Winter fly fishing rocks in the San Gabriels

Note: I wanted to bring back this post from 2012. With all the rain we’re getting, maybe fly fishing will return to what it was in the San Gabriel Mountains before the drought and the Station Fire. Winter’s always a good time to dream about the next cast. 

The canyons are full of quiet, beautiful, "fishy" spots. (Jim Burns)
The canyons are full of quiet, beautiful, “fishy” spots. (Jim Burns)

Brrr, it’s cold out there, and even colder in the many fishable canyons of So. Cal’s San Gabriel mountains. Here’s how to have some fun:

1. Play hooky any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Skip Friday and forgettabout the weekend. There are always several thousand people who have the same idea at the same time. Crowds = lousy fishing.

2. Dress warmly in layers. Long underwear is a blessing this time of year.

3. Take it easy on the way down. Watch for gravel, sand and rocks that might give way. They will. Count on it.

4. Start with dries and move to nymphs. I know what you’re thinking: no hatch = no surface action. You might be surprised. Of the 10 fish I caught on my recent canyon adventure, two were on dries. Pick the usual suspects. Parachute Adams and his friends.

5. When you do reach into your fly box for a nymph, give that beadhead yellow sallie a try. I know it’s an underused Stone Fly, but the other eight fish I caught were all on this fly. Must be the legs.

This little rainbow got snapped quickly and then went back in the frigid stream water. (Jim Burns)
This little rainbow got snapped quickly and then went back in the frigid stream water. (Jim Burns)

6. Smaller is better. Even with all of our rain, flows are down. Size 14-16 or above, please.

7. Pack a lunch and extra water.

8. Bring a friend, someone who will make you laugh at some of those tiny trout you’re bound to hook.

9. Don’t wear hiking boots on slippery rocks. Just because the water’s cold, any rock in the water is still as slippery as it is in summer.

10. Turn your cellphone off. Keep your camera on. I know, you’re saying that there’s no service up there anyway. True, but it’s the principle.

11. Post your pics, so we can all see how good you look grippin’ ‘n’ grinnin’.

12. Keep an extra water and energy snack in the car.

Baker’s dozen: Get down. Get tired. Get silly. Get grateful. Repeat.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

9 thoughts on “Winter fly fishing rocks in the San Gabriels”

  1. Use to love the San Gab I’ve just gotten sick of all the trash people leave .Last time I was up there 2 Latino ladies changed a diaper and left the dirty diaper on a picnic table good way to start a cholera out break

  2. I had no idea there were still fish up in the San Gabriel’s in 2017 (other than San Gabriel river)!!! I’m going up to chantry flat tomarrow morning, I guess I just might bring my fly rod! Are there any good spots to fish near there either in winter creek or near sturtavent falls?

    I’ve also heard rumors of micro-trout residing around Idlehour? Do you know if they survived the drout and are still there?

  3. Despite all of the good rains we’ve been getting, do you think it will still take a number of years for the fish population to rebound? I’m not a biologist, but even though there may be more water in the local streams, the fish have been dying out after years of drought so I suspect it may take a while for the fish to come back. I would also think that too much rain and water flows would wash out whatever fish have been holding out these past years of drought. Your thoughts, Jim?

    1. Right there with you, Fish Foo. Our ecology has been through the worst of times. I remember seeing a stream outside the Golden Trout Wilderness that went from teeming with fish to dry (not even mud) in two years. So, I agree, the recovery will be slow. Still, you never know what you might find in our mountains.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.