Fly Fishing at night is definitely a whole new beast for me to learn to conquer. There have been knotted up leaders and a different kind of knot on the back of my head. Flies lost in astonishing numbers from trees and fish alike.
The first couple of times out felt like the most frustrating time I’ve ever spent fishing, not just fly fishing I’m talking freaking fishing in general!
I remember going home the first night, and stating to my wife just as I walked in the door “I’m never trying that again”.
Yet just a few days later, I found myself back in the dark, headlamp on, and more clothing than I needed to keep the mosquitoes away.
On the second night things started to turn around. I started feeling the fly on the back cast, and I had only hit one tree. After a couple of hookups, but no fish to net. I sat down on the bench and started to contemplate what I was doing wrong.
I started to realize that the fish were hitting a lot harder. I needed to set the hook with more authority and get the fish to the net as quick as possible.
The next night I brought my 6 weight, beefed up to a 3x tapered leader, tied on a heavier BH Flash a Bugger, and started working the fly just a little slower than usual.
One cast and I had a 2 pound Largemouth Bass on the other end of the line. So many things started flooding to my head. Why had I been sleeping every night for all these years? Was this a dream? Was I really starting to get the hang of this Urban Fly Fishing at night thing.
After dodging a couple of drunk teenagers, a homeless man sleeping on the bench, and a few hundred sleeping ducks (Apparently Urban Fly Fishing at night has just as many dangers as it daytime counterpart).
I cast out a couple more times to a new spot with no luck. Then a Thud. I stopped my fly for a split second, and all of the sudden the line started flying out of my hand. I set the hook and the fish changed direction. I started the chase running from one end of the pond to the other like a mad man (which I’m sure the drunk teenagers got a real kick out of).
After about 5 minutes. I pulled the fish to the net (at least what of him would fit). Flicked on my headlamp and could not believe my eyes. It was a 20 plus inch Bass (not hard to figure out as my net’s only 20 inches). I grabbed my phone to snap a quick pic, and pulled out the lip scale. The fish weighed in at just over 5 pounds!
This was my best Bass in a long, long, long time. I was shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t want to let go, but I remembered that I had to get this fish back in the water as soon as possible. I set him gently in, and “whack” a flip of the tail to my face and this big boy had a little retribution.
I sat there for a moment breaking down my gear, just taking it all in.
As I walked (maybe even skipped a little, wait did I just write that?) back to the Urban Fly Mobile, I was starting to enjoy this, as Dan says
“Addiction called Urban Night Fishin”!
If you consider yourself an urban angler, then you know the almost giddy urgency that hits the gut and the head (and occasionally, the bladder, if traffic has been particularly gnarly) once you finally shift the vehicle into “Park” and strike out across the blacktop toward a chosen target water.
I know I’m definitely guilty of that approach. In fact, my fishing buddy, Sean and I have gotten it down to a science to where we can assemble our four-piece 5-weights, tie on new leader material and have flies selected and secured to the tippet in the time it takes us to go from car to water’s edge.
I’m not bragging, I’m just sayin’. The “urban” part of our chosen obsession sometimes leads us to do things with the proverbial “New York minute” mindset.
Recently however, there was a post on the OrvisNews.com blog that caused me to pause and even reconsider my “assault”
mentality. The article offered some very valid and timely tips regarding taking a moment to actually use our God-given senses to assess and evaluate our target fishing area before “flinging the string” – even if it is a location we have fished many, many times before.
Now, regular readers already know that due to the somewhat dubious nature of the various “swims” (as the Brits say) we often choose to fish, we are constantly watching for things like drug deals, drive-bys, enraged Rottweilers, gang initiations, guys dealing with the aftermath of alleged alien abduction, kids looking to score some “free” gear… the usual urban stuff … however, since reading the OrvisNews article, I’ve taken to considering how excessive attention to those non-fishing realities may have caused us to hit the water a little too abruptly and a little too anxiously resulting in fewer fish.
