Category: Creeks Rivers and Streams


By , February 12, 2013 11:44 pm

SGR Natives

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.

Speckled Dace

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.

Santa Ana Sucker

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.

Arroyo Chub

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.


By , February 21, 2012 10:04 pm

Thanks to a tip from a fellow Urban Fisherman, I got to hit a new Urban Body of water this past Saturday.

 I’ve learned over the last few years that if you are willing to put in the time and explore some of our local Urban waterways, you will be surprised and sometimes flat out shocked at what you find.

After about 30 minutes of walking down banks, climbing rocks, and pushing my way through stock piles of bushes I found myself at the edge of a serene little stream in the middle of Riverside County.

I may have been in the center of the city, but I felt miles away from anyone else in the world. As I explored my way down the bank, I spotted a school of Mosquito Fish, a Read Ear Slider, and a couple of beautiful White Egrets stocking the shallows for their next meal.

After stumbling on a deep hole where the water slowed around a corner, I pulled out my 3 weight, tied on a Micro Flash – a -Bugger, and cast as close up to the opposite bank as I could.

A couple of casts and no fish. I moved just a little farther down, and found another hole, and as I approached I realized I was going to have to start using a Roll Cast or I would be spending more time picking my flies out of the brush behind me than fishing.


1st Cast into this new hole and strip, strip, strip, when all of the sudden something came darting out of the shallow lunging for my fly. Out of excitement I pulled the fly right out it’s mouth. Trying to calm myself down, I got down on my knees, and cast into the same spot.

As soon as the fly hit the water “SMACK!”. I was into a small Largemouth Bass leaping into the air and fighting with all it’s might.

A small fish, but a real prize after a fight like that.

I hit a few more holes with the same results,  a lot of small fish with a ferocious nature that I’d noever seen before.

As I was tying on a new fly, I realized that I could see some of the Bass swimming back and forth taking what looked like some kind of Damselfly Nymph.

While I was staring intently into the water I realized I could see a couple of fish hugging the bottom that looked just a little different. A similar profile to the Bass but a much darker color.

I cast a large Nymph into the line of one of these fish, and the strike was so quick I didn’t even see the fish take it. I set the hook  and the fish took me straight into the over hanging branches.

Before I could maneuver my way out this mess, the fish was off. I tried a second time, but to no avail. I guess whatever this species was it would have to wait until next time to be caught.

As I climbed my way out of the brush and thicket, I almost stepped on what looked like a Garter Snake. I must have jumped 3 feet in the air and away from it, thinking the snake was a Rattler.

With my heart thumping in my chest I made it to the edge of the little community that I had parked in. I grabbed a seat on a bench near by, reflecting on my wonderful fishing experience while taking the rocks and dirt out of my shoes.

It just goes to show you that a little UFV always pays off. Sometime we catch fish and sometimes we don’t, but it’s the experience that matters the most.

Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!



By , December 28, 2011 6:04 am

After the last few fishing trips I’ve had, let’s just say that I’ve been reluctant to get out. Let’s do a quick little recap.

The first trip out dealt me nothing more than my 3 Piece Okuma 3 Weight Guide Select Fly Rod, wait I mean 4 piece Rod after I slammed it in my truck door. Luckily it came with a warranty.

You all know how my Second trip out looked from Dan’s post CARDIO-FLY. Let’s just say that I have a high tolerance for pain, but getting stung by a scorpion is no joking matter.

My Third Trip left me with the worst case of Poison Oak that I’ve ever had, and I’m now starting to wear shorts again.

But everything (Yes even my bad luck) has a season, and I think that this season is finally behind me.

I found myself just a little more hesitant to get up in the morning. I was looking for any reason not to get in the car and start driving. But I found all my gear just where it was supposed to be, and yes I have a backup 3 weight Fly Rod.

So there I was driving up in to Mount Baldy, with all kinds of thoughts going around in my head of what could possibly go wrong this time. Maybe I’d get eaten by a Mountain Lion, bitten by a Rattle Snake, a car accident, something. But as the miles counted down I soon found myself standing at the creeks edge, taking long deep breathes.

I thought to myself “Here we Go”, now please understand that I am not a pessimistic person. My wife has even at times accused me of being a little too optimistic in light of some of the situations life has thrown at us.

But come on I was on a roll. I’m a history buff, and let’s just say that my recent history was telling me to be really, really careful.

