Carpe Diem on the Los Angeles River

Jessica Strickland loves her some carp on the fly.


By Jessica Strickland

Trout Unlimited is involved in a conservation campaign to better protect the San Gabriel Mountains and the east and west forks of the San Gabriel River, the home-town trout stream for Los Angeles residents, which spill from this range. Recently my work on this campaign sent me 350 miles down the hill and into the big city. I was fully expecting seven days apart from a fly rod. 

But then a funny thing happened. Local fly fishing authorities plugged me into some amazing angling experiences, in the middle of 11 million people and a whole lot of concrete.

First we hit Huntington Beach to fly fish for surf perch, which is a blast. Then my hosts took me on a more serious urban adventure: fly fishing for carp on the Los Angeles River.

“It’s the closest thing to bone fishing you can get around here,” explained Zino Nakasuji of the Downey Fly Fishers, my inner-city guide for the day.

LA River carp are large, spooky and put up quite a fight. The experience was sight fishing at its finest, with a light pink glo-bug that did the trick for my first carp on the fly.

75 years ago, the LA River supported an annual winter run of southern steelhead. Paving of the LA River began back in the 1930′s, and now 80% (some 40 miles) of the river are channelized, creating perhaps the world’s largest storm drain and a river totally devoid of trout.

Groups such as Friends of the LA River have been working for years to revitalize and restore the Los Angeles River, claiming that “When the steelhead return, we’ll know our job is done.” Their efforts were given a boost recently when the Army Corps of Engineers released its Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, a major milestone in the restoration process. 

And last October, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went to Washington, D.C. to push for federal approval of Alternative 20, the Corps' planning alternative most weighted toward comprehensive river restoration.

This is great news for southern steelhead, and extends the scope of steelhead recovery work being done by TU’s South Coast and San Diego chapters on steelhead streams in Orange and San Diego counties.

Bringing back the southern steelhead to its native range is a long term project. So while we work hard to make that happen, might as well carpe diem on the Los Angeles River - with a stealthy cast of a glo-bug or  “tortilla fly.” And next time you travel to LA, be sure to bring your fly rod.


Jessica Strickland is California Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

Thanks to Gary Bulla and Friends of the Los Angeles River for the photos of southern California surf perch and fishing the LA River.


said on Monday, March 24th, 2014



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