Charles Frederick Holder.

Life in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California online

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some hole in a cliff, coming out mainly at night, though
I have often met them in the daytime in the chaparral
that covers the lower hills. Any canon that comes
down from the Sierras is the home of this little red and
gray fox. You may find him at Santa Barbara, in the
beautiful glens and defiles of the Santa Ynez, or along
and around Bear Mountain, back of Santa Paula. He

7 2 Life in the Open

looks down upon the mountains from the Strawberry
Valley, around Idlewild, and the great slopes of San
Antonio and the clefts of Mount Wilson are his home ;
or you may find him in the Santiago mountains, where
he forms the game par excellence for the Santiago Hunt
Club, and doubtless helps himself to the chickens of
the master of the hounds when the pack is away on a
hunt; indeed you may find this little fox on San Nicolas
Island, and on San Clemente, where he is smaller than
ever. Everywhere he preys upon quail, or small birds,
varying this diet with tuna, wild grape, or chilocothe.

They are particularly common at Santa Catalina.
On the summit of this island is a range of mountains,
named for Cabrillo, the discoverer of the island, which
have several isolated peaks, twenty-two hundred feet
in height, surrounded by a maze of caftons. In between
these, running directly across the island, is a long and
well-wooded caflon, in its lower range called Middle
Ranch, the Cabrillo range forming the south wall of
green. In camp here one is never away from the me-
lodious note of the quail, while the foxes make a runway
down every cafion and along the tops of the range where
great reaches of low chaparral sweep away to the sea.
At San Clemente they stole from my camp and came
around every night.

Fox-hunting is indulged in all over California, but
it is a failure in the open. The fox will make a long
run in the chaparral, but in the open country he will
run for the trees in sight and leap up their sides with

Fox-Hunting in California 73

great abandon. I remember well a " fox hunt " on the
mesa in my early days in California. A fox having
been located in a little woodland on a wide mesa that
afforded a splendid running country, a hunt was organ-
ised and in due time the fox started. I was the Master
of Fox-Hounds that day, as well as the President of the
Club, and the hunt was looking to me to carry out the
plan of an old-fashioned Virginia fox hunt. The hounds
took the trail, and the fox responded. He dashed
across the mesa, stood a second surveying the land-
scape, then selecting the only tree in sight an oak he
ran for it, and the hunt and pack in full cry followed
for perhaps three hundred yards; then Reynard reached
the tree, gaily bounded into it, and was placidly sitting
out of the dogs' reach washing his face when the hunt
rounded up. It is best to draw a veil around so harrow-
ing a scene, but I believe I carried that fox home, brush
and all, under my arm. In the canons the fox is another
creature, or in park-like regions, as the splendid reach
at Santa Anita rancho, or Santiago or Monticeto caftons.
Here the hounds often have a long run and are often

The Santiago Hunt Club averages about fifteen foxes
a season, often taking them in September and October,
the driest time of the year. The dogs of this club are
doubtless the best foxhounds now in Southern Cali-
fornia. Mr. J. E. Pleasants, the Master of Hounds, and
Mr. C. E. Parker of Santa Ana have taken great interest
in perfecting Californian foxhounds from stock from the

74 Life in the Open

Southern States. An average run of this club after a
fox, is given as three hours, the fox being generally
treed four times in this time, and often killed in the open
after a run of perhaps three hundred yards.

While fox-hunting may be had in summer and as the
latter wanes in October, it is better in the winter when
the land is green and the herbage in secluded places
damp, holding the scent. Then the country is ablaze
with colour. The mesa, cafion, arroyo, and mountain
slope each has its special floral offering to delight the
hunter, and life in the open can be had in all the term
implies. Immediately after the first rain is doubtless
the most favourable season. The land is still warm and
dry. Perhaps in mid October, there is no suspicion of a
change, and a thick golden haze hangs in the valleys, so
that one seems to see the mountains through opalescent
lace. The nights are a little cooler, the wind has about
died away, and for days flocks of geese and cranes have
been seen flying south along the Sierra Madre.

