Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Carp Fly Fishing | Four Mile Run

Its that time of year again folks. The main stem of the Potomac is getting colder. The fish are going to be less active as their metabolism drops- remember they are exothermic ("outter" "temperature") meaning they do not generate their own body heat, they are the same temperature as the water they are in. Colder organisms slow down-which is why I  had the window open in the winter time in my classroom when I was a teacher-trying to get those crazy kids to be cold and less active.

For fishing reports and conditions, follow me on Twitter @RobSnowhite

I've had the stomach flu the past couple of days so I've sat up at night and read some carp fly fishing articles and scrolled through carp fly patterns. I had to cancel my clients on Sunday as I was still chundering in the morning. I'm upset that I let them down. One was a 10 year old who has his own fly rod! I'm jonzing to get out and put clients on a carp. 

My go to spot for fishing with clients, friends, and solo is a little place called Four Mile Run. Read the link and know why its called that.We fish the red rectangle area to the right, from Mt. Vernon Ave to the mouth of the stream at the Potomac. -->

We have not caught a carp since the spring so I'm looking forward to the winter months. The fish come into the stream as there is a sewage plant that releases the clean water (2.7 million gallons per day or 1,875 gallons per minute) in the upper 60f temperature range. The water maintains that temperature on the outgoing and some of the incoming tide all day, every day, 365 days a year. The stream is cold and oxygenated in summer and warm in winter. Fish know this and will move in based on the ambient river temps. A super cold winter will have more fish in there. A mild winter will have fewer carp and other species. 

All sorts of fish come up there: koi (huge goldfish), common carp and crucian carp, bluegill, long ear sunfish, pumpkinseeds, largemouth and samallmouth bass, blue and channel catfish, a few tilapia, walleye, crappie, yellow perch, and gizzard shad. One can stand on the bridges and look down on a sunny day  near low tide and not see the stream bottom for all of the carp cover the bottom. I'm not kidding, carp as long as your leg that cover the entire viewing area. The gizzard shad jump all winter and the bluegill will take bead head nymphs with relish.

The carp can be seen mudding. They take a mouthfull of the sediment and turn on their sides and eject the sediment out of their gills while retaining what ever morsels they have vacuumed up. I'm not sure what they are eating but  it is most likely clams as there are plenty of clams in the mud. There isn't a whole lot else in the way of food for them. I have sampled portions of the stream and found midge larvae, scuds, and a tadpole. There is no vegetation growing at any point in the year. This may be due to the cleansing chemicals that in the waste water effluent. There are some good clam flies out there so look them up.

Find these mudding fish and put a fly in front of them. Incoming tide is cold and murky. Outgoing tide is clear and warm. The water gets more clear as the tidal water exits and the majority of the water is from the outflow. Thus sight casting becomes easier at lower tides. If things all line up the water will have the clarity of a swimming pool. You can easily see the mudds and cast in front of them.

There are some drawback to fishing here. A lot of people do not appreciate and respect the resource. Litter can pile up. I spent last Saturday cleaning only about 30 feet of shoreline and filled two of those giant leaf litter bags. It was gross. Lots of discarded beer cans and bottles, nightcrawler tubs, and cans of corn. Throw in the fact that this section is tidal and what ever washes in at high tide or from the roads after a rain,  is left on the shoreline-you get some dirty shoreline. There is graffiti under the overpasses and I think someone was living under the first bridge last year.

We'll be tossing 5wt-8wt rods from nine feet long to eleven. Floating lines or sinking. Sometimes there will be an indicator. The shad will go after the thingamabobbers. Most flies will be bead head nymphs with a flash back. Rubber legs on the carp flies. Soft hackles on the bluegill flies. Bass and crappie flies will be white streamers.  I'm going to try midges nymphs for the koi. The carp bait anglers chum with corn and dough balls which will bring the carp into close range. These carp will also jump out of the water for no apparent reason.

