Go to most any park in the greater L.A. area on any given Sunday and you will immediately step into a multi-cultural festival of sights, sounds and smells. It is almost like being at the airport, only folks are usually much happier.
Travel guides claim that over 90 languages are commonly spoken in the L.A. basin and it is a simple matter of turning to the left or the right when deciding if it’s going to be Thai, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Peruvian, Indian or African food for dinner.
Naturally, this multi-culturalism presents an interesting set of interactions when you show up at an urban park to do a little fishing. If you don’t bring a good attitude, an ear for accents and some give-away hooks and leader material, you are more than likely going to end up pestered and frustrated…throw a fly rod into your equipment mix and you are pretty much guaranteed to have an audience of sweaty kids surrounding you wanting to know what you are doing.
Ironically, many of these kids can tell you how to rig a trot line, set a fish trap, build a weir, snag fish and even use dynamite safely to catch fish. Yet they have no clue what a fly rod is or how one is used.
A while back, I was fishing Legg Lake in the Montebello area when a small herd of kids surrounded me and began the usual rapid-fire list of questions.
After a few minutes, I noticed one of the quieter kids off to the side, imitating my casting style with a tree branch.
I called him over and asked him if he wanted to try a real fly rod. He shook his head affirmative so, much to the delight of his pack-mates, I gave him some simple instructions and let him cast a couple of times.
The smile on his face indicated a new rank in his status amongst his peers. I reached into my pocket and gave him an old, battered wet fly and about ten feet of leader material. I then showed him how to rig it to the end of his old tree branch so that he effectively had a Japanese style fly rod.
I pointed the herd toward a spot I knew from previous visits usually held Bluegill and settled back for what I thought would be a peaceful rest of the afternoon.
About a half hour later the same kid came wondering back my way, clutching his branch as if it were a new Sage 3-wt. and asked me how I was doing.
At the moment I was working on roll casts and not really actively pursuing prey. I replied that I had not caught anything lately.
He looked at my with that look that only another angler can understand and knowingly replied, “You must be doing it wrong then.”
I love Big Bear Lake. It fascinates me and frustrates me all at once – just like my wife. It is one of the most beautiful local lakes I know and it is also one of the most elusive lakes I have ever fished.
Big Bear has some twenty miles of accessible shoreline, shallow flats, deeper water, rocky coves and quiet back bays. Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Sunfish & Carp are all found there.
Unfortunately, Big Bear is not known as a great place to fly fish, which is too bad. Virtually every piece of literature you read about fishing there recommends using floating bait or an inflated worm fished off a sliding sinker or trolling with lead core line –possibly two of the most boring ways to fish, in my mind.
Don’t get me wrong…If you were fishing to eat or as a cover for consuming massive quantities of beer while sitting in a fold-up chair… well, then I suppose those methods would be fine – I’m not judging here, I’m just saying…
Anyway, I had a chance to sneak off to BB recently with my bride and I had it fixed in my mind that I was going to pursue Carp…on a fly rod.
Now, right about now, some of the purists out there are getting a shrinking feeling in their nether regions and likely just spat out their coffee in an involuntary spasm of disgust.
So be it. I like catching Carp and I like catching them on flies. Not that I actually get to catch them on flies that often but I love the pursuit nonetheless.
So, we get up to BB and decide to take out the kayaks into Grout Bay. Grout Bay is generally protected from the wind, is shallow and quiet and makes for a great place to paddle around and have lunch while quietly bobbing amongst the floating patches of water plants.
While our little float was primarily an opportunity for some quality time with my spouse, it was also a chance to do a little reconnaissance since Grout Bay is a well-known hang out for Carp.
Sure enough, they were there and they were active. In fact, a courting/mating pair literally ran into the bottom of my kayak as they romped around in spawning oblivion. Viva l’amour!
I took mental notes, plotted a strategy and waited.
Around 6:00 pm, I drove back to Grout Bay, stripped down to swim trunks and t-shirt, a neck lanyard with just the bare essentials, my 9-wt. with sinking tip line and a few carefully chosen flies.
Grout Bay is named for the sandy soil that was just the right consistency to be used as mortar during construction of the Big Bear Dam. Sure, it has accumulated a nice thick layer of black ooze on it over the years but, I gotta’ tell ya’, there is something totally cool about sloshing through the warm water with the aquatic plants brushing gently against your legs and feeling the coarse sand and silky ooze squish up between your toes while sight fishing for massive, feeding Carp.
