On a March afternoon on the Los Angeles River, two anglers waded in the concrete channel of the Glendale Narrows, casting their lines for carp and largemouth bass. Above them, a belted kingfisher perched on a mattress that had been caught in the crook of a budding cottonwood during a recent storm surge. Some recreationists enjoy catch-and-release on the river, but others — low-income and unhoused people who need sustenance — were hoping to leave with coolers, buckets or even shopping carts full of freshly caught fish.
It seems like this time of year the big fish move into the shallows and work the holes and slots around the rocks. I made several casts to this guy and nothing, until he moved out into a gentle current and I was able to place my mop fly just above him and twitch it right in front of him. One of those rare casts that went right where I wanted it.
Low light is best, morning or evening. Fish like the fishing birds. Move little, cast less. Spot your fish and watch their behavior, then place your fly a bit beyond them and tease ‘em with it.
From the Los Angeles Times: Despite its concrete casing, installed in the late 1930s to rein in once-frequent flooding, signs of the natural river persist. Besides birds of many feathers, it’s home to beefy carp, small-mouth bass, tilapia and — once upon a time — steelhead trout. If you tilt your gaze in just the right way, away from the overpasses and concrete shores, it could be Georgia.
There are grander digs to fish — rushing rivers with glittering trout in Mammoth Lakes and Kern County — but they lack one of the L.A. River’s greatest strengths: convenience.
If you fish and the above look like prime spots to cast your dry fly, you’ve got a good eye. The incredible part is that these images don’t come from a fast-flowing stream in Montana, but are lab representations of what could happen in the LA River to slow the water flow in certain areas, providing structure and habitat.
Currently, most of the river runs with an even flow, purposely created by engineers to move water out to the ocean. Flood control, not habitat, was the U.S. Army Corps original consideration after widespread destructive flooding in Los Angeles during the 1930s.
In all, the Bureau of Reclamation plans to test 12 designs alternatives that would “increase the size and roughness of a low-flow channel that would fit within the larger concrete flood control channel.” Features could include:
— a meandering low-flow channel with pools and riffles
— flow detectors
— a multi-threaded channel
— backwater areas
— boulder clusters (like the one pictured)
— mid-channel islands with alternating bank-attached bars
It’s all part of an innovative approach that may lead to a design within confined urban streams to create suitable depth and velocity conditions for native fish to thrive.
“The study only looks at hydraulics while recognizing that other biological factors, such as water temperature and cover are important,” said the Bureau of Reclamation Lead Investigator Nathan Holste by email.
Saying “hello” to native rainbows and “goodbye” to invasive carp is a stretch, but this is a welcome step in the right direction to return aquatic habit to our waters.
The Council for Watershed Health, in partnership with Holste, and several other project partners submitted a grant application to the Wildlife Conservation Board to fund a LA River Fish Passage Study, according to CWH Executive Director Eileen Alduenda, and are hopeful of receiving the additional funds to continue the study.
… there’s beauty in the river — the way its brutalist structure creates harsh edges and shadows, the way nature manages to thrive in the soft bottom areas, too wild to be tamed by cement. Most importantly, there have always been people who use and inhabit this space, from the Tongva who built their civilization around the bountiful waterway to Los Angeles residents who used the river as their main source of water for decades. That is, until they found water elsewhere and the river’s unpredictable boundaries became a threat to the city’s growth.
As I looked through the offerings for the first LA Times Food Bowl, post Jonathan Gold, I found this:
In 2007, LA unveiled a plan to revitalize the river and restore the watershed as a place for Angelenos to gather and connect. Event participants will see the results and learn how the plan has progressed from this experience, featuring chefs from the LA area. Chefs Neal Fraser (Redbird), Austin Cobb (The Strand House) and Zach Pollack (Alimento and Cosa Buona) will help create the meal in this celebration of the river’s revival. A four-course, family-style, long-table dinner is preceded by a cocktail hour. And a portion of the proceeds will benefit River LA.
The price seems outrageous to me — $265 — especially as the event’s listing is in the “giveback” category. Although I couldn’t find a definition for this category on the website, I suppose it broadly means giving back to the community.
Other givebacks include the Santa Monica Farmers Markets visit, billed as an education of how to shop seasonally, based on CalFresh, the state program that provides food assistance to low-income Californians. This tour includes partner Hunger Action Los Angeles that “can connect people to food resources and provide information on how to help combat food insecurity in your community.” The event is free.
That same day — May 1 — includes another giveback titled The Immigrant Dinners, in which “an immigrant friend of the restaurant will share his or her family recipes.” The website doesn’t mention a price for this event.
A few days later, there’s another free farmers market event at the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market that again explores CalFresh and includes “SEE-LA farmers markets will host art projects on the same day that the Department of Public Social Services will be on-site to sign up eligible participants for CalFresh Awareness Month.”
And in the Pasadena area, there’s a giveaway event beginning May 6 entitled Pasadena Restaurant Week. Costs vary by restaurant, according to the website, but apparently part of the fee ” will be providing financial support for public high school student internships with a Pasadena-based non-profit dedicated to commercial food waste.”
Other givebacks include:
— Taste of the Nation for no Kid Hungry. Price $115.
— The Pie Hole Wheel of Pie-zes. Price $1.
— Kirby Street Project. Price $175.
— Chefs Timothy Hollingsworth and Charles Michel from Netflix’s “The Final Table.” Price $85 without wine.
— Urban Gardening and the Future of Scones. Price: $30.
— Fundraising Dinner with Chor-Man. $55.
So, you get the point — some of these events are for charitable causes and some, such as the Weekend of Prosciutto di Parma ($50), seem based more on public relations, I mean, awareness.
Question: If I do pony up for the $265, will my money go to awareness about a fishable river? I participated in 2016 Friends of the LA River’s lower river fish study and wonder when the upper river study will be completed.
Will my money go toward asking Congress when the billion-plus dollars to restore the habitat of more than 10 miles of the river will be forthcoming?
Or will my money go toward connecting the LA River to the home of steelhead trout in the San Gabriel Mountains?
What I find on the River LA website is a picture of Gov. Gavin Newsom with Supervisor Hilda Solis and “world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.” What’s missing is an image of restored nature I crave in the middle of Los Angeles, the solitude of throwing a fly line toward rising carp, the simple tranquility that is the birthright of urban kids who grow up near its banks.
As Mayor Eric Garcetti recently wrote in a letter imploring Congress to act on the funded promised for the Los Angeles Ecological Restoration Project, ‘“The L.A. River is a national treasure running through the heart of our city — and a destination where Angelenos and visitors alike can interact with nature and connect our storied history with a more sustainable future.”
Think carefully before spending your money and see you on the river, Jim Burns
Where: The Los Angeles River (Location reveal when you sign up) When: Tuesday, May 28, 4-9 p.m. Cost: $265
In a gem of a piece, photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra chronicles the species loss the LA River has suffered since being encased in concrete with photographs of specimens from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum.
An important photo essay as our city weighs the future of the river in terms of development and habitat restoration. A sample:
Western Toad (Bufo boreas) — Perhaps no animal is as emblematic of the decline of native species in the decades following channelization as the western toad. One of the neighborhoods adjacent to the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river is still known as “Frogtown,” for the swarms of young toads and Pacific treefrogs that hopped through the streets each year until the 1970s. Today, toads and frogs are rarely to be found.