Name this butterfly …

Please, name that butterfly! (Jim Burns)

Springtime has definitely hit the San Gabriel Mountains. Monday (the best time to fly fish to avoid the weekend rush) walking down to and around my favorite canyon, there were critters aplenty. A 4-foot-long Striped Racer slithered just in front of my booted feet, giving me a good scare; what I think was an Eastern Fox squirrel jumped onto a thick tree trunk to inspect me (He found me lacking …); and I spotted a pair of what I believe were Yellow Warblers, mistaking their coloring and size for distant Monarch butterflies appearing and disappearing in the forest canopy.

A fellow hiker cautioned me in the tree shadows: “Look,” she said, “can you believe it?” And there on the ground were a half-dozen or more of this butterfly. But, the question is, what’s it’s name? My handy Pocket Naturalist Guide (which you can get at the Audubon Center at Debs Park) lists the distinctive orange Monarch, the Painted Lady, The Cloudless Sulphur and three others, but none has those amazing horns. If you know what it is, please post the answer.

Meanwhile, for fishing our streams, stick with dries only, and tie on some stealthy 7x tippet to your light leader. Any lighter-weight rod will do, but if you’ve got a 2, 3, or 4 in your arsenal, take it. Also 9 foot is a bit much for our water, with its tight canyons and brush. Eight foot, six inches or shorter is a better choice.

Rainbows and browns were going nuts on just about everything I threw in. Keep the sizes small, 16 or better, but I’ll tell you it’s

This brown got fooled by a lot of elk hair caddis on a size 14 hook. (Jim Burns)

amazing to see a small fish latch on to a fly half its size when you toss a 10 or bigger! Ants are everywhere, so casting a parachute ant should bring good results. Unfortunately, the annoying small black flies have made a comeback, and I spotted a hatch of something tiny and gray-mosquito-colored coming off the water as well, so dark colors are a good bet.  Also, pale or light green are perennial favorite colors. And you won’t catch just minnows. There are plenty of bigger fish in our mountains. Please ALWAYS release the fish you catch in areas that won’t be stocked. These are naturals and once they’re gone, so will be our opportunity to enjoy this beautiful resource.

See you on the water, Jim Burns

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Pack trash out … all the way out

ImageTramping through the San Gabriels today with my son was a wonder: we caught 16 trout, rainbows and browns, in a half-day’s work. I even foul-hooked a rainbow, which is certainly nothing to brag about, but was fun all the same.

But the point of this post is, please, don’t trash the wilderness. I walked through some brush, only to be snagged by old line that someone had left carelessly near a stream. Attached to it was an old-school wet fly, around a No. 4, so I guess I’m a fly richer, but that could have also tagged me in the eye. Not cool.

I also found a discarded spinning reel (!), more line at another part of the stream, and a Sports Chalet receipt that didn’t looked great against the wildflowers. I mean, come on, if we want to keep our resouces safe and sacred, we can’t treat them like a public toilet.

Remember: pack it in, pack it out.

And, if you are fishing in areas that don’t get stocked, please release your catch. One hole I’ve fished for many seasons with success contained only two small trout. I doubt that my other friends fell prey to cranes or other feathered pros. If you take out the fish, they are gone, Period. Once the fish are gone, what’s the point of our sport?

Sorry for the rant, but as you prepare to get out there for a fantastic season of fly fishing, let’s respect what we have. Please repost.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

The Sweet Spot: The Gorge

The catch-and-release section of Rush Creek remains a no-go in early summer, unless the water flows change. (Jim Burns).

How’s the old Sam Cooke song go?

“It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy,

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”

Jumpin’, that is, everywhere except the eastern Sierra.

Who’s to blame for this atrocity?

Every summer, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes and environs are overrun with bait and fly fishermen, who want to catch as many naturals and plants as possible, from opening day in late April, until season’s end, Nov. 15. You’ll see them wade, float and paddle in the area’s lakes, rivers, streams and private waters. You’ll see them buying up as many worms, dry flies, nymphs and streamers as the sports and fly shops can carry. New expensive rods sell; flashy reels fly off the shelves; tippet and leaders; hemostats and non-felt-bottom boots. Bammo! It’s usually an injection of debit cards and cash for the summer economy.

So this year who’s to blame for fishing that can only be described by this writer as mediocre? That’s after three days on water from the C/R area of Rush Creek, to Hot Creek, to the C/R lower Owens.

Well, here’s the sad truch: It’s not actually who’s to blame, but what.

And that what is Mother Nature.

After a snowpack that was the best in years — 199 percent of normal — and a cool spring, the Tioga Pass, which connects Highway 395 to Yosemite’s eastern gate, finally opened Saturday, June 18. According to the Mammoth Times, Tuolumne Meadows still has a summer blanket of several feet of snow. Rivers are running at ridiculous levels. Maybe some visiting Hollywood producer will make a disaster movie about it in the vein of “2012.”

I mean when’s the last time a guide actually refunded your trip deposit, rather than take you out? It just happened to me.

My son and I watched the white caps on Hot Creek as the water tore through that wind-beaten canyon. You read that correctly — white caps.

So, if you’re headed up for your annual Sierra fix, better check the cfs numbers carefully. The same guide told me he didn’t expect normal flows until August. According to him, last year, which also had unusually heavy snowfall, July was the magical month.

Aside from private waters not affected by the torrent of water coming off the mountains, if you must fish (and if you’re like me, you must), try The Gorge, north of Bishop, off Highway 395. Any fly shop can give you exact directions.

The Browns can be sweet in The Gorge, but you'll work to get down there. (Jim Burns)

Two cautions: it is hot as blazes — expect the high 90s or more — and an unfriendly plant called stinging nettle certainly will make you miserable if you brush against it. Access to the water is down a long, steep, gated road, which means you have to have something left in the tank for the 25-minute or so trudge back up. Long pants, yes; extra water, please, and sunscreen (try the new spray-on from Trader Joe’s. Good stuff.)

Even with the moderate water flows, fishing The Gorge is tough. We managed to catch several browns in several hours; the lengths were more Southern California average than the monsters you’ll find on any local fly fishing Web site. Much as I hate to write this, I probably wouldn’t do it again this season.

As the world’s most honest guide said to me as I signed for my refund, “You fellas are just here at the wrong time, hell, wrong season.”

Which is great news for thirsty Los Angeles after a string of drought years.

See you on the river, Jim Burns