Calendar Item: Off Tha’ Hook fishing throwback returns Saturday, Sept. 3


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August is my least favorite month in L.A.: It’s hot under that super-heated cloudless sky; there are wildfires burning, scaring us all and further fouling our air; and I’ve finished bing-watching “Scarier Things” on Netflix.

Even without Netflix, things begin to pick up for me with USC’s first game (and now the Rams, yippee), going back to teach journalism and getting to participate in our own home-grown L.A. River fishing event, Friends of the Los Angeles River’s Off Tha’ Hook.

Each year, this festival geared around what our river is — and what it could be — grows, from its first “Hey, Martha” moment in 2014 (as in, “Hey, Martha, can you believe what they’re doing down there …), to this year, the first at the notable Bow Tie location. The water is deeper here than North Atwater Park, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the adult division anglers catch.  Sign up for $35 here and read more about the contest. (This is a price reduction from last year; also, if you help out with the kids’ fish, you’ll receive a $10 discount)

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ONE OF LAST YEAR’S WINNERS Issaih Salgado, 15, of Palmdale (left) hangs with event organizer Bill Bowling. (Jim Burns)

Much as I enjoy watching the fishers catch, and then being part of the “bucket brigade” that brings the fish to biologists to weigh and measure, the best part — the part that sustains me throughout the year — is the kids’ fish. For many youngsters, it’s their first introduction to our favorite sport, and this year the Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club will once again be on hand with kid-friendly rods and their expertise. And, it’s free.

So for all of you hiding out inside, binge-watching Netflix, please join us early next month. It’s one of two days you don’t need a fishing license to legally fish. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Like I said, it’s one of the fall treats I look forward to every year.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

 

Calendar Item: Tenth Annual Frogtown Artwalk slated for Saturday, Aug. 13


image1 This year, Frogtown Artwalk, 4 p.m.-10 p.m., is dedicated to the vision of Lewis MacAdams of the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), now in its 30th year of protecting and restoring the natural and historic heritage of the LA River. At the Artwalk hub, the Frogspot, an award ceremony at 6 p.m. will honor MacAdams for his work; CD13 councilman Mitch O’Farrell will also be thanked for his involvement in the Artwalk. See you on the river, Jim Burns

‘Clean up river once and for all of us,’ writes LA Daily News


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STEELHEAD imagery abounds on the Los Angeles River. (Jim Burns)

This thoughtful piece takes us out of hand-wringing mode about the Heal the Bay study, and, instead calls for a total clean up.

“Should the news released last week, after a Heal the Bay study, that the river is still polluted with harmful levels of fecal bacteria cool our optimistic jets about its restoration? It should not.”

Definitely worth a read.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Heal the Bay report finds poor water quality within LA River rec zones


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A freight train roars by a graffiti-covered container in the currently desolate river section know as the Bowtie Parcel. (Jim Burns)

The nonprofit Heal the Bay, which publishes the yearly Beach Report Card, Wednesday released a 37-page water study of the Los Angeles River. Weekly water samples from Rattlesnake and Steelhead parks in the Elysian Valley and one in the Sepulveda Basin revealed a fecal indicator bacteria that exceeded federal standards.

“The study shows that popular recreation spots along the Los Angeles River suffer from very poor water quality, which poses health risks to the growing number of people who fish, swim and kayak in its waters,” according to a Heal the Bay press release.

More than six years ago, kayakers proved that the river was indeed a “traditional navigable waterway,” a legal term, and the Environmental Protection Agency invoked the Clean Water Act and triggered its protections.

“EPA is committed to a healthy L.A. River, and we will continue to work with our partners at the state, and other stakeholders like Heal the Bay, to improve water quality, habitat and recreational opportunities,” wrote EPA Public Affairs Specialist Soledad Calvino, in an email. “Water quality is an ongoing challenge in urban rivers, which require monitoring, assessment and measures to address pollutants from stormwater runoff and other sources.”

The EPA was reviewing the Heal the Bay findings at the time of this writing.

Closer to home, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office lauded the fact that L.A. has made progress “by significantly reducing trashing in our stormwater and reducing spills by 85 percent of the last 10 years.

Kayaking activist George Wolfe was instrumental last year in establishing the Los Angeles River as a "navigable waterway," which invoked the Clean Water Act. (courtesy George Wolfe)

Kayaking activist George Wolfe was instrumental in establishing the Los Angeles River as a “navigable waterway,” which invoked the Clean Water Act. (Courtesy George Wolfe)

“However, bacterial levels tend to exceed federal standards, which is not a surprise for an urban river that receives runoff from more than 800 square miles of heavily populated areas,” according to Liz Crosson, the mayor’s water policy advisor.