I try to keep it clean as possible for my clients. Who wants to pay money to go fish in filth? The one thing to remember is that I'm an urban fly fishing guide. We are not fishing in the headwaters of streams at 10,000 feet above sea level. Dealing with this stuff is what we do on a daily basis. Its right off the highway. There are overpasses with trains, the Metro, and cars. Helicopters and planes from the airport (the runway ends at the mouth of the stream) fly overhead- its loud. But there are fish. And the fish bite. And they bite in the cold, windy winter. And its local, close to home. I can get there in about 20 minutes with light traffic. I live 8 miles away.

This stream is right in our backyards. We don't have to drive several hours to central Pennsylvania, western Maryland, or past rte 81 in Virginia. We fish this spot because its close and consistent. If you could hook up to a 20lb carp during your lunch break you would probably want to no? Catch a crappie on your way home from work or after you pick up some Festivus presents at the Pier 1 Imports or Target next to the water.

You can fish from shore- wear shoes with good traction. Suds help on the rip rap and wire fence shoreline. This section is all channelized by the Army Corp of Engineers after tropical storm Agnes.  There is no room to overhand cast so be prepared to roll cast. There is a lot of metal fencing to walk on. It can get slippery. You can fish from a boat. Drive one down from Gravelly Point or put on in at the boat 'slide' that is up by the baseball field (Frank Mann Field). Brave enough to wade it? Its tricky, its a soft mud bottom and the mud stanks from the anoxic mud. And its windy. When you leave home and its not cold and windy, it will not be the same when you get there. Its open and will be windy. So be prepared for that.

Higher up toward the fall line the substrate is more solid and easier to walk. There used to be a mill above the fall line. The mill made flour. Thus the stream was originally called Flour Mill Run. As the story goes, a cartographer misspelled the name and it has since been known as Four Mile Run. As  you move down toward the mouth it gets less dense and you will sink. Higher up there is more gravel and sand- most likely from what is dumped on the roads when it snows. Wait for a low tide on a very windy day when all the water is blown out and  you can explore spots you normally don't have access to on foot. Find where the carp will be when the water is high and where you can and can't wade.

Tomorrow is the first official day of winter. You are going to see a lot of blog posts about this section from now until spring.

Want to learn how to fish here? Send me an e-mail and be sure to listen to the podcast. We'll then go over to Cheesetique for a grilled pimento sandwich and a glass of Rioja.

Watch the clarity from the underwater shots from our film Urban Lines
<iframe src="//" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="">Urban Lines - Fish Where You Are</a> from <a href="">The Fly Fishing Film Tour</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fly Fishing & Eating In Los Angeles

We spent last week in Los Angeles. Our base camp was the Ritz in Marina Del Rey. Lucky for us! THW and the baby lady flew into LAX with out an issue. We had brunch at my parent's house in Reston and they dropped us off at Dulles. As THW checked us in and had the luggage shipped, I chatted with the sky cab people. I asked if they had seen the naked man the other day and they confirmed. We then got on the new tram system -no more of those odd people movers! We landed at LAX in the afternoon and went to pick up my brother in law (BIL). We shuttled to the rental car and off to the hotel. Baby lady had her first breakdown a mile from the hotel. She didn't cry once on the plane. Not bad for a six month old baby that happens to be a lady. Jump straight to the fly fishing section by searching 'tuesday'

In the previous blog post I stated this was a business trip for THW and that I was baby siting. I would try to balance babysitting with fly fishing. The trip turned out to be 1/3 fly fishing 1/3 eating and 1/3 family time.

We checked into the hotel and got a watermelon cooler from the front desk. Yum. Then headed to Cha Cha chicken. We heard about this spot on the Food Network. However when I saw the following segment it was the right side up.

Based on the above clip, I ordered the coconut fried chicken. It was not as I had expected. It was crunchy and tasty  but no coconut flavor to it. Maybe its because I live across the street from a Korean fried chicken joint and my standards have been elevated. Its a BYOB eatery so I went across the street for s 6 pack of beer. The dipping sauces and sides were good and I had a full belly. We drove back to the hotel.


We ventured over to Santa Monica for the farmers market. I had hoped to be dropped off at the beach and wet a line.

