Drum roll, please … yes, we have a winner!


imageThe challenge: Hook up on two L.A. River species, same fly, same day. Take a pic, write a story, submit.

The prize: One fabulous LARFF T-shirt.

The winner:  B. Roderick Spilman

The Quote: “Within three casts, I had a small bass.  A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish.  Then, the fun really started.  A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard.  Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly.  Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Osprey shows the way for father-daughter fly-fishing team


By B. Roderick Spilman

Guest Contributor
My friend, Roland Trevino, is an avid fly fisher, and he had been bugging me to try this new spot on the river.
I’m a creature of habit, and had, thus, stayed mostly on my stretch of the river till then.  Last Sunday morning, he called me and said that he and his son, Ansel, were going fishing for bass at the aforementioned spot.  I had not yet caught a bass on the river, so I decided to join him with my daughter, Julia.
I had my 2 wt. and she had her spin rod.  I put on a fly that I don’t even know the name of.  Within three casts, I had a small bass.  A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish.  Then, the fun really started.  A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard.  Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly.  Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.

Julia Spilman put her dad's 2 wt. to good use, enticing her first tilapia. (B. Roderick Spilman)

Julia Spilman put her dad’s 2 wt. to good use, enticing her first tilapia. (B. Roderick Spilman)

Meanwhile, my poor daughter had had a few sad tugs.  The worms were not working, so I actually put a small beadhead with a split shot and a strike indicator.  That had worked before for her to catch sunfish downriver.  But no luck!  We waded up the river where Jim Burns and his son had been fishing earlier and had caught some tilapias.
As we were walking in the shallow, warm water, I shared with my girl the craziness of what we were doing, wading through the Los Angeles river, a place that most Angelenos think is devoid of life.  It was far from devoid of life. Flocks of sand pipers scurried along, as if skating on the water.  Egrets eyed us suspiciously.  Seagulls stood as statues. Black-necked stilts glided nervously from one spot to another. Two ospreys patrolled the channel.
We got to the spot, and, indeed, there were significant schools of tilapias.  We were not having much luck, but then, we saw something that will be indelibly stamped in our memories.  Not more than 20 feet away from us, an osprey smashed into the river and struggled to take flight again.  Clutched in its talons, a tilapia was wriggling.
I decided to be a good dad and gave up my fly rod. We went back to our first spot, and, after a few casts, Julia was proudly holding her first tilapia.  Soon after, I saw Roland and his son wading back from their expedition.  Apparently, they had caught a good number of bass.
The river never ceases to amaze me.  In one day, I had caught a green sunfish, a bass, and many tilapias.  More importantly, I had spent an unforgettable day with my daughter.
Editor’s note: And Roderick is now the proud owner of a LARFF T-shirt for winning the twofer challenge. Great job!

At long last … L.A. River tilapia


Yes, Ernest, the tilapia also rises. (Jim Burns)

Yes, Ernest, the tilapia also rises. (Jim Burns)

Who knows if it’s true, that the city planted tilapia in the river in the 1970s to combat mosquitoes. Whatever, great story. All I know is that I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for a LARFF commenter to send in pics of the critters — basically the same ones that grace Trader Joe’s frozen foods section.

Well, today, after Will and I watched three red-tail hawks, who in turned watched us from the high sycamores. And after they awed us with their fishing ability, in which they literally descend and pluck their prey from the moving water, without missing a wing beat, Will hooked up. Result: tilapia.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

News Flash! Rare Leather Carp needs a name


Mirror, mirror on the wall What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)

Mirror, mirror on the wall
What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)

Last week, a local fly fisher sent me a crazy hero shot, saying “One of the fish I caught today looks like a Mirror Carp. Your thoughts?”

Anxiously, I paged down to view the snap and promptly dropped my coffee cup. Ryan Anglin not only had a beautiful 5-pounder, but also a type I’d never seen on the river. I enlisted the help of our resident biologists, Rosi Dagit, Sabrina Drill and Camm Swift. Here are their comments:

– Pretty clearly a Mirror or perhaps more precisely, Leather Carp, mostly lacking scales.  Mirror Carp refers to those with more enlarged, irregular scales that have a shiny appearance, and this fish is more of what is often called Leather Carp with a thick leathery skin.  — Camm

– In several fishing trips on the L.A. with either Camm, Jonathan Baskin, or both,  I have observed a wide variety of scale patterns on carp — both what I would call “leather” and “mirror”  — though I actually had not heard this terminology! I believe they are all C. carpio,but am interested in Camm’s answer. Can goldfish also vary this much in scale pattern? — Sabrina

– Wow, it is hard to tell exactly, but definitely has that kind of look …  Did he keep it? I wonder if there is a photo with the dorsal fin extended? — Rosi

She goes on to ask that when folks catch something really unusual they keep and freeze, and let her know (via LARFF) so the experts can actually figure all this out. Also, don’t forget you can join the iNaturalist project and post.

Now, there’s a side benefit to catching these kinds of crazy fish: you can name them just like the Brits. Consider this headline: “Anglers mourn Benson, lord of the lakes.” Benson was a 25-year-old Common Carp who weighed a mere 64 pounds and was worth around $40,000. Her companion, Hedges, died in 1998. Meanwhile, the largest Mirror Carp, who as far as I know is still living, outweighs Benson by 3 pounds and goes by the handle, Two Tone.

