Those of a certain age will remember Porky Pig’s sign off, “ba-dee, ba-dee, ba-dee, that’s all folks,” as the 2021 fishing season ends on many of our rivers today. And if you remember the joys of Porky Pig and his friends Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and hapless Elmer Fudd, you probably hope for another year, instead of taking it for granted. I certainly know I do.
If 2020 was our COVID year, 2021 has been all about reentry, and it’s hard to figure. Everybody seems to be mad and raging about something. I have opinions, but my posts, all 635 of them, are not political here on LA River. I just began my 11th year, which is hard to believe.
Also, as readers have noticed, I don’t write nearly as much as I used to. I’ve trimmed back on traditional print as well, so you won’t see my byline in California Fly Fisher, but I’ll continue for Fallon’s Angler. At this point in my life, I get to be choosy.
Back to the year. From Western press reports, I expected overrun river conditions along the likely suspects, where new anglers would resemble a herd of raging bulls in Pamplona. Heat, passion and too much flask time can lead to inconsideration for your fellow anglers. So can just plain etiquette ignorance. One of the beautiful things about fly fishing is how much respect we have for each other on the water, as well as for fish and their habitats. Let’s not lose that beautiful part of our sport as our numbers increase. “Share the water.”
I still mourn the loss of the West Fork of the San Gabriel because of the Bobcat Fire, which, as it turns out, is irreplaceable as a beauty spot within a short drive from L.A. that had lots of small rainbows, a bike lane, shade and happy times. When it will actually return to those conditions, is anyone’s guess, but the stream is slated to reopen April 1, 2022. I hope that date isn’t another sign of things to come.
I was lucky enough to fish the nearest good water from L.A., the Kern, in winter and spring with no other anglers in sight on the 20-Mile Stretch. I went out with Rob Buehler of Buehler Brothers fame, on each occasion. Great guide and great guy.
Spring became summer with the drought tightening a dry, dusty grip across the West. Did you know Elko, Nevada, still has a fly shop and a weekly fishing column? The columnist and shop owner, Joe Doucette, even calls you back when you’re trying to find a spot to catch a Bonneville Cutthroat Trout in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. For lots of reasons, that didn’t happen (yet), but my chats with Joe led me to a beaver pond in Nevada’s Ruby Range, full of small, radiant cutties. My wife and I missed a mountain lake, but even with a sky dirty gray from persistent Western wildfires, those small fish were a wonder to behold.
Next, I skipped Idaho’s Henry’s Fork out of agoraphobia, and instead went desert fishing on the awesome Owyhee River in Oregon at the Idaho border. Andrew Catt and I left Boise at 4:30 in the morning to beat the unrelenting summer heat. After an hour’s drive, we found very cold water and very active browns, even as the temperature soared into the high 90s.
The end of the season found me on the Western side of the Sierra last month with Trout Unlimited South Coast friends and new friends. The water levels at Edison and Henderson were heart-bracingly low, as was the drive into the back country through acres and acres of Camp Fire burn. We’d cancelled our trip with Jimmie Morales last year because of COVID, so it was pretty amazing to have Pat from Seattle, Jack, the nomad, and Rocky from Texas come join in. Several of our group without all-wheel drive vehicles got snowed in and had to spend an extra day. (Some have all the luck … .)
As for the LA River, it continues to be the source of crazy stories, like the one my friend, Bob, told me recently about the opera singer who enjoys the same carp honey hole. Only in LA, right? Earlier in the year, Bob and I couldn’t figure out what the mysterious raindrops in a forlorn pond were all about, until with a net he and his fiancée, Karen, discovered lots of large bullfrog tadpoles coming up for air. At first, I was madly casting to them, thinking they were blue sunfish rises!
So, readers, my fishy advice? Enjoy getting outdoors; enjoy the camaraderie of those of like mind; put yourself on a social media diet; show the ones you love how much you actually do love them and keep a little in reserve for those who come off cranky, but probably just need a hug. Keep it light and easy streamside, our refuge. This year I fished with guys who have wildly different political views from mine, and guess what – we all enjoyed each other’s much-needed company.
What will next year bring us all? As Porky Pig might stutter, “Stay tuned, folks … .”
See you on the river, Jim Burns