Fall (Autumn) call it what you may, it remains my arch nemesis. What kind of season is this? We have to fall back on time, and lose so many precious daylight hours. But the worst is the wind (let’s just say that I would never be able to survive in Chicago). I despise it, loath it, and I hate it with a passion!
Not wanting to sucumb to my internal instics and put all of my fishing gear away for the season. I headed out this last Saturday morning to get in a little Urban Park Fly Fishing. The whole drive to the park I just kept thinking to myself that I cannot stand the wind and trying to convince myself to head back home and hit the snooze button for a few hours. But, I am a Fly Fisherman at the deepest portions of my heart and the urge to fish won over.
Let’s just say that I’m glad that I listened to that little Fishing Voice in my head.
The Green Sunfish showed up in full action, and I got to hone a new Fly Fishing Skill. The Sunfish get weary about this time of year, and the littlest movement or shadow of any kind spooks the living daylights out of them. So you have to fish the hole under the concrete bank that they hide in, and then set that hook as soon as they poke their head out for a peak.
I tied on my “Fenner Bugger Special” a small heavily weighted Woolly Bugger that works a lot like a bass jig to lure my quarry out of hiding, and lure them out I did. Within about 2 hours I had caught more than I could count, and lost even more than that.
So, I guess the moral of the story is for me to stop being such a baby about the wind, and get out there to do some fall fishin. But, I’m just sayin the wind sucks.
I’m so glad I grew up, and have spent so much of my life in Southern California. Just a couple of months of this crappy weather and it’s back to good ol’ Sunny So Cal.
My fishing buddy Dan and I recently set aside a saturday to explore Laguna Niguel Lake. I’m not sure why neither of us had ever made it there before. The temptation to explore was overwhelming and off we went.
We arrived Early at about 8:00 a.m. The clouds were thick and the lake was flat. There were only a few fishermen out on the lake and I had the feeling that it would be a good day.
We arrived with the full intention of Shore Fishing, but when we caught a view of the sign reading “All day boat rental $25″ plans changed. Now if you have been following our recent adventures, then you have probably realized that we are for lack of a better word “cheap”. We will usually avoid paying any kind of parking, entrance, other fees. Come to think of it, that’s probably why we had never been to this lake before.
But sometimes things change, and it was like the little boat tied up to the dock was calling our name. So the wallets opened and we loaded our stuff into the watercraft, ready to take on whatever this piece of water would throw our way.
I had heard many stories over the years that this Lake is a great Largemouth Bass Fishery, and was hoping to get at least one nice bucketmouth on the other end of the line. Well, the fish had other plans, and the day started out with just 2-3 bites and 0 fish landed. I was starting to smell a skunk.
As the temperature warmed, we made our way over to a cove on a shallow portion of the lake. We started to see a few Sunfish moving around and activity on the surface. That meant it was time for the Hopper/Dropper rig.
We made our way along the edge of the weed line, and all of the sudden my fly just disappeared. I set the hook and a fish was on the line. I pulled it out of the water to find a large Bluegill has smacked my Hopper and in all of the commotion a smaller one had taken the Dropper. This was my first double, and with closer inspection I realized the Bluegill I caught was a little monster.
In California the Sunfish tend to be stunted due to overpopulation, and catching a Bluegill this size doesn’t happen very often.
After that catch the Bluegill came out fighting, and we started landing fish on every cast. They were small, but when the Bass aren’t biting it makes for a great time.
As the sun rose to it’s peak and the hottest portion of the day had arrived. We decided to call it quites, and away we went. It was a great experience. It was my first time fly fishing from a boat, and it was extremely rewarding.
I’m so glad that we decided to rent that boat!
There is often a very fine line between what something is called and what it actually is.
We call ourselves “urban” fly fishermen, for example, but that moniker is highly flexible and probably denotes a mindset rather than one hundred percent reality. The truth of the matter is that both Sean and I will readily explore a likely looking fishery whether it be urban, suburban, rural, wilderness, freshwater, saltwater or even perhaps runoff.
To be an “urban” fly fisherperson is more about opportunity than image.
Not that we are without a code of conduct. We won’t steal, trespass on private property or lie about what we caught – life is too short for that stuff and at the end of the day we will have to answer to a Higher Power and the Ultimate Fisher of Men.
That’s not to say we aren’t having a blast along the way though.
Case in point: This past week my beautiful bride and I found ourselves in the lower end of Connecticut in honor of my nephew’s high school graduation.
