One thing about being an avid angler AND owning and operating a veterinary housecall practice is that every day has the potential to bring surprises and smiles that simply don’t exist in a traditional brick and mortar hospital
Imagine, for example, my surprise when I spied the phrase, “Go Fishing — $2.00” added to the bottom of the sign for the Montebello Barnyard Zoo where we were scheduled to conduct annual exams and administer vaccines to the livestock there.
Now, if your mind works anything like mine, just seeing the word “fishing” triggers something akin to what must go on in the brain of a hound dog when he finally picks up the sought after scent.
However, focus is required when one is working on full-grown llamas and such lest one catch a kick in an unexpected place or a face full of alpaca spit. And it takes concentration and a steady hand to rope a goat or catch a running chicken. (Remember the training scenes in “Rocky”?) So even though I had noticed that darn “fishing” thing on the sign as soon as we walked through the gates, I had to intentionally shove that thought deep into the recesses of my head until we were finished checking everyone out and the sharps had all been safely stored away and the vaccines were back in the fridge along with any blood and/or fecal samples.
But you can bet, once everyone was inspected, injected and given a clean bill of health and all that was left to do was to settle up the accounting, I inquired about the fishing phrase posted on the sign.
“Oh, you wan’ to see my newest proyect?” The owner replied in his heavily accented English. “Is jus’ a little thing I thought los ninos would like.”
So like an obedient puppy, I followed the proprietor to the back of the property while visions of a private lake stocked with Alpers Trout danced in my head.
We worked our way around the rental picnic areas and the gold-panning sluice and in between the merry-go-rounds and past the mini train station and out toward the far end of the property to… a small pond approximately ten feet wide and twenty feet long and about a foot deep.
Reality hurts sometimes.
Still, it was a charming little pond. The rockwork and landscaping were well done and it all fit in nicely with the overall theme and scale of the zoo. It just wasn’t the private estate lake I had built it up to be in my mind during the brief walk to see it.
Nor did it hold any prized Trout. In fact, the “fishing” turned out to be snagging plastic, floating decoy ducks by a cleverly designed hook and ring system as they drifted by a split-rail fence.
Somewhat disappointed, but not wanting to appear rude or discourage the inventiveness of our host, we each took a fishing pole in hand while one of the farm hands fired up the high volume pump that caused a whole flock of plastic ducks with metal rings protruding from their backs to go zipping past us in an endless swim to nowhere.
The rods had a fixed length of heavy monofilament attached to the end and a rather unique hook. I took consolation in the fact that they were vaguely similar to the Tenkara rods that are carried by TenkaraUSA. After a few half-hearted attempts to land one of the ducks, I realized that this fishing game was actually rather challenging. After ten minutes, I realized it was bloody addictive and down right ingenious.
We might have spent the better part of the afternoon there twitching and jerking the rods with the oversized hooks on the ends in an a near futile attempt to snag one of the bobbing birds but we had other patients to see and other stops on the schedule so I somewhat reluctantly relinquished my pole and congratulated the proprietor on his newest venture, wishing him much success and many two-dollar ticket sales.
As we pulled away from the farm, I smiled to myself, partly because of the surprising way the day had turned out but also because I know SoCal is a big, eclectic and eccentric place and there are a whole lot of pets out there. One day we will stumble across the right property and the right pet owner and I will have a standing invitation to practice my roll casts on a private pond stocked with fat, sassy Rainbows.
I love this addiction called Urban Fly Fishin’.
It’s cross over time in urban SoCal.
The local weather conditions and temperatures are such that Fish & Game is stocking both catfish and trout at many of the local urban lakes. This influx of fish is stirring up all kinds of fishing activity. For most of us brownliners that’s about as close to winning the lottery as it gets.
A quick stop at or even a drive-by past many of the local waters will easily confirm this and will attest to the fact that while we may not be a lot of things, we urban anglers are apparently quite literate, at least as far as fishing news is concerned and we apparently follow the stocking schedules the way blue-haired heiresses consult astrological charts — that is, frequently and faithfully.
This past week, for example, Sean and I managed to connect for about an hour and a half between appointments to squeeze in some fly-fishin’. We expected to find a couple of guys soaking bait but instead the lake we choose to hit was packed with a horde of fellow anglers catching everything from Bass to Trout to Catfish to Crappie on just about every kind of rig imaginable.
It was, as is often said in fishing circles, “wide open” and the local angling community responded accordingly and enthusiastically.
We found some decent and promising looking shoreline and I began tossing Sean’s variation of a bead head wooly bugger that I call “Fenner’s Phat Fly”. It’s olive green and black, has a little bit of flash in it (appropriately “ghetto” enough for the urban fly fishing environment) and it has been catching me a whole boatload of fish for the last three weeks. Sure, it is getting a little ratty looking and I’ve had to re-bend and re-sharpen the hook after snagging it in a bush and what not but, I gotta say, I’m lovin’ this fly.
Anyway, it worked it’s magic again and I landed a couple of Bass in short order. While I was playing one Bass, Sean hooked up to a Trout and a bait fisherman a few yards away landed a catfish – all within the space of about five minutes. Like I said, wide open.