During the next hour and a half I cast repeatedly to some two-dozen fish but none would take my offerings. They didn’t spook – except the one I actually hit on the head with a leech imitation (note to self: keep working on the targeting skills)– but they wouldn’t be fooled either.
Yet, with the glassy water reflecting the setting sun, the soft calls of the various birds and the absolute peacefulness of the entire surroundings it didn’t seem to matter all that much.
Downey Wilderness Park Lake is one of those odd little places that really epitomize what SoCal urban Flyfishing is all about.
It is a pair of roughly dumbbell shaped, blue-tinted ponds that sit in the middle of a narrow stretch of park nestled between the 605 Freeway, the San Gabriel River and Florence Ave.
In fact the entrance to the park is the same road that dumps you onto the southbound 605 if you are not paying attention.
Despite its name, there ain’t no wilderness about it. It is about as “wild” as the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland, unless your definition of wild includes overweight, thieving squirrels with cholesterol issues and geese with a distinct preference for churros over stale bread.
Even the portion of the San Gabriel River the runs next to it is nothing more than a giant culvert with a tiny trickle of water running down the middle of its concrete belly for most of the year. Our Kelvin fishing friend from Scotland would seriously hurt himself from laughing if he saw how we define urban river.
Yet, the park is a welcome spot of green in a great location for a quick opportunity to wet a line for a half an hour or so between appointments or on the way home from work. As a bonus, the high-powered aerators in the ponds create pleasant, albeit somewhat industrial looking, fountains of water which help to drown out noise and make talking somewhat difficult and pointless.
All in all, Downey Wilderness Park is one of those places to keep tucked away in the back of the mind when there is not enough time to go anywhere else but the need to cast a few flies is so overwhelming that you are bordering on homicidal. You might call it a “Mayday Lake” as in “Help. My head is going to pop off the end of my neck if I don’t do some fishing soon!”
Anyway, the time issue is what drove Sean and I there last Saturday. We only had about two hours to spare, including drive time, and Downey was the closest body of water to where we needed to be later in the morning.
We parked on the street and walked into the park to avoid the $2.00 parking fee. Now, you might think that we are unusually cheap — which we are, but we also have gotten the system down so that we use the walk time to get our rods assembled and rigged. By the time we walk up to the water’s edge, we’re ready to go. I prefer to think of it as skill building rather than penny-pinching.
Anyway, Sean has this sweet, little rig that he uses when we hit these pocket lakes. He ties on a stimulator with a small nymph trailing about eight inches behind it – a basic, textbook rig. No big deal, right? Well, it has proven deadly on numerous occasions and has become a go-to first strike set-up on these tiny pocket waters.
Within two casts we were pulling in small sunfish, mostly taken on the nymph. If you know anything about panfish, where there is one there are many. So we worked the school for quite a while. I could literally feel my shoulders relax and a smile come back to my face as we hauled in the little guys on almost every cast.
We followed the school around the edge of the pond for a while until the heat of the day drove them down into the deeper water. After that, things slowed down dramatically. We switched over to small Krystal buggers and though we had a couple of half-hearted hits, nothing much happened.
Still, the flyrod had worked its magic and the rest of the day seemed to go just a little bit better. Sometimes it’s not where you go, just that you went.
The Dog Days is a term that refers to the hottest days of the Summer months. The Romans believed that during the Dog Days men were more inclined to go insane, dogs were more likely to bite and wine was more likely to go sour, among other various and sundry unpleasantries. A more technical definition defines the Dogs Days as the period between early July and early September corresponding roughly to when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises just before or at the same time as sunrise.
However you look at it, the Dog Days have always been associated with heat, sweat, and insanity.
So, now that we have that little detail cleared up, you will understand what I’m talking about when I say that Sean and I got to experience our own little taste of the Dog Days this past weekend as we headed out to Cerritos Regional County Park for what we thought would be a couple of hours of Urban fly lining.
As it turned out, we picked one of the hottest days of the year, so far, to walk around a nearly shadeless lake while battling a stiff, hot, westerly breeze only to come up completely skunked…as in zip, zero, nada. If you don’t think that is enough to drive either of us to the point of insanity, you just haven’t been following this site long enough.
Anyway, It’s not as though the location was bad—especially compared to some of the places we usually fish. I never once felt the urge to check for my back up weapon. Cerritos Regional Park is a nice, tidy, well designed family park in the middle of a nice, tidy suburb just a few miles southeast of downtown L.A.. It has plenty of sturdy, clean picnic tables and open spaces where families can barbeque and kids can play pick up games of football and tag and the like while the grownups lounge on fold-up chairs under insta-shelter canopies. The grass is mostly green and well maintained and everything just… looks good…”All Ozzie and Harriet”, as we used to say in the ‘hood.