If you know anything at all about the geography of lower Connecticut, you know that it is a convoluted, ragged, hodge podge of coastline, rivers, inlets, streams, ponds and islands all covered in intense, temperate-climate greenery that boggles the mind of a SoCal native more used to landscapes composed of subtle shades of brown and yellow (and concrete and garish multi-hued graffiti). Water is virtually everywhere and much of that water is filled with fish. In other words, I got off the plane and walked into a fishing paradise.
And, if you know anything about me from following this blog you might recall that I vowed after the Hawaii Trip that I would not travel to a fishing paradise ever again without some kind of fly rig stashed in the luggage.
So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that since Hawaii I have spent a considerable amount of time researching and planning and modifying and practicing and I did indeed have a little trick up my sleeve which I planned on using in that extremely narrow window of opportunity between family events, pre-arranged side trips and the plane ride home.
My secret weapon was/is a carefully modified collapsible PenRod Extreme fishing rod with a matching fly reel and 00-weight Sage floating line.
Google PenRod Extreme and you’ll get a better idea of what I’m talking about. In its original format the tip top of this little rod is too small in diameter to handle even 00 weight fly line so with a gulp and a decisive snip of the side cutters, I cut off the end and replaced it with a suitable fly rod tip top that I picked up at Bob Marriotts.
The disadvantage to this was that it slightly shortened the end section, voided the warranty in a heartbeat and no longer allowed the protective “pen cap” cover to fit properly. Undaunted, I modified an old plastic tackle pack to carry both rod and reel and a few basics and thus created an instant travel kit which easily fit into my luggage.
So naturally it wasn’t very long after making the cross country flight, then navigating the twisting, turning , horse-carriage width roads leading to my sister’s new house ‘til I convinced her that we needed to pick up some supplies from Trader Joe’s… which just happens to be conveniently located next to an Orvis store.
Now as much as I like TJ’s mango salsa and blue corn tortilla chips, I like new flies even better and the guys at the Orvis store were only too happy to oblige. However, lest you think them as purely mercenary, let it go on the record that they were quite helpful in dispensing vital local fly fishing info (one of the sales reps was president of the local TU chapter) as well as assisting me with a selection of weighted nymphs suitable for the local rivers.
When we returned from our little “supply run”, I dutifully went online to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and purchased a three-day license. Then armed with the info from the Orvis boys, I google-mapped the region, looking for promising target sites and plotted my strategy. I even printed out the appropriate maps and a satellite view of the area…hmmm, maybe I am more urban than I thought.
In any event and despite all my high-tech prep the one thing I failed to take into account was the weather. Sure enough, just as I was set to go out the door a fearsome thunderstorm broke out.
I hate thunderstorms. I’ve seen what lightning does to fishing rods and the folks on the other end of them.
Optimistically, I decided to drive over to the river anyway.
The rain fell harder, the thunder clapped louder, the river turned browner, my prospects looked slimmer…
An hour passed and all I had succeeded in doing was muddying up the rental car and soaking myself.
With family events pressing ever closer, I called it and headed back to my sister’s house.
You already know where this is headed.
One block from her house, the clouds broke, the rain stopped and the sun started to show. I pulled into her driveway and there was even a slight breeze blowing.
I put the car in park and thumped my head on the steering wheel. As I glanced in the rearview mirror to assess the size of the horizontal forehead bruise I had just given myself, I instead noticed that the breeze was actually pushing the thick scum layer toward the opposite end of the little pond (the little private pond)across the street from her house.
Dashing up the stairs and into the family room, I quickly ascertained that she did, in fact, have property rights and access rights to that same pond. Her “yes” still hung in the air in the time it took me to run back down the stairs, grab my gear and high-tail it across the road. I’m sure my entire family thought I lost my mind.
I quickly tied on one of my new nymphs and cast out only about twenty feet. Bam! Fish on. I landed a Bluegill. I cast again. Bam, another Bluegill. For the next hour, every cast brought in a Bluegill save one. The only fish I did not land was a small but respectable Bass that shook my fly in that classic way that Bass tail walk and shake their heads.
Like I said…a fishing paradise. And my little experimental, collapsible rod? It performed admirably.
Am I disappointed that I never made it to the river? Nah, my niece graduates in a couple of years and we’ll be back.
Remember, it’s all about opportunity.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
Well, it finally happened.
My beautiful bride caught her first fish on a fly.
Life is good.
We hadn’t planned on going flyfishing. In fact, we were just coming off a rather difficult week of appointments, surgeries and hard-to-manage cases and were both of the mind set that Sunday afternoon ought to be a little more on the mellow side.