Perhaps because of the frequency and relative ease of actually catching fish or maybe due to the density of fisherfolk or possibly even because of the crisp freshness of the air but whatever the reason, there seemed to be an overall congeniality at this lake that went beyond the norm. Don’t get me wrong, SoCal anglers are almost always cordial even if we don’t speak the same native tongue, which is highly likely since, according to linguistics experts, there are something like 224 different languages spoken in SoCal, not counting variations in dialect. This just seemed to go beyond mere courtesy and I ended up in several conversations including one that led to an invite down to the casting pond at Recreation Park in Long Beach from a member of the Long Beach Casting Club.
The LB Casting Club has night sessions and informal casting clinics every Tuesday and Thursday in addition to a whole bunch of other activities throughout the year ranging from rod-building clinics to multi-day excursions. I’ll have to check my calendar and go check it out. We will be sure to post the outcome when we do.
Anyway, as I made my way around the lake, I got pointers on the best fly lines, the best flies, the best fly rods to use on urban lakes and so on and so on which was rather amusing since Sean and I were the only ones actually fly fishing. Still it was all good-natured and sincere and considering that I was consistently bringing in a few decent fish under an amazing sunset, it was a pretty good day.
With darkness settling in and a whole bunch more catfish anglers arriving on the scene, Sean and I decided to pack it in and head off to our next appointment. As long as we kept the duck muck off our shoes, no one at our next meeting would even have to know that we had been happily fly fishing just minutes earlier.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’
Save The Date!
The Bob Marriott’s Flyfishing Store
20th Annual Fly Fishing Educational Fair
Saturday – November 21, 2009 – 9am-5pm
Sunday – November 22, 2009 – 9am-3pm
Celebrity flyfishing demonstrations and seminars
Travel destination representatives from around the world
Live fly tying demonstrations throughout the event
Casting pond with activities all weekend
Author book signings
New product unveiling from over 50 of the top fly fishing manufacturers
Valuable Prize drawings
………….and so much more!!!!
Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I write a piece on patterns and consistency, I get thrown a curve ball and am forced back to my stand-by position that “nature writes the textbooks but doesn’t necessarily read them”.
Case in point: I recently wrote that much of what we do in fly-fishing is to look for identifiable patterns that we can imitate or exploit.
Well, as soon as that declaration was in print — stuff happened.
Not that I’m complaining. To the contrary, I ended up having a good morning… a really good morning. Sure, it included a breakfast burrito with a little crow in it, but it was still a good morning and besides, I was able to spit out most of the feathers before they caused any permanent damage.
You see, Mondays are generally our “office and errand” day. Normally, I’m up and immediately at the computer or fixing the stuff that needs fixing or out the door with “to-do” list, checkbook, dirty laundry, stack of mail and an enormous cup-of-coffee-to-make-it-all-possible in hand.
But this last Monday, thanks in part to the time change, I awoke with the first rays of the sun peeking over… well, the neighbor’s house — but you know what I mean. Anyway, I awoke to a beautiful, clear and sunny sky.
It was one of those mornings that seem to happen every morning in the movies unless it is a horror film, which I never watch anyway. It was simply too good of a morning to start off in front of the computer, no matter how fresh or tasty the coffee or how urgent the e-mail messages.
So I quickly readied up, kissed my still sleeping wife and headed off to La Mirada Park.
Sure enough, there were numerous early morning walkers, a knot of laughing, joking older gentlemen occupying a couple of shaded benches set back on a short rise, a couple of maintenance workers, but no fisher-folk.
I rigged up a new carp fly that I recently purchased from Mad River Outfitters and began some “research”.
Within five minutes, I was rewarded with a Largemouth Bass followed, in short order, by several more Bass. Sure, they were on the small size, but they beat out the boatload of waiting-to-be-opened spam e-mails from a whole crew of totally honest attorneys in Nigeria representing the multi-million dollar estates of recently and tragically deceased relatives I never knew I had.
I continued a slow, leisurely pace around the lake pulling in small Bass about every five minutes.
About half way around the lake, as I was stripping in the fly with short, fast pulls, my rod doubled over.
That doesn’t happen often enough, so it feels good just putting it in writing. In fact, I’ll write it again: My rod doubled over instead of the normal gentle twitching that indicates a Trout or Panfish or even the short Bass I was catching on the other end of the line.
My first thought was Carp. After all, I did have a carp fly on the end of my tippet and there are numerous large Carp in the lake but… something didn’t add up. There was no line-eating, blazing fast run, no wild thrashing, no splashing, just a hard, steady, consistent pull.
My next thought was turtle. I hate snagging turtles. We used to work at a vet hospital that was licensed to see wildlife and frequently an angler would bring in a turtle that he or she had snagged or hooked. It was always a huge pain to try and remove the hook or untangle the line from a ticked off, biting, peeing and snapping turtle. The soft-shelled turtles were the worse. They have these incredibly long necks, nasty beaks and even nastier dispositions that make handling them difficult at best and dangerous at worst.
