Written by: David Chang, Brown Folks Fishing
In January, my brother Wilson and I had the opportunity to return to Taiwan after having been away for 18 and 12 years, respectively. We were both born in the U.S., but our parents are from Taiwan and this trip was a long time coming. Aside from spending overdue quality time with family and eating all the xiaochi we could find, we knew we had to squeeze in some fly fishing. A few months prior to our trip, I had made a new bamboo-fly-rod-building friend, Ding Ye, via Instagram. He graciously offered to show us around when we arrived. Fly anglers in Taiwan make up a very small community, likely fewer than 200, and there are few opportunities to toss a fly line.
On our first outing, Ding Ye took us to a small stocked pond to let us try out his bamboo fly rods. This catch-and-release pond requires a small fee to fish, and many locals enjoy fishing with tenkara-style rods or light spinning gear, rigged with bread or fruit, for carp and tilapia. After watching others catch plenty of carp on bread and fruit while we were coming up empty handed, we finally were able to find the flies that the fish wanted–surprisingly, they were patterns out of our steelhead boxes. Later in the day we switched to some big, gaudy hoppers and fished the “bread hatch,” with carp willingly rising for our dries. This was also our first time casting and playing fish with bamboo, and I’ve got to say we both hope to add one of these rods into our collections one day.
After getting a chance to wet a line at the pond, it was time to move on to the river. A few days later Ding Ye picked us up before first light, and we headed off to HsinChu, a city in northern Taiwan, to target Taiwan masheer (which aren’t really mahseer at all). We met with one of Ding Ye’s friends, Ah Shan, who very well may have been the first person to fly fish for masheer in Taiwan. We walked down to a beautiful river without another angler in sight, or human for that matter, hoping to successfully locate some of these native fish.
There were fish all over, but this winter has been quite dry in Taiwan so the rivers were very low and crystal clear. There were sporadic rises and fish obviously nymphing below the surface. After sight fishing to some extremely spooky fish for the better part of the day, and moving a few times, we were finally able to land some mahseer along with some small dace, and a bonus bamboo fish. This was a trip of a lifetime and emotional in many ways, being able to enjoy our passion for fly fishing in a place that feels more and more like home with every visitand I look forward to the next opportunity to return.