Month: April 2015

Spring signals tentative rebirth of So. Cal’s beloved West Fork

By Steve Kuchenski
Guest Contributor

YES! Trout are back, albeit in smaller numbers, on the West Fork. (Steve Kuchenski)
YES! Trout are back, albeit in smaller numbers, on the West Fork. (Steve Kuchenski)

So, I decided to ride my bike up near the base of Cogswell Dam yesterday, just to scout out conditions. As you can see from this YouTube link, the West Fork is as challenging as it is beautiful!

The late morning started out with hazy sun, and by the time I started fishing at 10:30, it was cloudy and cool. I didn’t see any major hatch, though at some places there were plenty of black gnats that were fascinated with my sunglasses. The water upstream seemed slightly cloudy, and the riverbed is still dark (and slippery!)from last fall’s leaf liter, so it is nearly impossible to see the dark shadows of fish amid all the protective structure.

At one pool, I saw no signs of feeding or other activity. I tried various drys and midges without any response,

BUGGY spring comes to the West Fork. (Steve Kuchenski)
BUGGY spring comes to the West Fork. (Steve Kuchenski)

but I’ve been told that when nothing else seems to be happening, try a woolly bugger. This approach was immediately rewarded with four-five flashes, each probably between 5-to-8 inches long. I don’t have any significant experience stripping WBs, so it took me awhile to get the hang of it, but eventually this 6-inch rainbow totally gulped the WB.

I stopped at several other pools, riffles and plunges along the way. I saw one fish flip out of the water, but never landed

WITH proper care, this little guy will grow up to make us all proud. (Steve Kuchenski)
WITH proper care, this little guy will grow up to make us all proud. (Steve Kuchenski)

anything after that, despite drifting multiple flies and midges. There were stoneflies, ants and other terrestrials out in force, but the fish remained hunkered down, and I don’t know if it was due to the low pressure of the impending storm, or the lack of a hatch, or just my own technique.

You have to bring your best game to the West Fork. I think it’s good that we’ll each spend a concentrated effort on individual segments of the river: It will give us a chance to see what works best for any given riffle or pool.

And, in any case, it will be a beautiful day.

Southwest Council Federation of Fly Fishers hosts special eBay auction

 Ken Hanley and the late Shane Chung hanging out with the Corbina Patrol. (Courtesy of Al Q)

Ken Hanley, left, and the late Shane Chung hanging out with the Corbina Patrol. (Courtesy of Al Q)

From Al Q:

For those of you who can’t make this year’s One Surf Fly and would still like to support our raffle for Shane’s son, Devon, here’s your chance.

The Southwest Council Federation of Flyfishers is hosting an eBay auction for Devon’s college fund. We will pool this money together with our raffle money from the One Surf Fly and combine it with the You Caring balance to make one large contribution. Please feel free to check it out, there are some great items up for sale. If you click on my bonefish print, they grouped all my stuff together, so click through to see the other items included…it’s a good deal.

Click here!

Book review: Author’s new carp flies book truly the ‘best’

HUNGRY? Here's a carp smorgasbord of deliciousness.(Jim Burns)
HUNGRY? Here’s a carp smorgasbord of deliciousness.(Jim Burns)

We’re currently in the salad days of books about carping, with Orvis releasing two during the last two years. Both are good, and, as they say “three’s a charm.”

For the carp enthusiast as well as fly-tying fanatic, Jay Zimmerman’s “The Best Carp Flies: How to Tie and Fish Them”(Headwater Books; $29.95) is that home run for which you’ve been waiting. Zimmerman is a wordsmith among his many other talents, penning two previous books. His care with the plume certainly shows, as the writing in this big volume is crisp, clean and engaging. I only wish the copy editor had taken more care with his marvelous prose.

After a straightforward introduction to the sport, as well as a guide to what should be on your fly-tying table, he gets into the meat of the book, 22 must-have patterns and variations. OK, so he didn’t include our river’s Tortilla Fly, but you’ll find such notables as the Swimming Nymph, Near ‘Nuff Crayfish and Barry’s Carp Fly. Each recipe comes with a couple dozen steps and color photographs. I mean, even in the era of YouTube, this book is exactly what you need to become a better fly-tier and fly fisher.image

Also, Zimmerman addresses those trying to tie the “next great carp fly.” His depth of knowledge will put you ahead in the next carp fly swap. He’ll have you checking your fly’s weight, buying a testing tank and, most probably, upgrading your equipment. This book pushed me over the edge to finally buy that rotating vise I’ve been craving. The book’s price of $29.95 is well worth admission to a greatly expanded carping world.

If you read California Fly Fish magazine, look for my detailed review in next month’s issue.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Calendar item: Peter Bennett river photo workshop slated for April 25

Peter Bennett
Peter Bennett

The Los Angeles River runs over 50 miles through the heart of a metro area populated by 10 million people. Yet in a place where water is such a precious commodity, hardly any of the inhabitants know the river’s history, where it begins or ends, or its current function. In fact, the patchwork of governments and agencies that control the river make it almost impossible to access it without trespassing. No other American city has so completely turned its back on such a resource. Most see it as a hideous scar on the landscape, a polluted dystopian highway through the heart of urban darkness. Yet, it is also a rich cultural canvas of striking visuals and unlimited potentials.

Join photographer Peter Bennett ( as he takes you along an incredible, picturesque 10-hour river adventure, designed specifically for photographers. Peter’s intimate knowledge of the river and its history allows him to assist fellow photographers in finding unique and undiscovered places to shoot, all while providing technical help and great fellowship.

Please make sure to see a slideshow of Peter Bennett’s work on the Los Angeles River published through

One-day workshop

Date: Saturday, April 25, 8:30 am – 6:30 pm

Location: The Los Angeles River. Students will meet a the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, 570 W. Ave 26 #250, Los Angeles, CA 90065

Enrollment limit: 18 students

Skill/Experience level: Students should have a working knowledge of their camera and the ability to shoot in manual mode. A basic understanding of photography fundamentals is required.

Students should have a working knowledge of their camera and the ability to shoot in manual mode. A basic understanding of photography fundamentals is required. –

See more at:
Tuition: $250 + $145 bus, docent, location permit and lunch fee

*Fee includes: Hands-on instruction and guidance, a docent, access to all locations, bus transportation throughout the day, lunch at Hop Louie in Chinatown, and snacks & water.

A special note from Peter Bennett:

“I am happy to announce the launch of my new blog: LA River Pix –

This blog is really a labor of love as it will be a place to showcase photos of my favorite subject, a place I have been going back to for years now and still find something new and exciting to shoot (with a camera) each time. It will also be a place to teach about photography, the classes and workshops I have been leading have been going great and this will be an opportunity to supplement them and have some fun doing it.

If you get a chance, take a visit. If you like it, please support it by subscribing, and if you know someone else who might be interested, please spread the word.

But most of all, go down and take a look for yourself and see what is happening along the river’s banks. There are some exciting changes already happening, the future looks bright and I believe the LA River is on its way to becoming an iconic and integral part of Los Angeles. Also, go to the site and learn how you can be a part of a major decision that is coming up regarding the future of the river and all of LA, and make your voice heard.”

– See more at: