Category: Los Angeles River

Good news, bad news for early spring L.A River carping

Just bring the essentials: coffee, rod, reel, "A Sewer Runs Through It" baseball cap. (Jim Burns)
Just bring the essentials: coffee, rod, reel, “A Sewer Runs Through It” baseball cap. (Jim Burns)

Finally, a day off.

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.

Flood drains are sure ugly, but they make for great fishing-spotting markers. (Jim Burns)
Flood drains are sure ugly, but they make for great fishing-spotting markers. (Jim Burns)

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.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

New year for a new L.A. River


We were late-night bleary, my wife and I, after flying across country for the holidays. Letting the LAX people mover trundle us as I looked blankly at the late-night crowd, suddenly I felt my wife touch my arm.

“Look at that poster!” she said. “It’s the L.A. River.”

Indeed, at the end of the motorized sidewalk, in dim, tunnel light, Mayor Eric Garcetti smiled at us, a welcoming smile. His kayak looked travel ready, and the background, well, it was an unmistakably beautiful section of the river. If the wind hadn’t already been knocked out of me by the air trip, the sight of our mayor sitting in a kayak on our river certainly would have done the job.

It turns out that UCLA photographer Catherine Opie took the snap, along with others that place the mayor alongside more familiar landmarks such as the Watts Towers. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, ideas for the backdrop were solicited online, and the top choice was the river.

In a matter of only a few short years, the Los Angeles River has moved from back-shadow orphan to upfront starlet. Instead of getting ticketed for daring to fish the river, now we have the top political figure beckoning visitors to come on down, don a life jacket, pick up a paddle, and get wet. Incredible.

What will 2014 hold for the river? Look for major riverside land acquisitions by the city, a renewal of the recreational zone during summer, and, possibly, the next step in the Army Corps billion-dollar makeover.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

San Fernando Valley chamber of commerce cries foul on $1.1 billion L.A. River revitalization

Troy Davis
Troy Davis

Since late summer, Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo has asked rallies of river supporters “Who stands against us?” He was speaking, of course, of the city’s bid to get a billion-dollar makeover for 11 miles of the Los Angeles River. That potential makeover has been extensively covered in the media and on this blog. Now it seems some members of the San Fernando business community don’t see the issue  as many local, state and national politicos and environmental advocates do.

In a letter last week posted by the United Chambers of the San Fernando Valley on its website, the group said it seeks to delay the Los Angeles River restoration and to extend the Army Corps’ feasibility study.

Specifically, the group  believes its voice has not been heard by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and asks both the city and the county to request that the corps re-study its plan in light of objections that include:

— water reclamation and taxation

— real estate and eminent domain

— city cost sharing in a time of privation.

You can read the  press release for details.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who grew up in the valley,  spoke to the group at its Ninth Annual Mayor’s luncheon last month. During his 20-minute speech he referenced the Los Angeles River once, and didn’t go into the revitalization push, which has included his recent visit to Washington to discuss the matter with, among others, President Obama. He did, however, emphasize the need to capture rain water by removing concrete.

“The largest natural aquifer reservoir — or manmade, second largest in the state — is called the San Fernando Valley, but it’s pretty dry. We have to clean it up, and we have to figure out a way to unpave our city, to recycle our water,” he said.

According to its website, UCSFV has 21,000 member businesses that provide 387,000 jobs to the area.

The board reads like a who’s who of the wealthy and powerful, and  includes Jacque McMillan of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

In a subsequent Los Angeles Daily News story, the Army Corps, which is the lead federal agency in the revitalization effort, with the city of L.A. as its local partner, replied that the United Chambers and others could submit public comments by Nov. 18.

“To say they weren’t represented wasn’t true,” Army Corps Spokeswoman Kristen Stopeck said. “This isn’t a done deal. The great thing is that they are interested in being part of this discussion — and still have time to weigh in.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

L.A. River Pilot Rec Zone closes for the season, called success

Signs such as this one inform visitors to the two-and-a-half mile stretch of water (Courtesy MCRA)
Signs such as this one inform visitors to the two-and-a-half mile stretch of water (Courtesy MCRA)

For Immediate Release (from the MRCA)
Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone Season to End on Labor Day
Hugely Successful Summer Program Allowing Kayaking and other
recreational activities on a 2.5 Mile Stretch of the River Will Close at
Sunset on Monday, Sept. 2.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
(MRCA) announced today that the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone will be
closing for the season as planned at the end of the Labor Day weekend, on Monday
Sept. 2.
The popular 2.5 mile Los Angeles River Recreation Zone in Elysian Valley near
downtown Los Angeles stretches from Fletcher Drive south to MRCA’s Egret Park. The
Recreation Zone has been managed by the MRCA for 14 weeks since it opened
to the public on Memorial Day. Rangers will officially close the river access at sunset on
Labor Day. Signs will be posted “Closed for the Season,” access points will be closed
off, and other fixtures in place for the duration of program will be removed.
By all measures, the pilot recreation zone was a success,” said MRCA Chief Ranger,
Fernando Gomez, an expert kayaker who is certified in swiftwater and low-angle
rescue, and who organized and led many of the public programs offered by the MRCA.

“People really enjoyed themselves on the river this summer. In addition to all the
kayakers, we saw a big increase in family activity and more people coming close to the
river and getting a new perspective.
“We hope to work with the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Flood Control
District, and the Army Corps of Engineers to offer the program again next year,” added
Under permits issued by the MRCA, the kayak operators Los Angeles River Expeditions
and Los Angeles River Safari provided guided trips to the public. Several thousand
park visitors toured the river through these services or as independent kayakers. In
addition, MRCA rangers provided kayak tours for teenagers from Los Angeles City
Recreation and Parks Recreation Centers throughout the city, as well as “Junior
Rangers” from the MRCA River Unit, Ballona Unit, and the Compton Junior Posse.


I’ll only add that Gomez told me that MRCA didn’t give one fishing ticket during the season. Whether through leniency or compliance, I’m not sure.

See you on the river, Jim Burns