Month: March 2011

The singularity of Confluence Plaza

Last night at sunset, a host of city and environmental group dignitaries dedicated Confluence Plaza. The crowd of some 75-to-100 people cheered and applauded, as the first jets of water shot from ground level high into the air, to a brass fanfare of “Rigaudon.”

The fountain shoots water into the air for eight minutes at the top of the hour, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Jim Burns)

The scene was nothing, if not surreal — and jubilant.

A more unlikely spot for this landmark probably couldn’t be found. To the north lies the netherworld of the Cypress Park Home Depot parking lot, under the I-5 freeway. Day workers milled around, waiting for that last hourly job, items for purchase sat on a blanket in a spontaneous bazaar, and the roar of rush-hour traffic reached shout-out levels.

Yet, the speakers put this latest addition to the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan in perspective.

“It means a connection to the environment,” said Romel Pasqual, L.A.’s deputy mayor for environment, from the podium.

His words echoed those of the previous speaker, City Councilmember Ed P. Reyes., who talked about the meager 55 percent high school graduation rate and the fact that “unfortunately, gangs are winning” our youth, instead of education. According to his Web site, in the past Reyes, vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee, has secured funds for neighborhood clean-ups, gang prevention programs and safe route school maps.

Of course, the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco is city history at its best. The actual spot is covered in concrete, inaccessible except to the  hearty. If you look on a map, it’s basically at the intersection where the I-5 and the 110 meet.

Careful! Park rangers, from left, Kevin Perrine, David Aceves and Fernando Gomez, get their feet wet as the fountain jets were inaugurated. (Jim Burns)


“It’s a beachhead,” Jenny Price,  who gives well-regarded tours of the  river, said of the plaza.

Indeed, it is the first part of the multiphase Confluence Park project.

The river’s poet laureate wrote a piece for the inauguration and one line probably best summed up the event.

“I prophetize our happiness …” Lewis MacAdams intoned from the podium.

Many nodded their heads in agreement.


See you on the river, Jim Burns

Rain rain, go away …

Last night, I woke up to the sound of rain pelting our metal window awnings. Normally good news, checking the weather forecast for the next couple of days, apparently rain will continue. But you know what that means — goodbye spring carp spawn.

Man, was that fun! It was my first spring spawn, and now I know why the more seasoned veteran re-checks his fly box in anticipation. During the last week or so, fish were everywhere — holding, circulating, tailing — waiting for (enjoying) nature’s main event.

Oh, man, there's nothing like losing a big one in the weeds. (Jim Burns)

Of course, the down side to catching carp during this season is getting them to strike. Their minds are on romance, not Glo Bugs.

Any trout fisherman who’s been around will do two things before the first cast: check to see what bugs are on the water, in the trees or the creekside grass; and pull a nice scoopful off the bottom to see what creepies are in it. That way, you can cover dries and nymphs — at least that’s how the theory goes.

See that nasty float in the background? Avoid it! (Jim Burns)

During the six months or so I’ve been carping, I’ve never seen any sort of hatch on our river, nor have I found any crawlies in riverbed samples. There are crayfish for carp to munch, but it makes you wonder what our omnivorous friends chew on to get so gigantic! Our river bottom is an odd mix of concrete, mud and sand.

Case in point, Wednesday, we were trying to get any of the dozen or so fish my son and I spotted to strike. Tailing indicates a fish feeding by butting its head into the bottom to dislodge a meal. The go-to fly on the L.A. River is the lowly Glo Bug, an egg pattern, either weighted or not, in either chartreuse or white. The hot pink, unnatural colors don’t work here.

Anyway, think spawning salmon. Same deal. You basically have to entice a fish who really isn’t hungry to strike. Will and I ran through the fly box — chartreuse and white Glo Bugs, without and with weight; the trusty San Juan worm in red; a larger size Wooly Bugger in green; a larger size Hare’s Ear; even a dry hopper, just for grins. Nada, squat, nary a strike.

The ticket turned out to be a size 18 bead head Prince Nymph. The flash, the “shock and awe,” got tails wagging. And the pull on a Loomis 5 weight, the sound of fly line moving to backing, the run …

What turned our smiles upside down was losing the fish under freshwater seaweed.  The warmer-water bloom made us clean the fly before every cast. And in this situation, the carp certainly knew that a nice, heavy roof of weed would help him (her?) to break us off.


But, then again, that’s why we all keep coming back for more!

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Spring spawn — it’s on!

“Mad as a March hare,” that’s how the old saying goes.

College basketball fanatics anticipate  March Madness; Catholics, the beginning of Lent and, for everyone,  the last big-gulp gasp of Mardi Gras: “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”

Check out the vivid color on this beauty. (courtesy David Wratchford)

Crafty fly tyers may litter their vises with March Browns to celebrate the beginning of spring.

And for those of us plying urban waters, it’s time for the semi-annual parade of the carp.

