Month: July 2012

Quick Mends: Will ‘carp dogs’ replace the original?

Could ‘carp dogs’ become the hot dog of the future? (Courtesy Kunzler).

If you missed last night’s  PBS Newshour segment about keeping exponentially breeding Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, take a look here. The news clip views like something from a sci-fi novel: loathsome predators a la Terminator; an electric river barricade similar to the great Scottish wall in Doomsday ; food of the future, as in Soylent Green(OK, not that bad!). Turns out, according to the piece, America is the only country where we don’t eat carp, and the citizenry is generally creeped out by the idea. But … that could change.

It really does make me wonder exactly what a carp dog tastes like. Here in the L.A. River, I’ll just keep throwing them back, but if I get to Chicago, I’ll take mine with mustard and mayo.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Name this L.A. River toad (please)

GA-RUMP: So is this a Western Toad or a Western Spadefoot Toad? (Jim Burns)

I got to spend several hours on the river this morning, and all I have to show for it is this photograph of a toad. The one carp I spotted saw me first, and even though he eventually came back for another look, he decided the odds of swallowing my bread fly were next to zero. But the good news is this little guy, who was around five-to-six inches long. I saw him lazing in some slow water, surrounded by hundreds of tiny mosquito fish. This is the first toad I’ve seen down there, so my question is, Western Spadefoot Toad, Western Toad, or something completely different?

See you on the river, Jim Burns

L.A. Conservation Corps inaugurates second year of L.A. River kayaking

MORNING LIGHT: Yes, that’s the way the L.A. River looks around 8 a.m. in summer. (Jim Burns)

At 7 a.m. on a Friday in the Valley, most early-bird go-getters think about what they’ll do after work. First though, they’ll chug, chug, chug down surface streets to a freeway; then hear the buzz, buzz, buzz as the digital world insistently wonders why not take those eyes off the freeway and get a load of this. A mug of very hot coffee, a few harsh words for other drivers and in due time, they’ll be in their parking spots at the office. That’s life in the Friday fast lane.

But as our group of truant workers donned hard hats, snapped on life jackets and sat our butts just right in kayak bottoms, the workaday world couldn’t have been farther away.

“Usually I’d be at my desk, answering emails and drinking coffee,” one of our group of seven said.


During the two hours we spend on the river, our three corpsmen kept us in line. They taught us not to be afraid of the water (tested and safe, thank you very much); they helped us not to slip and fall during each of three unexpected portages; they rescued at least a few of us from errant willow-branch overhangs and ill-placed sandbars. And they made us feel at home for those two glorious hours as we paddled along, hearing “river right” to spot a white heron just reaching flight, or a mallard honking the right of way over our elongated, colorful crafts.

The real magic happened once our group of seven couldn’t see/hear the freeway. All became country quiet.

“People think it’s somewhere in Louisiana,” said one of our guides, “because of the plastic bags.”

PADDLE UP: The L.A. Conservation Corps guides a group through still waters and overhanging willows. (Jim Burns

True, there was some trash, but as another floater commented, not nearly what we expected.

Hey, there’s a certain thrill to kayaking around a drowned shopping cart. And an authenticity to this very-urban river that’s just beginning to heal from years of our neglect.

Bottom line: Go and experience this yourself. It’s worth the $50.

Prediction: Five-year contract in hand, the Corps going to make this tour an L.A. “must do.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns



L.A. River Tours announces summer season

SAILING, SAILING: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (front of canoe) takes a tour of the L.A. River last year. (Courtesy Sepulveda Basin

Yesterday, L. A. River Tours (a.k.a. L.A. River Expeditions) received its tour operator license from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  for this summer season of boating.  The program will be expanded in terms of the number of people it serves, but apparently not in terms of new areas of the river, which should again be the Sepulveda Recreation Basin.

The program is scheduled to run from July through September, and if the inaugural year was any example, these kayak trips will sell out in a matter of hours, although it’s estimated that the number of participants will expand from 300 to 2,000. Trips will float on Sundays and Mondays with each group averaging 10-to-12 paddlers. The cost will be $50. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps also will be hosting trips, including student groups. The latest info is available on the L.A. River Tours  website.
Now, what about a carp ‘n’ kayak?
See you on the river, Jim Burns

Deep Creek can’t conquer the summer winds

HANDY MAP: The National Forest Service helps you to get oriented once you finally find Deep Creek. (Jim Burns)

UPDATE: Take Deep Creek off your fishing radar until the drought ends. You’ll find little water and few fish. Also, because this is a protected area, if the native fish die out, that will also be the end of this once beautiful water because it won’t be stocked. Don’t add to their stress by catching them.

