I’m tied umbilicaly to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. Some of my earliest memories are of fishing the stretches of this wild river within a short walking distance of where my mother lived as a young girl ( at Camp Williams and Camp Roberts). I came of age fishing this stream from its confluence up to Prarie Forks-- a near 20 mile trek up the canyon.
Some of my best memories are of fall fishing trips to the east fork. Even though flow levels are down, the trout are still there. And at this time oif year, if you’re willing to stuff you fly wallet with a selection of flys you think will match the afternoon hatch, there’s an excellent chance of having an 11 or 12-inch native born bow, dance and try its hardest to pop your tippet.
My mentor for fishing this twinkling stream was my grandfather-- a wildlands surveyor and self-taught naturalist name Bill Sele. One of he first things he taught me were two impe concepts: successful tout fishing on the East Fork is about observing what insects are at hand; and, make your first casts from as far away as possible so as not o spook the fish.
My favorite rigs for East Fork fly-fishing is a seven foot, limber tipped, rod and 4X or 6X tippets tied in front of three feet of leader. My fly wallet’s inventory has remained unchanged for nearly thirty years: midges, humpbacks, deer flys and a selection of nymphs on #18-22 barb less hooks. Plus, I’ve always carried a couple of egg hooks and a fresh bottle of Pautzke’s premium salmon eggs for those rare days when I can’t get a tout to rise to a fly.
Fall is a good time to fish the San Gabriel River’s East Fork. Lower stream flows makes crossing the streambed easier and the river last week was clear enough to see trout lying in the bottom of several pools two to three miles upstream of the parking lot at the East Fork Ranger Station.
I stopped up water from the first pool I came to and lifted river stones to see what kind of insects were present. Two slaps at bugs buzzing beside my ear convinced me that my old standy, a midge on a #18 hook was in order and two roll casts later I saw a small dink rainbow suck the fly into its mouth.I’m not a meat fisherman so I released the little fellow back into the east fork and noted a school of about 15 similar sized trout finning their way along the edge of the pool.
Seeing that many dinks in the East Fork within two miles of the trail head always gives me hope. And my favorite trout hole on this stresm I about three miles up the river, adjacent to the foundations of an old powder house. Slthough the East Fork’s flow rate is down, I could see dark shapes with flashes of silver twinkling in three feet of water in the pond.
I tied a #16 nymph onto my line and snapped it into an upstream rill and watched my fly get immediately hit by a slashing bolt of silver the rocketed off the bottom. Alas, no joy, I felt the weight of the fish and saw its silver side dash into some streamside rocks. My tippet broke but I’m convinced I’ll find this same fish again later this year when I come go back up the East fork for a spiritual recharge.
As I progressed further up the canyon I noticed the insects were getting bigger. After a two hour hike I reached the rills and pools under Swan Rock. The pool there was alive with jumping dink trout several of which appeared to be colorful enough to be natïve born ‘bows.
I’m always amazed at southern Caliornia anglers dashing up I-5 or up to Bishop to get one last cast in before the end of the season. The East Fork of the San Gabriel River is only 40 miles from downtown LA.
Although there are big trout there, the East Fork is a spiritual--not a creel filling-- experience.
I’m a third-generation East Fork fishermen. If you’re looking to close out the 2010 Fishing year, give this stream some attention. And if you see an old dude wearing ratty cutoff jeans, worn thin tennis shoes and a red, white and blue tie dye, say “Hi!, that’s me--Jim Forbes on 09/26/2010.