So, I groaned and hoped that it wouldn’t be a turtle and I wouldn’t lose my new fly to some hissing, whizzing soft shell.
Still my rod stayed doubled over.
Whatever was at the other end was moving in a slow zig-zag pattern and it was getting tired. Since I only had a 7x tippet I wanted to be very careful. (I know, I know, I should have been using a 4x or so but I really had only intended to play with the carp fly before switching over to something smaller. It just started working so darn well.)
Anyway, I glanced at my watch and decided to time this little tug of war. At eight and half minutes, I finally saw the head of my opponent – a catfish! And a decent size one at that.
At twelve minutes plus change, I was able to land a ten and half inch cat AND get my fly back.
Needless to say, it has been a lot of fun telling some of my other fishin’ buddies that I landed a catfish on a fly. Most of these guys are the powerbait and mackerel strips type of catfish anglers so the looks on their faces have been priceless.
Of course, they instantly remind me that it is not the normal “pattern” for cats to hit flies.
To which I reply, “Good thing fish don’t follow web blogs, eh?”
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
If nothing else, fishing is about patterns. We obsessed anglers spend serious amounts of time seeking to figure out movement patterns, feeding patterns, breeding patterns and behavioral patterns. We watch and try to understand weather patterns, and lunar patterns and tidal patterns. We pour over articles on hydrological flow patterns and sedimentation patterns. We follow trends in equipment and materials to better grasp those patterns. We study solar patterns and wind patterns and insect life cycle patterns.
If we are smart, we establish a pattern of making notes and keeping records and filing away bits and pieces of information in the recesses of our minds. And if we are careful, we acquire a pattern of consistently catching fish. Otherwise, we just establish a pattern for wasting time while beating the surface of water.
In this regard, we are very much like any other predator in pursuit of prey: the Mountain Lion waiting silently along the well-worn deer trail leading down to the stream, the spider sitting in the middle of its web carefully placed to intersect hapless moths as they shuttle along well established flight paths just beneath the canopy, the red-tailed hawk circling the open areas between buildings where they have the best opportunity to catch the field mice scurrying along their trails from burrow to burrow.
Likewise, it is no secret that in the urban fishing environment, the objects of our obsession living in these heavily pressured lakes and streams quickly learn our patterns and respond accordingly. Normally voracious Bass will seriously slow down their normal eating habits and watch hundreds of dollars worth of lures pass by every weekend.
Carp at many SoCal urban lakes will practically go into some Zen-like state and sit tight all day Saturday and Sunday only to cautiously go active again on Monday.
The long and short of it is we are all trying to figure out the other guy’s patterns so we can claim a pattern of success.
Now of all the patterns I try to monitor, the one pattern I rather dislike is the annual change from Daylight Savings Time. Perhaps if I had a herd of cows that I needed to milk at some sick hour of the morning and needed the light or if my field plow didn’t have headlights I might feel differently but this time change nonsense really bugs me. It disrupts my pattern…or as one of our formerly hippie clients likes to say, “it harshes my mellow”.
Apparently, I am not alone in this irritation.
This year the time change falls on Halloween. I haven’t looked far enough ahead to know if that is how it is going to stay or if it is going to move around yet again but for now it falls on Halloween. Not that I’m big into the Halloween thing but our church hosts an alternative event to trick or treating every year so I will be busy most of Saturday afternoon and evening.
Anyway, my fishin’ buddy, Sean must have felt the same sense of annoyance with the time change as he text messaged yesterday to ask if I wanted to get in one last late afternoon of fishing before the time change. The annoyance part was communicated with the closing comment, “stinkin’ time change”.
Since both of our lovely brides were going to be attending an all girl event with singing and squealing and hugging and such, I was only too happy to respond with a yes.
We headed over to Cerritos Regional Park where we knew we wouldn’t get chased out at sunset and where the path around the lake is actually lighted – in case the fishing turned out to be really good and we ended up staying past dark.
The sun was sinking fast so we wasted no time in getting on the water. We were rewarded with immediate hits by some young-of-the-year bass and some bluegill. We quickly figured out that the most productive pattern was to cast parallel to the edge of the pond and strip in line fairly quickly.
I headed off to the left and Sean headed to the right. I had a few more hits but Sean seemed to have found the pocket and got several hits on his dropper nymph.
As it got darker, we both switched over to krystal buggers. Sean again found the ball of fish and pulled in quite a few decent panfish. Again, he figured out that the pattern for these particular fish was for them to hit hard and then move, en masse, along the bank. He was able to follow them as they moved and scored many more strikes.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of fly fishin’ in the dark – I can barely see the hook eye as it is, and my pattern has been to pack up and go home when I can’t see my hands anymore but this was a great way to send off the last remaining afternoon of DST. We both concluded that having a lighted park relatively close to home was the perfect remedy to the “dark by 5:00 blues”.
We decided on the spot that we will make it our pattern to return to this little park during the short days of winter and count our blessings that we don’t have to hang up the fly rods until the Spring thaw.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
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