Europe is one of the best continents to be in when it comes to vacations. Backpacking and taking in the sights on a bus or train is one of the best life experiences you’ll never forget. Among the best places in Europe is Germany. Apart from its scenic views, castles rich with history and the amazing food, it’s also the best places in the world to catch carp. While your wife may frown at the thought of you fishing while you’re in your second honeymoon, the best places to fish in Germany are also some of the most unique and picturesque locations you will ever see.
If this is your first time fishing in Germany, it would be best to hire a guide. Not that we don’t trust your fishing instincts or expertise, it’s just that locations here have peak and off peak seasons for fishing. On top of this, Germany has a strict and stringent fishing policy. You will need a temporary license to start fishing and if you’re going to fish in private property, you will need to pay the owner some royalties as well. Before this discourages you, let me assure you that if you hire a guide, all of these problems will go away. For a modest fee, your papers, the fishing location and all the gear you will need to fish that elusive German carp will be taken care of. You can check the internet for fishing guides like ProNature to help you with your fishing experience. The good thing about these guides is that they can also arrange your accommodations in some of the best B&B inns in the country.
Once you hire a guide, don’t forget to learn the tricks of the trade so you can go at it alone the next time you’re in Germany. Since fishing is regulated here, there is an abundance of catch and the sizes are relatively bigger than their U.S. counterparts. If there was ever a time for you to start your loved ones on fishing, this would be the place to do it.
UPDATE: This post is more than four years old, but continues to get traffic, so I wanted to give readers the lowdown, as of mid-July, 2017. California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife recruited members of the Pasadena Casting Club and other groups to fish, snorkel and help access the health of the stream. The result: encouraging. Ten anglers caught 60 fish in five hours, all rainbows, ranging from under six to more than 13 inches. Two years ago, a similar study found only 20 fish. Our beloved West Fork is going in the right direction once again.
There’s no doubt that fly fishing is very much akin to love — true love, of course — and that possibly as writer Thomas Wolfe once lamented, “you can’t go home again.” Maybe all of that’s overstating the case, but a recent return trip to the West Fork left me wringing my hands.
Here’s how my day went, after some two years of staying away.
— Had Wednesday off … a near perfect weekday to go fishing
— Weather was perfect, in the 80s
— Found a spot in the lower parking area. That never happens
— Enjoy new signage for Cogswell Dam on locked gate
— Decide to hitch when a Prius driver opened the locked gate. She initially stopped, got spooked and waved as she accelerated past me
— Spot new, unfinished bridge to upper parking lot. Frown. Good roads make bad fishing
— Resumed enjoying day, trying to spot fish in the put-and-take area. Can’t see any trout
— Met a friendly dog named Crazy, or some such. He followed me up the canyon, much to owner’s chagrin
— Patient owner walked all the way back to get Crazy. Crazy followed me again. Owner carried Crazy off toward car
— Truck passed me on the road. Wonder how many people have a key to that damned gate?
And so some dark clouds began trying to intrude on my happy day off. At the first bridge, I saw two small trout, doing their round-and-round dance in the water, which I mistakenly called a mating ritual in these pages. Ready to thread up my ancient Orvis No. 2, 6-foot rod, I realized I’d torn the loop off the fly line on my last adventure. Darn. Time for a barrel knot between the 7x, 12 foot tippet (length not smart for this water …), and how do you tie a barrel knot again? Oh yeah, that’s how you do it.
— Fish gone
— Spied the trail up Bear Creek. Took it
— Caught one fingerling trout
— Wonder at the beauty of this (for me) discovery. Splendid to be alive
— Where were the fish? Waterbugs fooled me, as they looked like rises from a distance
— Made acquaintance of nice duck couple. They also wondered where the fish were
After what seemed like forever, even in this California canyon paradise, finally I spotted tiny fish rising. I rested on a boulder by the water and thought “tiny fish beat no fish,” so I threaded a tiny dry something, but to no avail. Then, a miniscule wired midge under a small yellow sallie nymph. Nada. Yes, there were plenty of tug, tug, tugs, but that was it.
