Last Saturday morning my younger brother Steven and I had a couple of hours to go and get a quick scouting report on the main So Cal River Beds. We started the morning with Starbucks and a little bit of music to get us in the spirit.
First stop was to the LA River at Glendale Narrows. The water was clear and promising, the trees were green and lush, but the Carp were no where to be found. We walked about a mile stretch of the river with a Mallards, Geese, and Cormorants. A Chow Chow dog stopped us in the middle of our trek back to the car, as the about 14 year kid holding him back looked more scared than we did. So, off the the next Brownline on the map we went.
Next up was the San Gabriel Riverat Whittier Narrows which I was hoping to see stuffed with Tilapia and again not a single fish spotted. I stopped a few older Hispanic men fishing the river and after a short great of “Contraron Pescados” and after three simultaneous No’s, to the other side of the river we went. We stepped around the bushes and into the “Homeless City” we found ourselves. I quickly apologized and we said our goodbyes to our newly found friends. At this point I was starting to get a little worried, as in my mind I was thinking that this time last year there were fish all over these two stretches of River.
Our third and final destination was the Santa Ana River Bed at the intersection of the 91 & 57 freeways and by this time I wasn’t in the best of mood. We had about 30 minutes left before we had to shoot home to meet my wife and get to the Aquarium Of The Pacific to meet our friends. We walked a short stretch and one guy told us he’d seen a pod of Carp earlier that morning, but no fish again (not one). On the way back to the car I viewed an Osprey carrying a Trout from Santa Ana River Lakes in it’s claws racing to get the fish to it’s hatchlings.
In short the lack of fish concerns me, especially since I have been hearing stories of guys down at all three river beds with bait nets pulling out 100′s of fish. If you decide to fish down here, please practice “Catch and Release”. The fish aren’t good eating and it’s not like the California Department of Fish & Game stocks these waters. I will be really hard for people to petition the state to get these made into recognized fisheries, if there aren’t any fish left!
Man, oh man, oh man, what a month.
Social obligations have stacked up one after the other like jetliners flying into LAX on a Friday night: Mother’s day, birthdays, anniversaries, speaking engagements, business-related trips and professional continuing education courses… all have merged into a perfect storm to keep me away from my fly rod.
Not that the celebrations of life are less important than fishing. In fact, if anything, this month has clearly demonstrated the width and breadth and depth of my blessings. Still in those reflective moments between and betwixt the hustle and bustle — while speeding past one of my favorite urban lakes or flying over the San Bernardino mountains on approach to John Wayne airport or quickly flipping through the stack of fishing magazines piled up on the counter – well, then is when I am most acutely aware that it has been a good month for the social graces and strengthening family bonds but a lousy month for fishing.
Mind you, there have been plenty of enticements. There have been tournaments and classes and competitions galore. Everybody seems to be sponsoring some sort of something or other with valuable prizes and untold amounts of prestige available for the taking – all for a nominal entry fee, of course. And there have been the phone calls and offers from fishin’ buddies but alas, it just didn’t happen. The fly rod sat untouched…or rather, unused. I’ve carted it around in the back of the car hoping to squeeze in a half hour or so here and there. I’ve washed the line and prepped it for the season. I’ve changed the leader and restocked my fly boxes – typically in the deep hours of night but I just haven’t fished.
One bright spot did occur last weekend when my wife and I made a quick overnighter to Big Bear. Over a relatively laid back cup of morning coffee the love of my life actually suggested we go fishing.
Once I picked myself up off the floor, we readied up and soon were at the lake with rods in hand. Naturally, since it was our only free day up there, the weather was less than cooperative and the wind howled across the water strong enough to form whitecaps.
Now, my bride has gone out with me on about half a dozen ventures and has yet to land a fish. She has hooked up on a fish, played a fish and had a fish break off just feet from the shore but she has yet to actually land a fish so, needless to say, I too really wanted her to catch a fish.
So the fly rods went back into the car and out came the spinning rods.
We also opted to head over to Grout Bay which is more sheltered and therefore less windy.
When we arrived at Grout Bay the water indeed lacked the white caps seen on the rest of the lake but it still rippled and splashed and roiled. Carp were everywhere and they were…busy.
It didn’t look good for fishing but then I glanced over at my wife and she had the “Look”. You know what I’m talking about. The fixed gaze, the shaking hands, the raised pitch in the voice… She beat me down to the water.
We fished hard for about an hour and a half but, alas, some things trump even food (if you know what I mean) and we could not entice a strike.
By the time we decided to call it quits for the day we had tossed a whole lot of hardware and cleared a whole lot of weeds from our rigs but had not landed a fish. Still, we had spent a very pleasant morning in a very pleasant place doing something I already love and something I am happy to say my wife is growing to love.
Man, Oh man, oh man. What a month.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
Sometimes in Fly Fishing you just get flat out get lucky. A few days ago was one of those days, and man was I lucky. I got to La Mirada Park Lake and the Rainbows were rising all over the place. What happens is the DFG stocks the lake and the Trout stay schooled up for about the first day.
But this was different. I have seen a few Trout stocked in Urban Lakes rising, but these Bows were going nuts. I tied on a Stimulator hands shaking with probably the worst knot I have ever tied, wanting nothing more at that moment then to get a fly in the water.
First Cast the Stimulator hit the water and a 1 1/2 pound fish hit the surface like it was the only food he had ever seen. The pounce was so reckless, the fly didn’t even get in it’s mouth. At this point my knees were shaking and I swung out a roll cast to the same spot and same result only with a fish on the other end of the line. It fought really good for a hatchery raised trout (especially since the recent stockings have producing really weak fish).
3rd cast same result, another fish in the net. Could I be dreaming? Three casts and 2 fish at a Park Lake at the end of the season. What was going on? I didn’t want to find out so I kept casting and the Rainbows kept coming.
As the sun set I realized that I had been there for about 2 hours and I had caught over 20 fish. Like I said there are just some day where you get flat out lucky. I sat down on the bench on the other side of the park and watched as the sun set on one of the most amazing Trout days I have ever had, and it wasn’t on a Lake, River, or Stream it was at an Urban Park about 10 minutes from my house.
“Now That’s Urban Fly Fishing”
A couple of days before my fishin’ buddy, Sean and his bride were set to go on a missions trip to Indonesia, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to squeeze in an afternoon of fly rodding for Carp at Craig Park.
Naturally, I asked him how soon he could get to my house.
On the way over to Fullerton, he regaled me with tales of the massive, hard-hitting, head-shaking fish he had battled just days before. The more he talked, the higher the probability rose that I might have actually broken a couple of traffic laws – hypothetically speaking.
Anyway, when we arrived at the park, the attendant at the entrance gate, upon spotting our rods in the back seat, eagerly informed us that some 480 pounds of catfish had been planted earlier in the week and that he had witnessed several anglers catching decent amounts of fish.
We thanked him for the info, paid the parking fee, drove down to the lake and began fishing hard with our eight-weights in anticipation of the ensuing man vs. fish battles that lie ahead.
Forty minutes later we were still fishing hard but had not managed to entice a single bite.
We each ran through several colors of wooly buggers, a couple of crawdad patterns and a few leech imitations yet we both remained fishless.
Sean, worried that I might be growing suspicious of his earlier stories, suggested…well, quite a few things that, while imaginative, proved ultimately fruitless and thus, fishless.
Finally, after an hour and a half of some serious skunking, we opted to switch out gear to the shorter, 5-weights we normally use up in the San Gabriels and attack the small stream that runs off the west end of the lake.
I switched over to a 8x tippet and a size 22 nymph and we began working the stream, determined to make the most of an incredibly beautiful afternoon.
Sean almost immediately locked into a small pool that held a surprising number of small Bluegill.
I also began to pull in tiny little ‘Gills as we worked the little rivulet. After the frustrations of no fish, even these little guys were enough to change the mood and lighten the spirits.
Sure, I lost a few too many flies to the overhanging branches and sure bait-sized bluegills were not quite the same as junk-food gorged urban carp but the weather, the darting hummingbirds, the songbirds and the fact that we were catching fish all came together to make it a great way to send my buddy off on his trip to the other side of the world.
In fact, it was such a pleasant little urban fly venture that I thought about it for most of the rest of the week…that is until my other fishin’ buddy, Ray texted me with a picture from his day at Santa Ana River Lakes.
Ray. You gotta watch that guy.
Turns out that he hooked onto a 23 Lb. 8 oz. trout and was now in the running for the monthly thousand-dollar prize money for the biggest fish caught at the lake.
Also turns out that he was using his skanky, little back-up pole with three-pound test on it.
However, unlike Sean, Ray’s got the pictures to prove it. Check him out at the SARL.com website. Ray’s the guy with a smile as blinding as his shaved head. Like I said, you gotta watch that guy. Sometimes I think God has a great sense of humor.
I love this addiction called urban fly-fishin’
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