Category: Park Lakes

GIFT OF GAB

By , January 19, 2013 10:14 pm

Gift of Gab

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!

What A Way, To End The Day

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!

SPRING FORWARD

By , March 14, 2012 11:54 pm

Okay confession time. This is my number one biggest question of all time ”Why do we ever fall back?”. I’m Just saying, let’s just spring forward for the last time and leave time alone!

I feel it coming, my one bipolar day of 2012. Saturday I’m freaking out feeling claustrophobic, and thinking Winter is never going to end .

I’m just saying, I don’t think I’m the only person that hates the fact that it’s dark by 4pm in December.

Then all of the sudden, I wake up on Sunday and it’s light until 6:30pm. That’s when I find myself thinking about packing my fishing clothes and my 5 Weight into the back seat of my truck so that I can hit the local pond as soon as the clock strikes 5pm. 

Apparently this year the fish feel it too, the bite has flipped on and the Bass are showing

well. I even scoped a few starting to take up Real Estate.

You know what I’m talking about. That’s right you were thinking it too “BED FISHING”.

Only a few more weeks and the Bass will be so ticked at each other, they will want to destroy anything I put near their face.

If sight fishing for bedding Bass doesn’t get your heart beating just a little faster, you had better check your pulse.

It has to be my number one favorite time of the year to fish. I mean come on it’s not every day a PIG Female swims up 2 feet from where you’re standing while she is literally daring you to chuck a fly in her direction.

Now, I know someone is going to email me or leave a comment about how I’m the worst person in the world for fishing bedding Bass, and that I should join PETA and leave everything I own to my cats.

But come on people we’re Urban Bass Fishing mostly Park Lakes here. It’s not like this is the Golden Trout Wilderness or anything.

Now I’m not saying this as an excuse for anyone to go out and abuse these fish. If you catch one, get it back in the water right away. Especially if it’s a male so that he can get back to the fry that he’s most likely guarding. 

We as Fly Fisherman have a responsibility to set the example. Don’t throw anything on the ground, treat the fish with respect so that someone else can catch it, and for goodness sake mash down your barbs!

I’m just going to put this out there. If I see someone with a bucket taking Bass or someone with a treble hook and a sinker trying to snag a 5 pounder, you will get caught.

I do know the Park Rangers very well, yes I do have them on speed dial, and yes you will get one big ticket!

So get out enjoy one of the best times of the year to fish for Bass, and let’s respect this resource so that our children’s children can be blogging about it.

 

COMFORT FISHING

By , January 31, 2012 11:32 pm

Sometimes in the sport of Urban Fly Fishing, a little comfort goes a long way.

What I mean by comfort fishing is getting out to one of  your Honey Holes. A place where no matter what the conditions, you are going to catch something!

Lately the Winter Fishing Blues have got me dreaming of big bedding Largemouth Bass, although I don’t mind catching a Rainbow Trout or two as evident in my last post Timing is Everything.

 Micropterus salmoides of the Black Bass family is defintely the species closest to my Fly Fishing Heart.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I’ve been hitting the local Park Lakes in hopes of sneaking in a couple of fish before early spring.

However the fishing has been slow, and the couple of Bass that I’ve been able to get on the other end of the line are on let’s just say the “Small Side”.

So what is an Urban Bass Fly Fishing Fanatic to do?

I’ll tell you what I’m to do, head to a little stream Honey Hole in Northern Orange County that produces Green Sunfish all year long.

Okay they’re not Largemouth Bass, but they look similar and they are a ton of fun to catch.

I arrived at my Honey Hole dusting off my 3 weight and pulling out an assortment of Trout Flies.

A little size 16 Caddis with a dropper 18 Red Copper John tied on and I was off to the races. I’m talking fish, after fish, after fish!

After about an hour. I had pulled in over 40 Greenies and I decided I had all the comfort I needed.

Refreshed, I drove away already drifting off into thoughts of what the spring Bass Fishing of 2012 will have to offer.

I know the fish I caught were small, and most people want to see us catching some huge 10 pound Largemouth Bass out of Castaic Lake with Larry Kurosaki in the front of the boat.

Trust me, so would I!

But that’s just not us. We are just a couple of regular guys that love Fly Fishing, and love to catch fish no matter how big or small.

It’s just about the Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!

 

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

By , January 17, 2012 10:43 pm

In Urban fly Fishing this one statement rings so true ”Timing is Everything”.

Especially when your doing a little Urban Park Fishing for stocked Rainbow Trout.

