Bam! Four kinds of fishing on the L.A. River

WINGING IT: Two locals affix this beautiful rendition of a Great Blue Heron, a reminder of all things riverly. (Jim Burns)
WINGING IT: Two locals affix this beautiful rendition of a Great Blue Heron, a reminder of all things riverly. (Jim Burns)
Yesterday, I came upon three fishermen on the Los Angeles River. Since this is opening weekend in the Sierra, you might ask yourself, “Only three?” Literally thousands of winter-weary anglers invade Bishop, California, the third Saturday in April in search of trout. Lots and lots of hungry, not-too-picky trout.

So, why would coming upon three anglers on our own river be in the least bit unusual? To clarify, it wasn’t actually the number of fishermen as how they were fishing:

— spin cast

— Tenkara

— line tied to a tree

Of course, if you also counted my son and me, you’d have to add fly fishing to the mix.

Earlier on, we’d gotten advice from a young dad, who was pushing his two toddlers in tandem along the bike path.

“Lots of fish in there, but you gotta use the right bait,” he said. “Bologne sandwich. Or tacos.”

And he was serious.

Whether the spin caster was using either of those, or the more traditional masa mix, I didn’t ask, but we did manage to make out in a mixture of Spanish and English that he’d just hooked a 20-incher, and released it.

Meanwhile, under the bridge, a dapper Asian gent explained that he was fishing with a Tenkara rod, which he had extended all of its 15 feet in length over the water, suspended in a type of harness, so you could just make out the colorful backward-hackle fly.

CARPILICIOUS: River Wild hosted a pop-up cafe that served Pig + Pastry meat pies.
CARPILICIOUS: River Wild hosted a pop-up cafe that served Pig + Pastry meat pies.

“I’m not sure of the name in English,” he said, but the fact that he used no reel told me this was my first time to see this newcomer to the states in action. Created some 200 years ago for fly fishing streams in Japan, the name translates intriguingly as “from heaven.” Tenkara USA opened in San Francisco in 2009.

“Hey!” my Tenkara reverie was interrupted from the other bank as a man with his dark hair pulled back stuck his head out of the bushes, smile on his face, big, bruising carp occupying his hands.

“Want it?” he asked. “People say you can’t catch ’em, but what they eat is worms, worms from the river.”

I shook my head and he respectfully tossed the fish back and disappeared.

I ran into my son a few minutes later, who told me a guy had just asked him if he wanted a fish. “And look,” Will said, “he’s already got another one on the line.”

Sure enough, across the water, a large carp tried to free itself from a line tied to a tree.

“I watched him get his bait on. As soon as the hook went into the water, he had another fish on.”

For our part, all we got using fly lines with a variety of flies was a vicious bite off. I’d carefully maneuvered my crawdaddy imitation close to the mouth of a waiting carp, one who, with at least four friends, waited outside of the strong current.

Will and I watched as the fish inhaled the fly, felt something amiss, turned to run and then jerked his muscular front section, as well as his mouth, dislodging the fly. My No. 3 tippet severed without much of a fuss.

It’s all true.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

4 thoughts on “Bam! Four kinds of fishing on the L.A. River”

  1. Wow, what an experience! I wish carp were “respectfully released” in a special place of mine by spin fishermen but alas, all are kept. The Tenkara fellow may have been after tilapia? That was an interesting tale.


    1. I mean technically all fishing is still illegal unless it’s in the rec zone between Memorial Day and Labor Day! But that’s a great question, Roderick. Fishing licenses are for rods not fishermen.

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