Thus, with that fresh insight in mind, I have taken the liberty of copying below the checklist from the OrvisNews.com article (with my own commentary) in the hopes that learning to “surveil before we flail” will ultimately make us all better urban anglers.
So, assuming you have made it across the lot, soccer field, railroad tracks, chain link or other assorted obstacles typically associated with urban fishing and assuming you have already taken in to account the aforementioned scenarios, also consider the following BEFORE making that first cast, no matter how tempting things first look:
1. Do you see any fish rising?
Sure, you may be on urban water but fish are fish and if you watch carefully, depending on time of day and season, you will see fish rising along the banks, in quiet spots and under overhanging brush. That info alone may help you in your choice of fly and/or tactic for the day
2. Can you spot any fish holding or moving?
Several of the locations we regularly hit require an approach from a hill or steep bank or other elevated vantage point. Consider stopping and watching for a moment before racing as quickly as possible to water’s edge. Polarized glasses really prove their worth in these situations. Observing fish from above and from a distance may alter your approach angle and give you that little edge you need to make the day a success rather than a wash.
3. Are there insects on the water? In the air? Crawling in the streamside vegetation?
Again, fish are still fish no matter the zip code and trout, panfish and bass will still hit insects hovering above or blowing into an urban pond with the same vigor that
their wild cousins do in other settings. Now, it’s not as important to matchthe hatch in the urban setting but an abundance of insects in and around the water might tip your decision toward choosing the ant and hopper imitations over the nymph and bugger choices, making for a totally different experience on water you may have fished a dozen times before.
4. How is the water clarity?
If you can see them, they can see you and heavily pressured urban fish will hunker down quickly if they feel any threat. Consider staying well back from the bank, if
possible, to avoid having your shadow fall on the water. Use wind chop and ripples to your advantage. Though rarely practiced in the urban setting, mostly because you’re likely to be mistaken for a sniper or pervert, keeping a low profile can give you an advantage with spooky fish. Finally, learn how clarity affects fish vision. Talk to the local fly guys. Ask them what is working for the current conditions, and then buy a few of those patterns from them.
5. Is the water higher or lower than normal?
Urban lakes and ponds are generally rather shallow and even small fluctuations in water depth can change the desirability or accessibility of various structure that certain fish would otherwise choose. Don’t automatically assume the usual spots will work if you notice (keyword: notice) a change in water level. However, definitely use low water levels to examine exposed areas. Note structure and shape that was once and will soon be underwater again. Take pictures if you can. We recently spoke to a non-fishing gentleman who lived near a local pond and volunteered that he had observed a deep channel in one part of that particular pond when it was once drained for maintenance. That little nugget alone has helped us pull sizeable fish out of there on several occasions.
6. Can you identify likely holding spots—behind current breaks, near structure, below riffles, etc.?
In other words, “think before you blindly plink”.
7. Do you need to get in the water, or can you fish from shore?
Not typically legal, or medically desirable in many urban waters but in a few locations it really could make a difference in the success of your day. Refer back to the UFV article “Tortilla Flats” for an example.
8. Is there a good place to get in the water that will avoid spooking fish and position you well to cast to likely fish-holding spots?
See comment above.
9. Are there any wading hazards you’ll need to avoid?
Forget wading hazards, in the urban fishing setting, you always need to be aware of potential hazards: broken bottles, rusty pipes sticking up, pop-up sprinkler heads, used hypodermic needles, dead ducks filled with the gas of decomposition ready to explode at the slightest nudge, discarded monofilament that will wrap around
your boots…If you haven’t been paying attention so far consider yourself very, very blessed and consider changing your ignorant ways.