In the Urban setting we have a lot to compete with.

First there’s the Bait Fisherman. They fish for Trout at park lakes for one reason and one reason only, to eat the fish!

Second there’s the Cormorants, those vicious swimming birds that gobble up any fish they can get their beak on.

Third there’s the Bass. I’m not so much complaining about this one. Just take a quick look at the “All tackle top 25 Largemouth Bass ever caught”. California litters the list, and the main reason is our Trout stocking program. Our bass are getting protein, and a lot of it. Which makes for faster growth rates and heavier fish across the board.

The fourth and final road block is the Trout themselves. We’re talking stocked fish here, and their diet of pellets at the hatcheries sure looks a lot more like Power Bait than it does a Caddis Dry Fly or a Prince Nymph.

However a lot of times genetics kick into high gear, and the Stockers will just as readily take a Garlic Dipped Nightcrawler as they will a Woolly Bugger.

I had one such day last Saturday, as I pulled up to one of the Local Park Lakes with Rod and Reel in hand.

I could see a load of bait fisherman stacked up on edge of the lake. Not hard to see that the  Fish and Game truck must have been there just hours ago, and the Bows were still schooled up trying to acclimate to their new environment.

I took my position carefully across from where the baiters were, and tied on a size 14 Yellow Stimulator with a dropper Red size 18 Midge, and a small Egg Pattern.

One cast and I was into a really decent sized Rainbow splashing about. I finally got it to the net, and before I had even looked up there were 5 guys surrounding me “What are you using” they asked. A Fly I answered somewhat sarcastically.  

They stared at me for a moment and then retreated back, so as not to lose their precious spot they had been in since 5 am that morning.

Second cast. Wait for it “Fish on” I shouted out with excitement, another great sized Rainbow. I let him go to the reply of  “Come on save some fish for us”.

I cast a few more times without luck. So I reeled in my set up, and decided to switch over to a size 12 Black Bead Head Woolly Bugger.

A couple of casts getting the action right , and whack a fish comes out of left field and nails it at my feet so hard the rod almost slipped out of my hand. After a little fight and a quick 16  inch measurement in the net, back to the water he went.

 By this time all of the bait fishermen had switched over to a micro jig, and one kid had even ran to the car to get his Fly Rod.

At that point I decided to call it a day. The water was getting crowded, and I could feel the glares burning holes in the back of my head.

I did make a quick stop over to the kid to check out his fly rig. He had some 10 pound test rigged up to a wet fly with a bobber at the end of the fly line.

I pulled out a couple of flies and some tippet, and showed him how to rig up a hopper/dropper. After a quick casting lesson he was off to the races.

That’s what it’s really all about, seeing the enjoyment on a kids face the first time he picks up a fly rod. I think I can genuinely say that moment was worth more than any fish I had caught that day.

Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!

 

MAN FROM U.F.V.

By , January 14, 2012 10:22 pm

As sobering as the thought is, I’m actually old enough to remember the original Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series.

I loved the intrigue, gadgetry and action of that series.

OK, let’s be honest, I mostly loved the gadgetry, but I know I wasn’t the only kid who ruined his good Sunday’s-best black pants running around setting booby traps for his siblings and scaling walls with crude, homemade spy gear while trying to act cool and sophisticated like the suave Napoleon Solo.

Of course, as I got older, James Bond movies became the must-see Saturday matinee event followed by a fondness for the Get Smart television series.

And naturally, I also developed a taste for the Mission Impossible series.

So you see, it really isn’t too hard to understand how I might have developed a passion for the heavily gadget-oriented sport of fly-fishing coupled with the espionage-like nature of exercising that passion in the most unlikely of public places.

Urban fly fishing could be considered a subtle yet sophisticated form of intelligence gathering…only, as it relates to fish rather than fiends bent on world domination, though more than once I have had to endure the conspiracy theory ranting of a bass fisherman after I released a Carp taken on a fly at an urban lake.

Instead of the men from UNCLE, we could be known as the men from UFV – Urban Fly Ventures.

 

Yeah, OK, so the roll-off-the-tongue smoothness of the acronym needs a little work.

But, in all honesty, as much as I may have wanted to aspire to the cool factor of guys like Illya Kuryakin, I seem to have been blessed more along the likes of Maxwell Smart as far as grace and savoir faire go.

I try, but genetics don’t lie.

Sure, I may show up at a park or urban fishing hole and I may look like I know what I’m doing, but there are times when the inescapable creeps through and I know I’m just a geek, more like “Q” than the graceful “007”.

