New So.Cal. Steelhead book hits the heart of the matter


The first book published by Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach details the struggles of the endangered Southern California Steelhead. (With permission, Aquarium of the Pacific)

The first book published by Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach details the struggles of the endangered Southern California Steelhead. (With permission, Aquarium of the Pacific)

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 John G. Tomlinson Jr. 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.

Sob.

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.

This chart of the comparative rainfall might not look great during our record-breaking drought, but in earlier times, it was a draw for those looking to escape bad weather and regain their health. (With permission, Aquarium of the Pacific)

This chart of the comparative rainfall might not look great during our record-breaking drought, but in earlier times, it was a draw for those looking to escape bad weather and regain their health. (With permission, Aquarium of the Pacific)

When Congress approves the billion bucks for a river makeover early next year, 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 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

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5 thoughts on “New So.Cal. Steelhead book hits the heart of the matter

  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues
    of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a
    lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks
    like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet
    without my permission. Do you know any solutions to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d genuinely appreciate
    it.

    • I’m a college newspaper adviser, so I can tell you colleges use turnitin.org to look for similarities within term papers. For the rest of us, it’s pretty much put the phrase in Goggle, find the offending website, look up the owner on Whois, then write an email asking for cease and desist. If they don’t comply, you need to get a lawyer involved. This works well until you like Sites run through GoDaddy that are “black box,” no owner listed. Go luck!

  2. Jim, maybe you can post some places and/or organizations that those of us who come from a little bit “quieter” generation can go to help or be heard in the he next few years?
    Most of my fears stem from the fact that I used to walk my dogs all over what is now a “great planned” community known as Playa Vista and for all the good I hear about LA river rejuvenation, in the back of my mind all I can see is 200 people sitting in a newFrank Gehrey tapas bar in front of my “honey” spot staring in horror and calling 911 on me for back casting near them…

    I am getting to old to keep remembering back when places were cool BEFORE they were made better.

    • Yes, Joe, I know exactly that fear, getting priced out (pushed out?) of something that was once very private and very cool. I will post some spots I really love in the future. In the meantime, there’s a steelhead talk at the Aquarium of the Pacific in late September you might enjoy, put on by three interested and committed groups.

  3. Pingback: Los Angeles River - Fallfish Tenkara

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