Man, oh man, oh man, what a month.
Social obligations have stacked up one after the other like jetliners flying into LAX on a Friday night: Mother’s day, birthdays, anniversaries, speaking engagements, business-related trips and professional continuing education courses… all have merged into a perfect storm to keep me away from my fly rod.
Not that the celebrations of life are less important than fishing. In fact, if anything, this month has clearly demonstrated the width and breadth and depth of my blessings. Still in those reflective moments between and betwixt the hustle and bustle — while speeding past one of my favorite urban lakes or flying over the San Bernardino mountains on approach to John Wayne airport or quickly flipping through the stack of fishing magazines piled up on the counter – well, then is when I am most acutely aware that it has been a good month for the social graces and strengthening family bonds but a lousy month for fishing.
Mind you, there have been plenty of enticements. There have been tournaments and classes and competitions galore. Everybody seems to be sponsoring some sort of something or other with valuable prizes and untold amounts of prestige available for the taking – all for a nominal entry fee, of course. And there have been the phone calls and offers from fishin’ buddies but alas, it just didn’t happen. The fly rod sat untouched…or rather, unused. I’ve carted it around in the back of the car hoping to squeeze in a half hour or so here and there. I’ve washed the line and prepped it for the season. I’ve changed the leader and restocked my fly boxes – typically in the deep hours of night but I just haven’t fished.
One bright spot did occur last weekend when my wife and I made a quick overnighter to Big Bear. Over a relatively laid back cup of morning coffee the love of my life actually suggested we go fishing.
Once I picked myself up off the floor, we readied up and soon were at the lake with rods in hand. Naturally, since it was our only free day up there, the weather was less than cooperative and the wind howled across the water strong enough to form whitecaps.
Now, my bride has gone out with me on about half a dozen ventures and has yet to land a fish. She has hooked up on a fish, played a fish and had a fish break off just feet from the shore but she has yet to actually land a fish so, needless to say, I too really wanted her to catch a fish.
So the fly rods went back into the car and out came the spinning rods.
We also opted to head over to Grout Bay which is more sheltered and therefore less windy.
When we arrived at Grout Bay the water indeed lacked the white caps seen on the rest of the lake but it still rippled and splashed and roiled. Carp were everywhere and they were…busy.
It didn’t look good for fishing but then I glanced over at my wife and she had the “Look”. You know what I’m talking about. The fixed gaze, the shaking hands, the raised pitch in the voice… She beat me down to the water.
We fished hard for about an hour and a half but, alas, some things trump even food (if you know what I mean) and we could not entice a strike.
By the time we decided to call it quits for the day we had tossed a whole lot of hardware and cleared a whole lot of weeds from our rigs but had not landed a fish. Still, we had spent a very pleasant morning in a very pleasant place doing something I already love and something I am happy to say my wife is growing to love.
Man, Oh man, oh man. What a month.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
A couple of days before my fishin’ buddy, Sean and his bride were set to go on a missions trip to Indonesia, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to squeeze in an afternoon of fly rodding for Carp at Craig Park.
Naturally, I asked him how soon he could get to my house.
On the way over to Fullerton, he regaled me with tales of the massive, hard-hitting, head-shaking fish he had battled just days before. The more he talked, the higher the probability rose that I might have actually broken a couple of traffic laws – hypothetically speaking.
Anyway, when we arrived at the park, the attendant at the entrance gate, upon spotting our rods in the back seat, eagerly informed us that some 480 pounds of catfish had been planted earlier in the week and that he had witnessed several anglers catching decent amounts of fish.
We thanked him for the info, paid the parking fee, drove down to the lake and began fishing hard with our eight-weights in anticipation of the ensuing man vs. fish battles that lie ahead.
Forty minutes later we were still fishing hard but had not managed to entice a single bite.
We each ran through several colors of wooly buggers, a couple of crawdad patterns and a few leech imitations yet we both remained fishless.
Sean, worried that I might be growing suspicious of his earlier stories, suggested…well, quite a few things that, while imaginative, proved ultimately fruitless and thus, fishless.