 

The other day for example, I showed up at a local park to exploit the hour of free time I had while my beautiful bride attended a music rehearsal.

I grabbed my 5-weight and neck lanyard and started tying on an olive woolly bugger while making my way across the grass.

Nothing new there.

Half way across the grass though, my right foot slid and I looked down to see that I had gracefully stepped in a pile of…duck stuffing.

A quick glance to my left and then my right confirmed that no one had observed my mis-step so with a little urban version of a boot scoot boogie I continued on.

The sun was already setting and the temp was dropping fast so I hit this little lake hard. The only other fisher-folk were a couple who both were flinging those life-size soft bait blue-gill imitations halfway across the water and then hauling them back with high speed intensity.

I smiled to myself and in my best British accent muttered a paraphrase from Sun Tzu’s Art of War about knowing the enemy being the key to success.

I made my first cast… and hung up on the same tree branch that has eaten many of my flies over the years.

Another quick glance to the left and then to the right confirmed that I was still not being observed so with a quick tug I snapped the two-pound test tippet as easily as JB dispatching a villain.

After tying on yet another olive wooly bugger and shifting my casting position slightly to the right. I cast again…and again…and again.

Finally, with only about fifteen minutes to go before I had to go pick up my spouse (I would have said 007 minutes but you wouldn’t have believed me) I saw my line stop ever so slightly during the retrieve and felt the tiniest of resistance.

I set the hook and, sure enough, I had tied on to a fish.

My line peeled off my reel and zigged and zagged across the water. I realized that what ever it was, it seemed rather large and definitely feisty. My first impression was that I had hooked onto a Carp. This was confirmed when a large bronze back appeared about ten yards out a few moments later.

I played the fish as gently as I could, all the while wishing I had used heavier tippet. It seemed like I was getting the upper hand. I wished I hadn’t left my net in the car. I allowed myself the luxury of looking for a suitable landing spot.

And then, with one quick lunge, it was gone.

Fish gone. Fly gone. Line hanging limp and useless at the end of my rod.

 

I stood there and stared.

And then, whatever illusions of sophistication and coolness I may have had went right out the window. Without the slightest glance to the left or to the right, I spontaneously broke out in the “unhappy fisherman” dance, which, unfortunately resembles a cross between the gyrations of a street corner sign-twirler, the jerky motions of a pan-handling meth-addict and the overly dramatic arm motions of a televangeist all rolled into one. Throw in a barrage of a Tourette’s Syndrome-like nonsensical words and …well, you get the picture.

Unfortunately, so did the couple walking down the meandering pathway a few yards away – all on their cell phone cameras.

Curse you, modern technology and YouTube.

You know, I might have to rethink my stand on cool spy-wear gadgetry.

But in any event…I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.

CLEARLY THANKFUL

By , December 2, 2011 9:10 pm

I like Thanksgiving. I like everything that it represents and I like the “vibe” about the day.

I even like the crazy, post-Thanksgiving “pizza” my wife makes using all the left-overs.

Thanksgiving day is, in my mind, still the official kickoff of the Holiday season despite what the Big Box retailers try to pass off on us as they set up their fake Christmas trees in the same aisle as the halloween decorations… in mid-September.

Weather-wise, Thanksgiving is all over the map in SoCal. It has been cold, and rainy, cloudy and gray, and Sunny and mild from year-to-year.

A couple of years ago, my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I were stymied by thin, nearly invisible sheets of ice on one of the mountain streams we tried fish on Thanksgiving morning. This year, we fished in tee-shirts as we snuck away from the home hearths early Thursday morning before the rest of our respective households rolled out of bed.

We only had a very narrow time slot in which to fish so we planned on hitting one local park where Cal Fish & Game was supposed to have planted Trout a few days prior. When we got there, the place was nearly empty. As we paused at the top of a small rise to finish tying on our chosen flies, we both noticed that the water was a sickly, very artificial, blue-green color.

That’s usually not a good sign for productive fishing.

Now, lots of urban lakes and ponds get the dye treatment to help cut down on algal growth and aquatic weeds especially when the days have been sunny and the temps mild to warm. However, over the years, we have noticed a pattern associate with these dye treatments and developed an unofficial color scale to determine our potential success rate.

The color of the water we were looking at ranked about a “2”.

Nevertheless, we headed down the slope, ducked a couple of errant Frisbees from an early morning Frisbee Golf foursome who clearly weren’t warmed up yet and started fishing.

Our efforts were rewarded without so much as a half-hearted nibble.

