Monday, March 28, 2011

The Big Orange

When you say you are going fishing in Los Angeles county it usually entails either fishing in a reservoir or the ocean. This is so because we have a lot of coast and a lot of dams. When I went up to a local canyon to see what kind of fish may call it home I was transported. The day was wet, not just damp. Wet all over though the rains had ceased. Water oozed, seeped, gurgled, tumbled and fell from every side. I felt like it was a small stream on the east slope of the Blue Ridge, the flora being made up in part by lush swaths of ivy covering all it could, namely vinca minor. The last time I dropped into this jewel it was much drier and the year was roughly 1992. I recall how steep the canyon was, most notably because my sister's dog could not make it back up the trail to the car on her own, but rather stuck her butt on the ground like a mule and whimpered, forcing us to carry her back and quit or hike ahead of schedule. I didn't bring a dog because I don't have one but I wish I did if it was a good dog that would rock hop and trail romp without ever complaining.

The water was high, as it is on most every wash, creek, and river in the state. At times this tiny canyon watershed looked to be draining an expanse at least double its size. As for the fish, well they were there. They were there, there were plenty, and they all looked to be taken care of quite well by their fish mothers, I mean these guys were pretty much all a little bit on the fat side.

The coloring of the fish was interesting as it started to become clear that there were rainbows like the one above with a more orange than pink lateral band, mixed in with typical rainbows pink sided.

There were some epic pools as I climbed the drainage to the upper reaches. After each large plunge I passed I expected the fish to be non-existent above it. Instead, not only were there fish, the fish got more and more interesting.

In the above pool I got the Mike Alstott of trout you can see here. Look at the shoulders on this guy.

Go on home, it's time for your real dinner.

A prime example of one of the larger typically colored rainbows I caught.

This was the largest of the pink sided rainbows I caught, just as I was brining her in.

I came to this pool and didn't think much of it at first, until I realized how deep the water was behind that rock. Then, I noticed something moving just down from the whitewater. I had been varying my fishing from dead drifting and stripping streamers mixed in with a short time catching on a stimulator. Here, I diced to just toss in my streamer and dead drift it back. On the first case I placed the fly just where I wanted, toward the left seam and let it skip along back with the current. After a moment, bam! something hit and I saw a better view of what I had previously only halfway dreamed I had seen. He hit, but not hard, I could see a very light complexion on the fish's side, something was different with this fish. I cast again, immediately, to the same spot. Within seconds the fish struck again and this time I set the hook! It was a pretty serious fish, maybe the biggest I have encountered in the local mountains. As I brought him in, I was slightly confused and mostly stoked. The fish was, well, orange, and cream, with dark spots. It looked like a Little Kern Golden trout!

Definitely the most interesting fish I have yet to catch. Looks to be a male as you can see a slight hump on the top of the head just back from the eyes.

After this fish I was ready to go, but hiked and fished a bit further just to see what was around the next bend. This was a really unique place to fish and it is certainly going to be difficult to wait 19 years to visit again.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Where I come from Rain is a good thing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waters of Mystery & Wonder

The forecast called for rain, but with relative warmth and the looks of the radar it wasn’t enough to scare us off. We packed in the dark, ready to get decked out in all things waterproof. When we arrived within an hour of sunrise it was still dark and the rain was falling soft and gentle in a mist that reminded me of times in the more humid locales of the South. We suited up and we walked onward.

And we walked on. Past tributaries unfished and unknown. All looking appealing, calling to me, but there was an unspoken destination we know was much further, so we walked on.

The water was high, you could float even the moderate sized feeders. The water had been much higher, just a week past, so most every stretch was cleared out of downed trees, the water thundered below us, and the rain fell from above. We walked with strength and speed and on the air between us there was utter anxiety.

After a fair bit we made it to the turn from the trail to the stream we aimed for. The rain had ceased, the clouds lingered.

We descended to the stream and assembled our weapons of wonder for the day. It smelled of decomposing leaves with a slight hint of fish. Everywhere was moss, ferns, poison oak, and alders just starting to push forth buds. The water here was a force to be reckoned with, running high and clear with a deep blue green tint as the depth increased.

Fishing commenced and I had my first strike from a fair sized native on the first pool I flipped my fly into. I felt good.

It wasn’t long till we had brought in the first fish of the day, a healthy sized future migrant.

We came to places on this creek that knocked us speechless and slapped us senseless.

We fished on.

For moments I felt like I was dreaming, and the dream only got better as we continued further upstream.

We came to one spot that I named Coho Bend. When I saw it I felt like I was going to catch a Coho salmon, though at most only the ghosts of Coho past now dwell in these waters, the logical and modern man would say.

It was the most incredible place I have ever fished. On all sides were cliffs that overhung the creek at the pools far bend. The creek proceeded to do a full 180 degree turn at this spot, a beautiful hairpin curve with a deep dark pool full of mystery and future wonders. The cliffs towering above were covered in ferns, moss, and awesome streaks of various geological age and order.

I worked the big hole at the Coho Bend for what seems like forever or maybe a moment, time telling is inaccurate in dreams.
Just like in my dreams, and many people's dreams, I kept trying and trying and mostly failing.
I would get a big strike on my second drift n' strip, but miss the hookset. I fished on and the incident was replayed like a skipping record.

I decided to cover more of the bend pool. I let out almost all of my 100feet of fly line, letting the fly swim all the way to the tail of the pool at which time I proceeded to start my slow, short, strips back up against the current.
Half way through the pool I had a huge strike and set the hook!
It was a slab of something fierce, angry, and utterly wild. I saw it turn and flash it's broad side at me shining bright with pink and silver. This was bigger than the other fish we had encountered and it fought accordingly.
Just as the fish had turned to show me a mere fleeting glimpse of what I was dealing with the fearless fish charged me like a freight train that was makin’ up lost time.

With all of that fly line out I could not keep the line tight and I fell to the ground, on my back, splayed out in defeat, tangled in a mess of line, leader, and fly.

The ones that get away are indeed the most memorable.

It was a misty, mysterious, and ultimately mesmerizing day which will no doubt live fully in my dreams.