It is no secret that my fishing buddy, Sean and I frequently fly fish the various forks of the upper San Gabriel River drainage as well as the lower sections and even the mouth of the river all the way down in Seal Beach. Exactly where we have the best success and land the most fish…well, that is and will remain a secret.
However it is also no secret that the San Gabriel offers a huge variety of fishing opportunities for the urban angler looking for something slightly different and maybe even the opportunity to put into practice those line-mending techniques typically reserved for streams and rivers greater than an hour from home.
The upper San Gabriel is divided into three major forks (North Fork, West Fork and East Fork) and drains an area of the Angeles National Forest about 400 square miles in size. Each fork varies in character from steep gradient, fast-moving, cold water to slower, slightly silted water. All three major forks and several smaller feeds hold fish. While some of the upper sections hold native trout that seldom see flies.
The lower section holds bass, sunfish, catfish, tilapia and carp while sand bass, kelp bass, flatfish and several other salt-water species can be taken on the fly down at the mouth of the river.
So the other day, after a very pleasant afternoon on the San Gabriel, I settled down in my favorite chair and began an internet search to see what 411 I could drum up on this very special river.
Now, you can probably imagine what an urban river that is only about an hour away from millions of people is subjected to on a day-to-day basis and you can also probably imagine what craziness people might post about their…um… activities on this river.
Although I’ll never be able to un-see some of the
nonsense I came across, I eventually found some research papers on the Fish & Game website describing the results from an electro-fishing survey performed in 2007 and 2008 on the upper stretches of the river above the Cogswell Dam.
As might be expected, rainbow trout were found throughout the drainage system. However, the next three most commonly seen species
were: the speckled dace, the santa ana sucker and the arroyo chub.
None of these native fish are considered game fish, though there are records and even historical photos (circa 1940) of suckers being taken on rod and reel. Chub can grow about five inches in length and slightly resemble minnows or very young goldfish. Chub can grow about six inches and also vaguely resemble minnows. Suckers can also grow slightly larger though under today’s conditions they usually don’t. They look some thing like a skinny carp.
As native species, the arroyo chub, speckled dace, and santa ana sucker have all figured prominently in various hotly–contested, lengthy and expensive legal and scientific battles. However, my interest in these fish (for the purposes of this article) rest more in their abundance as prey items and thus as potential clues as to how local urban anglers can use that info to catch more trout.
My internet searching has found documents mentioning heavy predation by bass and sunfish on these native fish but little on trout predation. However, since trout are known to be efficient piscivores, especially as they grow to adult size, I am surmising that suckers, dace and chub are, in fact, part of the diet of rainbow trout in the San Gabriel River.
Armed with this hypothesis, I’ve decided to test it by carefully selecting some fly patterns resembling these fish for my next foray into the Angeles Forest.
I’ll keep you posted on how these patterns work…but I won’t be giving away any info on our secret spots.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishing.
As I was fishing today at Ralph Clark Park Lake, an older gentleman walked up to me to ask me what I was doing (Like you can’t tell that I’m fishing). The thought crossed my mind, “How many fish have I missed out on, because I love talking to people so much”.
I’ve met so many fisherman, and usually as I walk past them, I shoot out a quick hello attached to something like “Any bites”. The normal response that I get is silence or a dirty look. Not in all situations, some of the people that I’ve met have been nice, and at times have even given some good fishing advice. Yet the majority of the times it seems to be people coming up to me, and I end up talking with them for about 30 minutes or so.
For example on this last trip out, I was only able to set aside about 2 hours to fish. Of those two hours I would say that about 1 1/2 hours were spent talking to people.
The first conversation was with a guy out fishing with his kid, and he looked like he had no idea what he was doing. I showed him how to rig up some Powerbait on a treble hook (as I mashed his barbs down, explaining the importance of doing it). By the time I had left, his son had caught his first fish, and the dad was one happy camper.
My second conversation was with an older Mexican guy that I spoke with en Espanol. He asked me what kind of fishing I was doing. So I explained to him what Fly Fishing was, and let him cast my rod for about 10 minutes. Hopefully adding one new person to the Fly Fishing Community!
Finally I moved on, and had a chance to wet my line. After about 10 minutes I was into an nice little stocker Rainbow Trout, that I had caught on a Bead Head Woolly Bugger. Immediately after, a guy who had been tossing around a Swim Bait (Trout Imitation) that had to weigh over a pound walked up to me and asked “What ya throwin”? I showed him my fly rod, as he continued to explain to me that he had no idea you could use a Fly Rod anywhere other than on a Trout Stream.
While I walked back to the car, he followed me as I showed him pictures of the different species that I catch on a fly rod. So I guess it’s a trade off, I may lose some time fishing, but every time I’m out I get to meet some really interesting person.
It guess that’s why we call it Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!
Court Dates, Hospital Visits, Long Work Days, the list goes on and on.
That sentence to preface the fact that I’ve been holding onto this great Urban fly Venturing story without the opportunity to actually sit down and get to write about it.
So here goes nothing.
About a month ago in between all that was swirling around me, I found myself with a Monday Morning free from anything on my calendar. It was just waiting there with a big empty circled space, waiting for me to write FISHING in all capital letters.
So guess what it did, that’s right I went FISHING.
Now my only regret is that I cannot share this location with you guys, due to a secret fishing spot swap. All that I’m aloud to say is that it’s a reservoir up in North Orange County, California.
This place definitely lived up to all the hype, and the back and forth emails about how big the Bluegills and Red Ear Sunfish are.
As I backed my truck up to the dead end dirt road. I pulled out my Okuma Guide Series 5 Weight Rod and SLV Fly reel. I laced them up with fly line and grabbed my streamer box.
That’s right I said streamers! Accord to the email bragging, my Hopper Dropper set up was better left in the truck.
I slid down the steep embankment of gravel onto an old cement boat launch, and cast out about 30 feet in front of me. Slowly stripping in line, checking the clear water for any signs of movement.
Strip, Strip, Strip, and all of the sudden I could see a striking flash right by my Minnow imitation. But for some reason there was no strike. This happened about 5 times, and I finally begrudgingly decide to change flies.
I pulled out a Rust colored Bead Head Flash-A-Bugger and started working the fly a little slower letting it sink farther to the bottom with a sudden jerk to imitate a Crayfish or leech moving across the gravel.
This time the flash went straight for my fly, and I was hooked into what I thought was a decent sized Largemouth Bass. But after getting the line within about 15 feet where I was standing, I could see that I was hooked into one of the largest Panfish that I’ve ever caught.
I pulled out my measuring net to land the fish, and picked it up to admire my catch.
Believe it or not (I have the pictures to prove it). I had just caught a 14 inch Red Ear Sunfish! That’s Right, 14 INCHES!
I sat there for a moment with a silly grin on my face, and then snapped back to reality. I still had the fish in hand, so back into the water he went.
Without skipping a beat I moved 10 feet down the bank and cast out. Smack another fish on the line. Then another, and another, and another.
When it was all said and done, I had caught about 13 Sunfish over 11 Inches.
Now that’s a good day fishing. I don’t care who you are, or where you live.
My Time for fishing was up.
So away I went. Back to the meetings, Hospital Visits, and Court Dates. But for a moment, just a moment. I was able to get away from it all, and focus my mind on only one thing.
And that’s why we call it Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!
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