However, as we were driving home from church, I casually mentioned that it was such a beautiful day that we ought not waste it by being indoors. I also casually mentioned that Craig Regional Park was a very peaceful and relaxing place with lots of trees and open spaces…and a wonderful little lake and stream.
I also casually mentioned that the new Sonic drive-in restaurant was nearby.
Ka-ching – done deal.
So, we ended up in Craig park and, wouldn’t you know it, I just happened to have not one but two fly rods in the back of the car.
The wind was a little too stiff for the novice fly-caster so we headed over to the little creek which is flanked by trees and is more protected.
Now, I’m only mildly bragging but the little Mrs. picked up the fundamentals of roll casting like the proverbial duck on a June bug. Before too long I moved several dozen yards upstream and essentially left her to her own devices so that she could develop her technique.
Before long, she yelped and, sure enough, there was the tell-tale twitching of the rod tip signaling a fish on. After a short battle, she landed the little Bluegill and lipped it like she’d done it a hundred times.
When I asked her how she knew to do that she said she learned it from all of the pictures on our web site.
Oh! I guess somebody is paying attention.
Anyway, she went on to land two more little ‘gills before things started to slow done.
We moved up and down the bank but could not find the fish anymore.
I fished a little more but she decided to call it a day and laid down in the grass to mull over her success and enjoy the long, warm rays of the afternoon sun.
Now, I am not exaggerating when I say there was the picture of heaven right there in that park that day; My bride, stretched out on the fresh green grass of Spring alongside a quaint babbling creek, highlighted by the golden rays of the sun, with her fly rod next to her…
…Dang, life is good.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
If nothing else, fishing is about patterns. We obsessed anglers spend serious amounts of time seeking to figure out movement patterns, feeding patterns, breeding patterns and behavioral patterns. We watch and try to understand weather patterns, and lunar patterns and tidal patterns. We pour over articles on hydrological flow patterns and sedimentation patterns. We follow trends in equipment and materials to better grasp those patterns. We study solar patterns and wind patterns and insect life cycle patterns.
If we are smart, we establish a pattern of making notes and keeping records and filing away bits and pieces of information in the recesses of our minds. And if we are careful, we acquire a pattern of consistently catching fish. Otherwise, we just establish a pattern for wasting time while beating the surface of water.
In this regard, we are very much like any other predator in pursuit of prey: the Mountain Lion waiting silently along the well-worn deer trail leading down to the stream, the spider sitting in the middle of its web carefully placed to intersect hapless moths as they shuttle along well established flight paths just beneath the canopy, the red-tailed hawk circling the open areas between buildings where they have the best opportunity to catch the field mice scurrying along their trails from burrow to burrow.
Likewise, it is no secret that in the urban fishing environment, the objects of our obsession living in these heavily pressured lakes and streams quickly learn our patterns and respond accordingly. Normally voracious Bass will seriously slow down their normal eating habits and watch hundreds of dollars worth of lures pass by every weekend.
Carp at many SoCal urban lakes will practically go into some Zen-like state and sit tight all day Saturday and Sunday only to cautiously go active again on Monday.
The long and short of it is we are all trying to figure out the other guy’s patterns so we can claim a pattern of success.
Now of all the patterns I try to monitor, the one pattern I rather dislike is the annual change from Daylight Savings Time. Perhaps if I had a herd of cows that I needed to milk at some sick hour of the morning and needed the light or if my field plow didn’t have headlights I might feel differently but this time change nonsense really bugs me. It disrupts my pattern…or as one of our formerly hippie clients likes to say, “it harshes my mellow”.
Apparently, I am not alone in this irritation.
This year the time change falls on Halloween. I haven’t looked far enough ahead to know if that is how it is going to stay or if it is going to move around yet again but for now it falls on Halloween. Not that I’m big into the Halloween thing but our church hosts an alternative event to trick or treating every year so I will be busy most of Saturday afternoon and evening.
Anyway, my fishin’ buddy, Sean must have felt the same sense of annoyance with the time change as he text messaged yesterday to ask if I wanted to get in one last late afternoon of fishing before the time change. The annoyance part was communicated with the closing comment, “stinkin’ time change”.
Since both of our lovely brides were going to be attending an all girl event with singing and squealing and hugging and such, I was only too happy to respond with a yes.
We headed over to Cerritos Regional Park where we knew we wouldn’t get chased out at sunset and where the path around the lake is actually lighted – in case the fishing turned out to be really good and we ended up staying past dark.
