Thursday, January 16, 2014

The West Fork

The San Gabriel River is in the Los Angeles Forest area of the San Gabriel Mountains just north of the town of Azusa.  It consists of three main forks—East Fork, North Fork, and West Fork—along with several other creeks and small rivers as tributaries.  I’ve never fished the North Fork, and I have rarely heard of anyone who has done so, but I have fished both the East and West Forks of the river, and I managed to find trout in each one.
The San Gabriel River completes its journey just a mile from where I live, emptying its waters into the Pacific Ocean after a winding through a number of Southern California cities.  The waters are dammed into reservoirs just before exiting the mountains, trapped in flood control projects along the side of a freeway, channeled through concrete troughs, and used to provide steam for electrical plants before it finally finds rest in the ocean.  But that’s just part of the story.
Along the East Fork is a road for a few miles from where one can easily reach the water for some recreational fishing.  Where the road ends, a person can hike along a trail above the water (occasionally crossing it) for a few more miles before arriving at the Bridge to Nowhere.  This oddity was constructed in the 1930’s for a road that was never built, and there it stands today as a launching place for bungee jumpers.
The fishing along the East Fork is interesting.  From the end of the road to the Bridge to Nowhere, the fishing is acceptable at times, but a bit difficult to reach, and for someone not in good shape (yours truly) the fishing is better elsewhere.   From the end of the road and westward, the East Fork has other fishing problems.  First are the gold miners.  They are somewhat touchy about someone jumping their claim, and distance from these unique persons is prudent.  The other main problem is the, um, ‘city wildlife.’  These critters have no regard for anyone else and don’t mind jumping into the water right in front of a fisherman.  And the trash.  And the dirty diapers.  And the graffiti.  There are fish in the waters, and they can be caught, but…
This leaves the West Fork.  At the main road, the side road to the West Fork is gated to prevent traffic along this fragile ecosystem.  It’s okay to hike or bike in, but motorized traffic is limited to service vehicles or, with permits, handicap access.  About one mile is the maximum the ‘city wildlife’ is willing to travel on foot, so for those individuals able to hike, bike, or gain handicap access, the upper reaches of this stream can be a delight to fish.
There are four handicap access ramps leading down to the river making access to the water very simple; however along most of the water, the access is rarely difficult.  The flow of the water is dependent upon the release rate from the dam at the Cogswell Reservoir just up stream (which means this is a tail water fishery), but rarely is the water too high or too fast to provide a good time for a fisherman.  The trout seem to range in size up to twelve or thirteen inches, but most are in the four to seven inch category.  Still, they are trout, and they are fun to catch.
I’ve been on the West Fork several times, and I look forward to going back again soon.  This is one of the few waters accessible from Southern California where one can still fish with a degree of solitude.  I’m certain the ‘city wildlife’ have made it back this far on occasion.  I’ve seen the scars where the graffiti on the rocks has been painted out or scrubbed off, and I’ve heard of vandalism to Forest Service signage, but the critters have been out of my line of sight.  And it’s been quite.

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