Finally, after an hour and a half of some serious skunking, we opted to switch out gear to the shorter, 5-weights we normally use up in the San Gabriels and attack the small stream that runs off the west end of the lake.
I switched over to a 8x tippet and a size 22 nymph and we began working the stream, determined to make the most of an incredibly beautiful afternoon.
Sean almost immediately locked into a small pool that held a surprising number of small Bluegill.
I also began to pull in tiny little ‘Gills as we worked the little rivulet. After the frustrations of no fish, even these little guys were enough to change the mood and lighten the spirits.
Sure, I lost a few too many flies to the overhanging branches and sure bait-sized bluegills were not quite the same as junk-food gorged urban carp but the weather, the darting hummingbirds, the songbirds and the fact that we were catching fish all came together to make it a great way to send my buddy off on his trip to the other side of the world.
In fact, it was such a pleasant little urban fly venture that I thought about it for most of the rest of the week…that is until my other fishin’ buddy, Ray texted me with a picture from his day at Santa Ana River Lakes.
Ray. You gotta watch that guy.
Turns out that he hooked onto a 23 Lb. 8 oz. trout and was now in the running for the monthly thousand-dollar prize money for the biggest fish caught at the lake.
Also turns out that he was using his skanky, little back-up pole with three-pound test on it.
However, unlike Sean, Ray’s got the pictures to prove it. Check him out at the SARL.com website. Ray’s the guy with a smile as blinding as his shaved head. Like I said, you gotta watch that guy. Sometimes I think God has a great sense of humor.
I love this addiction called urban fly-fishin’
Alright, go ahead and laugh but when I was a kid one of my favorite TV shows was the secret agent satire “Get Smart” starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.
Now, what I probably really recall were the endlessly syndicated re-runs which aired about the time I was old enough to start understanding the point of the jokes and running gags that peppered the series but in any event, I can still remember abandoning the math homework and racing to the living room whenever I heard that distinctive “da dum da da…da” theme song.
Admittedly, Agent 86 (aka Maxwell Smart) was not on par with the suave, sophisticated James Bond of the big screen and his gadgets never worked the way the ones Q made but he was definitely more accessible via broadcast television and he did manage to foil the evil plans of the bad guys and win the affections of the stunning agent 99 in the end.
Besides, Max was definitely more in keeping with what might be attained by an awkward kid who lacked the fluid grace and animal charm of Agent 007 but who still had aspirations of saving the world and getting the girl.
Whatever the case, some forty years later, I will still catch myself uttering one or another of the trademark phrases from the show… much to the embarrassment of my bride and the befuddlement of anyone under thirty years of age to whom I happen to be speaking.
This past week, for example, had me muttering the phrase, “Missed it by that much” — one of Maxwell Smart’s pat exclamations, rather frequently.
On Saturday, My fishin’ buddies Sean & Ray and I took some folks down to the beach for some saltwater casting. Long story short, the action was slow. When I did finally manage to hook onto a fish it turned out to be a halibut – but it was a short one – so back it went. Missed it by that much.
On Sunday, my wife and I had to make an unscheduled maintenance trip up to the getaway house in Big Bear to address damage left in the wake of several winter storms.
As we pulled into the driveway late in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset, our neighbor and his daughter came strolling across the street with a stringer full of fat Rainbows, none smaller than two pounds. Turns out he and his little girl had just gotten home a few minutes before us after a smokin’ hot bite suddenly turned off. Missed it by that much.
On Monday, after a full day of hard labor we snuck off for a couple of hours of fishing at the lake but once we got set up and ready to roll, the wind kicked up and the bite turned off again. Missed it by that much.
On Tuesday, the weather took an even bigger turn for the worse so instead of a morning of fishin’, we high-tailed it off the mountain, arriving at the lower elevations just as the first flakes of a mid-Spring storm began to fall back at the cabin. Missed it by that much.
On Wednesday, I got a call from my Mom. My Dad had undergone a series of tests and while the doctors were concerned, he was gonna be alright… Whew, missed it by that much.
