Bowtie Field Day
Saturday Sept. 23
2780 W. Casitas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Join Clockshop and California State Parks for an afternoon of outdoor activities along the Los Angeles River at the Bowtie Project. This free program is open to all ages, with activities and walks led by California State Parks rangers, Bowtie Project artists, naturalists and educators.
• Catch & Release Fishing Demos
• Knot Tying Workshops
• Sculpting with Clay
• Plant Pressing Workshop
• Herbarium Demos
• Nature Walk
• REI Raffle
• Campfire Program with S’mores
• Taco Plates Available for Purchase
Stay for an hour, or stay the whole day! Check out contemporary sculpture and historic rail yard landmarks amid thriving flora and fauna at the Bowtie Project.
Parking and restrooms on site. All activity materials provided.
In our all-too-human rush to progress, unexplored, poorly researched goals can lead to more problems than the fix solves.
How about the car? Sure, it got rid of those messy horses and fly-infested dung piles messing up the roads, but, in turn, we got smog, gridlock and a woeful public transit system from our embrace of the “horseless carriage.”
Or old-school refrigeration? Sure, your ice doesn’t come in blocks anymore, and your meat isn’t spoiled, but CFC refrigerants had to be reinvented to combat a growing hole in the ozone. And that reinvention, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), turned out to be worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
The Los Angeles River no longer has winter flooding, thanks to the work of the Army Corps of Engineers, but we no longer have an actual river running through Los Angeles, nor the ecosystem it supported. And now is the time to ask what kind of solution we will get to the one that fixed the original problem,
In recent years, the river has become a money magnet enabling politicians from Los Angeles, to Sacramento, to Washington. This comment after a July press conference post about the river receiving $100 million in bond funds hit home for readers of this blog.
Mark Gangi says:
July 7, 2017 at 5:08 pm Edit
Just hope they don’t screw up the fishing by confusing what a park is with what a river is.
At first, Mark’s comment seemed so straightforward to me that I missed his point. But it became clear as I listened to this interview with Tim Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation with A. Martinez on KPCC public radio.
Brick wants to restore the ecosystem, so that steelhead can return from the ocean to their mountain home. Is a plan that far-reaching anywhere in the planner notes?
This was also the rallying cry of co-Friends of the Los Angeles River founder Lewis MacAdams. “When the steelhead come home, we’ll know we’ve done our jobs” he would remind basically everyone who would listen. But since his retirement, that lofty goal seems to have slipped past advocacy groups that once rallied around his vision.
At that July press conference, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) proudly announced that he’d chosen this location, Marsh Park, because it was his first legislative victory. And, good on him. We need to have more public spaces for our underserved communities. But as I listened to one after another of the elected and appointed officials at the press conference, not one mentioned the steelhead trout, or creating an environment for its plausible return.
One hundred million dollars is quite a large sum of money and, as I understand it, the cash will be divvied up through grants chosen by two public agencies, each tasked with creating more green space along the river. That’s all good, but what about the river, itself?
As I say in the clip above, I’ve never caught a cold-water fish in the LA River because they’re aren’t any. The habitat that once supported thousands of steelhead is now so hot only intrepid warm-water fish can survive.
In 2011, I asked city officials and river advocates about this same topic in “Will steelhead ever return to the L.A. River?”
“The southern steelhead Distinct Population Segment goes from the Santa Maria River in San Luis Obispo County down to the Border. Say 50-75 years ago, the size of that population run was about 30,000 adults,” said Trout Unlimited’s Chuck Bonham, who will be the new director of the Department of Fish and Game, if his appointment is confirmed by the state senate. If you pull out a map and take a look at the enormous area he’s talking about, it’s obvious that even during the heyday, there weren’t a lot of fish.
Today, those numbers have plummeted in the area and are at zero in the river, itself. Southern California Steelhead have been on the Endangered Species list since 1997. To be put on it, a species must be viewed by scientists as imminently in danger of becoming extinct.”
As select administrators for both the city and the Army Corps huddle over what the redesign should look like, one that will bring more than $1 billion to river restoration one this decade and beyond, let’s hope that a habitat worthy of steelhead trout is at the top of their agenda, before parks, before soccer fields and before condo developments.
Is it too crazy to ask for a fish passage through all of the concrete up to and including Devil’s Gate dam in Pasadena, the gateway to historical steelhead spawning grounds?
Is it too crazy to give the Los Angeles river mascot “Steelhead Fred” an opportunity to return to his historic home water?
This time we need to take the sober, long view before our “rush to progress” clouds our vision, one in which we return to nature — and to ourselves — what was taken away.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
p.s. Can you find the flaw in the KCET video? Let me know.
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — It’s hard to get psyched about a shuttle ride to go fishing, especially when it’s mandatory. I’ll hike to fish, drive to fish, bike to fish, oh yeah, all of those, but taking public transport to cast a dry, it just seems odd.
For one thing, do you or don’t you wear your waders while on public transport? Showing up with a rod is odd enough, but trudging past Old Joe collecting tickets in your Simms just seems weird.
But there I was descending on the mandatory Reds Meadow Road shuttle to wet a fly in the middle fork of the San Joaquin, a section of the longest river in Central California. I’d heard it was fast, because of a monster snow that had skiers loving slopes this very morning. That’s right Mammoth is still cooking with only 93 days to go until the next opening day!