Earlier this month, an old sewer pipe, built in 1929,  ruptured in Boyle Heights, causing some 2.4 million gallons of effluent to spill into the river. Health officials closed both Seal Beach and Long Beach for a time. The largest spill in L.A. history comprised some 30 million gallons in 1998, blamed on El Nino storms.

The spill occurred miles from both recreation zones, which are both upriver.

Based on its findings, Heal the Bay recommends:

  • Kayaking and Angling: People should limit water contact, especially avoiding hand-to-face water contact. Users should not enter the water with an open wound, if immunocompromised, or after a rainfall. If there is water contact, rinse off with soap and water afterward.
  • Swimming: While many families recreate in the water, particularly on hot days, adults and children should avoid swimming in the L.A. River, particularly submersing their heads under water. We envision a swimmable L.A. River one day but current water quality is not yet at a healthful level. If there is any water contact, rinse off with soap and water afterward.
  • Public notification: All groups promoting recreation in the L.A. River should provide water quality information and best practices to all participants, using consistent, accurate and prominent information on all outreach materials, and in multiple languages, consistent with the demographics of visitors.
  • Increased monitoring: The City of Los Angeles or responsible municipal agency should institute, at a minimum, weekly water quality testing for fecal indicator bacteria in the recreation zones during the open season (Memorial Day to the end of September), and at other known swimming spots along the Los Angeles River.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

‘Carping’ about your summer reading list


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THE BIG FOUR, for those who hunt the mighty carp, include an oldie and three relative newcomers. (Jim Burns)

If you’re like me, you probably spend more time reading about fishing than actually tossing in a line. But when the prey is carp, the more time spent in front of a page or a screen, the better prepared you’ll be when you do actually have time to get on the water.

Four books can really ease the learning curve when it comes to catching this temperamental, magnificent fish. I’ve reviewed all of them separately, so follow the link if you want more.

Way back in 1997, three fly fishers spotted what would become one of the biggest fly-fishing trends of this century. Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman actually extolled catching this “trash fish,” when nearly everyone else was laughing them off the water. Well, he who laughs last, laughs best, as the adage goes. “Carp on the Fly” is the keeper classic I turn to, over and over again.

The chapter heads alone tell you there’s a full education within these pages, everything you need before you pull on those waders: Locating feeding carp (italics mine); what carp eat; presentation. And, interesting for you historians out there, the first chapter is entitled, “Why Not?” “Yes,” the first sentence begins, “this really is a book about fly fishing for carp.” Part of the fun of reading this book is its underdog approach.

In 2013, Kirk Deeter wrote “The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp,” showing carp had arrived, now being ballyhooed by both a famous outdoor author and a famous company. The book is much slicker than its predecessor, and Deeter put in lots of water time to present the valuable tips contained within its pages. Four-color throughout, publisher Stonefly Press didn’t spare expenses or design talent: After all, So. Cal’s own Al Q. designed the front cover.

Orvis then followed up the next year with “The Orvis Beginner’s Guide to Carp Flies,” which I find a perplexing title. Penned by the admired Colorado carper Dan Frasier, and filled with flies from the sports most trusted tie-meisters, it, nonetheless, seems odd to me that the company puts the word “beginner” in the title, yet only provides recipes for the flies. If a beginner can look at, for example, Jay Zimmerman’s Backstabber, check out the recipe, and reproduce the fly, please let me know.

What makes the book a fun read is all of Frasier’s field work that tells the reader where and when to use the 101 patterns listed in the book.

Two years later , in 2015, Headwater Books published Zimmerman’s own magnum opus, “The Best Carp Flies.” I have purchased many dozen of dollars’ worth of very cool stuff to tie some of these flies, and can tell you I don’t (yet) have the tying skill to do them justice. Zimmerman gives you a deep, long dive into the art of tying. He sources the flies, telling us, for example, that the Carp Carrot first appeared in 1950! He talks creative process, development and “tank tinkering.” I mean, wow, this book is the real deal.

So, if the last time you put a boot into the water, the carp disappeared like you were a fox in the hen house, step back and do some summer reading. I’ll bet things improve thereafter.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

 

 

 

Calendar Item: Learn to fish the LA River with Trout Unlimited (for free!)


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Here’s the definition of “cool, chillin’.” And check out the length of that rod! (Courtesy Michelene Cherie/Friends of the Los Angeles River)

Each summer, more anglers discover our home water — and more Angelinos want to check out the sport. We’ve got the warm-water species: carp, bass, tilapia, aquarium dweller … All you have to do is learn how to suit up and catch ’em.