Weather and fate are tied together.

Two winters ago, So. Cal. was literally awash in water, and so was Deep Creek, high in the mountains above San Bernardino. Those 18-plus inches helped to carry this once-cherry spot back to the near-top of many an anglers’ list. My last visit was May, 2011, which I chronicled here.

So wondering what our sub par rainfall for the year just ended (6.97 inches, June 30) did to the place, yesterday I jammed the hour and a half from my house to Lake Arrowhead, thinking that “lucky Monday” would apply, even in summer. Any fly fisher can tell you that Mondays are the best time to avoid all those other folks, some with waders on, lots without, who want to hike, swim, bike, laze, and generally cavort on our public lands. But sometimes that Monday luck runs out.

Sure enough,  on a hot, windy gust the “whhhhiiiiinnnneeee” sound of a dirt bike engine greeted me, as I managed to find a parking spot among the dozen cars and one RV at the end of the road. It was just shy of noon as I rolled down the windows, ate a home-packed lunch, then — because I’m an optimist — inaugurated my new waders, even though the mercury was fast approaching 90 degrees F.

Thusly cocooned, I trudged past a nice grandfather and family, boots feeling way too big and clumsy for the heat. From his lawn chair in the shade, he looked me up and down, saying, “You think there’s enough water to catch a trout?”  He quickly realized I was on my way in and didn’t have a clue.  I grimaced, hoping he hadn’t just inadvertently given me one.

After spending about four hours systematically working my way around the semi-circle of water that surround the Splinters Cabin, down to the beginning of the canyon, all I can say is, unfortunately,  Deep Creek’s done for the season. The water is fishable, true, but the fish are few, small and not ready to believe your newly tied midge is anything but a bunch of wire and fixings. Also, true, that on the last hole I lost a nice fish because I forgot that a log has two sides, and I was on the wrong one. Equally true, I fished a 7-weight leader for the little guys, which he easily broke with the log’s help.

For the rest of this long, hot summer, if you are more of an optimist than I, a party of three young guys who I think had just escaped from a scene in “Sucker Punch” told me that they’d spotted large fish much deeper in the canyon. I was done after losing the only good fish of the day, and didn’t follow their advice. Instead,  I stripped off the waders and had a great time splashing my bathing-suit way back to the car, almost as free as a child until “whhhhiiiiinnnneeee” again reached my ears on hot, gusts,  while I panted my way over the last hill.

From dirt, to pock-marked asphalt, to the mountain-lip-hugging Highway 18, I couldn’t shake that eerie sound memory of straining machine, amplified by the wind. Then, suddenly, my fear realized, I saw plumes of smoke rising hundreds of feet from the distant San Bernardino valley. Scattered orange cones closed the 18. I stopped in front of a CHPS officer who told me how to thread my way onto the 138, to connect with the 15, then home. Tiny Arrowhead-adjacent Crestline was under a voluntary evacuation. Officials would later dub the brush fire, “the Panorama Fire,” which has burned 75 acres as I write and is still burning.

As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded us long ago, “through woods and mountain passes, the winds, like anthems, roll.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Bummed out at the Thienes Avenue Gateway

What’s wrong with this view? No fish on the line. (Jim Burns)

Hoping to find a new fly-fishing spot for readers of this space, as well as for moi, I ventured into unknown territory today — the San Gabriel River. Not the East Fork, nor the West Fork, but the actual river in El Monte, off Peck Road.

Locals told me about Thienes (pronounced “THE-na” by the peeps), that guys were hooking up there. So, anxious to do the same, I ventured over today, and got my hopes way up, because it’s such a beautiful spot right off the Emerald Necklace bike path that connects the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel cycling lanes within the San Gabriel Valley. I mean, this could be urban fishing at its finest: safe place to park your cark; painted totems to greet you; an ornate gate; a spot that looks a bit like a bus shelter for respite from the sun; a smoothly paved bike lane; and then the pristine river.

You can cast into the water as far as you can muster it, from one long walkway that separates two sections of the river. Believe me, if you’re practicing your cast, I’d much rather do it here than any casting pond I’ve been to. Also, people were really friendly.

Only one problem: I got skunked, using a 5 weight overstrung with a 6-weight line, Globugs and a red San Juan worm. Did I wish I’d brought a Woolly Bugger? Oh, yeah. I could see hundreds and hundreds of fry swimming around, and there appeared to be excellent habitat for game fish — reeds, water shaded by trees, even a waterfall. But — zippo, at least for today.

Thienes Park features a beautifully crafted entrance gate. (Jim Burns

So, for those of you who already know this spot, please share the wealth. Next time, I’d like to have a fish on.

See you on the water, Jim Burns