We parked across the street from the farmers market and walked around. The produce was awesome. So fresh and local. Not only were there vendors, there were people cooking meals. We were able to sample all the great fruits and veggies and get a late breakfast.

On display were some hilarious birds, goats, and sheeps for the kids.

Check out the fro on this bird
This chicken was hilarous looking. I wanted to pluck it to tie some flies.
i love ducks. I get to see a lot of ducks in my line of work. I find them funny creatures. These two Indian Runners were hilarous. They were very upright and ran around all of the other animals. Very charasmatic.

The artichokes
Some killer samples of what  you could order
Fresh pesto. Killer
One of the lanes in the market
More samples of food

Some pepper and okra sides for your entre

This chef had some intriquate tat sleeves. He was slinging eggs around.

Aquacultered mussels
Berries, berries, and more berries

The selection of greens was outstaidning. 

This is The Chargeman. Listen to him, he knows what he's talking bout. He likes crepes and whipped creme.


You can skip ahead to fishing. Its not till Saturday night.

One thing about traveling is no kitchen to cook all this great stuff.

Bil eating a sandwich.
My torta. It was awesome. Made by former gang members, learning to cook, and cleaning up their lives.

Baby lady
Back to the animals, the funny bird is now sitting on top of a goat. Really?
Then the funny dark chicken gets pissed at the funny white one and it starts to pluck out its feathers and EAT them?

Off to the Santa Monica Pier. This is a group of volunteers that sets up crosses for service men and women killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. This lady was playing a wooden flute.

This lady had an outfit made out of hackle feathers!

Some type of merganser?

Went to check out the people fishing on the pier. This lady caught a white towel.

Some of the fish, the only fish, caught off the pier that day.
I start to see our fly fishing feathers used in earrings. Guinnea fowl, pheasant, chicken, peacock, etc.

These were in a store window

We find a Korean BBQ fusion truck. Awesome. I'm parched. I forgot my Nalgene so I didn't have anything to drink all morning. And the baby was up at 4:30am as she was on eastern time. So I had been up for a very long time and was parched.

Then its time to drive around. Not toward a fishing spot mind you. I was not in charge. When you are travelling with twins, they make the rules. We did a drive to Rodeo drive near Beverly Hills. Nothing major going on until we spot this lady being photographed. Notice anything strange?
Ok. I'll enlarge this next picture.
She was topless !
Back to the hotel for a sundowner ( cocktail for watching the sunset )
I have some time before dinner and the baby lady is taking a nap in the hotel room. I set off to Mothers Beach to wet a line. We by now have discovered free vodka drinks behind the hotel's front desk. BIL and I down two before we get a 3rd for the short walk. I have not fished the Pacific in a year so it was nice to be back in. I put on my waders and tossed out a tiny shrimpy clouser made with a bunny strip wing. I was distracted by all the birds: egrets, pelicans, gulls, ducks, merganser etc. I was stripping my line through the water when I felt a tug. I  set the hook and pulled in the following:

A tennis ball with a mussel on it. Really? That was my first catch. I was using an 8wt switch rod with 10wt sink tip, a 30-20-10 pound leader.

Some dudes on paddle boards. Seein these things everywhere I go
So we are walking to the beach now as the beach kind of sucked. I looked at the map and it didn't look to far. However we left the map from the front desk at the hotel. On a side note, I met a lady who was jogging. She has a husband who fly fishes. I gave her my card. Her husband texted me some spots to hit up. However, my phone kind of sucks and I had to delete all text messages to save room so I don't have his contact any more.  He suggested I contact Gary Bulla for information about fishing around LA. Small world, I used to share a cubicle with his sister Elizabeth when I worked at Booz Allen.

After an hours walk and a diminishing sun on the horizon, we get to some water. I spot something in the channel spouting water. Some sort of cetacean? Its as grainy as a loch ness monster shot but you can see the dark circle in the below pic. We hang a right and head straight to the beach. Its been about a 2 hour adventure so far.

