Tenkara in Los Angeles

Authors Note: This article first appeared on Fallfish Tenkara. However, in an effort to create a resource for Japan and Tenkara enthusiasts I have moved non-Japan related content from Fallfish Tenkara to this site. 

I have been vacationing in Los Angeles this past week. Next week is a backpacking trip in the High Sierra and the following week I’ll be in Texas. After that I will be headed back to Japan. I was able to sneak away from from vacation obligations for a trip up the West Fork of the San Gabriel River (WFSGR) today. The San Gabriel river has a lot of history in Southern California and is one of the only streams that supports trout in the newly created San Gabriel National Monument. The rivers close proximity to Los Angeles ensures that the fishing pressure is high – combined with my late start, the high temps, and zero cloud cover I knew the conditions were going to be challenging. I did not really care if I didn’t catch any fish, I just needed to get out of the chaos of “civilization” for awhile. I had never been to the West Fork of the San Gabriel River before. But a few weeks ago I read a great post from LA River Fly Fishing and I decided that when I got back to the States I’d head over to the West Fork and check it out.

The parking lot closest to the gate was full (only 6 spots) but the one just up the road was empty! As I hiked up the access road, that takes one to Cogswell Dam and then on to Mt. Wilson, I passed many hikers, bikers, several families swimming in the river, and only one fishermen heading out. He hadn’t had any luck and was going up to Crystal Lake to catch some fish with his daughter. I pressed on. I caught glimpses of the WFSGR through the trees, sometimes the river was right up against the road other times it was hundreds of feet away. After hiking about a mile I spotted a nice looking section and made my way down to the river, being careful not to disturb any rattlesnakes.

Despite the drought conditions the river was flowing nicely and I came across many deep pools. In a few spots where I misjudged the depth I plunged in up to my chest. The cool water felt great in the heat. The flowers were in full bloom and there were bugs of all shapes and sizes flying about. I started out with a #18 terrestrial – then moved on to a #18 olive prince nymph. The fish were playing with the nymph but I wasn’t getting any real interest. I continued up stream. The wind was wreaking havoc with my line, the 7x tippet was getting snarled up constantly so finally I gave up and switched to 5x. I thought that this would nix any hope of catching fish because the water was clear but this was not to be the case.


I came across a beautiful pool, with about a dozen fish splashing and darting about. A few swam up to within a few feet of me, sniffing at my legs before darting away. I tied on a #12 kebari from TenkaraUSA and began making my way up the pool casting to the spots where I thought the fish were. Within a minute or two I had hooked into a beautiful 4″ rainbow. The fish didn’t seem fazed though and the turtles were perched on a rock gawking at the show so I pressed on. A few minutes later I hooked a beautiful 7″ Rainbow. He was a spirited little fellow jumping straight out of the water about 2-3′ before darting all over the pool. He tired quickly though and obliged me a few photos before being quickly returned to the water.

I had made plans to have dinner with some friends and so I began making my way back to the car. The winds had picked up and the temperature was dropping. I could smell BBQ as I drew closer to the parking lot, which reminded me that I had been having so much fun I had forgotten to eat lunch! I had lived in Los Angeles before moving to Maryland and Japan, but had been more interested in the mountain tops then the valleys. The mountains of Los Angeles are chock full of little gems – the West Fork of the San Gabriel River is certainly one of those gems.


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