You are familiar with the fog that comes in from the
sea against the wind at night in an altogether incompre-
hensible fashion, going out against the sea breeze in the
morning, the tonic of Southern California, the balance
wheel, the only fog in the world possibly that is
purely harmless, crepuscular, nocturnal, and other things.
But one day this fog, in a long, feathery, fan-shaped
finger, is seen creeping along the slope of the Sierras
in the morning. From my home in the San Gabriel at
Pasadena, it appears to come up the Santa Ana River

Fox-Hunting in California 75

from the sea, while another comes stealing along the
Sierra Santa Monica range, and they meet at the main

If this is a real rain, not a false alarm, it spreads
out and encompasses the whole land from the mountains
to the sea, and after much coming and going, halting
and coming again, the rain falls softly at night. I
have known enthusiasts to go out and stand in it, when
it has not rained for eight months. It rains gently all
night, and in the morning the clouds slink away and
leave another land. The golden haze that has filled the
valley is gone, there is a new tone, a new world ; the
dust has been washed out of the atmosphere, the trees
are green and bright, the Heteromeles hold up their
ripening berries, and wild lilac, ironwood, manzanita, and
a score of trees and bushes take on rich green tints
under this night's washing. The orange and eucalyptus
groves are freshened up and all the earth, covered with
its brown and seared mass of winter vegetation and
seeds, takes on a darker brown. Then is the time to
take out the hounds ; the damp sand of the cafions is
covered with grey leaf mould that photographs the im-
print of fox or bird, and retains the slightest odour, and
the hounds at once pick up the scent and follow it over
and through the devious paths and trails of the deep

The fox is a very minor part of fox-hunting in
Southern California. I have spent many God-given
days in the cartons of the range, from Santa Barbara

7 6 Life in the Open

to San Luis Rey, where the fox was but an excuse, a
leader to bring one in touch with new beauties, new
scenes. I spent an entire winter in the Sierra Madre
between two of its most attractive caftons, and very
frequently went hunting with a grey- or foxhound.
What game we found and ran to earth in these splendid
glades ! We found banks of wild tiger lilies, cliffs with
backgrounds of bluebells ; there were brakes as tall as
a man, fragrant bays, and down the valley, on the slopes
by San Jacinto, the Matilija poppy with great white
petals and golden centre. We hunted the fox in the
splendid Santa Margarita Rancho that overlooks Elsi-
nore, and wandered among the mountains that rise
back of the fine old Missions of San Juan Capistrano
and San Luis Rey. We hunted in the Coast Range,
down the cafion of Laguna with its many caves, and
along shore, where the rocks reach out into the sea.
All over Southern California the little fox is found, and
I commend it to the sole and tender mercies of your
camera at times when the hen-roosts are not robbed.
If it is a good fox-hunting winter, this first rain holds
for several days and gives the thirsty earth an inch or
two of rain ; then watch the staging of nature's trans-
formation scene. The change is so sudden, comes on
so quickly that almost the following week you may see
the alfileria rippling away over lowland and mesa ;
the rains have washed the seeds of the clovers in wind-
rows, and the first green along the roads and trails
comes in circles, and arcs, then fills the interstices, and

Fox-Hunting in California 77

a robe of verdure reaches away over the hills that daily
take on richer and darker tones. From now on there
is a procession of plant-life from the far north to Pa-
lomar, and from Pala to the sea.

Chapter VI

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre

IN February or March the disciple of Walton, in
Southern California, begins to look over his flies
and appropriate the big worms which come to
the surface at this time in the gardens and ranches, as
though to challenge fate.

The land is still in the grasp of winter ; the high
peaks of the Sierra Madre, San Jacinto, and San Ber-
nardino are white with snow ; and over the orange
trees in my garden, where the birds fill the air with
melody, I see a white, fluffy, zephyr-like cloud hovering
like a bird on San Antonio ; yet not a cloud, but snow
rolling up the north slope, to be whirled and tossed into
the air, a titanic wraith, that falls and is dissipated by
the soft airs that float upward from the valleys that
reach away to the distant sea.

There has been a snow-storm in the San Gabriel.
The walks in the garden are white, and the strong west
wind plays over it, robbing the violets of perfume. But
the snowflakes are the petals of orange blossoms, that


3 2 Life in the Open

fill the air with fragrance, and star the green trees of
the groves with silver frosting.

