Which is your fav, the West or East Fork of the San Gabriel River?

Got Fish? You want to have caught plenty before filling out the survey. (Jim Burns)

Spurred on by an article in the current California Fly Fisher magazine, I spent most of Friday hiking and fishing on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. Richard Alden Bean’s enticing article made me do it.

“The East Fork is a truly wild river in its upper sections and has recently been added to both the Wild Trout Program and the Heritage Trout Program of the California Department of Fish and Game,” he wrote.

This was good news, if for no other reason than I’ve got a golden trout and squat else toward my plaque. As the DFG website says, “By catching six different forms of California native trout from their historic drainages and photographing these fish you can receive a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri.”  Your specific prey, according to Bean, is the coastal rainbow trout.

But …

First off, I loathe Friday, Saturday and Sunday fishing in the San Gabes, because what you end up with is people, people and more people. You’ve got your hikers, your waders, your drinkers; you’ve got your families with young children and water-wading dogs trying to help a fisherman by pointing at the one fish in the pool before pawing at the splash. I mean I’m very happy all sorts of different folks use the water on the weekends … just not so happy to be confined to using it with them, due to that little thing called making money (Remember the adage, “You’ve either got time, or money.”).

Long story short, I got Friday-skunked on the East Fork, and it’s never a fun feeling. As I tramped out near dusk, I vowed to come back soonest, but I wonder if readers of this blog wouldn’t share some inspiration in the meantime.

Which is your favorite fork?

Don't you just hate getting skunked? (Jim Burns)

Do you prefer the West with its accessible bike path and easy downhill ride back to the parking lot? Its fishable access ramps?

Or, do you like the East Fork, known for its pack-station appeal, and winding path to the fabled “Bridge to Nowhere”?

See you on the river, Jim Burns


8 thoughts on “Which is your fav, the West or East Fork of the San Gabriel River?”

  1. huh, disappointed to see the lack of response to this. Im new to fly fishing, and scouring for decent local(LA) spots. Finding it quite frustrating. Thinking about visiting the West fork as the crowds at the East fork this summer kinda turned me off. Any tips?

    1. Hi Chris,

      If you can go Monday-Thursday, to the West Fork, you’ll enjoy it. Bring a bike and head past the second bridge into the catch-and-release water. Continue upstream to the cabin and put in. Even late in a low-water season, it should be OK.

    1. Hi David,

      I’d avoid the East Fork for now. For the West Fork, bring the smallest weight rod you own, and also the shortest. For example, a 1 weight, 8″6″ would be perfect. You’ll be bushwhacking if you get off the trail.

      Park in the lower lot, next to the gate. Purchase an Adventure Pass before you head up. You can get one for the day. Bring your bike, sunscreen, water, snacks, maybe some bug spray, even though it’s early in the season.

      Then bike up to the first bridge where the C/R section begins and start hunting for the small trout. You can fish all the way up to the dam, about — what? — four miles away. It makes for a really fun day. Then, coast back to the car on your bike.

      As for flies, bring in the usual suspect. My fav is a parachute adams, probably an 18, but any small attractor bug will get it done. If they aren’t going for dries, try dry and a dropper, any midge will do, on a 7X tippet.

      Also, play the fish quickly and put it back. The area is still super fragile from the fire, drought, and way too many people who don’t care.

      Thanks for reading, Jim

      1. I appreciate the response and advice.
        The more I look into fishing San Gabriel, the more it sounds like a complete bust.
        Some of the photos I’ve seen online of the trash and vandalism is truly a shame, to say the least.

        I’d understand if you would not want to share but any other places you would recommend?
        I’m afraid the carp in the LA river would be too much fish for my tenkara poles and I’d just be happy farting around microfishing even. Thanks again.

      2. I’d give you some good spots if I had any! I used to love the West Fork, also the area around Chantry Flat (now pretty much wiped out), and occasionally above JPL (also wiped out)

        You could do well with your Tenkara rod and green potato/flour. If you go to Orvis in Pasadena, Frank in the FF Dept. can fill you in. He learned how to fish in Japan with a tenkara rod on carp. Seriously, give the LA River a go.

        I’m actually going to take some surf casting lessons, so that I can get that going.

        Good luck! — Jim

      3. Hey Jim,
        Have been trying my luck near the Sepulveda Basin. No luck but any day outdoors no matter how cold, uncomfortable, or skunky beats a sedentary afternoon on the couch.

        From what I can collect, there is life but on the bottom of the river. They weren’t going for any of my dries (I usually use a scud, killer bug as my go to emergency fly and even that didn’t work out too well). I ran across some environmental students that had a kayak hooked up with sonar and they let me there are schools of fish down in the river. (I was near the bridge where the river and Balboa meet). The biggest problem however is where the Glendale Narrows have plenty of spots that you can fit to get to the river, The Sepulveda Basin was very hard to find elbow room of any sorts (I have not walked the complete length but a few good miles)

        Balboa lake is an awful mess on the weekend (as expected)
        Could be good for micro fishing though.

        I did find a section where the lake empties out into the river, and for what I can surmise as about 200 yards is a very nice looking stream. Were it not in Los Angeles, where it is, I would almost guarantee amazing fishing in these spots. You just have to ignore empty modelo 20 pack boxes sometimes though.

        Let me do some more exploring and maybe I can let you in on a more educated review.

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