As I hit the water, my old careless self started to creep back up, and I found myself making dangerous jumps from boulder to boulder, stepping all over Poison Oak, and even fishing freezing cold water and 40 degree air temperature  in my good ol’ Wrangler Cargo shorts.

After just a couple of casts I was back to myself, and pulling in decent size rainbows on almost every cast. After fishing about a 1 3/4 mile section of the stream, I found myself satisfied for the day. Okay I’ll be honest I didn’t want to push my luck. A couple of hours on the water and no accidents.

Call it what you will, Lucky, Blessed, all I know is I’m back.

Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!



By , December 7, 2011 10:07 pm

Fly fishing will probably never be seen as an aerobic sport as far as the health and fitness crowd are concerned.

But, that is only because they have never been urban flyfishin’.

I can personally attest to the pulse-raising benefits of out-running a pair of junkyard Rottweillers – while not breaking your beloved 5-weight.

I can also confirm the cardio workout that occurs when one must traverse a drainage ditch, scale a couple of fences, swing from a pliable but sturdy willow branch then scramble down a 100-foot gravel embankment– all while not breaking your beloved 5-weight.

I can further attest to the sweat-inducing, full-range of motion that occurs each time you must pull yourself from a waist deep mud hole you just stepped in or from boosting yourself or your fishing buddy over eight-foot high retaining walls or lowering yourself and/or your fishin buddy down a crumbling undercut – all while not breaking your beloved 5-weight.

There is a reason virtually no fly fishin’ gear is made out of spandex or lycra.

Add to all the above, the heart-thumpin’-body-as-tense-as-a-watch-spring workout that occurs each and every time you breathlessly wait for that two-foot long Carp to finally hit the Wooly Bugger he has been trailing for the last forty-five feet and I’d say that urban fly fishin’ ought to rank right up there as an Olympic event.

It’s a least as hard as…curling.

But, I digress.

Sometimes, fly-fishing can give you a cardio workout when you ain’t even near the water.

Consider, the following conversation that occurred just a couple of weekends ago:

(Cell phone rings)

“Hey Sean, what’s up?”

“Hey Dan, what are the symptoms of snake bite?”

“Where you at?”

“Drivin’ home from West Fork. I think I may have been snake bit.”

(Pulse starting to rise)

“What happened?”

“Stepped over a rock instead of on it and felt something jab my calf. I thought I heard something scurry away but didn’t actually see a snake.”

“Any breaks in the skin?”

“One small one plus it’s pretty red and hard around the area. It hurts a lot too. I washed it off in the river and I used my bite kit right away.”

(Pulse continuing to rise.)

“You feeling nauseous or dizzy?”

“Not really. A little stressed and I have a funny taste in my mouth.”

(A couple of beads of sweat begin to form on my brow, heart rate continues to rise)

“All right. How far are you from home? Do you have any Benedryl?”

“Only about five miles now. Yeah, I took two Benedryl as soon as I got back to the car. Maybe it’s just poison oak. It really hurts though.”

“You sure your not nauseous or dizzy (Because your… driving!). Poison oak doesn’t usually hurt that bad.  How many times have we run through poison oak?”

“Yeah, I know. Maybe it was just a bug bite…”

“Or a snake bite or a scorpion sting. You say you have a funny taste in your mouth?


“Yeah. Kinda metallic-like.”

“Well, a snake bites would typically look worse than what you described and the metal taste makes me think you got stung by a scorpion instead but this is what we’re gonna do. Since you’re almost home, drive straight to the hospital and we’ll meet you there.”

“Yeah, all right. Can you call Sarah for me. She didn’t pick up and when I called her. You don’t think it’s poison oak then, huh?”

(heart rate now at about 80% calculated age-adjusted maximum)

“Doesn’t matter what I think. Let’ get it checked out by a doctor. If nothing else they can give you something for the pain and to counteract any allergic reaction you might be having.”

“Just got off the freeway. It’s probably nothing. You really think I should go to the ER?”

“Yeah, I really think you should. Be sure to tell them you suspect a snake bite even though you didn’t see a snake.”

“Yeah, it does hurt. “

 (pulse pounding though trying to keep my voice calm)

 “Hey Sean. I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. But before we hang up, you didn’t break your new 5-weight or anything when you got stung, did you?”

 I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

Epilogue: Sean did go to the ER and it was determined that he was most likely stung by a scorpion. He also picked up poison oak on his other leg. He received treatment for both, and he and I, along with our wives and his sister-in-law ended up having lunch together.  My heart rate did return to normal fairly quickly. Sean did not break his new 5-weight.

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