Posts tagged: Urban Fishing
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!
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’.
I had an opportunity to squeeze in some early morning mid-week fishing recently and jumped at the chance as quickly as a bluegill on a wind-blown ant.
So, imagine my frustration when I pulled up to my chosen destination only to be confronted by two hundred or so high-school age cross-country runners as well as dozens and dozens of orange safety cones, yellow tape and a half dozen coaches barking orders and blowing chrome whistles.
Now, any normal person would have stayed in the car and headed over to the nearest regional park which was only about fifteen minutes away.
But the operative words here were: “squeeze” and “normal”.
I did not want to sacrifice even another fifteen minutes battling more SoCal commuter traffic than I had just taken on and I did not want to spend five dollars on admission to a place I was only going to be at for an hour or two at most.
So, I assessed.
I assessed and then modified my game plan so that, one way or another, I could fish.
From what I could discern from the layout of orange cones, the designated course for the runners appeared to follow the entire perimeter of the small body of water I had targeted and then seemed to disappear off into the surrounding hills before re-entering the park and looping around the lake again.
I figured that would mean a few moments of heavy foot traffic and then some relative peace followed by a steady stream of runners as the pack thinned and spread out according to the runner’s abilities and strategies.
Because of the proximity of the course to the water’s edge, I also figured out pretty quickly that fly-rodding was probably not gonna work so well. I already lose enough flies in bushes and low-hanging branches as it is, I didn’t particularly want to snag a lycra clad, eighty-five pound freshman in the middle of a race on the backcast.
So, I left my five–weight in the car and, instead, opted for my trusty Pen Rod Extreme with the MX-15 rear-drag spinning reel loaded with two-pound test.
I rigged up a tiny, clear bubble float with a size 16 treble suspended about eight-inches below it and baited the hook up with pink Powerbait crappie bits.
Then, with the rhythm of heavy breathing and running shoes pounding the dirt behind me, I start pulling out Bluegill like they were goin’ out of style.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly the most serene setting for fishin’…OK, it was anything but serene, but it sure was fun thanks to my day-saving, handy-dandy ultralight Pen Rod Extreme.
About an hour later, as the final runners wheezed across the finish line, I released the last of several dozen decent sized fish that, surprisingly, found pink crappie bits… irresistible.
So, while dozens of young people roamed post-race around the park looking pretty much worse for the wear — spittin’ and groaning and holding their sides and all, I gathered up my gear and felt pretty darn good considering the unexpected change in plans.
Like I said, it’s all about squeezing recreation into those free moments.
I love this addiction called urban “ultralight” fishin’.
One of the most common questions we, as urban flyfishers, get from our non-fishing friends is: “why?”
Why do we fish tiny ponds in overcrowded, noisy parks in the middle of the city?
Why do we venture out amongst the homeless, seedy or just plain crazy? (The three are NOT necessarily one and the same – don’t rush to judgment here).
Why do we get up way too early, creep around long after dark and fish with one eye always on the look out for gangbangers, thieves or unsympathetic cops?
Why do we not even think twice about squeezing through holes in fences, crawling through storm drains or scaling locked wrought iron gates to pursue our passion?
Why do we have fighting knives fastened rapid-deployment style to our pack straps yet carry giveaway food bars and pocket-size editions of the gospel of John within those same packs?
Why the heck would we be willing to tolerate all this stuff that seems so very foreign to the traditional concept of fly fishing?
Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words:
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’
A couple of weekends ago, my beloved and I went on a double date with my fishin’ buddy Sean and his beautiful bride, Sarah. Although there were many recreational/entertainment options available to us, the oppressive heat quickly made retreat to the air-conditioned comfort of the local multiplex the best choice out of the bunch.
Once there, I didn’t have to twist any arms too hard to convince the other three members of my party to check out the latest installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “On Stranger Tides”.
Say what you will, but I make no apologies for liking these movies. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the Pirates ride at Disneyland was a powerful spark that ignited a certain land-locked barrio boy’s life-long interest in maritime history, things nautical, marine biology and, of course, pirate history (even before it was a fashionable interest).
So as the house lights dimmed and I used the cover of darkness to grab an extra handful of popcorn from my wife’s bucket, (…We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot. Drink up me hearties, yo ho…) imagine my momentary mood squash when, instead of tall ships and clanging cutlasses we were confronted with Stetsons and horses and six-shooters and … spaceships. Yeah, that’s right, the first images on the silver screen in front of us were from a trailer for a movie called Cowboys and Aliens. It’s a sci-fi/western thing with grizzled trail riders in spurs taking on extraterrestrial creatures in gleaming high-tech space craft.
Talk about a “huh?” moment.