So, let’s vote on a name for Ryan’s catch!

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Contest: bag an L.A. River deuce, win a fab LARFF tee shirt


So here’s how my day went:

Actually, I got a rolling start last night by donating a couple of old reels to the Southwestern Council FFF charity effort at Orvis in Pasadena. That got me 20 percent off a new Battenkill III, which is a reel about as minimalist as they come. In other words, the palm of your hand and fingers supply most of the drag to slow a running fish down.

In other words, it burns so good.

A.M. off to the L.A River with my 5 wt., armed with a fine new line, new leader and, of course, the new reel. Throw in, hook up within five minutes (rare) and — bam — knot fails after three sharp tugs. Blame the new 5x leader, curse the gods, curse the river weeds, curse anything but the fish. From the size of the pull, think the better of a 5x leader and get on down to a 2x. Toss in, wait a bit — bam — same result, including failed knot.

Burn! Slowing down this carp old school gave me a hot palm. (Jim Burns)

Burn! Slowing down this carp old school gave me a hot palm. (Jim Burns)

And then this largemouth bass grabbed the same fly, a work-a-day glo-bug. (Jim Burns)

And then this largemouth bass grabbed the same fly, a work-a-day glo-bug. (Jim Burns)

Curse Orvis, maker of the slippery leader, curse limited knot skills, curse Lou Ferrigno, for no reason. Look up at monochrome sky and ask “why?”

Sit on rip rap. Retie. Walk upstream, toss in, hook up — bam — fish on. Big fish on. Mental notes intrude on sweaty, running experience … Play him on the reel. Slow down the narrow spool with palm, getting hot, ouch. Turn head, tire him out, another run, fingers, ya oh, man that smarts, more mental notes. What’s with the mental notes? Blame golf psychology book, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” that is current read.

Walk back, walk back slowly. Runs again, remember that knot fail! Ease it up, running, slow him down.

In close now. Gold shine, liquid undulating gold. We see eye to eye. Back up, back up, and … he’s ashore.

Heart pumping, mental note, take the IPic. Fumble in pocket. Curse the white-hot September light, so bright I can’t really image the picture. A Mexican guy on a bike on the bike path, says “Take a picture,” as both a question and a statement. I think to myself, “but I am taking a picture,” and then realize maybe he wants to scale down the rip rap and take a snap of me and this California gold rush.

Elation. Snap. Fish back in water. Heart beats hard; left hand hurts; praise Orvis, praise my limited knot-tying ability, praise the very moment, alive, so very alive.

I right myself, put back in, same fly, and quickly get a different kind of tug, bass tug. Oh, yes, this is so easy, haha, nothing two-to it, and will it ever happen to me again? Snag an L.A. river deuce, same day, same fly.

Hallelujah.

Let 'em know you fly fish the L.A. River.

Let ‘em know you fly fish the L.A. River.

In honor of this twofer, I propose an unofficial contest: if you hook up, two different species, same day, same fly, send me the story and pics, I’ll send you an lariverflyfishing tee shirt. Only got three left from the derby, all extra large.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Snap, crackle, pop (per): Homemade Tenkara fly fishing meets bad-boy bass


Here comes popper! (Roland Trevino)

Here comes popper! (Roland Trevino)

By Roland Trevino

Guest contributor

The heatwave had imprisoned me indoors, and on the first cool day in over a week, I looked forward to an evening  of catch-and-release fly fishing on the LA River.   My friends would meet later to continue our ongoing competition, the object of which was generally vague until one of us caught a big fish, many fish, or a really interesting fish.  Today I aimed to set the bar pretty high – and I did!
I took my 4-foot ultralight fly rod and used no reel.  I have found this setup to have serious limitations, yet these are easy to overlook as it casts great in tight conditions and is ridiculously fun to use.  I was armed with a small array of poppers and beadhead chironomids.
My beadhead fly went mostly unnoticed, excepting a beautiful yet naïve 4-inch Green Sunfish.  I switched to a size 14 popper and the bite was on!  The serenity of the river was shattered as the bass violently struck the popper like an 11-inch  locomotive.  This is no sunfish, I thought, as the fly rod almost bent double.   I held my breath and tried to keep the line tight as the fish broke the surface, trying to throw the hook.   Then it seemed to dive down – perhaps looking instinctively for a submerged branch to break the line off against.  A friendly onlooker watched the battle and inquired about what “bait” I was using.

Bass a poppin': Eleven inches that fell for a No. 14 popper. (Roland Trevino)

Bass a poppin': Eleven inches that fell for a No. 14 popper. (Roland Trevino)

When I landed the bass, I snapped a couple of quick pictures of it, measured it against the fly rod, removed the hook with my hemostat, and released it back to the river.   As I watched the bass swim back down to the depths, I felt honored and excited to have caught this fierce and beautiful fish — I was also glad to have photographic proof for my incredulous friends.

Their arrival was marked, as per usual, by a mocking remark about my casting — but I knew today’s competition would be mine – or would it?