Letter to the Editor: When river etiquette falls apart

This sign should stand for a peaceful experience in the heart of 4 million people.(Jim Burns)
This sign should stand for a peaceful experience in the heart of 4 million people.(Jim Burns)

I ran across your great site a few months ago — I just started fly fishing this summer on the river and really love it.  Some very “trouty” spots make for great practice too.

Today I ran into a guy while fishing the area between Los Feliz bridge and Glendale Ave on the Atwater side that completely spoiled my peaceful and otherwise very enjoyable outing.  I always see him feeding the birds from a large black bucket.   Maybe you’ve seen or met him.

As I passed him in the evening on my way out and gave him a friendly “hello” he decided to start to yell at me for fishing on the river, using all sorts of obscenities, telling me to stick my poles you know where, calling me everything he could think of — in short, a very nasty and bitter person who does NOT like people fishing.

I think his issue is that he finds lots of line and sinkers polluting the river, and I can understand his frustration.  But he doesn’t even know me so to speak so rudely to me is way out of line.  I had to restrain myself from stooping to his level, but this guy was literally yelling at the top of his lungs — so angry it was crazy. I tried to be reasonable but he wasn’t having it. I’m mentioning this in case others run into him or have encountered him.

But also, he began by telling me I was going to get a citation and that it is illegal to fish the river except between Fletcher and Figueroa and then only between certain dates. I’m not aware of that law.  Do you know if that’s true?  He seemed very upset when I told him it wasn’t true, and that furthermore I have a California state license.  If you have any official information or person I can check with I would appreciate your input. I couldn’t find anything online — but also I assume there would be very conspicuous “no fishing” signs if that were the case.

PS – I think feeding the wildlife may be what’s illegal…

Rod Cervera

Dear Rod,

Thanks for your letter. The gentleman — or not — sounds very much like Tony Taylor, a.k.a. “the birdman.” I have never had such a terrible encounter, and count myself lucky from your description above.

For years, it was illegal to be in the bottom of the river (and still is), whether for fly fishing, kayaking, walking your dog, whatever. And Taylor was known to have had the Griffith Park rangers on speed dial. Now, it is legal to fish and kayak from Fletcher down below Marsh Park through the summer. But the truth is, nobody is going to be giving out any citations because of the change in the political environment. With the 2012 passage of SB1201, the river became a different place:

     Existing law, the Los Angeles County Flood Control Act, establishes the Los Angeles County Flood Control District
     and authorizes the district to control and conserve the flood, storm, and other wastewater of the district.
     The bill would amend the act to include in the objects and purposes of the district to provide for public use
     of navigable waterways under the district’s control that are suitable for recreational and educational purposes,
     when these purposes are not inconsistent with the use thereof by the district for flood control and water conservation.
And, while being on the river bottom is now in a nebulous area legally, feeding the birds is not. Take a look at this statute:


  • 251.1. Harassment of Animals.

Except as otherwise authorized in these regulations or in the Fish & Game Code, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or furbearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering. This section does not apply to a landowner or tenant who drives or herds birds or mammals for the purpose of preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops.

Perhaps, reminding Taylor of the above would get him to calm down.

Meanwhile, FOLAR is very keen on creating an education policy about fishing trash — addressing discarded weights and lines, which I completely support. Watch for more news on this front very soon.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

3 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: When river etiquette falls apart”

  1. I have heard of a good number of people running into birdman. However, I thought he had disappeared. I guess he is still around.

  2. It is sad that some people who consider themselves stewards of this river are so close minded and angry as this fellow. One can only hope that his eyes will be opened to the realization that others love the river and its creatures as much as him. When my sons and I find broken glass, aluminum cans, plastic, diapers, and tangled 30 lb lines and hooks, it is easy to feel anger – but picking up this trash sets a better example, is more productive, and less dangerous than yelling at strangers.

    1. That’s a great and forgiving attitude. I find it’s better to chat with people to break down barriers and lead by example.

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