Tag: California Fly Fisher Magazine

West Fork San Gabriel update: Closure extends to April 1, 2022

Better times on the West Fork, before the Bobcat Fire virtually destroyed this beautiful fishery. (Jim Burns)

Letter to the Editor from California Fly Fisher: I much appreciated Jim Burns’s story on the West Fork of the San Gabriel, which did a good job of capturing the character of a place that I have been visiting for decades. (“The West Fork of the San Gabriel,” September/October 2020.) Unfortunately, shortly after the issue came out, much of that river’s watershed was reduced to charcoal and ash by the Bobcat Fire.

By the way, readers of Cal Fly Fisher might like to know that the Oct. 13 issue of the Los Angeles Times has a great article on the ecological devastation wrought by the fire, and it noted that the river also faces additional harm from mud flows when the rains of winter arrive. That’s a helluva one-two punch against this little fishery. Only time will tell whether it has been KOed for keeps — Fred Martinez, Los Angeles.

A typical hand-size rainbow from a trip I made in May to the West Fork. (Jim Burns)

Dear Fred,

Thanks for the props. I loved the West Fork, as I can tell you did. I thought you would appreciate this update from John Clearwater, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service:

In the course of four major fires we lost 23-percent, or nearly a quarter, of the Angeles this year.  To include some of our most beautiful areas.  It’s been a tough, heartbreaking year. 

Regarding the closure of the West Fork, the Bobcat Fire closure area extends to April 1, 2022. I don’t anticipate that the West Fork will reopen much sooner than that.

I was in there a few weeks ago with LA Times reporter, Louis Sahagun.  The area is near the origin site for the Bobcat Fire, and one of the areas that was most impacted by the Fire. 

Unfortunately, much of it now looking like an ashen lunar landscape.  It was clearly once a mountain paradise.  Now it’s heartbreaking to see.  This winter I suspect the road may disappear in a number of places due to the lack of vegetation and likelihood of runoff coming down the mountainsides.  During my time in there recently we encountered a number of rock slides breaking loose, rolling off the cliff tops and impacting onto the roadway, with rocks varying in size from that of a baseball to a soccer ball.  Any of which would have been fatal if it had struck someone on the head. 

Regardless, there is much work that will be required in the West Fork for public safety, forest recovery and habitat protection.

As for plans for the trout in the West Fork, I’ve spoken with the District Ranger team and they said the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is planning to soon relocate a number of trout from the West Fork to other areas of the San Gabriel river.  They could not provide a lot of details. 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Which is your fav, the West or East Fork of the San Gabriel River?

Got Fish? You want to have caught plenty before filling out the survey. (Jim Burns)

Spurred on by an article in the current California Fly Fisher magazine, I spent most of Friday hiking and fishing on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. Richard Alden Bean’s enticing article made me do it.

“The East Fork is a truly wild river in its upper sections and has recently been added to both the Wild Trout Program and the Heritage Trout Program of the California Department of Fish and Game,” he wrote.

This was good news, if for no other reason than I’ve got a golden trout and squat else toward my plaque. As the DFG website says, “By catching six different forms of California native trout from their historic drainages and photographing these fish you can receive a colorful, personalized certificate featuring the art of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri.”  Your specific prey, according to Bean, is the coastal rainbow trout.

But …

First off, I loathe Friday, Saturday and Sunday fishing in the San Gabes, because what you end up with is people, people and more people. You’ve got your hikers, your waders, your drinkers; you’ve got your families with young children and water-wading dogs trying to help a fisherman by pointing at the one fish in the pool before pawing at the splash. I mean I’m very happy all sorts of different folks use the water on the weekends … just not so happy to be confined to using it with them, due to that little thing called making money (Remember the adage, “You’ve either got time, or money.”).

Long story short, I got Friday-skunked on the East Fork, and it’s never a fun feeling. As I tramped out near dusk, I vowed to come back soonest, but I wonder if readers of this blog wouldn’t share some inspiration in the meantime.

Which is your favorite fork?

Don't you just hate getting skunked? (Jim Burns)

Do you prefer the West with its accessible bike path and easy downhill ride back to the parking lot? Its fishable access ramps?

Or, do you like the East Fork, known for its pack-station appeal, and winding path to the fabled “Bridge to Nowhere”?

See you on the river, Jim Burns