Month: November 2011

Enter the bread fly

A couple of weeks ago, we got on a roll trying to figure out what, exactly, carp are munching on in the L.A. River, and how we fly fishers can use that knowledge to best advantage.

First, we agreed about carp and crayfish, with McTage writing:

Crayfish, crawdaddy or mudbug, whatever you like to call them, they’re alive and well in the L.A. River.

“If there are crayfish, they are on the diet, guaranteed. Crayfish are high on their list of favorites just about everywhere.”

And so it is on our river.

Next, Sean Fenner widened the discussion, commenting that:

“They eat anything they can find. In the L.A. River, they live mostly on crayfish, tilapia and other carp eggs when they spawn, worms, other insects, and their favorite, BREAD. In my opinion, that’s why the Glo-bugs work so well. I also tie a fly that I call the Tortilla, and they seem to jump all over it. People are always down there feeding the ducks, and the left over bread makes for a great meal.”

Now, I haven’t tried fishing during duck feeding time, mainly because of the legendary Duckman, who supposedly kept the Griffith Park Rangers on speed dial, and was always ready to call them in when he saw a fisherman poaching “his” territory. This is most likely ancient history (2007), as I haven’t heard of park rangers anywhere near the area. In fact, one told me that because of budget cuts, they no longer patrolled our water. And now that there’s been a pilot kayaking program on the water, official attitudes have changed, big time.

But … back to the story. After agreeing that Glo-bugs were a potent carp fly, commenter Gregg Martin went on to write:

YOUR DAILY BREAD: The second fly, from left, is bread of duster wool, the second, fourth and fifth are loosely spun and packed, while the first and third are created with a dubbing loop. (Courtesy Gregg Martin)

” We use bread ties in a local park greatly, casting a SUNKEN fly next to the ducks and geese eight inches under an indicator blind. It’s hot when they’re on it! This sure-thing lasts only a couple of weeks, and then they seem to become jaded by our flies. Mine is a spun and packed wool duster material fly on a weighted size 4 M3366 hook, or similar, or the same material spun in a dubbing loop and brushed out. Or, white glo-bug yarn. My son uses a white or flesh colored bunny leech and does well with that, actually no matter what with that.”

Also, he wrote in an e-mail, that the bread fly tied with wool floats like a cork!  Martin found this out, to his chagrin, one day with new ties tightly spun on the Mustad 3366. They wouldn’t sink.  So now he packs a few of those, but also some that are less tightly spun, with the wool packed over a shank full of .030 lead.  His boys use a dubbing loop with wool or Glo-bug yarn over lead as well. He wrote that they often use often a std. wire TMC #4 200R.

Which brought us full circle to McTage, writing:

“Yeah, I have a park here where they feed the ducks like crazy and I have tried a time or two to take advantage of the urban bread-hatch. Not my fault if somebody else is accidentally chumming them in, right :) No luck though, I have always tried something on top, will try something wet next time.”

Me, too, after I get some time to tie this recipe up. Hopefully, the water will be still enough and the dreaded Duckman won’t lift a feather to stop me.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

How far would you go NOT to lose your fly rod?

Twice this past season, I’ve been in a fight to secure wayward pieces of my fly rod.

How far would you go to rescue your favorite fly rod? (Courtesy Simms)

In the Pacific Northwest, my son and I were pounding some fast-moving water and “slammo” half of my five-piece, 7 weight rod comes off and starts floating downstream. The water was deep, fast and chilly, a nasty situation at best. After quickly adding up how my that Sage cost, I managed — finally — to pull the sucker back in on the fly line! Dumb. Note to self: push down the sections harder next time before beginning to fish.

Then last weekend, I had to climb up a mini-mountainside to get back to the trail. I stuck my three-piece, 3 weight in the deep back pocket of my vest, and zipped it,  so I could use both hands to help leverage my large self up the hill. Because of the  width and depth of the pocket, several inches of each piece protruded into the space behind my head. Feeling exhilarated by my solution, I muscled up the sliding San Gabriel sandstone, as it sporadically collapsed at an alarming rate.

With my reaching fingers close to success, a low-hanging branch snatched two of the three pieces out of my zipped pocket! They fell and hung out of my grasp, held by a helpful (small) plant, ready to tumble all the way back down, some 50 feet. Mere noses from the trail, but not yet there, I s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d far enough to grab hold of them, and today my back tells me that although I rescued my fav Sage, I’m not as young as I once was. Dumb. Note to self: stop all heroics and take the easy way up and out.

Got a “rescued my rod” story? Please post below.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

RIP: Sports Chalet’s fly fishing expertise quietly fades to black

Sports Chalet: This ad from its Facebook page suggests a vibrant retailer. (Courtesy Sports Chalet)

There’s nothing quite like being new at a sport and being in love with it. Everything, from equipment to practice, cries “potential” to the newcomer who dreams of being great: How great could you become? Maybe if you worked really hard, you would be as good as ________. Maybe better?

That’s the beauty of being in love with a sport, not as a spectator, but as a participant.  It can pull you out of yourself, out of your comfort zone and show you a whole lot of possibilities.

Moments spent engulfed in your sport mean moments spend completely in the present. No worries, frets, dark clouds, nothing at all like that. Instead, you are purely “time in,” like K0be practicing without a ball for two hours before practice actually begins. Or the freeze-frame moment of the “Bush Push,” when quarterback Matt Leinart made sure USC beat Notre Dame in the last second of the 2005 game.