But as anyone who has fished for more than a week will attest, looks ain’t everything. Turns out we just could not catch a break.
We tried wooly buggers, nymphs, dry/nymph combos, poppers, mild profanity and outright bribery but nothing worked.
I once read somewhere that the Romans would sacrifice a small, brown dog at the start of the Dog Days in a futile attempt to ward of the maladies associated with the season. There was a middle-aged couple strolling the perimeter of the lake with a tan Chihuahua but they simply wouldn’t part with the little mutant.
We called it an early day and took our wives for pizza instead.
Nothing says “go outside and play” like the Fourth of July holiday. When said holiday falls on a weekend…well, exposure to sun, dirt and non-chlorinated water is almost mandatory — which is how we found ourselves up at Big Bear Lake last weekend with 100,000 or so other patriotic Americans.
Generally speaking, my wife and I avoid weekend crowds at the lake as much as possible, preferring to head up the hill late Sunday while everyone else is heading back down to do the Monday through Friday, nine to five grind. Now, don’t get me wrong, we put in some 40+ hours most weeks too. We also just happen to own the business, so we get to set the schedule and part of that schedule includes occasional Monday mornings on uncrowded mountain waters with a fly rod in one hand and a full thermos of freshly brewed java in the other– hate the game, not the player.
Anyway, this weekend, the pleading eyes and sweet smile of our god-daughter worked their magic and we threw our convictions out the window long enough to wind up in the miles long queue of SUV’s headed to higher elevations.
Though she is only six, Our Little Organizer already had a full agenda of activities lined up for us which, much to my delight, included having Uncle Dan show her how to fish. That little fact alone confirmed my suspicions about just how special that kid really is.
So, with the knowledge that I would be passing down hard-earned and sacred information to my little gem, I kept a weather eye out for the opportune moment as we jostled around the village and shoreline.
Finally, about an hour before sunset I noticed a general migration away from the lake by a very ragged and slightly reddened horde of tourists and fisher-folk. Seizing the moment, I fairly shouted, “let’s go fishin’”.
Ten minutes later we were down at the water watching carp pretend they were trout as they leapt after skimming insects against a rose colored sky.
The slap of their bodies against the surface was loud enough and random enough to keep the novice fisher-girl excited and interested while I rigged her pole with a baited hook.
Big mistake. For the record, six-year olds don’t want to wait for something to take bait. After 5,724 queries as to whether she could reel it in I decided we needed to teach her the fine art of casting.
I rigged a floating Rapala on a spinning rod and had her stand next to me, “Finger pulls the line tight, open the bail, cast and close the bail”
“I know Uncle Dan, Let me try.”
Three fouls and a hit.
The rest is, as they say history.
Now, unless you’ve been there, your gonna have to trust me on this but when you watch a disciple transform the knowledge you’ve so carefully imparted into actual practice — it’s magic.
It did not matter one lick that the only thing we caught in the next half hour was an honest-to-goodness Frisbee, she was hooked.
As the sun slipped behind the Western peaks, I knew that on the anniversary of our nation’s birth, a sports-woman had been born.
I have not really had alot of time to go fishing lately, so I have been hitting up the local Park Lakes with the small amount of time that I have to fish. I have been taking two rods with me a 5 weight for the bass and a 3 weight for the Panfish. The Bass action hasn’t been as good as I have hoped, but I can’t keep the Panfish off the line. The other day I went over to Mile Square Park Lake for maybe about 30 minutes to an hour and I must have pulled out at least 50 small Panfish. They’re not big, but a fish is a fish and they scrap hard for their size!!!
Below is an email that I received from one of our Followers Trent Marcus. If anyone sends us any fishing stories and photos we will be happy to post them on the website!!!
I neglected to give you an update after Father’s Day weekend.
My son and I went up to the San Gabriels early Saturday morning. Seen a bunch of “pros” in the parking lot, gearing up. We hopped on our bikes and beat them to the good spots up stream on the West Fork. I caught a few.
The real action came on the North fork, just north of the day camping area. I’ve always had great luck here. The fish are smaller and it is excellent practice for reaction times. My son caught his fish there.
All day long, we fished with royal wulffs. I needed smaller flies.