Month: September 2014

News Flash! Rare Leather Carp needs a name

Mirror, mirror on the wall What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)
Mirror, mirror on the wall
What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)

Last week, a local fly fisher sent me a crazy hero shot, saying “One of the fish I caught today looks like a Mirror Carp. Your thoughts?”

Anxiously, I paged down to view the snap and promptly dropped my coffee cup. Ryan Anglin not only had a beautiful 5-pounder, but also a type I’d never seen on the river. I enlisted the help of our resident biologists, Rosi Dagit, Sabrina Drill and Camm Swift. Here are their comments:

— Pretty clearly a Mirror or perhaps more precisely, Leather Carp, mostly lacking scales.  Mirror Carp refers to those with more enlarged, irregular scales that have a shiny appearance, and this fish is more of what is often called Leather Carp with a thick leathery skin.  — Camm

— In several fishing trips on the L.A. with either Camm, Jonathan Baskin, or both,  I have observed a wide variety of scale patterns on carp — both what I would call “leather” and “mirror”  — though I actually had not heard this terminology! I believe they are all C. carpio,but am interested in Camm’s answer. Can goldfish also vary this much in scale pattern? — Sabrina

— Wow, it is hard to tell exactly, but definitely has that kind of look …  Did he keep it? I wonder if there is a photo with the dorsal fin extended? — Rosi

She goes on to ask that when folks catch something really unusual they keep and freeze, and let her know (via LARFF) so the experts can actually figure all this out. Also, don’t forget you can join the iNaturalist project and post.

Now, there’s a side benefit to catching these kinds of crazy fish: you can name them just like the Brits. Consider this headline: “Anglers mourn Benson, lord of the lakes.” Benson was a 25-year-old Common Carp who weighed a mere 64 pounds and was worth around $40,000. Her companion, Hedges, died in 1998. Meanwhile, the largest Mirror Carp, who as far as I know is still living, outweighs Benson by 3 pounds and goes by the handle, Two Tone.

So, let’s vote on a name for Ryan’s catch!


See you on the river, Jim Burns

Contest: bag an L.A. River deuce, win a fab LARFF tee shirt

So here’s how my day went:

Actually, I got a rolling start last night by donating a couple of old reels to the Southwestern Council FFF charity effort at Orvis in Pasadena. That got me 20 percent off a new Battenkill III, which is a reel about as minimalist as they come. In other words, the palm of your hand and fingers supply most of the drag to slow a running fish down.

In other words, it burns so good.

A.M. off to the L.A River with my 5 wt., armed with a fine new line, new leader and, of course, the new reel. Throw in, hook up within five minutes (rare) and — bam — knot fails after three sharp tugs. Blame the new 5x leader, curse the gods, curse the river weeds, curse anything but the fish. From the size of the pull, think the better of a 5x leader and get on down to a 2x. Toss in, wait a bit — bam — same result, including failed knot.

Burn! Slowing down this carp old school gave me a hot palm. (Jim Burns)
Burn! Slowing down this carp old school gave me a hot palm. (Jim Burns)
And then this largemouth bass grabbed the same fly, a work-a-day glo-bug. (Jim Burns)
And then this largemouth bass grabbed the same fly, a work-a-day glo-bug. (Jim Burns)

Curse Orvis, maker of the slippery leader, curse limited knot skills, curse Lou Ferrigno, for no reason. Look up at monochrome sky and ask “why?”

Sit on rip rap. Retie. Walk upstream, toss in, hook up — bam — fish on. Big fish on. Mental notes intrude on sweaty, running experience … Play him on the reel. Slow down the narrow spool with palm, getting hot, ouch. Turn head, tire him out, another run, fingers, ya oh, man that smarts, more mental notes. What’s with the mental notes? Blame golf psychology book, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” that is current read.

Walk back, walk back slowly. Runs again, remember that knot fail! Ease it up, running, slow him down.

In close now. Gold shine, liquid undulating gold. We see eye to eye. Back up, back up, and … he’s ashore.

Heart pumping, mental note, take the IPic. Fumble in pocket. Curse the white-hot September light, so bright I can’t really image the picture. A Mexican guy on a bike on the bike path, says “Take a picture,” as both a question and a statement. I think to myself, “but I am taking a picture,” and then realize maybe he wants to scale down the rip rap and take a snap of me and this California gold rush.

Elation. Snap. Fish back in water. Heart beats hard; left hand hurts; praise Orvis, praise my limited knot-tying ability, praise the very moment, alive, so very alive.

