San Luis Rey Headwaters

Last weekend I took the family up to Palomar Mountain to play in the snow. It was Tadashi’s first time seeing snow and he was quite the fan of all the yummy ice coating the mountains. We made a snow man, a snow angel, and had a snow ball “fight”. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) had a very odd mandatory chain stop in affect (the temperature was 55 degrees!). So, we were relegated to playing in the snow with all the masses. Needless to say it got old quick, so we went for a drive. As we drove up Highway 76 I noticed that the San Luis Rey river was flowing, normally it is dry. We stopped at an scenic overlook and soaked in the views of Lake Henshaw. The lake was very full and looked especially beautiful surrounded by green grass, big mountains, and blue sky. On the way home I spotted a nice spot to fish the San Luis Rey River and decided that I needed to come back as soon as possible and see how the fishing was.

The opportunity arose the following week and so Tadashi and I packed up the car with a picnic lunch in our Yeti cooler, a change of clothes, my UL spin rod, tenkara rod, and drove up into the mountains.

Dad is suited up to fish, while Tadashi snacks on some nori.

It was a warm sunny day and the wildflowers were in bloom speckling the green hills with orange, purple, pink, and red. A few miles from the river a massive grasshopper hatch was underway coating my windshield in grasshopper guts.

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After eating our lunch at a nice picnic table a few feet from the river we suited up and headed down stream. I found a nice trail but it quickly petered out and in short order I found myself wading through prickly berry bushes and poison oak. Rather than continue through this unpleasant boscage I began wet wading. The water was very cold and within less than a minute my legs were numb. The river had sections of great rocky pocket water interspersed with long segments of shallow gravel beds. Eventually we got shut down by a large thicket and so we headed back upstream.

A fabulous plunge pool

Back where we started we continued upstream. We stopped for a while to chat with a nice couple and observe a wild chicken family forage for food. The river upstream from the picnic area was much more impressive with huge boulders and 50′ rock faces standing vigil on the hillside above the river. After some fun rock hoping Tadashi and I came across a picturesque pool. I took Tadashi off my back and let him play in the sand while I cast into the waist deep pool hoping to catch a fish or two.

Lake Henshaw

Lake Henshaw & Hot Springs Mountain

The fishing was great but we did not see a single fish. It was nice to stretch my legs and work out the kinks from a long off season (I have been keeping myself busy with other hobbies though). The day was still young and I wanted to check out the fishing at Lake Henshaw so we changed out of our wet clothes and drove a few miles up the road to the lake.

Tadashi was a natural with the spin rod

Lake Henshaw is home to carp, crappie, blue gill, and bass. You are not allowed to swim in the lake and only motorized boats are allowed (no kayaks, SUPs, or canoes). It costs $8.10 to access the lake (there is a gate that requires a pin code). There were three anglers on the dock but since Tadashi did not have a life jacket (and I really did not want him touching the brown murky water) we headed up the beach and found a nice beach to fish from.

After fishing a while we both were getting hungry so we headed back to the car for some more food. On the walk back the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and dark portentous clouds rolled in. We got everything packed up just as the first rain drops began to fall. On the drive home the torrential rain helped clean off the caked on grasshopper guts from my windshield. While we had been skunked it was nevertheless a very pleasant outing and a wonderful way to kick off my 2019 fishing season.

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