The sun was sinking fast so we wasted no time in getting on the water. We were rewarded with immediate hits by some young-of-the-year bass and some bluegill. We quickly figured out that the most productive pattern was to cast parallel to the edge of the pond and strip in line fairly quickly.
I headed off to the left and Sean headed to the right. I had a few more hits but Sean seemed to have found the pocket and got several hits on his dropper nymph.
As it got darker, we both switched over to krystal buggers. Sean again found the ball of fish and pulled in quite a few decent panfish. Again, he figured out that the pattern for these particular fish was for them to hit hard and then move, en masse, along the bank. He was able to follow them as they moved and scored many more strikes.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of fly fishin’ in the dark – I can barely see the hook eye as it is, and my pattern has been to pack up and go home when I can’t see my hands anymore but this was a great way to send off the last remaining afternoon of DST. We both concluded that having a lighted park relatively close to home was the perfect remedy to the “dark by 5:00 blues”.
We decided on the spot that we will make it our pattern to return to this little park during the short days of winter and count our blessings that we don’t have to hang up the fly rods until the Spring thaw.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
The legend of El Dorado is centuries old. It is a tantalizing tale of unimaginable riches and fame. It is a tale that has cost men their lives and fortunes. It is a tale that still drives men into the darkest reaches of the remotest stretches of the world. It is the tale of a quest… and in that regard, it is a lot like fishing.
Just like the famous and infamous explorers seeking the treasure of El Dorado, my buddy, Sean, and I spend an inordinate amount of time pouring over maps and charts, haunting the musty aisles of used bookstores, investigating leads and tips and researching equipment to help us in our quest.
Sometimes the payoff is better fishing than we imagined and the contentment of a hard fought victory is great, other times it is frustration, lost flies and bruised egos.
This past weekend we got to experience both as we headed over to El Dorado Park in Long Beach.
El Dorado Park sits on the east side of Long Beach, nestled between the 605 freeway and the San Gabriel River. It is an attractive park with lots of trees, a nature center and four interconnected lakes with a variety of fish and terrain to suit most every fishing style. The lay out of the park belays the fact that is surrounded by tens of thousand of people and homes and is a stone’s throw from a major shopping center. For the urban angler craving a little adventure and some possible excitement, it IS an El Dorado of sorts.
We hit the park about mid afternoon, just ahead of a cold front sliding down the West coast and bringing the promise of cooler temps and possibly real rain for the first time in months. Truth be told, there was a bit of a nip in the air, which almost made long sleeves inviting, almost.
The small horseshoe shaped lake near the entrance of the park is known Carp and Bass habitat so we opted to start there. Immediately, Sean began pulling in small panfish on his tried and true hopper-dropper rig.
I on the other hand, kept hanging up in the weeds and submerged brush.
We worked our way around the shoreline with Sean continuing to score hits on his dropper while I continued to foul up and break off flies.
About halfway around, we both started getting light hits on the dropper flies. I kept losing them but Sean managed to pull in a couple of Crappie – his first on the fly. Needless to say, he felt like he had found the elusive treasure for this day’s particular quest.
I know one of the nicknames for Crappie is “papermouth”, now I know why. They took the fly with barely a ripple or tug and they were lost with anything more than a gentle set.
As we walked further around the lake, I continued to experience hang-ups and fouled lines and a myriad of trifling problems that all add up to a frustrating and non-productive day. Just about the time I seriously considered calling it quits, the lowering sun burst out from behind a band of clouds and washed the lake and trees in a golden-orange hue that was, quite simply, stunningly beautiful.
Now, I know that angling is all about catching fish. But just being there, at that moment and seeing the incredible, fleeting beauty of that lake and those trees awash in the rays of the setting sun was like looking upon a glimmering city of gold — like gazing upon the mythical El Dorado.
And as with many quests for riches and glory, while I did not capture the intended prize, I did walk away a richer man for the effort.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
My wife had to put in a little over time at work yesterday early in the morning, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to check out a few new Urban Park Lakes down by her work in Santa Ana. We dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:00, then I dropped her off at her office and I was on my way. I ended up scoping out two new parks that we will be adding to our Locations page shortly. I could not believe how much fog there was, I could barely see driving and the sun didn’t end up coming out until about 12:00. The fishing was good, and I ended up catching about 15 Bass. This Bass that I caught was one of the most beat up fish that I have ever seen.
The Panfish were also out, and the Bluegills were decent sized. All in all. it was a great morning of fishing and I can’t wait to get out and explore a few more of the Urban Park Lakes that I have on my list.
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