The country in the open is running riot with flow-
ers. It has been a rainy winter and the fall came early.
Twenty inches have fallen, and, as though touched with
a magic wand, the gray sombre beauties of the land
have melted imperceptibly into green. You may almost
see it spread and kindle into flame, so subtle, so rapid,
is the response of nature to the call of winter or spring.
Over all the land is spread a carpet of alfileria, soft as
velvet, and radiant in changes of shade and tint, as the
days slip away. On this carpet flowers are budding
and blooming, and as the trout are pushing up-stream
against the floods that are coming down, the land be-
comes a garden of many colours. The upland slopes,
the great mesa in the San Gabriel and beyond, a're a
blaze of golden yellow. The copa de oro has opened,
and the land is a field of the cloth of gold, the cups of
gold covering barren slopes, drawing a mantle over
ragged wastes and washes, as though all the mines of
Southern California were flowing liquid gold that ran
over the length and breadth of the land.

There is a procession of flowers as the weeks pass :
bells of cream among the barley or by the roadside,
bells of blue along the trails, violets of gold and brown
in the fields or on the hillsides, radiant crucifers in yel-
low and white, shooting-stars, mariposa lilies, and a host
of others. While it is still winter in the East, South-
ern California is a wild-flower garden.

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 83

As the days pass, the floral display seems to attain
its maximum effort, and then there comes a change ;
Spring is pouring her glories into the lap of Winter.
The rippling fields of oats and barley take on a lighter
green ; the south face of the range, especially the
spurs of the lower mountains, begins to turn and as-
sume umber and grey tints ; new and strange flowers
appear ; the alfileria seeds are boring into the soil ; the
wild-oat awns are twisting and untwisting, day and
night, and the clovers lie brown on the surface. Tall
green forms are now seen on the hills, forests of green
against the slopes ; suddenly they turn to a golden hue,
and over the hills the golden glow of the mustard races,
bends with the wind in varying shades, until in places
the entire range of hills have become mountains of gold
through which one can ride, the blossoms meeting over
the horse's head.

On the mountain slopes the green Heteromeles are
spangled with white blossoms, and the sage-covered
mesa waves in masses of gray and green spires. Along
the foothills a little wash is covered with wild roses
that are now in bloom, filling the air with fragrance.
The Arroyo Seco, the San Gabriel, the Santa Ana, and
the Los Angeles rivers have in the centre of the gravelly
waste a silvery stream of water ; and so by many tokens
the angler in Southern California knows that winter has
waned, and April, the month of anglers, when the rod may
be plied, has come. If the winter has been very rainy,
if thirty or forty inches has fallen, about the annual fall

8 4 Life in the Open

of New York, the cafion streams will be running full,
and the angler will have to wait for the falling of the
waters, but if the fall has been normal (eighteen or
twenty inches), good sport may be had in all the streams
from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.

Southern California in summer has to some a forbid-
ding appearance. The flowers have gone, the sunlit
hills are dry, and the greens have become browns and
grays of many tints, yet all attractive and appealing to
the lover of colour. The great vineyards are green,
the groves of lowland oaks, as at Arcadia, Pasadena,
and La Manda, in the San Gabriel Valley, the Ojai, and
similiar localities, are ever green, but the open, tilted
mesas, except where covered with chaparral, are brown
and gray ; and the streams, patches of white sand and
polished gravel, lie blazing in the sun, certainly not sug-
gestive of trout, rod, or reel. But these California rivers
are flowing, seeping on beneath the ground, and by
tracing them to the founts from which they come the
caftons of the Sierra Madre, the Santa Ynez, and other
ranges the angler finds himself in another world, the
home of the rainbow trout.

The Sierra Madre face the sea in Southern Califor-
nia. At Santa Barbara a range the Santa Ynez
almost reaches it. The Sierra Santa Monica rano- e
leaps into the ocean, and to pass the beach the angler
enters through a natural arch of conglomerate. From
here the main range retreats, forms the background of
the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, the valley

The Stairs of the Mission of San Gabriel Arcangel
near Pasadena on the King's Highway.

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 85

of Redlands, and so on, while a coast range, with Mount
Santiago as its Titan, skirts the coast within a few
miles of it far to the south.