Sean engaged an early morning walker/fellow angler in conversation and learned that the lake probably had not been planted and that nobody had caught much of anything over the last few days, which explained why the gentleman was walking and not fishing.

That was enough for us to switch to plan “B” and within a few minutes we were on our way to another local park about fifteen minutes away.

In contrast to the last lake, the water at our next stop was crystal clear. So much so that is was like looking through glass. With our polarized sunglasses, we could see every detail of the bottom and, unfortunately every Bass within twenty-five feet of the shoreline.

As always, we fished hard, crept along as stealthily as possible, switched tactics and flies frequently and covered the entire lake.

The long and short of it though was that every Bass we could see, could also see us. Urban fish don’t get to be the size these Bass were by being stupid. Sean did manage to get one fish to follow a wooly bugger twitched over a weed bed but the subsequent strike was half-hearted at best and didn’t result in a hook set. I too could only muster one weak lunge at my streamer but it too did not result in a solid bite. We were in essentially the same dilemma that Flats fisherman face all the time.

Now, a lot of guys would just shake their head and consider the day a failure. Despite the disappointing fishing, I felt like we had been given a unique Thanksgiving Day gift. You see, there were only two other anglers at this park and one of them was a stationary bait fisherman. Sean and I got to cover the entire perimeter of the lake and, due to the unusual clarity of the water, we got to map out every inch of underwater structure to about twenty-five feet out. We now have the knowledge of where there are weed bed edges, where there are rock piles, where there are trenches and potholes, where somebody tossed in an old Christmas tree and where aerator pipelines run. We also got to map out the spawning beds from earlier in the year and we got to note underwater corridors that the spooked Bass were using to flee when our shadows fell on the water. Come the Spring we will know exactly where to concentrate our efforts.

Besides that, we were outside, in shirtsleeves, in late November, enjoying the fresh air, the quietness, the beauty of the changing leaves, the chance to fish and the opportunity to learn a whole lot of useful things for another day. I even snagged a soft plastic salamander imitation once hidden amongst the thick lily pads but now clearly visible.

It was a morning to be thankful indeed.

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

A LIGHT (BULB) IN THE DARK

By , November 16, 2011 6:25 am

The dictionary defines a paradox as a statement or concept that contains conflicting or apparently conflicting ideas.

Now, my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I have certainly recognized, and maybe even reveled just a little bit, in the fact that urban fly fishing qualifies as a paradox.

We’re OK with the common perception that fly rods somehow just don’t work in urban waters.

We have grown accustomed to the odd looks, strange questions, or the guy who walks up to us and plants himself next to us so he can give us long-winded explanations as to why flyfishing doesn’t work – even as we are pulling in Bass and Bluegill.

We’ve gotten used to the packs of kids running up to us and staring, the dogs on retractable leashes barking and snapping at our flies, the stroller joggers observing our back casts and yelling in that protective parent way to warn us that they are behind us with a child.

We already plan on giving away wooly buggers and short pieces of tippet in a somewhat self-serving act of charity that buys us a little peace and quiet and we are always on the watch for nefarious characters in the same way that our Alaskan wilderness counterparts always keep an eye out for grizzlies.

Yet, given the realities of our work schedules, our finances, our time commitments and the alternative, i.e., flyfishing only very occasionally, we have opted to adjust to the circumstances and be urban flyfishers.

To that end, we are always looking for new ways to engage, enjoy or enhance our chosen obsession.

Sometimes, paradoxically, new ways even find us.

Consider what happened to my fishin’ buddy, Sean, recently:

A few months ago Sean made an impromptu decision to stop at a small urban pond on the way home from the office to blow off a considerable amount of steam acquired after a particularly grueling business meeting.

As he stood there, in the dark, muttering and grumbling to himself and hurling a Krystal Bugger into the inky blackness, a couple of things happened:

One, his blood pressure began to drop back into the normal range;

Two, he began to catch fish and;

Three, he experienced a heightened sense of awareness that he had not felt before while flyfishing.

Now, I’m not talking about a sense of awareness like, “Oh crap, I’m standing by myself dressed in slacks, shirt and tie in the dark in a (hopefully) deserted urban park griping out loud to myself and waving a very expensive stick in the air… and no one knows where I am.”

No, I’m talking about a “gettin’ into the zone”—that heightened sense of awareness regarding the feel of the unfurling fly line on the back cast, the heightened sense of feeling that same line slide through the guides in a smooth forward cast and even the heightened sense of hearing for the subtle plop of the fly as it lands in the dark forty feet out in front.

