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)
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?