Someone once told me that baseball’s great “Sultan of Swat”, Babe Ruth, actually had a record number of strikeouts as well as his record number of home runs yet he is remembered for the later rather than the former. Both records required, however, that he swing away with all that was in him. The difference between fame and failure for him was only a matter of “missing it (or not) by that much”.
So it was that the events of the week got me to thinking and I resolved to keep gettin’ out there as much as possible and keep fishin’ whenever I can and keep lookin’ for those moments that take my breath away wherever I am so come the end of my days, I won’t be saying I missed the fullness of life by just “that much”.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’
Sometimes Fly Fishing can lead to having an amazing experience. Watching a sunrise, a sunset, birds fly, dolphins roam, just enjoying this beautiful creation called life. Something that just feels right when you see it.
I had such an experience fishing at Seal Beach one Saturday evening. I got down to the sand,and right away I knew it was going to be slim pickings in the Surf. Guys were fishing the Jetty, people were playing in the waves, and kite boarders were ripping up the surf. All that equates to no fish, but still just some practice casting in the waves is an enticing offer to a “Dedicated Urban Fly Fisherman”.
About 20 minutes into my little trip I noticed a big fin riding a wave only about 35 feet out from me, and my first instinct was to yell out shark and to turn tail back to the lifeguard stand. When all of the sudden I could feel something hit my leg one after another not a bite just a hard tap. I looked down and I could see a huge school of fish boiling on the surface heading straight for the Jetty on the right side of me. That’s when I realized that I was in between a pod of Dolphins and their next meal. I slowly started backing up out of the water, while fumbling around trying to find my camera.
Now it’s not everyday that you get to see Dolphins up close a personal, and with that many fish in the water my stomach was in knots. The Dolphins stayed there feeding on the Mullet(I knew they were mullet from the one that washed up on the shore with it’s head still barely hanging on) for about 30 minutes, while I stayed on the rocks trying to get a decent picture.
After a while I found myself drawn to the sun setting in the west over the Peninsula. All the shades of red, blue, orange, and purple left me awestruck. I knew that this experience was going to be one of those stories that I tell my children one day, and at that moment I just felt calm and peace.
You never know what you are going to see out on the water, so get out your fly rod the next time your have an hour or two and hit up that little pond we call the Pacific Ocean!
You know how things line up every once in a while so that your schedule is completely, insanely crammed so full that no matter how bad you want to, you just ain’t goin’ fishing?
Well, around this part of the ‘hood, last week was one of those weeks.
Toss in Spring Break and Easter Sunday and there was just no way we were realistically getting near any of our usual SoCal fly fishin’ venues.
THEN today, just about the time we were finishing up a late lunch/early dinner after a very long but very pleasant morning at church, and half-heartedly contemplating sneaking off to a local pond, we were literally jolted out of the idea by an earthquake – yeah, we felt the shock waves of the magnitude 7.2 Mexacali quake.
So, long story short, we didn’t get to do any fishing this past week.
However, in honor of Easter, please enjoy this 2001 story from the BBC about fish (small ones, but fish nonetheless) that we literally brought back from near death.
Hope you all had a happy Easter.
Fish in ‘suspended animation’
Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
Scientists have induced a state of so-called suspended animation in zebrafish embryos by starving them of oxygen. They say the technique could one day be used in medical treatment.
During the experiment all observable metabolic activity, including heartbeat, ceased in the zebrafish embryos. Afterwards, they returned to normal with no harmful effects on their health or growth.
This discovery promises to open novel paths of research into suspended animation. It could also lead to new ways to treat cancer and prevent injury caused by insufficient blood supply to organs and tissues.
In addition, the studies may shed light on a problem that perplexes cancer biologists: how oxygen deprivation affects the growth of tumours.
The researchers compared the growth of zebrafish embryos that had been exposed to normal atmospheric conditions with those grown in oxygen-free chambers.
The absence of oxygen caused all observable metabolic activity in the embryos to stop – including a shutdown of the heart, which normally beats 100 times per minute.
The researchers found that 25-hour-old embryos could survive without oxygen for 24 hours and still resume normal development when given oxygen again.
“We can’t detect any abnormalities in these fish after they recover,” says Dr Mark Roth of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, US. “They have grown to adulthood, mated and produced normal offspring.”