Yeah, in that impromptu moment, Sean discovered flyfishing at night.

And therein lies part of the paradox.

Flyfishing is all about catching fish, for sure, but it is also an art form and as such, there are elements to it that one might consider “active meditation”.

I’m not going all mystical or anything. But almost every flyfisherman I know takes a subtle pleasure watching his or her line form a perfect tight loop and then lay out on the surface of the water in a perfect, straight line.

Almost every flyfisherman I know delights in watching for that subtle dimple in the surface as a trout or a wary urban carp quietly sips the carefully presented fly.

And almost every flyfisherman I know breaks into a smile when droplets of water shower in every direction and sparkle in the sun like a million diamonds as the line tightens from a solid hook set.

So, what happens when darkness seems to render all those simple pleasures null?

Well, paradoxically, new types of awareness kick in and new pleasures with our obsession reveal themselves.

Flyfishing in the dark becomes more about feel and movement. It becomes more about perfecting skills that may have grown a little sloppy and it becomes more about appreciating familiar realms in a whole new way.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I made arrangements to hit a local park where he has had pretty good luck catching Carp and Bass after dark since his epiphany about night fly fishing.

We drove to the target spot and parked under a street light about two hundred yards away from the water’s edge.

The air was mild and still so we only donned light windbreakers and the bare minimum amount of gear. I opted for a lanyard rig and Sean grabbed a small waist pack. We clipped on our nets and we both put on LED headlamps over our TU ball caps.

I choose a five-weight while Sean chose an eight-weight rig. He was clearly more optimistic then me but, then again, he had caught one of the largest Carp he had ever taken on a fly in this park after dark.

We tied on rather large, flashy buggers in the cone of light thrown off by the streetlight then headed across the wide expanse of grass.

My first impression, as we stood there waiting for our eyes to adjust to the darkness, was with the peacefulness of the situation. During the day, this park is loaded with runners and bicycle riders and kids on skateboards and an endless variety of dogs and dog-walkers. Now it was still and calm and a slight ground fog rose from the damp grass.

The water was glassy smooth and reflected the three-quarter moon, the treetops and the lights from nearby businesses. Near the edges, where the water was shallow, little wisps of mist also rose up and blurred the normally sharp concrete lip of the pond. We stood near the edge for a long time waiting and listening. Occasionally we would hear a faint splash but mostly we heard snippets of lively conversation and distant laughter bouncing out of the row of restaurants across the normally busy street.

When we decided to move. It was slowly and deliberately, almost reluctantly, as if we each did not want to break the spell of the moment. Our walking roused a mixed flock of sleeping ducks and mud hens who protested with soft quacks and grunts and moved en masse just far enough away for us to no longer be considered a threat according to some streetwise avian formula we couldn’t figure out.

Then in our usual fashion, we split to the left and the right and began fishing.

My first casts were pathetic, limp tangles of fly line. I kept misjudging the timing of my back cast.

Was I really that dependant on sight for my casting technique?

I shook my head and muttered to myself and was thankful that Sean couldn’t see the mess I had created. Then I took a deep breath and regrouped.

The words of a pilot friend of mine came to mind: “You can always count on your basic training, if you’ve been properly trained in the basics.”

So, I took a deep breath, pulled a couple of yards of line off my reel, gathered it in loose coils with my off hand, positioned my grip on the cork the way I had been taught and actually closed my eyes.

This time, when I made my cast, I could feel the rod load on the back cast, I could actually hear the line move through the air with a soft, smooth whooshing sound, I could tell that the forward cast was smooth and straight and I heard the fly land with a clean plopping sound just like an Olympic high-diver making a clean splash on a 9.9 dive.

I was in the “zone”.

With each subsequent cast, I worried less and less about technique and began to enjoy the moment more and more.

I marveled at the way the ripples of my casts made the reflection of the moon shimmer and sparkle on the water. I delighted in the peace and freedom of being alone in the moment even though we were in reality only a few hundred yards away from thousands of people. I took pleasure in “hearing” my line form a perfect tight loop on each cast. I smiled at the millions of starry diamonds that formed in the moonlight when I made a hard hook set and the droplets of water showered away from my line in every direction. And I laughed out loud each time I saw Sean’s headlamp snap on from across the pond because I knew he was playfully taunting me with a visual cue that he had landed yet another fish

And that’s when it occurred to me, in one of those great paradoxical moments, that I had to step into the dark before I could see the light as to why I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.

 

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