In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring Like insects waking to th’ advancing spring; Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie In shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky: Such are these base ephemeras, so born To die before the next revolving morn. — George Crabbe, “The Newspaper”, 1785
Mayflies are totally prehistoric, with their distinctive wing profile. More than 3,000 species make up the Ephemeroptera, a wonderful word I first read just recently in an old British tome about bugs on the water. If you have spent any time at your vise during the pandemic, I’ll bet you’ve tied more than a few dries, as well as imitations of the rest of their life cycle, which is mostly spent as a nymph.
From Los Angeles Times environment writer Louis Sahagun:
Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and California condor.
This time, the species teetering on the edge of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a freeway.
The brutal vista of concrete and treated urban runoff exists as an impenetrable barrier to ancestral spawning grounds in the San Gabriel Mountains for the estimated 400 federally endangered Southern California steelhead left on Earth.
The Los Angeles River Fish Passage and Habitat Structures Design Plan, which is being championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, aims to change all that with a carefully calibrated retrofit.
A few days ago, with a half-hour to kill, I put a line in my favorite spot at the river. With trout, that’s usually enough time to hook up, but not with carp. At least, that’s the way it rolls on our river, and for moi.
But I did get to see one jump way out of the pool, then come down in an inelegant belly flop.
Last year, when I started carping, I’d see this and think “Oh, man, am I ever gonna hook that sucker,” but not anymore. Jumping carp are interested in something, but not eating a fly.
So … why do they jump? Fun? Recreation? Boredom?
I checked the bible — “Carp on the Fly” by Barry Reynolds and friends — to find this passage. Italics are mine:
“Shallow-water hell raisers are exactly that: carp that are making a spectacle of themselves by leaping, splashing, and thrashing in the shallows. These fish seem utterly oblivious to the dangers they may face by drawing attention to themselves.
Often, there is a reason for this, particularly in the spring when carp are spawning. As you might expect, spawning fish are usually not very interested in your fly — they have other things in mind.
True, but this happened in June — no spawn on.
But at other times, these hell raisers are carp that are smashing through schools of baitfish and they’re a very good target for a small streamer.
False for the L.A. River. I’ve never seen a school of baitfish on it.
So … what causes this behavior? Here’s an answer from a carp fishing forum based in Georgia:
“Carp actively break the surface of the water for two reasons. Both reasons are due to water quality/lack of oxygen. If the ph factor is too acidic or the dissolved oxygen count is too low carp come up to seek more comfortable conditions. Carp normally stay and feed and roam on the bottom. When they are on the surface they are almost impossible to catch.”
Sounds good, but who knows (except for that last part, which is true, true!)
I put together this poll from various answers found on the Web. Any fish biologists out there care to clear up this mystery?
Let’s go fly fish the L.A. River, catch a 5-pound carp (or much bigger) and spend the day away.
Without work. With friends.
Much of the 51 miles of river looks like something out of a “Transformers” chase scene. That’s because Hollywood production companies frequently shoot the concrete stretches, making the river famous for all the wrong reasons. That’s fine for Hollywood, not great for us. To get some carp action, try this easy day trip.
First, park your car in the municipal lot adjacent to the golf course in Atwater Village. Then, set your sights on the Los Feliz Café, 3207 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039, (323) 661-2355, for good eats. You might want to save this until after fishing, but to legally use the lot, you gotta snack. You could also bring your clubs for a quick nine after fishing. Surf ‘n’ turf.
Two, walk west with rod in hand, a 7 wt. or above, loaded with 3x leader, attached to a glow bug. This is one of only a few access points you’ll find elaborately marked. Walk through artist Michael Amescua’s Guardians of the River gate, and you’re here. To your left is the Tropico Bridge, opened in 1925. Across the water, you’ll see the end of Griffith Park, along with the buzzing I-5 freeway. To your right, time to fish.
Three, walk along the bike path and look for carp. It’s much easier if you can spot them, then to blind cast. Believe me, there are hundreds and hundreds in the water. Note about water: it’s reclaimed upstream. Hook carp. Hear reel whizz hopefully into backing. Repeat.
Four, send me pictures of your adventure and I’ll post them. Tell friends. Go often. Remember, it’s yours.