place as my friend, but couldn’t catch anything.

The five of us each took aim at our own spots while slowly climbing up the river. I forgot about the location and angle of my rod a few times, getting my line tangled up in the low branches of trees. I was able to walk through some deep spots thanks to my tall boots, but there were still some spots that I couldn’t quite get through. I climbed step by step, boulder to boulder, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. When I tried to climb a large, steep, flat boulder, there was nowhere for my hands to grip, nor for my feet to step, so I ended up flat on all fours and unable to move. I tried sticking my stomach to the boulder, but that didn’t work either, and I ended up falling beautifully into the river.

In due time, we ended up back near our cars. My friends carried loaves of bread and ingredients they’d prepared from the car down to the riverside. We all surrounded the flames of portable gas cartridges, and cooked hot sandwiches one after another. Having quietly fished, we were all now loud and excited as we built up these sandwiches. The joy of eating a fresh, hot sandwich along a mountain stream far away, where there isn’t any cell phone reception. Even after loading our bread with plenty of stuff, even after eating our hearts out until we were full, we still had ingredients left over. That fun time seemed like it could continue forever, but we were chased away by rain-colored clouds. As we were careful not to leave any trash or anything else, cleaned up everything we brought with us, and headed back down Pref. Rd. 258.

In Shirakawado we threw our worms and fished in the main current of the Yoshino River. Slowly flowing into the Otaki Dam Lake, the Yoshino River was deep and a little muddy in comparison with the clear streams of the Nakaoku River. There weren’t any amago, but we saw a very large carp and numerous Japanese dace. We first swung our rods from the top of a wall into the deep parts of the river. One friend threw his lure to the far side of the wide river, and quickly reeled in the long line. Another friend caught a fish whose name I didn’t know. We moved down to some boulders near a shallower part of the river, and then slowly made our way upstream. My friend pulled a large Japanese dace out from the water. Worms went missing in action. A few hours of going back and forth between the wall and the boulders.

The rain-colored clouds couldn’t keep their promise, and we were able to fish in peace until twilight. Schools of fish knew that it was dinner time, passing by us one after another, with many partaking in worms offered from my friends. One of my friends made hot coffee for everyone and brought out strawberry daifuku made by her mother. The homemade strawberry daifuku was soft and sweet. From morning to evening, I wasn’t able to catch a single fish, so I can’t really say I was “fishing”. "Most of fishing is about who you're fishing with," a line I remember from my childhood. It was from an unknown, cheap TV movie. But I haven't been able to forget it, even up to now. I feel like I finally understand what it means.

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大