The research may have profound implications for the understanding of cancer.
“We typically think of cancer cells as growing out of control,” says Dr Roth. “But actually the vast majority of cells in a tumour are in a state of low oxygen tension and are non-proliferating – which is the reason that some tumours don’t respond to certain forms of radiation and chemotherapy.”
Most anti-cancer drugs work by selectively killing actively dividing cells, meaning that non-dividing tumour cells are immune to treatment.
This new work may help in the understanding of why some cancer cells are in a form of hibernation, and how they may be attacked.
Suspended animation also has a role in the growth of normal cells, Dr Roth says.
“Stem cells – like those that give rise to your skin – are self-renewing and have the capacity to reproduce at certain times in your life,” he says.
“Some of those cells might be dividing right now, while others withhold their proliferation potential until a later time. Lots of scientists are interested in how cells maintain this state of quiescence and then resume cell division.”
Zebrafish in the wild have not yet been seen to undergo suspended animation, but the metabolic shutdown induced in the laboratory resembles the reversible state of limbo that has been observed in other organisms.
The next goal is to figure out the molecular pathways that permit this recovery, and why some animals can survive a lack of oxygen while others
Alright, so my fishin’ buddy Sean is back from a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii. But he picked up a flu bug of some sort and didn’t even make it to church today. My other fishin’ buddy, Ray made it to church today but then he had a rehearsal this afternoon for an upcoming band gig. My wife (and newest convert to “the way of the urban fly”) was supposed to be at the same rehearsal as Ray but she had a paper to finish writing. I had to write a paper for the same class but I finished mine last week.
The long and short of it was that if I wanted to go fishing, I was going solo.
So after a very pleasant lunch with my lovely bride and some of our dearest friends, I opted to check the conditions at the Glendale Narrows portion of the L.A. River, where I haven’t been in a couple of months due to all of the winter rain.
When I crested the small hill at Red Car Park I glanced downstream and immediately noticed that the rains had scoured away most of the emergent weeds and rushes leaving the River looking a bit plain and lifeless. I also noticed that the remaining trees growing up from islands in the middle of the River were all pushed over in a downstream direction.
The good thing about this was that I could get a rather detailed mental picture of the general layout of the many small islets and sandbars and channels that would eventually be hidden by vegetation – vital information for later in the season.
The bad thing about all this was that every bit of trash and debris lay exposed like so many open wounds on the landscape.
In a strange twist of nature and geography, the same storms that brought the white, blanketing snow to the mountains — covering, hiding and beautifying everything up there, stripped away the lush, verdant growth in the River — exposing the mud, debris and refuse of civilization down here.
Seriously, trash was everywhere. Bits of plastic bags, tarps, towels, clothing, and paper hung from the trees like Tibetan prayer flags. Mounds of debris, both organic and otherwise, were draped around the upstream side of every bridge abutment, pole and tree trunk.
It was kind of an eerie feeling. I kept wondering which items represented someone’s thoughtlessness and disregard for the environment and which items bore silent witness to the fury of nature and the lost dreams of some family who’s home hadn’t fared well in the previous month’s storms.
Then, as I got down to the water, I saw thick ropes of string algae curtaining many of the pools that had held decent size carp last summer. In fact, I would spend an inordinate amount of time pulling string algae off my flies for the rest of the afternoon.
I tried all of my favorite spots. Upstream then downstream for about a half mile in each direction, I cast to all of the productive spots of last season and got not so much as a nudge on any of my offerings.
I took advantage of the missing plant cover and rock-hopped out to where I could cast to the main channel – still nuthin’.
For several hours I worked the River ‘til my arm ached and my eyes burned.
The sun was sinking quickly so in one final attempt to squeeze some kind of proof that fish, any fish, even still remained in the River, I ventured back to an area where the water slows significantly and a large, deep pool forms.
In the summer this same pool is a favorite with bait fisherman. Judging from the piles of dried string algae strewn about on the shoreline it probably wasn’t high on anybody’s list at the moment.