— Exasperated, took closer look at fish. Whoa. These weren’t trout, but arroyo chub (I think)
— Had a grand time, out of myself, like being a kid, forgot the world, gloomy thoughts. Note to self: Must take wife picnicking here
— Headed back to road. Got decent pull at the Bear Creek pool that is fished by everyone and his mom, aunt, uncle, frenemy and others
Then, I saw three trucks parked right there, right by the side of the road, on the two sides of the road, actually
— Fly fisher having no luck at all by bridge
— Walking, hope to meet Crazy again
— Older gentleman in Long Beach Fly Fishing Club shirt, driving truck, asked me, “If I took ’em all out?” I say “no”
— Fight off gloomy thoughts like why do any of us think we can fish in the first place
— Start car with half-smile on my face. Was expecting full smile
And there you have it. This area needs help, folks. It is so achingly beautiful, yet at the same time so neglected by the thoughtless weekend crowds, the swimming, the fishing pressure, the easy access, the environmental lawsuits, the lack of any official presence … what else? I know for certain, I’ll not follow Wolfe’s advice. I’ll brave the traffic and maybe even Crazy to fish the catch-and-release section upriver one more time.
Look at it like this: It’s middle January; we just finished the worst cold snap in 20 years; and, presto, today temps are in the high 70s. That’s why the rest of the country hates us, folks.
And, the carp are going nuts on the river. Sure, you could book your ticket for Belize, hang with your buddies for a week at El Pescador and have a heck of a good time. All for about $1,100 for three nights, plus $500 in air fare.
Or … you could take your buddies down to the river and get into our own game fish for the price of some gas and a couple of tasty burritos.
Brrr, it’s cold out there, and even colder in the many fishable canyons of So. Cal’s San Gabriel mountains. Here’s how to have some fun:
1. Play hooky any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Skip Friday and forgettabout the weekend. There are always several thousand people who have the same idea at the same time. Crowds = lousy fishing.
2. Dress warmly in layers. Long underwear is a blessing this time of year.
3. Take it easy on the way down. Watch for gravel, sand and rocks that might give way. They will. Count on it.
4. Start with dries and move to nymphs. I know what you’re thinking: no hatch = no surface action. You might be surprised. Of the 10 fish I caught on my recent canyon adventure, two were on dries. Pick the usual suspects. Parachute Adams and his friends.
5. When you do reach into your fly box for a nymph, give that beadhead yellow sallie a try. I know it’s an underused Stone Fly, but the other eight fish I caught were all on this fly. Must be the legs.
6. Smaller is better. Even with all of our rain, flows are down. Size 14-16 or above, please.
7. Pack a lunch and extra water.
8. Bring a friend, someone who will make you laugh at some of those tiny trout you’re bound to hook.
9. Don’t wear hiking boots on slippery rocks. Just because the water’s cold, any rock in the water is still as slippery as it is in summer.
10. Turn your cellphone off. Keep your camera on. I know, you’re saying that there’s no service up there anyway. True, but it’s the principle.
11. Post your pics, so we can all see how good you look grippin’ ‘n’ grinnin’.
12. Keep an extra water and energy snack in the car.
Baker’s dozen: Get down. Get tired. Get silly. Get grateful. Repeat.
Author Thomas McGuane describes fly fishing better than most, and he certainly got it right with his musings about “20-fish days” in “The Longest Silence.” Of course, he wrote about stripper bass in Atlantic Ocean boils, yet the sentiment for all fisherman — from stream, to river, to broad-horizon ocean — remains the same: longing to catch lots and lots.
It’s a wonderfully greedy obsession and one my son and I tested last week over a couple of days in California’s Golden Trout Wilderness. First, topo map in hand, we plied the eastern approach. From Lone Pine off the 395, you take a left at the only stoplight in town, then watch for signs (virtually non-existent) to Horsehoe Meadow Road, drive up the dreaded “Z” (don’t slip off the edge …), park and walk. From town to your destination is probably two-to-three hours.
By the way, speaking of signs, you won’t see one anywhere in town to announce the GTW, which doesn’t open until July. Very strange. And most of the locals seemed bent on driving tourists (many French and Austrians there to hike nearby Mt. Whitney) away. Seriously, Lone Piners, what’s up?
Sounds much worse than it actually was, however, because once we arrived at 10,000 feet, our reward was 50 goldens over the day.
“Take one on your first cast,” I said to Will, and sure enough his grin as he pulled the first one out of the water said the rest. I was lucky enough to nab No. 50 in late afternoon, exhausted from the day’s hiking and catching.