I right myself, put back in, same fly, and quickly get a different kind of tug, bass tug. Oh, yes, this is so easy, haha, nothing two-to it, and will it ever happen to me again? Snag an L.A. river deuce, same day, same fly.


Let 'em know you fly fish the L.A. River.
Let ’em know you fly fish the L.A. River.

In honor of this twofer, I propose an unofficial contest: if you hook up, two different species, same day, same fly, send me the story and pics, I’ll send you an lariverflyfishing tee shirt. Only got three left from the derby, all extra large.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Snap, crackle, pop (per): Homemade Tenkara fly fishing meets bad-boy bass

Here comes popper! (Roland Trevino)
Here comes popper! (Roland Trevino)

By Roland Trevino

Guest contributor

The heatwave had imprisoned me indoors, and on the first cool day in over a week, I looked forward to an evening  of catch-and-release fly fishing on the LA River.   My friends would meet later to continue our ongoing competition, the object of which was generally vague until one of us caught a big fish, many fish, or a really interesting fish.  Today I aimed to set the bar pretty high – and I did!
I took my 4-foot ultralight fly rod and used no reel.  I have found this setup to have serious limitations, yet these are easy to overlook as it casts great in tight conditions and is ridiculously fun to use.  I was armed with a small array of poppers and beadhead chironomids.
My beadhead fly went mostly unnoticed, excepting a beautiful yet naïve 4-inch Green Sunfish.  I switched to a size 14 popper and the bite was on!  The serenity of the river was shattered as the bass violently struck the popper like an 11-inch  locomotive.  This is no sunfish, I thought, as the fly rod almost bent double.   I held my breath and tried to keep the line tight as the fish broke the surface, trying to throw the hook.   Then it seemed to dive down – perhaps looking instinctively for a submerged branch to break the line off against.  A friendly onlooker watched the battle and inquired about what “bait” I was using.

Bass a poppin': Eleven inches that fell for a No. 14 popper. (Roland Trevino)
Bass a poppin’: Eleven inches that fell for a No. 14 popper. (Roland Trevino)

When I landed the bass, I snapped a couple of quick pictures of it, measured it against the fly rod, removed the hook with my hemostat, and released it back to the river.   As I watched the bass swim back down to the depths, I felt honored and excited to have caught this fierce and beautiful fish — I was also glad to have photographic proof for my incredulous friends.

Their arrival was marked, as per usual, by a mocking remark about my casting — but I knew today’s competition would be mine – or would it?

Biologists tentatively ID mystery L.A. River bass

Our mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Our mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Another view of the mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Another view of the mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)

One of the best parts of fishing our river is you never know what you’re going to pull out of it. In the old days, this comment would elicit some snark about a “really brown trout,” haha. But today, we discuss what in the heck are these crazy bass that Roland Trevino pulled from one section?

Take a look at his pics and see how white the sides are.

Rosi Dagit, Senior Conservation Biologist and Certified Arborist for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, agreed that they were “strange-looking bass” because “the white-side blotches are quite noticeable” in the pics we showed her.

She enlisted the help of Camm Swift, emeritus PhD from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

“These appear to be very faded out largemouth bass, but it would be good to see both dorsal fins elevated. Maybe they came from fairly turbid water,or were held in a white bucket for a time and lost lots of color?” he wrote in an email to Dagit.  “There is a slight possibility they are white bass or white perch, Morone chrysops or M. americanus, but they have much larger anal fin spines than largemouth bass and do not appear to be present in these fish.

“Both of these species are from the eastern United States (as are largemouth bass for that matter!) and the white bass is known from a few places in central California but unlikely in L. A.   Thus, without some other convincing evidence I would call them largemouth bass.”

Swift also offered some advice on how to help the experts positively ID a mystery fish.
“If it’s hard to keep the fish, a good photograph from the side with the fins spread is useful to get close, anyhow.  Putting them in a water-filled Ziploc or one of those small plexiglass boxes like fish photographers use can suffice.  Usually the fish will expand its fins when swimming or resting in  one of those.”
For my part, I’m still not so sure. If anyone catches another white mystery bass, let’s get a better shot and see what the biologists say.
See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: Press gets behind first L.A. River derby

Roland Trevino Sr. cuts a fine profile  at the first Off Tha' Hook fishing derby on the L.A. River on a hot Sept. 6. (L.A. Riverguide)
Roland Trevino Sr. cuts a fine profile at the first Off Tha’ Hook fishing derby on the L.A. River on a hot Sept. 6. (L.A. Riverguide)

If you were at the event over the weekend, you know there were lots of press folks there, both MSM and bloggers. This quote from sensible billionaire Warren Buffett pretty much sums up my feelings:

“The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves — and the better the teacher, the better the student body.”

