‘Like insects waking to th’ advancing spring’

Trout Unlimited’s Bob Blankenship spotted this mayfly near the LA River. Spring is in the air. (Courtesy Bob Blankenship)
The mayfly has played a role throughout human history, appearing in the lower righthand corner of this famous Albrecht Dürer‘s engraving The Holy Family with the Mayfly, 1495. Lasting only a few hours, depending on the species, the mayfly symbolizes the transitoriness of life. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring
Like insects waking to th’ advancing spring;
Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie
In shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky:
Such are these base ephemeras, so born
To die before the next revolving morn.
— George Crabbe, “The Newspaper”, 1785

Mayflies are totally prehistoric, with their distinctive wing profile. More than 3,000 species make up the Ephemeroptera, a wonderful word I first read just recently in an old British tome about bugs on the water. If you have spent any time at your vise during the pandemic, I’ll bet you’ve tied more than a few dries, as well as imitations of the rest of their life cycle, which is mostly spent as a nymph.

See you on the water, Jim Burns

Gehry’s LA River plan doesn’t include fish

Burn! Slowing down this carp old school gave me a hot palm way back in 2014. (Jim Burns)

I think I’ve been avoiding posting about this because it just seems so discouraging. During the pandemic year, we’ve all needed a lift. But I can’t avoid it any longer. After so many years of advocacy for the LA River from, for example, Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) and Heal the Bay, to transform it from miles of concrete into a robust ecological space for surrounding communities as well as all Angelinos, now we have a celebrity-fueled vision to create elevated platform parks.

Talented as he is, celebrity architect Frank Gehry is clearly the wrong person to redesign our city waterway. Here is a letter to the editor printed in today’s Los Angeles Times in response to its opinion piece, “A river renewal plan to benefit the Gateway Cities.

Mark C. Salvaggio writes: ” I have seen this so-called river plan. Lets MacAdams would be rolling over in his grave if he saw it. He started Friends of the Los Angeles River and was a mild-mannered poet and outdoors type of guy. MacAdams never sought to develop the L.A. River into an urban spectacle as envisioned by architect Frank Gehry. This plan would require billions of dollars and would destroy the “parkway” vision of MacAdams. This is what happens when big shots grab onto a community-based idea.”

When I searched the word “fish” in the recently released LA River Master Plan, I found three references: one to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, then these two mentions.

“Along the LA River, access points take on many different forms. Following the advocacy that led to the LA River’s designation as a federally protected waterway in 2010, there are now two section of the river designated as River Recreation Zones created to allow access into the river for kayaking, canoeing, and fishin (sic).”

“The 11.3 miles of soft-bottomed section (portions of the channel with earthen bottom) at Sepulveda Basin, The Glendale Narrows and the tidal estuary are the most ecologically healthy; however, much of the river corridor continues to support algae, insects, fish, and local and migratory birds.”

That’s literally it. Three mentions of fishing, one part of a state agency’s official name. Incredible.

On a recent fly-fishing trip to the awesome Southern Sierra, the guide I was with told me that the LA is now a destination spot for fly fishers who wanted to test their skill against out infamous carp. Celebrities now fish for carp; hip web publishers ballyhoo it, and generally speaking its cred has come a long way from when I started this blog more than 10 years ago.

So, if you love fishing and don’t want to drive for hours to find a decent spot to toss a fly, please take a few minutes, click on the LA River Master Plan above and comment. We all need to voice our opinion that this plan is going in the exact opposite direction it needs to go. I mean we already have a guarantee from the U.S. Army corps to restore a wide swatch of the river to its natural state. Yes, the money has languished in the Congressional coffers for years, but it has still been approved.

Please take a moment. Tell the city we want to have more areas to fish, not fewer, and certainly not to have to go underneath elevated park platforms to do it.

For a primer, listen to KPCC’s Larry Mantle’s “Air Talk” about the LA that runs around 20 minutes.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Two podcasts for your consideration

Admittedly, I’ve resisted listening to podcasts.

I mean, for that matter, it’s been quite a transition to go from owning my music, as LPs than as CDs, to renting it over streaming services, so there you go. Technology has moved so quickly during the last 20 years, it’s been a challenge to keep up. Story be told, a few years ago, my son and I were driving for several hours from the Au Sable River back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to catch a plane home when he put on Joe Rogan, his fav., to help pass the time. Rogan must be at the top of the podcast world, with a recent contract from Spotify for some $100 million. Some of his interviews are fascinating, many of them don’t appeal to me, but from his content price tag, I can see I must be way at the back of the room. That’s OK. Anyway, I came away from that trip thinking I should probably at least give listening to podcasts a chance.

Back here in the land of fly fishing, I’ve only found two podcasts I enjoy. The reasons for such a short list vary, but many podcasts are infrequent, such as Fly Fish Food Shop Talk Podcast, from an absolute favorite source for fly tying videos (400 strong) and forward-materials shop in Orem, Utah. The last podcast drop dates from Dec. 17 with the previous drop on Sept. 23. I’m sure I would become a loyal listener if they provided more consistent frequency.

Also, I simply don’t have an audio attention span past an hour, tops, and I don’t like listening to podcasts in several sittings. For me, this knocks out lots of fishing podcasts, some which run to four hours. To pull that amount of time with a guests, or guests, off, you have to be a truly gifted interviewer.

Anchored with April Vokey

If you look at Vokey’s site you’ll find this British Colombia guide and entrepreneur has a lot of options, including a members’ only area and a second blog. She pulls in interesting guests, such as Clint Goyette who speaks about Czech Nymphing on the latest episode. As a 12-time champion fly fishing competitor, he certainly has the credentials to discuss the newer “love it or hate it” fly fishing phenomenon. Her topics also include hunting and what for lack of a better word I’ll call “survival tactics.” Good stuff, around an hour long.

