I have not written a post for about a week because I spent that time cycling the length of South Korea.I started just after lunch on Wednesday in the northern coastal city of Incheon and finished six days later on Monday afternoon in the southern port city of Busan.
All up I rode some 633km or just under 400 miles. This timeline meant I had to average about 100km or 60 miles every day.
This was my first, and so far only attempt to go cycle touring, and if I am honest, I am a novice cyclist. I only took it up a few months prior to the trip, and have never ridden more than 70km (40miles) in training.
Physically, it was always going to be a challenge and I was never quite sure how my body was going to hold up.
My initial idea was to combine cycling with plenty of fishing stops along the route.
Before leaving the comfort of my home, I thought 100km (60 miles) a day is not that far, I was able to average about 20kph in training, and I only had to sustain that for around 5 hours every day to meet my target. This pace should allow me plenty of time to get in some fishing.
My plan was to pedal hard. Then have enough time to explore some cold mountain streams, with the hope of finding isolated pockets of trout along the route. When I am not in trout country, I will just try my luck for other species.
How is the fishing along the route?
South Korea has three species of trout, the Cherry trout and Lenok are native species, and are mostly isolated to the mountain streams in the northwest of the country. There are also scattered populations of rainbow trout, the result of stockings and escapees from farms.
The route I cycled is known as the Korean Overland and it follows four of Korea’s largest rivers.
If I am realistic, for most of its length it is too far west for trout fishing. Although there are many small streams that are rarely if ever fished, so there is always a chance of lucking onto a population of trout.
There are also trout in some of the tailwaters behind the numerous dams on the larger rivers. So there is certainly a chance of finding trout. I just had to put in some effort and have luck on my side.
Trout are not the only fish in South Korea. There are many native species such as snakeheads, Carp, and various species in the chubbs, and perch families. There is always something to catch. Many of the larger rivers and lakes are also populated with introduced Bass.
When close to the sea, there are also numerous coastal species that can be caught. Including a fairly large fish that resembles a herring. On a previous trip, I decided to fly fish around Jeju island and found it a worthwhile effort.
My first mistake was underestimating the amount of gear
I am never one to plan much before a trip, and this trip was no exception. My plan was to fit my clothing and other gear into my panniers. While I have ridden to fishing spots before, I have always taken my rods inside a backpack, and they were always short rides.
I have never done a overnight trip before.,
Thinking back, I should have done a test pack at home. Because it quickly become apparent, that I had to leave much of my fishing tackle behind. There was simply not enough space, and even my shortest telescopic rod was a bit too long to easily fit inside the pannier.
I could have worn a backpack, but that would have been quite uncomfortable. So I stripped my fishing gear down to a bare minimum and only took a few lures and a basic spinning combo. On future rides, I might look into getting a 6-piece fly rod that I can strap directly to the frame of my bike.
My second mistake was overestimating my fitness.
In training, I was flying along at 20kph (12mph). On the trial, for a number of reasons. I could not maintain that intensity. I could not even maintain a slightly slower 18kph target.
In practice, I spent 7 to 8 hours riding every day, and on several days I arrived at the accommodation for the night after the sunset. I was averaging between 14-16kph.
What slowed me down the most was probably fatigued, but also climbs, getting lost, and simply stopping for photos.
In Korea, trout lived in mountain streams, so on the days I was near to potential trout streams, I had a lot of climbing to do. These climbs slowed me down even further, and I was so far behind schedule, that on some days. I simply did not have any time to stop for a fish.
In theory, I could of gone back out after checking into my accommodation for the night, but I was normally so tired. I spent most of the time lazing in bed.
I was simply not fit enough to ride 100km every day and still have the energy or daylight to enjoy more than a few minutes of fishing,
My third mistake – I pushed myself too hard on day one
On my first day of cycling, I covered nearly 110kp (65 miles), but I only had the afternoon to do it. On later days, I covered similar distances, but I could stretch it out across the entire day.
This meant, on the first day of riding I rode hard and fast. It was fun, but the intensity took a toll on my body which limited my endurance for later in the trip.
So, I should have paced myself more on the first day.
Thirdly. Be prepared to live in wet shoes
Fishing trout streams means getting wet feet. They are nearly always too narrow, and the banks too overgrown to stick to the shoreline, and playing stepping stones can only get one’s feet dry for so long.
Space is also very limited when cycling, so other than a light pair of flip-flops, I did not have room for a second pair of shoes. So I need to wear the same pair of shoes for fishing, cycling or wandering into cafes for a morning coffee.
Living in wet shoes, especially in late October is not nice. I really, need to look into getting some very lightweight wading footwear.
What I will do differently?
So what things will I do differently next time?
Well, If I want to combine touring with fishing, I need to either get extremely fit or reduce the miles I need to cover every day. I spent too much time pedalling, and was too tired in the evenings to put in the effort required to find fish.
As it turned out, trying to ride 100km in a single day, did not leave me with enough time for other recreational activities. Now, I should have expected that to be the case.
So, If I were to do such a trip again. I probably will aim to only ride around 30 miles every day. So half of what I attempted on this trip.
I also need to get specialized fishing gear, so I can carry more of it with me on the bike.
What did I think of cycling from Seoul to Busan?
It was fun, and a good experience. I enjoyed the trip and other than some headwinds, the weather was perfect. Nearly always sunny and not even a spit of rain.
The cycling route followed four rivers, and it was mostly on dedicated cycling lanes. Which mean’t I spent little time riding on busy roads, and because South Korea is so populated there is always a convenience store or cafe not too far away. It was a very nice introduction to long distance cycling.
It also allowed me to achieve many firsts. Including the first time riding up a steep hill (then an even steeper hill a couple of days later), and I certainly pushed out my maximum distance several days.
In fact, my first three days were each a new distance record for me. It certainly was good exercise.