As we descended into the Devils Postpile National Monument, I surveyed my companions, including the family from St. Augustine, Fla., dressed out for three days of wilderness mountaineering — dad, mom and four kids all sporting shiny new ice axes attached to their equally first-trip backpacks.
The standing-room-only bus featured all manner of mountain couture, that cowboy hat that’s shrunk and in tatters, a badge of many successful trips; thick-soled boots showing all manner of soles, from new to gnarly; serious eye protection; poles and packs and approach shoes; over-flappy safari hats and their owners all taking in the wonder of 4 million years of mountain uplift. All the words by all of the writers don’t even begin to capture the view.
And there was a fair amount of trepidation as our driver exited the vehicle to coax an overly cautious Range Rover driver around the bus. True, it was several hundred feet down over the Rover side. Parking brake, please.
But for all the thousands of dollars of gear, new and not so, I didn’t spot a single pair of waders, and I applauded my own stick-to-it-ness as I left the bus, hiked a tad, and entered the intense current of the San Joaquin. Oh, make that the cold, intense current.
I’d brought both floating and sinking lines, expecting this quickly moving cornucopia of water. Because the real joy of fly fishing is casting a dry, I gently unfolded 6x to deliver a size 16 hi-viz caddis in usual suspect water, a simmering pocket edge. Pleasantly, a very small rainbow found it irresistible. My freezing feet were done at that point, but my mind was not.
Switch to the sinking line and two nymphs, one much bigger with rubber legs. Casting into water with this level of intensity was a thrill, as was watching the line unfold around a couple of river bends. A strike. Was it? Nothing.
Later, I realized I’d left my water bottle on the bank some 10 feet up, so I put my rod down with the nymphs still in shallow, currentless water. When I came back, there was pleasant surprise No. 2, another small rainbow wondering where he’d gone wrong. So much for the expertise of fly fishing!
My toes told me they were happy for this surprise, but it was time to go. But I told them how it was. Once you get a couple of small fish, you just know that there’s a bigger one out there someplace.
They tried to dissuade me by pretending to go numb. Oh, and the river schemed to get me home early by literally unzipping my left pant leg. I looked down wondering why the river drag had suddenly gotten so much worse and — wow, that’s a new one on me.
But there was really no other solution than to find a welcoming log pile, hop on and get zipped up. I kept thinking about my waders, those comfy, nicely fitted, warm, yummy, waders that I’d left behind, so as not to embarrass myself on the bus.
What do men say to themselves in these tender moments?
I admit to struggling with that zipper atop my precarious perch. I admit to muttering certain epithets to my former self, the fussy one who knows a thing or two about bus-riding fashions.
More or less safely zipped up, I couldn’t resist placing my nymphs under and down from the log pile. And there it was — the bigger trout.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
The Arroyo Seco Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to determine the best stream conditions for introducing trout, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
Tim Brick, the foundation’s managing director, adds:
“We’re still look for trout, but the stream is below 1 cubic feet per second again. We need to identify the pools and resting spots where the trout are hiding. Probably Bear Canyon is the most likely spot. Anyone care to go on a trout scout adventure?”
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, to get a taste of what fishing used to be like here, I’m rerunning my 2014 review of historian Tom Tomlinson’s excellent book, ““Against the Currents: The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” below.
If you think you’ve finished your summer reading list, stop! Consider one more book, please.
“Against the Current, The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” could not, in truth, be a more unlikely tale. Author Tom Tomlinson takes the reader on an environmental roller coaster ride that matches our region’s boom-or-bust water supply, and throws in plenty of human Greek drama.
What just over a 100 years ago was a region so pristine that Easterners came here to mend their health, through hunting, fishing and soaking up the sunshine, quickly turned into what we have today. As someone who has lived here for over 30 years with no plans of leaving, I’m not complaining, but when you read this book and realize what it once was — especially if you enjoy fly fishing the San Gabes — well, get our your handkerchief.
One fact to prime the tears: In the early 1900s, the then-equivalent of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife set the limit of fish taken at … 100. If you’ve ever put boots to dirt and fly to water in our mountains, this should give you a chill. Guests at the local fishing camps regularly hauled in lots of rainbows, and, yes, steelhead. And they hauled, and they hauled and they hauled. Think buffalo in the plains states.
How we got from those abundant fishy beginnings to where we are today is a story of good intentions gone to greed, it’s about that simple.
As for the steelhead once again taking center stage as we enter the Great Los Angeles River Rebuilding, well, this magnificent creature needs our help to get off the endangered species list.
When Congress approves the billion bucks for a river makeover early next year (Update: As of this writing three years later, the federal money hasn’t arrived), I hope every politician, every engineer and every investor gets a copy of this book. They should look up the section on one Henry O’Melveny, lawyer, fishing advocate, Creel Club founder, ice plant owner and, sadly, leader of the pack that done the natural inhabitants of our erratic rivers and streams in. Indeed, he is a figure as defining of Greek tragedy as Oedipus or Agamemnon.
Fast forward to today, and a mayor who is bringing in major bucks from Washington for the river as well as public transportation. I hope that Mayor Eric Garcetti reads this slim volume. It is the most compelling work to date on why the natural habitat can’t take a backseat to our own urban comfort zone. That story already happened.
See you on the river, Jim Burns