Tuesday Angelinos woke to a record rain that dropped more than 2 inches in a matter of hours on our thirsty basin. Check out this news report to watch rescues, as well as a swollen river with water speeds estimated at 35 m.p.h.
Today, I wanted to assess what this would mean for fishing, and was surprised not to find the river blown out, but instead to be greeted by clear water, normal levels and hungry fish. Mature tilapia and feisty green sunfish rose to both a chartreuse and to a purple (!) hi-viz Parachute Adams. I only wished I’d brought my 3 weight, as the 5 was too big for these undiscriminating fish. You have to choose your target rod: lighter for the littler guys, bigger and badder for the carp.
Bottom line: With the predicted monster El Nino possibly coming our way, these next few weeks are an excellent time to enjoy fall fishing, because once the water begins to drop in earnest, there’s not enough structure between the rip-rap banks to keep a fav spot the same. We waited for months for the bass to come back after last winter.
Also, on my way to some sweet water, here was a fly fisher who got his wheels there before I did. Technology trumps shank’s mare. (Sorry for the image quality …)
Any fishing and biking stories you’d like to share?
The challenge: Hook up on two L.A. River species, same fly, same day. Take a pic, write a story, submit.
The prize: One fabulous LARFF T-shirt.
The winner: B. Roderick Spilman
The Quote: “Within three casts, I had a small bass. A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish. Then, the fun really started. A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard. Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly. Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.”
My friend, Roland Trevino, is an avid fly fisher, and he had been bugging me to try this new spot on the river.
I’m a creature of habit, and had, thus, stayed mostly on my stretch of the river till then. Last Sunday morning, he called me and said that he and his son, Ansel, were going fishing for bass at the aforementioned spot. I had not yet caught a bass on the river, so I decided to join him with my daughter, Julia.
I had my 2 wt. and she had her spin rod. I put on a fly that I don’t even know the name of. Within three casts, I had a small bass. A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish. Then, the fun really started. A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard. Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly. Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.
Meanwhile, my poor daughter had had a few sad tugs. The worms were not working, so I actually put a small beadhead with a split shot and a strike indicator. That had worked before for her to catch sunfish downriver. But no luck! We waded up the river where Jim Burns and his son had been fishing earlier and had caught some tilapias.
As we were walking in the shallow, warm water, I shared with my girl the craziness of what we were doing, wading through the Los Angeles river, a place that most Angelenos think is devoid of life. It was far from devoid of life. Flocks of sand pipers scurried along, as if skating on the water. Egrets eyed us suspiciously. Seagulls stood as statues. Black-necked stilts glided nervously from one spot to another. Two ospreys patrolled the channel.
We got to the spot, and, indeed, there were significant schools of tilapias. We were not having much luck, but then, we saw something that will be indelibly stamped in our memories. Not more than 20 feet away from us, an osprey smashed into the river and struggled to take flight again. Clutched in its talons, a tilapia was wriggling.
I decided to be a good dad and gave up my fly rod. We went back to our first spot, and, after a few casts, Julia was proudly holding her first tilapia. Soon after, I saw Roland and his son wading back from their expedition. Apparently, they had caught a good number of bass.
The river never ceases to amaze me. In one day, I had caught a green sunfish, a bass, and many tilapias. More importantly, I had spent an unforgettable day with my daughter.
Editor’s note: And Roderick is now the proud owner of a LARFF T-shirt for winning the twofer challenge. Great job!
My wife, daughter and I try to get on the river regularly, usually every other weekend. We fish a quarter mile stretch below the 2 freeway. I have a 6wt for the carp and 3wt for the bass. I have caught quite a few carps, with the largest at 8 pounds.
The bass, however, keep eluding me.
I have tried to entice them with wooly buggers, crayfish, poppers, grasshopper/cricket patterns and large elk hair, but to no avail. I’m nearly sure they are mocking me, because, every time we go, as it’s nearing 5 in the afternoon, they begin to jump at regular intervals right in front of the reeds. I can see them clearly when they jump. They are unmistakably bass (1 to 2 pounds). I know where they are. I cast upstream and let the fly float down to them. Nothing. I try to drop a fly on top of them. Nothing. I roll cast. Nothing.
One time, I noticed that there were rises in the middle of the river, just as the sun had set. I cast an elk hair a little upstream and gave it a few little tugs. Sure enough something snapped it up. I pulled it in, and, in the fading light, thought I had caught a blue gill. When I grabbed it, however, I realized that it was a little green sunfish.
I easily slipped off the barbless hook and cast again. Bam! Another one.
This went on for half an hour and then the rises completely stopped. None of the fish was bigger than 6 inches, but it was fun just to catch something. The activity literally lasted for no more than half an hour, while the bass were still jumping long after. It dawned on me that what cormorants and mergansers were feeding on were sunfish. The bass must also be feeding on the sunfish.
If this is true, the sunfish are one of the pillars of the L.A. River ecosystem. Anyway, now, when I don’t catch a more noteworthy fish, I catch a couple of sunfish and I can say that I haven’t been skunked.
Got an L.A. River fishing story you’d like to tell? Email it, along with a picture, to me at email@example.com