The next day, we approached from the south, bunking in Kernville. This was essentially car fishing, with no topo map required. We quit after a couple of hours with only 27 caught and released. Low water in each spot didn’t deter us. After a scant rain year, you can’t expect the flows you crave.
Nope, they’re not big fish, so if any of you want to laugh, go ahead. The biggest fish was around 12 inches, which is a whopper by golden standards. But, I ask you, isn’t this one of the most beautiful species on the planet?
With the right rod in hand, small fish become bigger fish. On a dry, they run, fight, dive and try to get your flouro tied multiple times around that poorly placed log or shock of river vegetation. With the wrong rod, you’ll think you’re pulling up sardines from the party boat. I used my 2-weight Orvis full flex, matched to a small Battenkill reel, overlined with a 3-weight line.
Any attractor pattern does the trick with these seemingly starving fish, but don’t forget your terrestrials. Grasshoppers float for days and were a blast to fish. They also proved a great way to keep the tiniest fish off the hook.
The massive 300,000-acre GTW sits on the Kern Plateau and is accessible from at least three directions. On its eastern edge from Lone Pine, off Hwy. 395; from the south, accessible from the Sequoia National Park around Mineral King, itself a 30-plus mile adventure on a one-lane, dead-end road; or going north from Kernville.
In other words, if you are in reasonably good shape, you can day-trip to some great waters and be home in time for a steak dinner at McNally’s Lodge, north of Kernville on M-99.
The Golden Trout is considered a heritage fish, and by catching six different forms of California native trout from their historic drainages and photographing them in situ, you can receive a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri, according to the DFG Web site. The certificate will show six full-color images representing the trout you caught, along with their dates and locations. So far, the DFG has sent out about 150 certificates.
Remarkably, three of the trout native to the state’s waters are within the area. Besides the California Golden (technically known as the Golden Trout Creek golden trout), there’s also the Little Kern Golden Trout and Kern River Rainbow.
“Common names abound for the golden trout of the Kern River drainable,” writes Robert J. Behnke in is authoritative “Trout and Salmon of North America.” “This can be confusing because they tend to either pinpoint a fish to a particular stream, such as ‘Volcano Creek golden trout,’ or encompass a diversity of forms under one name, such as ‘California golden trout.’ The dozen or so common names for what are really two subspecies (aguabonita and whitei) of rainbow trout reflects the passion that so many have for this pair of jewel-like fish.”
Certificate aside, the Goldens we were after end up on many a fly-fisher’s bucket list for good reason: their jewel-like beauty. And, although they were once transported to Cottonwood Lakes, then to Arizona and beyond, the only place they naturally occur is right here, where they evolved in isolation from other trout.
As I said, they are a feast for the eye, with two red stripes, one on the belly, the other along the lateral line, running to the mouth and under the gill. Also, look for large black spots – up to 10 – that run laterally as well. Put these together with a predominately yellow-gold color and there’s little reason for their cousins to enter the beauty contest.
This general description will also come in handy when trying to decided if you’ve landed a pure golden or a hybrid, created through breeding with hatchery rainbows. Remember, these very distinct markings mean you’ve got a golden in your net.
David Lentz, who is California Department of Fish and Game’s native trout conservation coordinator, said that the small size is because of 140 years of habitat degradation from livestock.
“Continued livestock use results in shallower, wider, warmer water,” he said. Waters in their natural state would be both narrower and deeper, which, in turn, would mean fewer goldens that were bigger. The largest section of interconnected meadows for grazing lies in the South Fork of the Kern area. Sections are now being rested for eight-to-nine years at a time to regain this natural habitat. Some environmentalists have argued that the best way to prevent lifestock from grazing in the upper South Fork watershed is to get goldens listed on the Endangered Species Act, according to Behnke.
Stoked by a warm-water fishing article that recently appeared in Cal Fly Fisher mag, my son and I stopped in Lone Pine over the weekend to check out the lower Owens. After all, I’d fished the ponds behind Bishop for bass and panfish, and this piece sang the praises of throwing a bass bug into the river’s hot summer waters.
After a two-minute ride from town we found, yes, more water flowed; the weather was unseasonably hot as blazes; and we did spot a good-sized bass near a bank.
But now for that all-important cast … bonk. Only the croak of an insistent bull frog kept us smiling.
