The challenge: Hook up on two L.A. River species, same fly, same day. Take a pic, write a story, submit.
The prize: One fabulous LARFF T-shirt.
The winner: B. Roderick Spilman
The Quote: “Within three casts, I had a small bass. A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish. Then, the fun really started. A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard. Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly. Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.”
My friend, Roland Trevino, is an avid fly fisher, and he had been bugging me to try this new spot on the river.
I’m a creature of habit, and had, thus, stayed mostly on my stretch of the river till then. Last Sunday morning, he called me and said that he and his son, Ansel, were going fishing for bass at the aforementioned spot. I had not yet caught a bass on the river, so I decided to join him with my daughter, Julia.
I had my 2 wt. and she had her spin rod. I put on a fly that I don’t even know the name of. Within three casts, I had a small bass. A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish. Then, the fun really started. A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard. Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly. Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.
Meanwhile, my poor daughter had had a few sad tugs. The worms were not working, so I actually put a small beadhead with a split shot and a strike indicator. That had worked before for her to catch sunfish downriver. But no luck! We waded up the river where Jim Burns and his son had been fishing earlier and had caught some tilapias.
As we were walking in the shallow, warm water, I shared with my girl the craziness of what we were doing, wading through the Los Angeles river, a place that most Angelenos think is devoid of life. It was far from devoid of life. Flocks of sand pipers scurried along, as if skating on the water. Egrets eyed us suspiciously. Seagulls stood as statues. Black-necked stilts glided nervously from one spot to another. Two ospreys patrolled the channel.
We got to the spot, and, indeed, there were significant schools of tilapias. We were not having much luck, but then, we saw something that will be indelibly stamped in our memories. Not more than 20 feet away from us, an osprey smashed into the river and struggled to take flight again. Clutched in its talons, a tilapia was wriggling.
I decided to be a good dad and gave up my fly rod. We went back to our first spot, and, after a few casts, Julia was proudly holding her first tilapia. Soon after, I saw Roland and his son wading back from their expedition. Apparently, they had caught a good number of bass.
The river never ceases to amaze me. In one day, I had caught a green sunfish, a bass, and many tilapias. More importantly, I had spent an unforgettable day with my daughter.
Editor’s note: And Roderick is now the proud owner of a LARFF T-shirt for winning the twofer challenge. Great job!
As the first-ever Off Tha’ Hook derby approaches, bass and tilapia are very catchable, while carp are a no-show. At least that’s what we’ve found over a couple of mornings of fishing these past two weeks. Believe me, the water is downright hot by midday, wet wading feeling at times like we were back home in our bathtubs.
Last week, LARFF guest contributor Roland Trevino brought his son, so this time I got to bring mine. Their age difference is only a matter of two decades.
Will hooked up on a couple of small bass, which had green sides instead of the whiter version we’d caught last week. Bass are now fairly abundant in the Glendale Narrows stretch, which is a far cry from the lonely one caught in the Friends of the River fish study in the later 2000s. It’s a great story and one maybe a commenter can help us to untangle. How are they getting into the water? And what’s with the white body color we’ve seen?
Also, yesterday, we spotted hundreds and hundreds of tilapia fry by the banks. I hooked up on what I believe was an adult tilapia but got hung up in the rocks.
Stoked by a warm-water fishing article that recently appeared in Cal Fly Fisher mag, my son and I stopped in Lone Pine over the weekend to check out the lower Owens. After all, I’d fished the ponds behind Bishop for bass and panfish, and this piece sang the praises of throwing a bass bug into the river’s hot summer waters.
After a two-minute ride from town we found, yes, more water flowed; the weather was unseasonably hot as blazes; and we did spot a good-sized bass near a bank.
But now for that all-important cast … bonk. Only the croak of an insistent bull frog kept us smiling.
The looming LORP problem for the fly fisherman remains terrible access. If you’re a tule, you’re really a happy camper surrounded by lots of your tule friends, but if you’re struggling through them, fly rod in hand, feet in the muck leading to where you might find the river’s edge, it’s just not so good. Casting? No way. The only casts we got in were right next to the road.
Last summer, reporter Louis Sagahun from the Los Angeles Times penned:
“The largest river restoration ever attempted in the West — intended to support a cornucopia of wildlife and outdoor activities — has left a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens so overrun with cattails, cane and bulrushes that it may take decades to bring them under control.”
He was writing about the Lower Owens River Project, LORP for short, that began about six years ago when L.A. Department of Water and Power began putting more water into the river that it had diverted to Los Angeles Aqueduct since 1913.
It’s a shame to have the restoration project in full swing, as evidenced by the nifty explanatory signage about the project and a new, shiny access gate, and not be able to fish. Anybody got a lawn mover?
I’d skip this one until there’s a solution, possibly like the disabled fishing platform on the ponds outside Bishop.