Yesterday two big steps occurred for bringing the endangered Southern California Steelhead back to the waters of Southern California:
First the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the San Gabriel and LLA River and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) established a cooperative agreement for the creation of the Los Angeles River Fish Passage Program. It seeds that program with $13 million of funding from Proposition 1 bond monies.
Second, from the same meeting, a Trout Unlimited proposal for a conceptual design of the lower river channel access adjacent to Dills Park, bordering Compton and Paramount through the Los Angeles River Fish Passage Program also received more than $300,000.
I’ll be writing a broader piece about what this means for conservation in the coming weeks, but I wanted to spread this good news right now.
A fascinating story from Curbed Los Angeles, about Mia Lehrer, a landscape architect who considers herself a “landscape urbanist,” and co-drafted the 2007 Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan. Thanks to John Rowen for spotting this piece:
“I’m getting a little impatient because it’s so clear that you can’t go back 100 years,” she says. “I think that the term that gets more people centered for a moment is ‘urban ecology.’ There is no such thing as ‘full restoration.’ If you were to do a restoration project and it happens to be in an area that’s 20 degrees hotter and the water in that particular area is reclaimed water with a lot of salt, what do you do? You work with ecologists and biologists to sort of figure out what are the critical factors. You try to be very supportive of the ecological factors and also the habitat, but to also take it to another level.”
At its recent quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board approved approximately $28.7 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California, including one for the Los Angeles River, according to its website.
A $1.4 million grant to the Council for Watershed Health for a cooperative project with the city of Los Angeles, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco Foundation for a planning project to provide designs, permits and environmental review for addressing impaired mobility for southern steelhead trout and other native fish along more than four miles of the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles.
… there’s beauty in the river — the way its brutalist structure creates harsh edges and shadows, the way nature manages to thrive in the soft bottom areas, too wild to be tamed by cement. Most importantly, there have always been people who use and inhabit this space, from the Tongva who built their civilization around the bountiful waterway to Los Angeles residents who used the river as their main source of water for decades. That is, until they found water elsewhere and the river’s unpredictable boundaries became a threat to the city’s growth.
“They’re in the process of increasing the flood capacity of the river near Griffith Park and removed a bunch of boulders and some trees too. Also they hacked out a bunch of arundo but that’ll be back soon enough … .”
Tuesday Angelinos woke to a record rain that dropped more than 2 inches in a matter of hours on our thirsty basin. Check out this news report to watch rescues, as well as a swollen river with water speeds estimated at 35 m.p.h.
Today, I wanted to assess what this would mean for fishing, and was surprised not to find the river blown out, but instead to be greeted by clear water, normal levels and hungry fish. Mature tilapia and feisty green sunfish rose to both a chartreuse and to a purple (!) hi-viz Parachute Adams. I only wished I’d brought my 3 weight, as the 5 was too big for these undiscriminating fish. You have to choose your target rod: lighter for the littler guys, bigger and badder for the carp.
Bottom line: With the predicted monster El Nino possibly coming our way, these next few weeks are an excellent time to enjoy fall fishing, because once the water begins to drop in earnest, there’s not enough structure between the rip-rap banks to keep a fav spot the same. We waited for months for the bass to come back after last winter.
Also, on my way to some sweet water, here was a fly fisher who got his wheels there before I did. Technology trumps shank’s mare. (Sorry for the image quality …)
Any fishing and biking stories you’d like to share?
I was so excited to get down to the river that when I saw this guy decked out in hip waders, I thought he was a nature photographer and kept going. Only his, “Hey, wait a minute,” stopped me. His name was Mark; and besides hip waders, he was also wearing “the hat.” That would be the “A Sewer Runs Through It,” baseball cap that Fisherman’s Spot probably still sells, but shouldn’t, given all of the efforts to legitimize the Los Angeles River in the last few years. His was spiffy gray, mine, a worn orange.
Oh, and he’d just fought a large carp into his backing, almost losing her as the fish wrapped his line around one of the many substantial rocks in the water. I saw the pic, and all I can say is, Mark, if you read this, send it to me!
Did you see the weather yesterday? Eighty-four degrees, gusting Santa Anas, and the water in our rio was crystal clear, not a strand of blooming seaweed mucking up the works. The flow was even and awesome, just the right amount of current so that gentle mends kept my fly where I wanted it to be.
And, there were fish. I spotted four in about 10 minutes, including a large female with her male companion right where Mark told me he’d just had his “come-to-backing” moment. From the fishy behavior I saw, I think they were pre-spawn. In other words, get out there now. Once the spawn hits in a few weeks, you’ll see lots of fish that have only one thing on their minds, and it’s not your fly. Bring your camera or Go Pro. It’s amazing to witness the spectacle once it begins.
But here’s the sad truth about those four fish: I spooked them all. One thing to remember — and you’d think I’d remember it by now — is that when you walk along the cement waterside, the fish are within a foot or two of your position. That’s the good and the bad news, if you’re sight fishing — and why else would any fly fisher be down there? — if you see them, they can see you as well. That’s why the super-clear water makes it almost as tricky to fish as casting into a “gin-clear” still trout pond.
I was also intrigued that Mark caught his beast on what looked to be an Orvis specialty fly, not one of the home-tied chartreuse egg patterns most of us use on the river. I pulled out a crawdaddy imitation, which I purchased at Orvis, threw in, got hooked, lost the fly. Boom. The good news about weighted eyes is that you don’t need to add weight, like you would to an unweighted egg to get it down into the current. The bad news: watch the many crevices that line the Glendale Narrows portion of the river. They’re a bad snag waiting to happen.
If you know anything about carp behavior, you’ll change yours to match theirs. In other words, wait a bit if you’ve spooked them, and they’ll come back. Carp habitually cruise in big circles, at least in our river. And sure enough, I kept spotting the amorous pair, again and again.
How do you spot a carp? First, buy some decent Polarized sunglasses, to help you see into the water. Also, don’t fish into glare. Know where the sun will be before you go. It’s So. Cal. and that means bright.
Usually you won’t see the entire fish, although given the distance I mentioned,it is possible. Rather, look for anything that doesn’t seem quite right. It could be a blur in the water, something moving out of the ordinary. What keeps it interesting is the bottom detritus. Could be almost anything that resembles a fish tale: that awful seaweed, a plastic bag (go L.A. City bag ban!), or something you really don’t want to be able to name.
Anyway, I got so lost in it all that two hours passed before I knew it. That’s two hours of beautiful water time right in the heart of Los Angeles.
Am I upset I didn’t hook up?
If I get Mark’s photo and post it, you’ll know the answer soon enough.