Such odd pairings in the physical realm are sometimes called “ooparts” which stands for “out-of-place-artifacts”. Things like modern hammers found in allegedly untouched coal seams, battery-like devices amongst the items within ancient tombs, ancient pottery with images of people interacting with dinosaurs– those are “ooparts”.
Cowboys taking on aliens is, of course, not an out-of-place artifact but it is certainly an out-of-place concept (“oopcept”, to put a twist on the phrase); which is probably the whole point. It’s an idea that is just out there enough that you want to see how things play out. It’s one thing for the original Terminator to take on the new upgraded T-1000 model. It’s another to watch saddle weary cowpokes use Smith & Wessons to battle beings with the ability and gear to travel across the vast reaches of space.
Deep down, we all like “oopart/oopcept” stuff. It makes us feel like we are in on the joke.
Which got me to thinking (but only after watching and thoroughly enjoying the Pirates movie) “oopcept” sort of sums up the idea of urban flyfishing for many people. For most folks who have never touched a fly rod, seeing someone using fly gear, popularly associated with trout fishing on wild mountain streams, in urban ponds and lakes, not typically considered fishable, just seems odd. It’s an “out-of-place-concept”.
So be it. Let it be a point of bafflement for the general public. Let it be an “oopcept” idea for the masses but for those who practice it, it works and it works well.
What happens when you have an “oopcept” urban fly guy hitting an urban pond and he comes across an “oopart” fish in said pond?
Let me ‘splain what I mean. A couple of days after the double date night with our brides, Sean and I snuck off for some twilight urban fly fishin’ and while we are working a particular pond I noticed a very unusual shape cruising in the shallows and making the water roil every now and then. Now, I’ve seen plenty of bass, carp, sunfish, koi, goldfish, crappie, catfish, and even tilapia with all manner of deformities and doing all kinds of crazy things in urban waters but this fish didn’t match any of ‘em.
So, I reeled in my line and stepped back far enough to prevent my shadow from hitting the water and then I just stood there. After a few moments, the strange shaped fish cruised back into the shallows and made some half-hearted lunges at the small sunfish hovering around an aquatic weed.
I ran through the mental rolodex at least twice before it dawned on me that I was looking at a roughly eighteen-inch long gar, probably a smallish alligator gar to be more precise. Then I remembered that Sean had said something about a rumor of an unusual fish having shown up in this particular piece of water.
Which was kinda cool, except that … we don’t have gar in SoCal – an “oopart” moment, for sure.
Not that I have anything against gar. In their native habitat they are top of the food chain predators and, depending upon the species, can grow to several hundred pounds. In their home territory they are highly prized gamefish and certainly an interesting, worthy and respectable fish by any account.
The problem is that SoCal is not their native habitat. This particular gar was a couple thousand miles too far west and/or a couple of latitudes too far north.
Now, I know that virtually every species in the ponds and urban lakes of SoCal is a non-native transplant or genetically modified mutant. For that matter, the majority of ponds and lakes in urban SoCal are freakish aberrations of the term “lake” and most didn’t even exist in their present form until relatively recent times and then often with huge, unintended impacts on the natural setting. From a purist’s perspective, urban SoCal is an ecological trainwreck.
Still, there is a fragile (often frighteningly fragile) and noticeable balance in our urban waters and the introduction of such a fish into a relatively small body of water had the potential to seriously throw a wrench into the works.
My goal instantly became to get that gar (and possibly any other recent introductions) out of that lake before a precious and prized fishin’ hole tipped out of balance and become just a wet low spot in the middle of a grassy field.
Fortunately, many in the local and loosely affiliated fishing fraternity felt the same way and over the next couple of days much energy was expended and tons of hardware thrown, pitched, reeled and twitched across that particular puddle.
Then on a Thursday night, after I had finished all my work related stuff for the day and was seriously contemplating another twilight gar-fishing trip, I got word from Sean that local rod-slinger, J_____ had finally taken the gar on one of his hand made balsa wood crank baits.
Sure enough, grainy, low-light photos were soon blazing across cyber space offering proof that the common “threat” had been eliminated.
Yet, there was no euphoria or giddiness over this victory. It just seemed wrong to celebrate the demise, however prudent, of a magnificent creature such as this gar, especially since it had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time due to someone’s carelessness, thoughtlessness or twisted sense of humor.
The knucklehead who dumped or planted that particular fish in that particular place hadn’t done it or anyone else any favors.
Sometimes “oopart” isn’t interesting, it’s just dumb.
Still, when all was said and done, I had to admire the spirit of cooperation (competition?) from the local urban fishing community (which many would describe as a very pirate like sub-culture anyway). A bunch of widely divergent guys, with widely divergent fishing styles and tactics had momentarily formed a loose alliance to tackle a common problem.
“…We’re rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves.? Drink up me hearties, yo ho …”
I love this addiction called urban fly 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’.
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