Next is the Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast.

Tom Rosenbauer also does a fascinating job interviewing those on the inside of our sport. Artists, fly shop general managers, guides, biologists almost all make interesting guests. But my hunch is that most tune in for The Fly Box feature in which Tom takes listener questions. For example, “Is there are easier way to balance a fly rod than buying a heavier reel?” Or, “How do I get my parents to approve of my fly-fishing passion?” Even where to donate flies you don’t want. It’s around and hour and a half long, just about right for listening while cooking dinner.

If you are new to podcasting, you can download a player to your cellphone. The one I use is Overcast. You can subscribe to the ones you like and they will automatically download, so you can listen on your own time. It’s also easy to cancel a podcast if you’re no longer interested.

If you have a podcast recommendation, please share it. Even with the vaccine available, we’ve got a ways to go and lots more time on our hands. Fingers crossed that by Opening Day, we will all be back to something much more normal than now.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Biden to review Trump’s changes to Bears Ears National Monument, among others

President Biden may restore Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to its original size, created by President Obama. Under President Trump, the monument lost 85 percent of its land. (Courtesy USDA Forest Service)

If you read my “Ten things to cheer about in 2020,” then you know my No. 1 item was the election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Check out this except from the story on PBS Newshour:

Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Sign of the times?

The Heritage and Wild Trout Program? Really? Let’s just say this undisclosed location in the San Gabes won’t be my closeby trout water while I wait for the West Fork to return. (credit Jim Burns)

Lawrence Pirrone says:Edit

I know where this is. It was a nice fishery at one time. Putting those Angler report boxes in alerted every poacher in the San Gabriel valley that there were fish there and they wormed them out of there. I remember a time when I would see multiple fish fining in the pools as I hiked the trail. No longer. Those fish report boxes were the worst Idea that fish and game ever came up with. I detest them.

Ten things to cheer about in 2020

Even without the West Fork, you can still find trout in our local mountains. (Credit: Jim Burns)

We’ve never experienced anything like this year that’s coming to a close, both collectively and individually. As my wife and I watched the Christmas star last week, its first appearance in some 700 years, it made me wonder. As a writer, I’m all about signs and portends, so I thought it could either mean the coming apocalypse or a brighter future, as it did so many centuries ago. I chose the latter.

As we have all watched so many of our systems go haywire or barely hang on, there is still much to cheer. Here are my Top 10 in no particular order.  

  1. Election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda
    1. The former president’s environmental record is beyond abysmal. Start with the shrinking of Bear’s Ears National Monument and rushed move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Both are a disgrace to our heritage of enjoying federally owned open lands.  
  2. Women embrace fly fishing
    1. From April Vokey’s podcast, to Montana Rodsmiths’ Aurora Lady Flex, unique rods build for women, to #chickswhofish, the sport is taking on a much-needed feminine side.
  3. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, some major corps pledge to cut emissions 
    1. It may not be perfect, but it’s a beginning with a goal of zero emissions by 2050 or 2060, depending on who you read. Climate change is real and caused by human activity. May disdain for science and disdain for experts now live only in the past. My grandson will thank you. 
  4. Defeating Bristol Bay
    1. Alaska’s Trout Unlimited brought the heat and, as a result of a sustained community effort, the Pebble Mine isn’t being dug. The effort was two decades long, and we should all thank TU’s Meghan Barker for the many days she personally devoted to this defeat. 
  5. Bring down the Klamath Dams
    1. As CalTrout writes “The removal process for the four Klamath Dams will start in 2021 and extend into 2023. We look forward to celebrating the day when the Klamath River flows freely for the first time in over a century, and more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat are once again accessible to native salmon and steelhead.” The Iron Gate Dam will be the largest in history to come down.
  6. New sentiments and community effort: the Eklutna Dam in Alaska falls
    • From Trout Unlimited: “Return to Us chronicles the historic effort spearheaded by Eklutna, Inc. and The Conservation Fund to remove the abandoned Lower Eklutna Dam and kickstart the return of diminished salmon runs to the river in Southcentral Alaska, near Anchorage.” In 2019, 90 dams in 26 states fell, setting a record number. I don’t currently have the 2020 figures.
  7. Beginnings of a fish passage on the Los Angeles River
    • Planning has begun to deepen part of the river to allow the endangered Southern California Steelhead access to its spawning grounds in the mountains. We are still a very long way off from the entire river being navigable for these fish, but it’s a start. 
  8. There are still wild trout in the San Gabriel mountains
    • The loss of the West Fork is a devastating experience for those of us who love the outdoors. I wrote a story for the upcoming “California Fly Fisher” (hard copy only) in which those in the know recommend other spots for fish and enjoy. My last outing, I was surprised to catch three native rainbows in a couple of hours in our local mountains. They were small, cold and beautiful.
  9. The first Native American to be nominated for the Interior Department would replace former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, as part of Biden’s climate-forward agenda.
    • Plus Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy, Michael Regan for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Brenda Mallory for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Gina McCarthy for National Climate Advisor, and Ali Zaidi for Deputy National Climate Advisor would all join Deb Haaland.
  10. LA River Fly Fishing turned 10!
    • I never thought this site would last past a couple of years, but here I am clicking away. The site remains ad-free and has garnered around 235,000 views since I started writing and curating. Thanks for your support over the last decade. We’ll see how the LA River improves in the coming year. 

Happy New Year and see you on the river, Jim Burns