The birds have gathered on the sand. I love getting birds on the shore with a silhouette. Just couldn't get close enough tonight.
I managed to get in a few casts and got one tug from a fish before it was too dark to fish. I got to fish at least for a few minutes so far. Our feet hurt from that long walk so we called THW who refused to pick us up. We called a cab and were amazed at how fast the direct route back was. Maybe a 2 minute drive ! The cab driver told us we were his worst customers of the day. That was not nice.

 We  head over to the classic California burger place. In -N- Out burger.

 Just getting out of the car made me drool. The smell of onions and chow in the air. It was a rush.

I ordered a double double animal style with well done fries and a fountain drink (root beer). As for the baby lady, she just about ordered and ate everything. BIL ordered animal style fries. Steller.


A beautiful day. My plan is to get some breakfast and be dropped off where I had fished the night before. We head out to Santa Monica again to the street of Abbot Kiney. 

I took a look at the map from the front desk. Lo and behold it was NOT TO SCALE which is why we though we could walk to the beach from the hotel.  
Off we drove to Santa Monica for breakfast. We saw a line outside a little take out counter and lots of people sitting around on milk crates eating.

We had to park and find out what this place was. It was Gjelina. here are some of the pictures of what we ate. I ordered the egg sandwich and a biscuit with quince paste. Best biscuit I have ever eaten.

We grabbed some milk crates to sit on and watched the funny dogs and their owners pass by and grab some food and eat. It was a phenomenal breakfast.

THW scouting out the place

Biscuit and THW's huckleberry scone

BIL's breakfast

Then we stopped off in Venice beach. This is some art outside a bathroom. Tom once told me that Venice was full of freaks.  He was correct. What a strange place.

Plenty of feather merchants with all of the other chotchkeys and junk being sold.

One happy fly fishing family

There was a lot of equisetum growing all over Los Angeles.

We stopped off in a hat store. I picked up a new tweed driving cap. This is BIL with a funny helmet.
This guy played some songs for the baby lady. His name is David Alexandrou and he is really talented. His album which BIL purchased for the baby lady was highly produced and sounds great.
More feather extensions. They didn't want me to photograph them. I had to wait till they were smoking pot and or not looking. There was a lot of pot smoking going around. I was getting a contact buzz just walking around.

This guy must be a regular in Venice. He is in the new Red Hot Chili Peppers video. Its amazing now that I've been to just a few places in LA and am already recognizing them in tv commercials, shows, and videwos.
My plan was for now to be dropped off at the beach to fly fish and let the kids go somewhere else. But no. BIL wanted to see Hollywood and there was another restaurant that was famous in the foodie blogosphere.
Joans on Third.                         
It is a combo of a lunch take out, gourmet food provisions shop, and bakery. We got the Brussel sprout salad.

I got the pressed chicken sandwich with bacon and avocado.

Baby lady was all eyes. She was jealous.
We drove through Hollywood. This is the LA Ink shop from the tv.
And back to the hotel to take a break. BIL had to pack to fly back to San Fran. However he got to the airport and realized he forgot his keys to his car and house. So we left the hotel lobby sundowners and headed to LAX.

We called a friend 'J Bob' who went to UCLA and asked for a place to eat near by. He suggested the Manhattan Beach Brew Co.

One of the best if not the best burger I have ever had. It needed no condiments or sides. A side of curly seasoned fries, a pint of Lagunitas and I was in gustatory heaven. Here is what I ate:
USDA PRIME ground chuck topped with Gruyère and Maytag blue cheese, caramelized onions, Applewood bacon, arugula, Japanese tomatoes and a garlic aioli served on a toasted French roll.
There are more bumpers tickers on the east coast. 
There are a lot of crows in LA. I wonder if they have West Nile Virus. 


Baby lady and I drove up to Malibu and to Leo Carillo State Park. Someone in the lobby told us to go there.

The drive up was awesome. I was looking for the house where the guys stayed in Entourage. I passed a Topanga Canyon, made me think of Boy Meets World.

At some point I want to do the entire length of the Pacific Coast Highway. I'll probably need someone else to do the driving so I don't drive off a cliff. 

