Record urban fishermen who can’t afford to in Los Angeles

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Los Angeles River was wild and free-flowing, flanked by dense reed forests and teeming with steelhead trout – instead of being surrounded by concrete and sandwiched in the middle of a highway. speed and railroad tracks.

Centuries ago, in what is now the back of shopping malls and housing developments, the indigenous Tongva people lived in riverside villages and relied on fishing for food. After the arrival of Spanish colonists in 1781, the population increased along the riverbank, which was the main source of water for the Pueblo de los Ángeles.

Rain often turns a river’s flow from a trickle to a torrent in just a few hours, making flooding a recurring problem. After a catastrophic flood in 1938 that destroyed thousands of homes and killed nearly 100 people, Army Engineers decided that the best solution was canal 278 miles of river and its tributaries – including the 51-mile stretch from Canoga Park to Long Beach – with concrete embankments.

Today, the path is more reminiscent of a large storm sewer than a river, with only a slow stream of water down the center of the concrete-lined canal. The image it conjures up for most people is the setting of famous movie scenes, like “Grease” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”.

But in a small corner of Los Angeles, below the intersection of two highways, is a neighborhood known as Frogtown — along with a small, lush stretch of the Los Angeles River.

This pocket, known as the Glendale Narrows, has never been bottomed, which allows trees and river vegetation to continue to grow in its center, where the water flows.

Like the coyotes that live among the houses and clearings in the neighboring hills, the many species of birds and fish that live in the water have made this stretch of the river their habitat. While hardly reminiscent of the untamed river of centuries past, this stretch of river today serves as a natural respite from its urban surroundings, even if it seems to have a large amount of water. litter and vegetation are equivalent.

I found myself spending a lot of time on this stretch of river last winter during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The winter light and yellowing leaves of the trees made me feel like I was spending time completely outside of Los Angeles, when in fact I was only a few miles from my apartment.

Along the riverside, people cycle, walk, roller-skate, watch birds, socialize with friends. But I find myself most attracted to people who are fishing. In an environment of concrete, noisy traffic and litter, the action of fishing seems almost defiant: a tranquil outdoor activity against a backdrop of highway overpasses.

On the recommendation of a fisherman I met, I expanded my focus to include several local parks: Echo Park Lake, Hollenbeck Park, and Lincoln Park each with lakes Popular for urban fishing. For the next three months or so, I’ll be spending three or four afternoons a week taking pictures, alternating between the four locations.

There were days when I found only what was left: a box left by a tree, a tangled fishing line, a few dead fish. On other days, I will find a fisherman. On the best of days, I’ll find a few.

When the pandemic rages and everything about city life turns chaotic, there’s something almost meditative about spending time out and seeing other people doing the same thing – just hanging out, trying Try to catch a fish or two.

One afternoon, looking over the Fletcher Drive Bridge, overlooking the downtown Los Angeles River, I saw a man finishing his fly casting. The other day, I spent hours talking to a fisherman who used hot dogs as bait and broadcast heavy metal while casting – because he thought the fish liked it.

The outdoor sports images that we display in magazines and advertisements often depict remote wilderness and high-tech athletes with expensive branded equipment – things that lie in the distance. beyond the reach of ordinary people.

However, in the city, the fishermen I met along the river were locals from the surrounding areas who lived around here. Usually they walk there. They will spend several hours in the water, mostly after work or on a day off.

River fishing isn’t part of some great adventure, and that’s the point. It is just a small respite, a respite from the daily grind.

Madeline Tolle is an editorial photographer based in Los Angeles. You can follow her work on Instagram and Twitter. Record urban fishermen who can’t afford to in Los Angeles

Fry Electronics Team

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