10. Are there any obstacles that you’ll need to avoid while fighting a fish?
I say consider this from a fish-on perspective, a back-casting perspective and sadly, a got-to-get-away-quick perspective. You are in an urban setting – it is a given
that there will be obstacles, including kids on scooters directly behind you. Plan accordingly. Should you tie in to a real fighter while fishing from the bank, most fellow anglers will follow “boat rules” and will reel in or raise their lines so you can pass beneath, especially because as an urban fly fisherman you are still an oddity and they want to see if you really can land something with a fly rod. Also consider that many urban lakes have artificial structure in them, some intentionally placed there to improve habitat and some just there because certain folks somehow think it is fun to chuck stuff into the water. The first time a good bass breaks off by wrapping around a submerged shopping cart you’ll know what I mean.
And there you have it – ten tips to better angling courtesy Orvisnews.com and adjusted to the urban fly environment courtesy yours truly. Now, I know there are probably many more tips and considerations we could come up with if we really tried, The point however is basically the same one we all learned in grade school: “stop, look, listen, then go”. Ironically, in the realm of urban fly fishing that simple, time-tested advice can still keep us from getting hit by a bus but it can also make us much better anglers.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
It is one of those sly ironies of the English language, not lost on those who fly fish, that the measurement for wind speed is a term labeled “knots”.
Technically, one knot is equal to 1.15 miles per hour, 6076 feet per hour or 1.687 feet per second. Not so technically, a knot is what forms in a flyfisherman’s… uh… undergarments when wind speed exceeds one’s ability to roll cast, double haul or side cast into it.
Sadly, knots are also what accumulate in my leader and gut in a quantity proportional to the wind speed.
Thus, it is no exaggeration to say that the hard-blowing Santa Ana wind that confronted my fishin’ buddy, Sean and me was a source of many knots this past Sunday as we tried to sneak in some quality fly fishing.
Not to say that we didn’t suspect that it was going to be hard going from the get go. The fact that every tree on the way to our first target lake was in motion was a pretty good tip off.
Now, in the days before wristwatch-sized anemometers and instant access to the Weather Channel via cell phone, folks relied on simple things like…trees uprooting in front of you or waves taller than the masts on your ship as tip offs to weather conditions. In fact, the whole idea behind the Beaufort Wind Speed Scale was one 19th century British Admiral’s attempt to standardize wind speed terminology using relatively consistent observable conditions rather than actual knots as the basis for an informative 0 – 12 scale, with zero being dead calm and force twelve being something like, “Duck! Mrs. O’Leary’s pig has learned to fly!”
That being the case then, Sunday afternoon found Sean and I trying to cast little black and olive feathers and chenille attached to tiny pieces of sharpened wire into a wind somewhere in the Force six possibly Force seven range on the Beaufort scale.
Add to that the fact that the Eucalyptus trees near where we were are “self-pruning” (which means large limbs randomly break off without warning in even milder breezes) and the 100-foot tall palm trees were losing their years-overdue-for-pruning dried fronds in this particular wind and you might get the idea that we were in what you might call a real flyfishing “adventure”– ah, good times.
Nevertheless, we gallantly attempted to salvage the afternoon and pitched weighted wooly buggers and Sean’s own shrimp pattern until our arms ached.
Finally, when it became oh-so-obvious that nothin’ was bitin’ and when most of the moisture had been evaporated from our bodies, we decided to call it quits.
Now, it may have just been the adrenaline dump still coursing though my veins from having a hypodermic-sharp size 8 hook repeatedly whizzing atypically close to my right ear or it could have been the sense of gratitude derived from not being crushed to death by a falling tree branch but I was pretty happy with the day – we got a ton of casting practice in under less than favorable conditions and we learned a little bit more about the wind patterns on the two lakes we tried to fish. Both things we will use to our advantage as the season progresses.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
I brought my mom up to Big Bear a couple of weekends ago for her birthday. Snow was in the forecast and all I could think about on the way up was “Why did I promise not to go fishing this weekend”. We made it up to Angelus Oaks at about 11:00pm, when we suddenly had to get out of the truck and put snow chains on in the freezing cold. The 25 MPH drive up the hill was so worth it, as we watched the snow decend upon the mountain in a blanket of white.