I was not familiar with the park so I purchased a $12 day pass. Turns out you can park on the Pacific Coast Highway and walk in. Oh well.

It was low tide. I parked baby lady in the sand next to me and made a bunch of casts. No luck. It was very pretty. If you didn't already know, I hate sand. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. We looked at the birds and rocks and some stuff that washed up on the shore. We then packed up the gear and walked up the coast. Baby lady probably had the best view of anyone getting their diaper changed that day.

The view from this vantage is in a new Subaru commercial.
Baby lady enjoying the view.

Along with all the birds, we saw a rabbit and some tiny birds. There wasn't much fishing to do so we doubled back to another spot that I saw on the way up.

We drove back and at least one of us was able to nap on the way to the Malibu Lagoon Park. According to the name and this image, the area was a lagoon at one time. The river has since broken through.

I found some piles of kelp along the shore that allowed me to cast above the waves. There was too much vegetation in the water to fish. We took pics and headed back to the hotel.

Lots of shore birds here. They were eating flies on the kelp.

Like I said, lots of shore birds.


Water going out of the lagoon. It was once dammed up.
Hummingbird. I spotted some red flours before I saw the bird. Birds were the first organisms to see the red color of the light spectrum, pretty much any red flower is going to be bird pollinated.
Some ducks taking off. Lots of them on the Pepperdine campus.

Wednesday found us in Long Beach. We started fishing the lagoon without much luck. This is the spot where I caught that corbina in 2007.

A couple was walking by and wanted to take out picture for the local news paper. They took my camera to get some shots of me and the baby lady together.
Tossing some line with the baby lady.

For reference if you want to fish this spot,  here is what you should look up.

Next images are NSFW a bit, so be careful. Scroll past quickly if Lumberg is watching.
The things you find/catch when fishing.

The lagoon is so close to these houses. I would love to live here. I'm on a golf course. Meh.
We cross the street and head to the beach. The waves are barely there. Just lapping up against the shore. I put the stroller in the sand and we wade out to my knees. I tie on a shrimpy Clouser.

This is my flats fly box. It started on my honeymoon in 2003 and has grown and decreased over the years from flats trips to Hawaii and Florida.
About 20 min in I feel a subtle tug on my line and set the hook. I come into contact with a corbina on the other end. It was very exciting. Baby lady's first fly caught fish. A tough one to get on a fly rod. We pull it in and the thing throws the hook before I can get a picture of it.
I switch up flies to a white Turneffe crab. I toss the fly out again on a sinking tip and slowly strip. After a half our or so (with the baby lady now napping in the stroller behind me in the sand) I feel another subtle tug. I set the hook and pull out a small halibut.

Honestly, I never thought I'd catch a halibut on a fly rod. I put it in my twitter @robsnowhite and facebook but never thought it would happen. Can't tell you the thrill of catching a fish on a fly that you never thought you could get. Wish it was on one of my own patterns.

I had to wake up the baby lady to show her my catch.
Time to pack it up. I was hungry. We drove up the beach to the Yard House ($7 just to park!) and had an awesome meal


I ordered the truffled fried. Holy crap these are good. Then I got a club sandwich. I had to get it because I love club sandwiches, and it had bacon and avocado. I took my time eating as Kirsi was napping. I was looking out over the water.

A bunch of helicopters started to hover above and it was really loud. Glad that I had finished eating by then.

I ordered a Firestone IPA and a Lagunitas Pils. Too many beer choices so I got what I can't get back  here in Virginia.

I also like the club soda so I had one of those.

Kirsi napping. It was a bit chilly. Glad she was not complaining. I think this is the first time the two of us had gone out to eat together.
The beer menu. You thought I was kidding right. This is when I wish THW was there to enjoy some pints with me. I'm glad I've gotten into craft beers. It gives us one more thing to bond over and enjoy together.

I still had some time left before I had to be back at the hotel. I decided to go to one of my favorite fly shops, Bob Marriott's. I plugged in the name to my smartphone and got the directions. Kirsi and I drove over there and it was awesome.

The guys