Lino texted me and told me to meet him at 0600 at a spot on the Los Angeles River. It wasn’t our usual place. I asked why there and he said, “Trust me. You’ll have a shot at breaking those records.”
Say no more, I’m IN.
I invited my friend Mike along for the ride; he’s a Marine officer from Camp Pendleton, a carper, and, based on the locale, a Marine wouldn’t be a bad idea to have around. I frequently fish the LA river but this area was far more dangerous and not a place for a woman to be alone. Two men should be a good deterrent, I thought.
We met by the bike path in the dark and wadered up. The water in the LA river can be clean but this section was not. Waders offer a shield of protection from E. coli and other nasties one can encounter. Needles, glass, and shopping carts are part of the environment so we had to be careful.
Lino handed me his go-to fly: Lino’s Green Eggs and Ham. I tied it to the 16-pound class tippet and added an indicator. In the gloom of the coastal Los Angeles fog, it was the only way I was going to see a grab. We walked to the river and shimmied down the concrete wall to the water below. Trash was everywhere and a homeless encampment sat under the bridge. We quietly walked into the water and were greeted with slimy, smelly muck. The fish, however, were tailing in the drainage and seemed quite undisturbed by our presence. Lino pointed to a deep pool and motioned me over.
“The big fish are in there. Don’t go too far or you’ll fall off the concrete and be in over your head.” Good words of caution. I carefully sauntered over and made sure concrete was under my feet. I could see fish rolling in the distance and keyed in on one riffle. Soon, I landed a few fish and I relaxed. They weren’t big enough, though, and I was beginning to wonder if this was worth the slimy journey. My indicator went down again, I set the hook, and I immediately knew I had a good fish on. I waved Lino over and we netted a 10 pound carp. We quickly took measurements, photos, and had a good cheerful laugh. I was happy; the pressure was off. Well . . . not according to Lino.
“You can do better. Get another one. Break your 12-pound tippet record.”
After tying on new leader, I went back into position on the edge of the concrete in the muck. I cast out and let the indicator drift more towards the center of the large pool where I had seen a push. My phone rang and it was Johan wanting to chat about tarpon.
“Why do you always go carp fishing? The real fish is the silver king, Kesley! You know this . . .” He droned on, chastising me.
The bobber was gone.
“Dude, I gotta go! I got a fish!”
I set the hook, nearly lost my phone, shoved it in my waders, and set the hook again. The indicator took off into the back of the pool towards some rebar. The Abel Reel was screaming and I immediately put the rod low to try to stop the fish before it broke the light leader on the rebar. The leader and hook held and it turned. I kept tension on the line and yelled for Lino. He dashed over, grabbed my net, and started laughing.
“Oh my God! It’s a TANK!”
Being gentle with the tippet, I got the fish out of the deep pool and onto the shallower concrete basin. Carp don’t tire easily and she wasn’t about the give in. We walked around the basin looking like two people walking our pet carp. Luckily, Lino was finally able to get in front of her and scooped her up.
“She’s huge! What a cow!”
We quickly got her to the island in the middle of the basin and measured her. At 14 pounds, she was the largest LA river carp I had ever landed. We took photos, had more cheering, and released her back into her slimy kingdom and she quickly swam back to her rebar fortress. We cheered some more and were laughing with glee when Mike walked over to us. He had been on the other side of the island and hadn’t seen anything.
“Why are you guys screaming like a bunch of girls over here?!? It’s annoying!”
We laughed, showed him the photos of my two record fish and he, the Marine, started yelling like a girl too.
Article from Kesley Gallagher, who is a 12 time IGFA record holder and 2018 Ladies Tarpon Fly Champion. Be sure to check out her adventures on Instagram at @steeliechick.