The next morning I woke my little brother up to hit the hiking trail. It was a great hike and the scenery was brilliant. On the way back to the cabin, I stopped as cones and tape hit my field of vision on a little tributary that runs into the lake. We decided to stop and take a look (since it looked like a crime scene from television), and I was amazed to find literally 100′s of spawning Rainbow Trout swimming to and fro .
After a few moments of shock, I decided to get a closer look with my camera. We hit two more tributaries to find these signs posted just about every 10-20 feet.
I stopped a Police Officer passing by, and asked him why the signs where up along with so much caution tape. He proceeded to tell me that over the last couple of years, people would line these small waterways shoulder to shoulder harassing the Trout. He also said ”this was the most trout he had ever seen spawning up there” (which makes sense due to the Extremely high water levels).
I decided to go over to Boulder Bay to see the remodeling, that my co-author and fishing buddy Dan has been telling me so much about. I was shocked to find half the bay frozen over, and structure everywhere.
It looks like they just sunk the old gate and some of the construction equipment. You know where I’m going with this Pier+Structure=Great Fishing. I’m just itching to get back up there during the summer for a chance to fish this new spot!
The weather is changing, the Days are getting longer, and the Bass are starting to switch over from the Spawn.
I’ve been over to Heartwell a couple of times over the last week or so, with an hour or two to fish in between work and other commitments. From this experience I can tell you two things; the Sunsets in Southern California are amazing and the Bass are switching from the Spawn to attack mode.
The other day I strolled up from the parking lot to find a few of the regulars fishing the lake, along with a couple of guys I had never seen before. I did a quick walk around scoping for beding fish, and keeping an eye out for roaming Bluegill.
After spotting quite a few Panfish in the shallows and a few Males still guarding fry, I decided to throw a size 8 Minnow imitation with a 5x leader, since the fish are still a little skiddish from being fished so hard.
After a couple of casts I had a decent 1 1/2 Pound Male off a bed and a couple of Juvies sitting on structure.
I decide to move over to the other side of the lake and started talking to Juan (a regular Conventional Guy at the Lake), when I heard the all too familiar grunt of a Bass Guy setting the hook on a baitcaster. So we walked over to see what all the commotion was about, and the guy was hooting and hollering about being stuck on something (running back and forth trying to get his lure free).
We both noticed he was pulling in on a lot of line, and then it dawned on us that he had a Carp on the other end.
I sat there watching him as he struggled to bring the fish to the surface, realizing he was going to need my net. After about 15 minutes the mammoth beast was in the net (well only half of it would fit) and he had just caught about a 15 pound carp.
Not super long, but one of the thickest ones that I have ever seen, and with the yank of his lure he had foul hooking the fish in its fin. After a couple of glory shots the behemoth was back in the water, none the worse and I think that was the most excitement I’ve has watching a Conventional guy catch a fish!
“Sonrisa” is the Spanish word for smile. My dear Grandma would say it to me as she gently tried to awaken me each morning during my summer time stays at her little casita. She would softly shake the bed and say, “Sonrisa Mijito.” which was her way of saying, “Get up, son, it’s a great morning.” I obeyed out of respect for her but I rarely saw a reason back then to smile about getting up so early, especially during summer break.
As the years have passed though I have come to deeply appreciate the memory of my beloved “Abuelita”. I fondly recall her unwavering love for me and her love for the simple joys of life including a beautiful morning.
I thought of her as I got up with the sun this morning.
I’m not sure why I arose so early since I had not gone to bed until almost 3am. Nevertheless, I was up and ready to go at first light. I stumbled out into the kitchen, fired up the coffee maker and opened the back door for a look around. All was still and I noticed that the sky was clear and just turning into the lighter shades of blue indicating a beautiful day ahead.
I peeked back into the bedroom and listened to the regular, deep breathing of my wife and knew it would be several hours before she roused.
So, I quickly and quietly got dressed, gave her a quick kiss and whispered to her that I’d be back shortly, to which she mumbled back something sweet-sounding but incoherent.