This free event should be a blast, so I hope you’ll come and listen to Bob Blankenship, So Cal TU president, Michael Miller, who leads LA River trips for the Pasadena Casting Club, and me. If you’re new, come on down. You’ll learn all you need to get started. (Yes, buy a fishing license …). If you’re experienced, come and tell us your fishing tales, maybe reveal why a tortilla fly is your fav instead of a Glo-Bug. Or tell us about the day dad caught that insanely famous bass on a popper.

Of course, we won’t be revealing the fishiest spots to throw in, but with the info you garner — and practice — soon you’ll have your own secret spot.

Here’s the official blurb and a link to the FB posting. Hope to see you Sunday.

“If you’ve ever wanted to fish the LA River, here’s your chance to find out how. Members of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited will be on hand to talk about the various ways to fish, and chat about the essentials: equipment; reading water; spotting fish; tactics. The talk includes both fly and spin.

Where: The Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., Los Angeles 90039

When: Sunday, July 24, 3-4 p.m.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Owens River Water Trail: $500,000 closer to reality, but obstacles remain


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Kind of gives a new meaning to “out in the tules,” doesn’t it? (Jim Burns)

Volunteers who worked on the nascent Owens River Water Trail in June woke up to some good news this week: The California Natural Resources Agency selected the site in Lone Pine for funding.

“Your fine contribution of labor and/or equipment and/or publicity was instrumental at helping secure the grant. All four of the Resources staff were able to personally experience the river and see your work—and they were impressed, ” wrote Larry Freilich, Mitigation Manager for the Inyo County Water Department, in an email.”The $500,000 award will be to open up the first designated river trail in California.”

But while supporters of the project are gratified to see funding slated to become a reality, there is still work to be completed,  namely negotiate site and construction agreements with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has maintained a mostly antagonistic relationship with valley residents for more than 100 years. The Los Angeles Aqueduct opened in 1913, taking water from the valley some 230 miles to Los Angeles. That action drained the historic Owens Lake, and created “the largest single source of particulate matter air pollution in the country,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Lower Owens River Project, a joint project between Inyo Water and LADWP begun in 2006, began reinvigorating a 62-mile stretch of the Owens River, raising hopes of bringing kayaks, fishers and birders to the area. Although wildlife did return, the unintended consequence of more water was more tules, the thick, tall weeds that blossomed along many stretches of the Owens River. And, in effect, the tules strangled efforts to bring fresh outdoor tourism to the area.

The current river trail is an effort to revive those hopes.

In April, the Owens Valley Committee wrote on its Facebook page that “On page 8 of the 119 page Grant Application, one of the most important aspects of the proposed River Trail is articulated: ‘Creating an experience where the disabled can enjoy nature in a unique way is one of the primary goals of the project. Kayaking is one of the few sports that offer independent recreational opportunities for the handicapped.’

The post, based on this article in LARFF, continues “Almost a million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have an officially recognized disability as the result of those conflicts. Millions more suffer with emotional scars. What an incredible opportunity this River Trail would be for our disabled veterans to enjoy nature. How dare DWP hold back its full support of this project!”

Freilich garnered support for his grant proposal not only locally, but also in Los Angeles. At least two separate kayaking groups donned wetsuits over two separate weekends in June to hack and slash away at the tules, creating a mini-kayak passage on the river.

Yet, if ecosystem can be reshaped fairly easily by volunteers efforts, the same cannot be said of the competing interests for Sierra water. Restoring water to the lower Owens River took 10 years, two environmental lawsuits and a court order fining LADWP $5,000 a day for missing deadlines. In all, penalties came to more than $3 million, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Exactly how long it will be before kayaking enthusiasts paddle down this water trail outside Lone Pine remains to be seen. A timeline for creating a water trail, presented at the California Trails and Greenways Conference in Lake Tahoe in 2013, shows:

  •  Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) grant application process (8 months)
  •   DBW budgeting process (12 months)
  •   DBW grant contracting process (3 months)
  •   Grantee consultant selection and hiring process (4 months)
  •  Project California Environmental Quality Act permits and design process (18 months)
  •   Grantee bidding and awarding process (2 months)
  •   Project construction (6 months – more if confined to construction windows due to migratory or nesting concerns)
  • Total = 53 months

But the next step for Inyo County is to convince the LADWP of the feasibility of the project, and its ability to successfully shepherd the river trail from drawing board to reality.

“Inyo County has proposed a project on City of Los Angeles lands that provides paddle access to the Lower Owens River, “said James Annatto, manager for the L.A. Aqueduct, via email.” As the land owner of the project area, we have concerns as to the potential impacts related to the project.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is meeting with Inyo County to work through the land use and other issues.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns