Late last week, my fishin’ buddy, Sean sent me a text about an hour after I had had the same thought: “smmr nd ner, bttr hit LAr this wknd or 2 L8” which translates to “The end of the Summer fishing season is near, we better hit the L.A. river this weekend or it will be too late.”
Perhaps it was some unconscious thing we each felt from years of watching for the subtle changes in our seasons or perhaps we had each felt the constraints (read that as anxiety) that comes with shortening days, but in any event, we both seemed to sense that change was in the air and we might not have another chance to brown-line the Los Angeles River before the first rains of the seasons flooded the channel — changing the bottom terrain and washing fish and vegetation downstream so as to render unproductive the spots we had worked so hard to learn.
That being said, I texted back, “Sun aftr 3rd” which translates to “ Let’s hit the river on Sunday afternoon after church.” (more or less).
Sunday couldn’t have cooperated any better. The air temp was pleasant. The winds were light. The lush summer growth of saplings on the sand bars provided plenty of shade and, best of all, there were virtually no other anglers at our target site. In other words, urban fly fishin’ at its best.
We both eagerly headed upstream, rigging our 8-weights as we walked.
We hop-scotched the various pools where we had each had taken fish on previous visits and we fished hard…but with no success.
The lengthening shadows from the lowering sun added to the beauty but also increased our anxiety and desire to find the fish before it got too dark.
While we fished, long, noisy v-formations of Canadian Geese began to fly in overhead before dropping down to the smooth water out toward the middle of river.
Despite the intensity of our quest, it was one of those moments that truly takes the breath away and the few pictures we were able to snap betray the shakiness of our hands as we watched in awe. We were after all, and as I’ve said before, standing in the geographic center of some tens of millions of people and roughly eight minutes from the very heart of Los Angeles.
It was utterly amazing. The only thing lacking were the fish.
As the shadows grew deeper we reluctantly turned and began making our way back toward the car. Normally at this point of the day, we would hump it up the steep sides of the bank and walk along the flat portion at the top of the channel where we would be less likely to trip or slip. This day, however, neither one of us seemed willing to concede to the River so we fished our way downstream, back over the water we had already covered.
I have no idea if it was dumb luck, sheer desperation, acquired skill or a combo of all three, but some little tickle in the back of my skull told me to switch flies to a bright yellow egg pattern. I fumbled around in the gloom and took twice as long as usual to tie on my fly and after a seeming eternity, finally made my cast in the proximity of a large flotilla of paddling waterfowl.
And, just like in the movies and all the really good books, my line went tight, droplets of water sprayed, my rod doubled over and…I had my fish.
Not just any fish mind you, but a decent size Carp – a “Barrio Bonefish” that had sucked in my offering and then in a split second had stripped three-quarters of the line off my reel in an insane dash toward the deeper middle parts of the river.
And suddenly, right there amidst the green slime and bits of trash and discarded Styrofoam coffee cups and graffiti and broken beer bottles – I was back in church, if you catch my drift.
Now, just so you know, I get just as excited as the next guy but I rarely yell and scream. That day however, and for that fish, I yelled and screamed. So much so that it set a considerable number of geese off in an explosive though short-lived panic flight.
My fishin’ buddy Sean, who was yelling and screaming too (after all that’s what fishin’ buddies do) was there with the net when I finally brought my fish in and he was also there with camera ready when said fish was finally in hand.
After the obligatory pics and after I thanked said fish for a good fight and after I sent him off to fight again another day, we made our way up the steep sides of bank and onto the flat portion at the top of the channel.
It hardly took any time at all to get back to the car. “Smmr nd ner, bttr hit LAr this wknd or 2 L8”.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.