Besides lots of practice and a role model to chase, being in love with a sport also means finding a place of camaraderie.

Today, for fly fishers, that place is Orvis on South Lake in Pasadena. Fly-fishing manager David Wratchford and his staff , they’re in a groove. You’ll feel it. You’ll want a piece of it.

Or, for the valley folks, Fisherman’s Spot, where the energy isn’t quite as electric, but the expertise can propel you to look deeper into the sport. I mean they still carry flies invented by Gary Fontaine and featured in his 1984 classic “Caddisflies,”  because, historically, these are important.

Once my place of sports awe and camaraderie was Sports Chalet, the original, in La Canada, Calif.

That was pre duplication-store mania, which ended badly with stores closing. That was when the mountain man and founder Norbert Olberz made sure that when you walked up the stairs to the fly-fishing area, you were transported into the world of your sports passion.

There was a big wooden box of flies, all sizes, types, full of mystery, mastery and wonder.

Alas, not anymore.

There were friendly experts who talked about water, and spots, and getting away for that weekend on the water, prepared. They dressed the part in fishing shirts and appropriate angling pants, and never seemed to care if you bought anything or not.

Alas, not anymore.

And there were magnificent fly rods with astounding prices — six, seven, eight hundred dollars — that made me want to save and save my money.

Alas, not now.

In fact, going into the “new” original Sports Chalet just makes me sad.

The wooden magic fly box has been replaced by cheesy, tiny cardboard boxes, sealed in plastic, a passable fly, visible within. It’s the difference between buying shrink-wrapped Romaine lettuce  at Fresh and Easy, and going to the farmers market, where the sun shines on each healthy head.

The guys who used to hang out to spin fishing yarns? Now, they wear uniforms and want to “up sell” you on one of the dozen fly rods innocuously stashed in a rack above the countertop.

Guess that’s the good news … if you go to the SC in Arcadia, the store doesn’t carry any flies or rods at all. The “inventory” was quietly removed last month, according to an employee. Yet, take a look at its expert advice about fly fishing. You’d think that the magic fly box would have been there forever.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Reyes presses Obama on critical L.A River study funding

AHOY, MATEY: Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, front, with Ed Reyes, far rear, enjoyed a day on the river. (Jim Burns)

I heard on NPR last week that our own Councilman Ed Reyes traveled to Washington to bend President Obama’s ear about the need to fund a study  critical to the river’s re-imagining. Although it’s an opinion piece, Jim Newton, from the Los Angeles Times, puts the Reyes trip into perspective.

From the piece:

‎”The Corps is supposed to be completing a study of the river that analyzes the effects of ripping out large chunks of the concrete, but that work is years behind schedule. Until it’s finished, Reyes’ river project can’t be completed, and he’s now trying to force that work forward. His latest thought: President Obama, as commander in chief, could order the Corps to accelerate the study.
Will the president issue an order to help a Los Angeles city councilman complete a local riverfront project? Reyes thinks he might.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Tips for catching carp on the L.A. River

Nothing like catching that first fish on a new reel. (Courtesy David Wratchford)

Update: May 29, 2015. three outings, no carp in the net.

Summer carp journal

Saturday, May 23, 4:30-7:30, overcast, 70, 12 pound tippet. One carp charged and then turned away from a swimming nymph, rust brown dubbing with lighter rabbit tail (size 8).

Tuesday, May 26, 2:30-5:30, overcast, 70, 2X tippet. After rejections on bead head black wooly worm with red yarn tail and bead head swimming nymph with crazy orange dubbing and lighter rabbit tail. (size 8) hooked up on a carp dragon (Orvis). Carp eventually got free because I didn’t set hook deep enough. Saw about 50 pass me in the water, few feeding. Saw the white one again.

Thursday, May 28, 2:30-5:15, clear, 81, 3X tippet. Fish swam up to all of my flies, except the squirmy wormy. That means tortilla fly on red hook, terminator glo bug in chartreuse and orange, all got mighty big looks, but ultimate rejections. Saw the white boy several times, and there were lots and lots of carp. Also, again, “muddling” by one really aggressive fish, but it’s hard to see which way the fish goes through the mud. Also, chummed with two cans of corn to pretty negligible results. The tortilla fly is a dead ringer for canned corn. Didn’t make any difference.

Commenter Steve recently asked me: I’ve been down to the river several times and seen some beautiful and fishy waters, I have had no luck whatsoever hooking up with carp there. Any tips? Should I be sight fishing only, or should I toss my glo-bug in riffles, etc, “trout-like” spots? Are you moving around a lot or focusing on a particular spot for a while?

Great questions. Hope that my response will lead to more catches for more fisherman.

Catching carp on the river is tough, no doubt about it. Your best bet is to spend some time in a section and, yes, look for fish. Once you’ve found them, check out their behavior.

If they’re swimming quickly upstream, they won’t feed. If they’re circling quickly, ditto. If they are jumping out of the water, forgetaboutit. What you want are fish close to the bottom (you’ll be able to see them) that are actively feeding. Throw your Glo-Bug (chartreuse is good) upstream about six feet. The fish are also super-spooky. If the egg passes above their heads, add a bit of weight. You have to basically float it past a two-to-three foot feeding cone. Then — bam — listen to your reel whine!

See you on the river, Jim Burns