So, here’s a listicle of articles. I couldn’t get the piece that ran on ABC Channel 7 Saturday night. If you missed the event, these will get you up to speed:

Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times. This is also the best headline: “For fly fisherman at inaugural L.A. River derby, it’s carpe diem.” Wish I’d written that!

Alysia Gray Painter, NBC4, Southern California.

Issac Simpson, L.A. Weekly.

Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News. And check out the excellent photos from staffer John McCoy. Sure beat my IPhone snaps!

Caroline Craven, Girl with MS.

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Alicia Banks, Glendale News-Press.

Carman Tse, LAist.

Brenda Rees, photos by Martha Benedict, SoCalWild.

Brenda Rees, The EastsiderLA

See you on the river, Jim Burns

First L.A River fishing derby produces carp, bass, smiles

Matus Solobic, one of today's Off Tha' Hook winners, with a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)
Matus Solobic, one of today’s Off Tha’ Hook winners, with a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)

Well, the first Off Tha’ Hook fishing derby is in the books, and, man, participants got into some fish. In the true sprint of a derby, the number of fish caught, not length or weight, determined the winners. (Drumroll, please)

Fly-fisher Matus Solobic nailed three fish, a meaty carp and two largemouth bass. Next, fly-fisher Andy Wilcox caught three bass, two at seven inches. Finally, from the kids’ derby, Jayson Zwalen, nabbed two bass.

The bucket brigade (me included) hauled much of what got caught to biologist Rosie Dagit, who weighed and measured the fish, before releasing them back to the river.

Biologist Rosie Dagit confirms that I'll' guy is, in fact, a largemouth bass. (Jim Burns)
Biologist Rosie Dagit confirms that lil’ guy is, in fact, a largemouth bass. (Jim Burns)

But the real winner was the river, as well as the people who want to fish it. To see 25 anglers going for it on this hot and humid morning was, frankly, something I never thought I’d see. So much community, good times, real fun.

I finally got to meet in person many anglers I’d only known through this blog. And I made a lot of new friends as well.

And Friends of the Los Angeles River Lewis MacAdams said the organization will host it again next year.

See you in the river, Jim Burns

Kids’ blog: Catching 10-pound carp puts a smile on local youngster’s face

Seeing is believing, but catching is better for Ansel Trevino. (Roland Trevino)
Seeing is believing, but catching is better for Ansel Trevino. (Roland Trevino)

By Ansel Trevino
Guest Contributor
Age 12

It was just starting to get dark. Me, my dad, and my dad’s friend had decided to go fishing together, while my grandpa walked the dogs. After a long day of catching nothing, my luck changed. I knew then that this was going to be a big catch. I felt the weight of the fish as I started to crank the reel.

Luckily, my dad’s friend brought a net to get the fish out of the water and put it into the bag to weigh.

The fish barely fit in the bag, and had its tail hanging out.

We weighed it and the fish weighed roughly 10 pounds. We then measured the fish, at a length of 25 inches. It was now time to let the beautiful fish go. I saw the sun reflect off the fish scales as it touched the water. It rested there for a short while, waving its tail back and forth, and eventually, its silhouette disappeared.

Summer heat brings out L.A. River bass and tilapia

Lends new meaning to the phrase, "Up against the wall." (Roland Trevino)
Lends new meaning to the phrase, “Up against the wall.” (Roland Trevino)
As the first-ever Off Tha’ Hook derby approaches, bass and tilapia are very catchable, while carp are a no-show. At least that’s what we’ve found over a couple of mornings of fishing these past two weeks. Believe me, the water is downright hot by midday, wet wading feeling at times like we were back home in our bathtubs.

Last week, LARFF guest contributor Roland Trevino brought his son, so this time I got to bring mine. Their age difference is only a matter of two decades.

These little bass have been around and very catchable on our last two outings. (Roland Trevino)
These little bass have been around and very catchable on our last two outings. (Roland Trevino)

Will hooked up on a couple of small bass, which had green sides instead of the whiter version we’d caught last week. Bass are now fairly abundant in the Glendale Narrows stretch, which is a far cry from the lonely one caught in the Friends of the River fish study in the later 2000s. It’s a great story and one maybe a commenter can help us to untangle. How are they getting into the water? And what’s with the white body color we’ve seen?

Little fish, big fun. (Roland Trevino)
Little fish, big fun. (Roland Trevino)
Also, yesterday, we spotted hundreds and hundreds of tilapia fry by the banks. I hooked up on what I believe was an adult tilapia but got hung up in the rocks.

See you on the river, Jim Burns