When in doubt, son, sunfish rise aplenty

By B. Roderick Spilman
My wife, daughter and I try to get on the river regularly, usually every other weekend. We fish a quarter mile stretch below the 2 freeway.  I have a 6wt for the carp and 3wt for the bass.  I have caught quite a few carps, with the largest at 8 pounds.
 The bass, however, keep eluding me.
Green sunfish are one of the pllars of the L.R. River ecosystem, and fun to catch as well. (B. Roderick Spilman)
Green sunfish are one of the pllars of the L.R. River ecosystem, and fun to catch as well. (B. Roderick Spilman)

I have tried to entice them with wooly buggers, crayfish, poppers, grasshopper/cricket patterns and large elk hair, but to no avail.  I’m nearly sure they are mocking me, because, every time we go, as it’s nearing 5 in the afternoon, they begin to jump at regular intervals right in front of the reeds. I can see them clearly when they jump. They are unmistakably bass (1 to 2 pounds).  I know where they are.  I cast upstream and let the fly float down to them. Nothing.  I try to drop a fly on top of them. Nothing.  I roll cast.  Nothing.

One time, I noticed that there were rises in the middle of the river, just as the sun had set. I cast an elk hair a little upstream and gave it a few little tugs.  Sure enough something snapped it up.  I pulled it in, and, in the fading light, thought I had caught a blue gill.  When I grabbed it, however, I realized that it was a little green sunfish.
I easily slipped off the barbless hook and cast again.  Bam! Another one.
This went on for half an hour and then the rises completely stopped. None of the fish was bigger than 6 inches, but it was fun just to catch something. The activity literally lasted for no more than half an hour, while the bass were still jumping long after. It dawned on me that what cormorants and mergansers were feeding on were sunfish.  The bass must also be feeding on the sunfish.
If this is true, the sunfish are one of the pillars of the L.A. River ecosystem. Anyway, now, when I don’t catch a more noteworthy fish, I catch a couple of sunfish and I can say that I haven’t been skunked.
Got an L.A. River fishing story you’d like to tell? Email it, along with a picture, to me at lariverflyfishing@gmail.com

7 thoughts on “When in doubt, son, sunfish rise aplenty”

  1. Even though the greenies can technically grow to a maximum size of 12 inches, with the heavy predation from bass, cormorants, herons, egrets, mergansers,and so on, they rarely grow to anything impressive around these parts.

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