Back in the kitchen, I pulled down the large travel mug, practically drained the entire pot of coffee in to it and slipped out into the crisp morning air. Even though it was early, there was no need for a jacket or even a heavy shirt.
I caught myself smiling.
As I backed out of the driveway I made some quick mental calculations. El Dorado Park just seemed like the right place and the right distance away for the time I had allotted so I headed west.
When I got there, there were the usual early morning walkers and bicycle riders but only one other angler at my first stop, Horseshoe Pond. I could see small Panfish working the reeds and I could see an occasional olive-backed “torpedo” busting through the schools of Bluegill causing a momentary boil of activity in the water. I rigged my new 4-wt with a small tan wooly bugger and began working the weed beds near the shore myself.
My first Bluegill was a feisty and determined male in full breeding color.
The other guy fishing on the opposite bank saw my immediate success and asked me if I would mind if he moved a little closer to where I was fishing. He was using a little spin casting rig with bait and bobber and was only casting out a few feet at most so I invited him on over. Since my primary goal for the morning was to try out some new gear, any fish I happened to land where icing on the cake.
After about an hour and a half, I was feeling pretty comfortable with the new gear so I decided to switch rigs and move over to the other side of the pond. I wanted to test a couple of theories I’ve been working on so I rigged up the penfishingrods set-up I mentioned in a previous post and began casting to an area I knew was frequented by Carp and Bass.
I gave myself five minutes before I would pack up and head home.
No sooner had I said to myself, “OK, last cast,” when my rod doubled over and some 30 yards of line peeled of my reel in mere seconds.
Whatever was on the other end zigged and zagged across the middle of the pond and the fight was on. The little PenRod performed admirably, to say the least, and I was having a great time just trying to outmaneuver the fish on the other end.
Unfortunately…or maybe not so, the fish shook off after a few moments. Either way, I was seriously content though my heart was pounding, my hands were shaking and the zing from the drag still echoed in my ears.
I caught myself smiling again.
I reeled my little ultra-light lure in and touched up the hook with my little hook hone before tossing a few more casts across a narrow outlet of the little pond. After a couple of casts I decided to pitch it back to the same spot where I had just hooked up.
Sure enough, another strike, almost as exciting as the first. That one too, shook off after a few moments but, again, it did not matter nearly as much as I expected it would.
However, this time when I reeled in, I knew I would have to get back to the reality of the day and the errands that still needed to be run and the office tasks that still needed to be completed and so on and so on but for just that brief little while I was on holiday and life was just grand, as they say…and I smiled all the way home.
I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’
Let me start off by saying that I do know “El Dorado” does not mean Panfish in Spanish (I was trying to be witty). But anyway I made it over to El Dorado Park Lakes the other day for my long overdue reunion with the El Do Panfish that seem to love my flies.
I don’t know what it is? I go to lakes all over So Cal (and even other states) and usually catch all kinds of Bass. Yet it seems that the ones at El Dorado just want nothing to do with me. Good thing this is UrbanFlyVentures and we don’t shy away from catching all species of fish, so I downsized and the magnets (I mean flies) started bringing in the fish.
Now I’ve caught Bluegills that were so tiny, they made me question why & how in the world they got caught on a fly bigger than their mouth. But the saucers here can be large and in charge!
The fly of the day seemed to be a size 14 Mysis Shrimp from The Trout Spot, and the fish were just falling all over it. It seemed like the fly barely even had time to hit the water before bang, and I had another fish on.
After about 2 hours I had literally pulled in about 50 fish (and 5 species at that)!
Those are the kind of days that seem to make me addicted to Urban Fly Fishing. You feel like you can walk up to any portion of the lake (it doesn’t matter what fly you have on) and catch fish all day long, until your arm hurts so bad from casting you just decide to go home.
I need days like that, especially coming out of the Winter (or as I like to call it the yearly fishing Armageddon)!
Well and wouldn’t you know it, I even stumbled across a couple of little Largemouth along the way, not big (trust me the big bass are in there) but a Bass is a Bass is a Bass!
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