It’s uncommon that I meet someone who, from a young age, had a clear idea of what he or she loves to do and turned that passion into a successful business. Eiji Hamachi, founder and president of CAPS, is one of these rare souls. I could tell right off he was first and foremost an avid fisherman, explorer and all-around lover of the outdoors.
Hamachi started his business back in the ’80s as a fishing equipment importer and later developer. The company has since grown, expanding into a multi-faceted outdoor goods business. These days a large portion of his business is through his brand Stream Trail and the design, manufacturing and distribution of high-quality waterproof bags and accessories. His designs emphasize simplicity, utility and solid construction, above all else.
Before heading over to his Tokyo showroom in Jiyugaoka, I had seen a few of them on the shoulders of light tackle sport anglers poking around the canals and seashore areas in Kanto, but also on hikers, campers and even cyclists. The simplicity of the designs gives them a lot of versatility for use across all outdoors pursuits.
Today, in addition to Stream Trail, CAPS brands include Vision Fly Fishing, Izumi Lures and Angler’s House, which offer a variety of tackle and accessories. They also began publishing their own web magazine, Stamps, which highlights the activities and adventures of enthusiasts and their brand ambassadors.
Our conversation meandered through all kinds of fishing-related subjects. I was impressed by his knowledge of a wide variety of fishing genres—and not just fly-fishing, his main pursuit. We could have talked into the wee hours of the morning about the places he’s wet a line.
According to Hamachi, fly-fishing in Japan hasn’t taken off to the extent it has in the west, but there is an avid group of enthusiasts who push and define the boundaries of the sport in Japan and overseas. Although limited in scope, one of the interesting outcomes of Japan’s fly fishing movement has been a proliferation of some of the highest quality fly-tying materials as well as line and tippet material.
Hamachi says a good portion of these products is exported overseas to the best fly-tiers in the world. It makes sense, considering how popular Japanese lure fishing tackle has become in the last decade or so.
There are numerous hatchery trout streams all over the country that are perfect for beginners, and for saltwater enthusiasts there’s always world class sea bass and rockfish angling in Tokyo Bay, perfect for fly casting. Up north in Tohoku and Hokkaido, there are many rivers with native fish for the taking during the warmer months.
The last frontier for Japanese fly-fishing seems to be blue water fly casting for pelagics such as tuna and dorado. This is by no means impossible, but fewer skippers are currently knowledgeable of, or up for, the special challenges that come when guiding fly anglers in open water. We made tentative plans to fish in Sagami Bay later this summer when the dorado bite is in full swing.
Despite an uncertain business climate, Hamachi’s ventures seem to be humming steadily along. The company recently opened a spacious shop in Bangkok, Thailand, and is preparing to open or explore the possibilities of opening several other shops in the Southeast Asia region. In addition to fishermen, the company also sponsors artists and outdoor enthusiasts of activities such as caving, photography and cross-country cycling.
I came away impressed with Hamachi, not only because of his business success, although things do seem to be looking up for his company, but also his zest for life and the open-minded approach he takes to everything he does. I hope some of those good vibes rub off on me when we hit the water this summer.
2-5-2 Midorigaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0034
Stream Trail Outfitters Bangkok
66/2, Soi 2, Sukhumvit Road, Klong Toei, Bangkok
2-12-19 Shinmori, Osaka Asahi-ku, Osaka-shi 535-0022