The looming LORP problem for the fly fisherman remains terrible access. If you’re a tule, you’re really a happy camper surrounded by lots of your tule friends, but if you’re struggling through them, fly rod in hand, feet in the muck leading to where you might find the river’s edge, it’s just not so good. Casting? No way. The only casts we got in were right next to the road.
Last summer, reporter Louis Sagahun from the Los Angeles Times penned:
“The largest river restoration ever attempted in the West — intended to support a cornucopia of wildlife and outdoor activities — has left a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens so overrun with cattails, cane and bulrushes that it may take decades to bring them under control.”
He was writing about the Lower Owens River Project, LORP for short, that began about six years ago when L.A. Department of Water and Power began putting more water into the river that it had diverted to Los Angeles Aqueduct since 1913.
It’s a shame to have the restoration project in full swing, as evidenced by the nifty explanatory signage about the project and a new, shiny access gate, and not be able to fish. Anybody got a lawn mover?
I’d skip this one until there’s a solution, possibly like the disabled fishing platform on the ponds outside Bishop.
UPDATE: Take Deep Creek off your fishing radar until the drought ends. You’ll find little water and few fish. Also, because this is a protected area, if the native fish die out, that will also be the end of this once beautiful water because it won’t be stocked. Don’t add to their stress by catching them.
Weather and fate are tied together.
Two winters ago, So. Cal. was literally awash in water, and so was Deep Creek, high in the mountains above San Bernardino. Those 18-plus inches helped to carry this once-cherry spot back to the near-top of many an anglers’ list. My last visit was May, 2011, which I chronicled here.
So wondering what our sub par rainfall for the year just ended (6.97 inches, June 30) did to the place, yesterday I jammed the hour and a half from my house to Lake Arrowhead, thinking that “lucky Monday” would apply, even in summer. Any fly fisher can tell you that Mondays are the best time to avoid all those other folks, some with waders on, lots without, who want to hike, swim, bike, laze, and generally cavort on our public lands. But sometimes that Monday luck runs out.
Sure enough, on a hot, windy gust the “whhhhiiiiinnnneeee” sound of a dirt bike engine greeted me, as I managed to find a parking spot among the dozen cars and one RV at the end of the road. It was just shy of noon as I rolled down the windows, ate a home-packed lunch, then — because I’m an optimist — inaugurated my new waders, even though the mercury was fast approaching 90 degrees F.
Thusly cocooned, I trudged past a nice grandfather and family, boots feeling way too big and clumsy for the heat. From his lawn chair in the shade, he looked me up and down, saying, “You think there’s enough water to catch a trout?” He quickly realized I was on my way in and didn’t have a clue. I grimaced, hoping he hadn’t just inadvertently given me one.
After spending about four hours systematically working my way around the semi-circle of water that surround the Splinters Cabin, down to the beginning of the canyon, all I can say is, unfortunately, Deep Creek’s done for the season. The water is fishable, true, but the fish are few, small and not ready to believe your newly tied midge is anything but a bunch of wire and fixings. Also, true, that on the last hole I lost a nice fish because I forgot that a log has two sides, and I was on the wrong one. Equally true, I fished a 7-weight leader for the little guys, which he easily broke with the log’s help.
For the rest of this long, hot summer, if you are more of an optimist than I, a party of three young guys who I think had just escaped from a scene in “Sucker Punch” told me that they’d spotted large fish much deeper in the canyon. I was done after losing the only good fish of the day, and didn’t follow their advice. Instead, I stripped off the waders and had a great time splashing my bathing-suit way back to the car, almost as free as a child until “whhhhiiiiinnnneeee” again reached my ears on hot, gusts, while I panted my way over the last hill.
From dirt, to pock-marked asphalt, to the mountain-lip-hugging Highway 18, I couldn’t shake that eerie sound memory of straining machine, amplified by the wind. Then, suddenly, my fear realized, I saw plumes of smoke rising hundreds of feet from the distant San Bernardino valley. Scattered orange cones closed the 18. I stopped in front of a CHPS officer who told me how to thread my way onto the 138, to connect with the 15, then home. Tiny Arrowhead-adjacent Crestline was under a voluntary evacuation. Officials would later dub the brush fire, “the Panorama Fire,” which has burned 75 acres as I write and is still burning.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded us long ago, “through woods and mountain passes, the winds, like anthems, roll.”