Alright, so my fishin’ buddy Sean is back from a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii. But he picked up a flu bug of some sort and didn’t even make it to church today. My other fishin’ buddy, Ray made it to church today but then he had a rehearsal this afternoon for an upcoming band gig. My wife (and newest convert to “the way of the urban fly”) was supposed to be at the same rehearsal as Ray but she had a paper to finish writing. I had to write a paper for the same class but I finished mine last week.
The long and short of it was that if I wanted to go fishing, I was going solo.
So after a very pleasant lunch with my lovely bride and some of our dearest friends, I opted to check the conditions at the Glendale Narrows portion of the L.A. River, where I haven’t been in a couple of months due to all of the winter rain.
When I crested the small hill at Red Car Park I glanced downstream and immediately noticed that the rains had scoured away most of the emergent weeds and rushes leaving the River looking a bit plain and lifeless. I also noticed that the remaining trees growing up from islands in the middle of the River were all pushed over in a downstream direction.
The good thing about this was that I could get a rather detailed mental picture of the general layout of the many small islets and sandbars and channels that would eventually be hidden by vegetation – vital information for later in the season.
The bad thing about all this was that every bit of trash and debris lay exposed like so many open wounds on the landscape.
In a strange twist of nature and geography, the same storms that brought the white, blanketing snow to the mountains — covering, hiding and beautifying everything up there, stripped away the lush, verdant growth in the River — exposing the mud, debris and refuse of civilization down here.
Seriously, trash was everywhere. Bits of plastic bags, tarps, towels, clothing, and paper hung from the trees like Tibetan prayer flags. Mounds of debris, both organic and otherwise, were draped around the upstream side of every bridge abutment, pole and tree trunk.
It was kind of an eerie feeling. I kept wondering which items represented someone’s thoughtlessness and disregard for the environment and which items bore silent witness to the fury of nature and the lost dreams of some family who’s home hadn’t fared well in the previous month’s storms.
Then, as I got down to the water, I saw thick ropes of string algae curtaining many of the pools that had held decent size carp last summer. In fact, I would spend an inordinate amount of time pulling string algae off my flies for the rest of the afternoon.
I tried all of my favorite spots. Upstream then downstream for about a half mile in each direction, I cast to all of the productive spots of last season and got not so much as a nudge on any of my offerings.
I took advantage of the missing plant cover and rock-hopped out to where I could cast to the main channel – still nuthin’.
For several hours I worked the River ‘til my arm ached and my eyes burned.
The sun was sinking quickly so in one final attempt to squeeze some kind of proof that fish, any fish, even still remained in the River, I ventured back to an area where the water slows significantly and a large, deep pool forms.
In the summer this same pool is a favorite with bait fisherman. Judging from the piles of dried string algae strewn about on the shoreline it probably wasn’t high on anybody’s list at the moment.
Still, I had to know. So I stripped off a little more line than usual and false cast a couple of more times than usual and stretched to reach a little further across the pool than usual and… was rewarded with a rising Carp.
Not a strike, mind you, but a rise.
Sure, I would like to say that a fish took my fly and I landed it after an epic battle but…I only got a rise.
Yet, it was enough.
Knowing that the River was on the mend from the assaults of winter and that fish were still there was enough for the day.
Now, lots of guys would count the day as a wash. OK. If your only measure of success is the raw number of fish you land then the day was a wash.
But, if you count the opportunities I had to observe aspects of the River that are normally hidden and if you count the mental maps I had the opportunity to make and if you count the extra effort and opportunity I had to refine and improve my casting skills and technique then, by my count, it was a great day.
Toss in the warm sun, the diversity of bird species present and the solitude of the River on the last official day of winter and I’d say again, it was a great day.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.