Still, I had to know. So I stripped off a little more line than usual and false cast a couple of more times than usual and stretched to reach a little further across the pool than usual and… was rewarded with a rising Carp.
Not a strike, mind you, but a rise.
Sure, I would like to say that a fish took my fly and I landed it after an epic battle but…I only got a rise.
Yet, it was enough.
Knowing that the River was on the mend from the assaults of winter and that fish were still there was enough for the day.
Now, lots of guys would count the day as a wash. OK. If your only measure of success is the raw number of fish you land then the day was a wash.
But, if you count the opportunities I had to observe aspects of the River that are normally hidden and if you count the mental maps I had the opportunity to make and if you count the extra effort and opportunity I had to refine and improve my casting skills and technique then, by my count, it was a great day.
Toss in the warm sun, the diversity of bird species present and the solitude of the River on the last official day of winter and I’d say again, it was a great day.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
So, I have this friend named Chuck.
And over the course of time, I have come to the conclusion that everyone should have a friend just like him.
He is not a fishin’ buddy and “adopted son” like Sean. He’s not a twin brother from a different mother like Bill. Nor is he a ministry partner like John. He’s just Chuck and he’s the guy that is not afraid to tell it like it is, the guy who will straighten me out when I’m gettin’ too full of myself and the guy who keeps me on my toes.
Chuck rolls to the beat of a different drum for sure but, in a world that can be so shallow and plastic, he’s the Real Deal.
Besides that, he has a wicked sense of humor and the uncanny ability to make me laugh hard enough to shoot coffee from my nose – usually at the most inappropriate times. (As if there is an appropriate time to expel hot liquids from your nasal passages.)
Anyway, Chuck is the guy that can find anything. Mention that you’re looking for a copy of an old fishing book long out of print and sooner or later he will toss it on the table as you sit down to have lunch.
Tell him about your quest for a tool or gadget that hasn’t been seen in forty years and he’ll track it down like a bloodhound.
The amazing part of it is that Chuck doesn’t drive and has only been using a computer for the last two of his sixty-odd years.
He is definitely old school in his methods but he knows his “craft” and he knows it well. I often liken him to Fagin from the Dickens classic novel, Oliver Twist, which he has never read but is sure that he would like it if he ever did. He has a network of cronies and dumpster divers and swap meet rats and garage sale cruisers that he manages like the CEO of a corporation – his Minions, he likes to call them in an ironic sense of the word.He is also supremely self-confident and talkative and regularly rubs elbows with city council members and business execs with the same casual familiarity that he has with the wino on the bus stop bench or the Jehovah’s Witness knocking on his door.
And he is my friend.
So last week between services at church, he came shuffling across the parking lot with his oversize shopping bag thumping heavily against his leg with every other step. It must have taken him a full half hour to walk the two hundred yards from the bus stop to the church parking lot, but there he was, unmistakable in his light pink Fedora – his Mac Daddy Hat – as he likes to call it. He flagged me down and told me that he had something for me.
Sure enough, he had an old copy of McClane’s Standard Fishing encyclopedia (1965 edition), a copy of the Complete Book of Flyfishing from Sweden and…a trout shaped telephone.
Not that I had asked him to find a trout shaped phone! In fact, we are seriously contemplating dropping our landlines completely and just using our cell phones at home. Nevertheless, he had taken it upon himself to gift me with these items solely on his knowledge and understanding that I love most things fishing and flyfishing in particular. So, he proudly pulled this full-size, plastic, rainbow trout-shaped phone out of his black bag and presented it to me with the same amount of fanfare and excitement that would be exhibited at the Oscar ceremonies later that same day.
Now, it is hard not to draw attention to yourself when someone presents you a trout shaped, vibrantly colored, plastic phone in the midst of three hundred or so jovial, chatting, upbeat people who all know you. It is even harder not to draw attention to yourself when you suddenly and forcefully eject hot coffee from you nostrils in the midst of those same three hundred or so people…
So, I have this friend named Chuck and he knows how to keep me humble and not take myself too seriously.
I think everyone should have a friend like Chuck.
“I love my buddy Chuck and I love this addiction called urban flyfishin”.
Switch to our mobile site