Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency declared all 51 miles of the river navigable. This summer … well, it looks as if beginning July 8 for 50 bucks a person you’ll be able to kayak three miles of the rio through the idyllic Sepulveda Basin. For the full scoop, read Louis Sahagun’s piece in today’s Los Angeles Times.
A shout out to George Wolfe, who was willing to break the law to get this rolling. Another shout-out to Councilperson Ed Reyes, a champion of the river. And to the many, many others (blogger Joe Linton comes to mind) who have pushed, cajoled, persuaded, informed, and insisted that the Los Angeles River must be transformed from a concrete channel to a natural river, for the people’s use and enjoyment.
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.
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.
A few days ago, with a half-hour to kill, I put a line in my favorite spot at the river. With trout, that’s usually enough time to hook up, but not with carp. At least, that’s the way it rolls on our river, and for moi.
But I did get to see one jump way out of the pool, then come down in an inelegant belly flop.
Last year, when I started carping, I’d see this and think “Oh, man, am I ever gonna hook that sucker,” but not anymore. Jumping carp are interested in something, but not eating a fly.
So … why do they jump? Fun? Recreation? Boredom?
I checked the bible — “Carp on the Fly” by Barry Reynolds and friends — to find this passage. Italics are mine:
“Shallow-water hell raisers are exactly that: carp that are making a spectacle of themselves by leaping, splashing, and thrashing in the shallows. These fish seem utterly oblivious to the dangers they may face by drawing attention to themselves.
Often, there is a reason for this, particularly in the spring when carp are spawning. As you might expect, spawning fish are usually not very interested in your fly — they have other things in mind.
True, but this happened in June — no spawn on.
But at other times, these hell raisers are carp that are smashing through schools of baitfish and they’re a very good target for a small streamer.
False for the L.A. River. I’ve never seen a school of baitfish on it.
So … what causes this behavior? Here’s an answer from a carp fishing forum based in Georgia:
“Carp actively break the surface of the water for two reasons. Both reasons are due to water quality/lack of oxygen. If the ph factor is too acidic or the dissolved oxygen count is too low carp come up to seek more comfortable conditions. Carp normally stay and feed and roam on the bottom. When they are on the surface they are almost impossible to catch.”
Sounds good, but who knows (except for that last part, which is true, true!)
I put together this poll from various answers found on the Web. Any fish biologists out there care to clear up this mystery?
Many have compared Annie Dillard’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s seminal work on living independently.
“The pressure of growth among animals is a kind of terrible hunger. These billions must eat in order to fuel their surge to sexual maturity so that they may pump out more billions of eggs. And what are the fish on the bed going to eat, or hatched mantises in a Mason jar going to eat, but each other? There is a terrible innocence in the benumbed world of the lower animals, reducing life there to a universal chomp. Edwin Way Teale, in The Strange Lives of Familiar Insects—a book I couldn’t live without—describes several occasions of meals mouthed under the pressure of a hunger that knew no bounds.
“There is the dragonfly nymph, for instance, which stalks the bottom of the creek and the pond in search of live prey to snare with its hooked, unfolding lip. Dragonfly nymphs are insatiable and mighty. They clasp and devour whole minnows and fat tadpoles. “A dragonfly nymph,” says Teale, “has even been seen climbing up out of the water on a plant to attack a helpless dragonfly emerging, soft and rumpled, from its nymphal skin.” Is this where I draw the line?
“It is between mothers and their offspring that these feedings have truly macabre overtones. Look at lacewings. Lacewings are those fragile green creatures with large, transparent wings. The larvae eat enormous numbers of aphids, the adults mate in a fluttering rush of instinct, lay eggs, and die by the millions in the first cold snap of fall. Sometimes, when a female lays her fertile eggs on a green leaf atop a slender stalked thread, she is hungry. She pauses in her laying, turns around, and eats her eggs one by one, then lays some more, and eats them, too.”