“I think they end up in Balboa Lake. I’ve spotted some huge fish in there,” guide David Wratchford told me yesterday at the Fisherman’s Spot. That would be miles, and miles, and miles upstream from where they begin the migration, probably in the Glendale Narrows.

Earlier in the week, he’d left me a voicemail — with some urgency — that the spawn was on.

My question: why now?

Turning to the bible of carp fishing, “Carp on the Fly” by Barry Reynolds and friends, I found the following water chart:

Water Temperature                                               Remarks

39 degrees                                          Carp begin active feeding.

41 degrees                                           Carp begin pre-spawn move  to shallows.

61 degrees                                           Sustained temp lethal to carp eggs.

63 degrees                                           Probable lower limit for spawning.

66 degrees                                           Optimal temp for carp.

72 degrees                                           Metabolism increases rapidly.

75 degrees                                           Probable upper limit for spawning.

79 degrees                                           Sustained temps lethal to carp eggs.

90 degrees                                           Metabolism at a high rate.

97-106 degrees                                  Lethal temp limit for carp.

So, once Mother Nature’s spring water thermometer hits the correct temperature, the carp are off and running. And do they ever run, up into the shallows, and the concrete steps that dot the semi-natural surface of Glendale Narrows and beyond.

Wow, a spawning carp, in all its mightiness, moves upstream. (courtesy David Wratchford)

If the March hare’s madness springs from its wacky mating behaviors — including jumping into the air for no apparent reason — the same holds true for carp.

“I saw sea gulls attacking a whole group of them. The fish were almost completely out of the water. I don’t know. It looked like they were trying to pluck out their eyes,” said one old timer I met yesterday.

Another younger guy, dressed in surgeon’s scrubs, told me he thought he’d seen a rock on one of the concrete flats. That rock, of course, turned out to be a monster carp.

“Its back was completely dry,” he said, and added that he couldn’t resist picking it up, then setting it back down in the water. I met him and his two friends with poles in hand, hoping to find more spawning carp.

What does this mean for you? Get fishing before the weather turns. Take advantage of this fine spring weekend. Heck, you might even exchange your normal Glo-Bug for a Mad March Hare’s Ear.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Upcoming River Tour with FoLAR and Jenny Price

If you haven’t taken a river tour with Jenny Price, consider it. My wife and I toured with her several months ago, and it was an eye opener. Example: Think we live in a desert? Nine out of 10 would answer, “Of course,” but not if they’d taken this marvelous tour. Details below:

Get to know the river, up close and personal, like this shot under the Sixth Street Bridge. (Courtesy FoLAR)
Carpool Los Angeles River Tour
Elysian Valley to Long Beach
Special Water Edition
Follow docent, Jenny Price, to the Glendale Narrows, Arroyo Seco Confluence,
Downtown, Maywood Riverfront Park, Dominguez Gap Wetlands, and
Long Beach Harbor.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
9:00AM – 5:00PM (option to leave midday)

Featuring speakers from Santa Monica Baykeeper, Food & Water Watch, and
Environment Now.
To register, visit
See you on the river, Jim Burns


A message from our buddy, George Wolfe

Dear prospective L.A. River boater,

KCET’s gorgeous new ‘Departure’ series provides a lot of great information & the latest news about navigating the L.A. River, the ongoing challenges of obtaining official access to the river, & other tales about life along the river.  I hope that you’ll support their efforts while getting questions answered about our green business in development and your role in a future river expedition this year.  Feel free to post comments in order to open up discussions. Or perhaps send this notice around your email circles… or post a link on your favorite social media site.  Thx! 

Kayaking activist George Wolfe was instrumental last year in establishing the Los Angeles River as a "navigable waterway," which invoked the Clean Water Act. (courtesy George Wolfe)
1/4: LA River Expedition (2:54) — a brief history of how the ‘2008 LA River Expedition’ played a key role in protecting the river and its watershed
2/4: It’s Surreal (4:03) — on the quirky, “surreal” nature of the L.A.River
3/4: The River – Beyond a Glance (5:41) — what it’s like to physically navigate the L.A. River in a boat
4/4: Accessing the Water (3:46) — regarding recreational activities on the river + the challenges of creating a proper access policy
A couple other items:
* If you feel inspired to help push the process along (and it can help), I recommend that you contact your city councilmember, county supervisor or state political rep(s) and urge our local governmental agencies to create a clear, comprehensive LA River recreational use policy so that you can start using your river via LA River Expeditions in spring 2011.
* L.A. River Expeditions has been honored in the past few months with two environmental awards for its conservation work on behalf of the L.A. River: the ‘Green Paddle’ (presented by the American Canoe Association) and a ‘River Warrior’ award (presented by the Resources Renewal Institute).  To see more info on those, see our News page at
George Wolfe
President & Founder
L.A. River Expeditions