Indeed, Southern California is a maze of mountains
and its towns and villages are all on mountain slopes, or
in little valleys, shut in by vagrant ranges or mountain
spurs that seem to crop up and to extend in every
direction. The main range stands out clear and dis-
tinct, a wall of rock, often seemingly bare and barren,
facing the sea. It is cut and worn by the wear of
centuries, and while the first impression may be disap-
pointing, the possibilities of this barrier of stone, in
colour making, in grand and beautiful effects of light and
shade, are soon appreciated. The mountains seem to
be a mass of pyramids, and are cut by innumerable
canons that wind down from the summits, each having
countless branches. At irregular intervals, the caftons
open into the valleys and sweep on, like the Arroyo
Seco, almost to Los Angeles, ten miles distant ; cutting
a deep and well-wooded gulch, which tells of the force
of the winter floods that, beginning far back in the range,
come rushing down augmented by thousands of smaller
streams, and go whirling on to the distant sea.

These canons are the gateways to the Sierra Madre,
and once within their rocky portals, all thoughts of bar-
ren mountains are dissipated, as they are natural parks,
filled with green bowers, sylvan glades, banks of fern,
the music of the rushing brooks, and the gentle rust-
ling of countless leaves; while the air is rich in the

86 Life in the Open

woodland aromas of bay and many more. The cafions
are found all along the range, and nearly all have a per-
petual stream like the Arroyo Seco, the San Gabriel,
Santa Ana, and Santa Ynez, the cafions and streams
in San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara, and they are
stocked and protected by game-laws of the State.

In the vicinity of Los Angeles the San Gabriel
Carton affords the best fishing, being a large carton that
reaches far back into the range, to appreciate which one
must stand on Wilson's Peak, six thousand feet above
the sea, and look down into this great gorge worn out
by the water. This carton and its forks abound in trout
pools, in picturesque rocks, precipitous walls, and
splendid vistas of mountains rising one above the
other, peak above peak, range above range. Here the
Creel and Bait clubs make their headquarters ; and
there are several public camps which afford accommoda-
tions for the weary angler.

The carton trail crosses and recrosses the stream of
clear water ; now plunging into mimic forests of oak ;
coming out into the open to enter little glades ; some-
times the carton opens out widely, again it narrows and
forms great rifts in the rock. In the open places there
are little mesas, often dotted with oak trees ideal
places for camps.

A succession of these beautiful cartons is found
along the entire face of the Sierra Madre. On the first
of April every trout stream from Santa Barbara to San
Jacinto and beyond has its anglers. Some idea of the

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 87

beauties of these resorts can be had by a four-mile ride
from Pasadena, at the head of the San Gabriel Valley.
The town lies on the bank of the Arroyo Seco, which
abounded in trout for almost its entire length some years
ago, but they have been forced to the upper ranges. A
fairly good trail extends up the canon twelve or fifteen
miles, taking one into the very heart of this part of the
Sierra Madre. Near by is Millard Canon, a beautiful
gorge with a notable fall splashing over beds of ferns,
the canon then winding its way upward six thousand
feet above the sea.

The San Gabriel Canon, the head waters of the
river of that name, always has fishing unless the water
is too high ; but the smaller canons fail sometimes for
opposite reasons, the supply of rain often being too low
for a period of years, killing off the fish. But in fishing
all is not fish, and some of the most enjoyable days I
have had in Southern California have been in the hey-
day of the Arroyo Seco, when its pools were full, and
its stream musical, laughing waters. Countless times
the trail crosses the stream, and I have stopped at the
crossing, and, while my horse cooled his hoofs, cast
down the stream from the saddle and hooked a fish in
the riffle.

A delight-giver indeed was this stream. It began
far away in the upper range and drained many square
miles of surface ; cool, pure as crystal I often stood
on its edge, or on some rock, and watched it go whirling
by ; now loud and melodious, as it ran over some rocky


Life in the Open

reach, then gliding smoothly over a moss-covered
incline to rush out into the open and form a little lake
where the willow leaves made an arcade of green tracery
over its surface, and their red roots blazed in the
shallows. Here great banks of ferns and brakes grow
beneath the bays, and just above, you cast and unreel
and let the capricious stream take you down the stream.
It seems an impossible place, with its polished rocks,
projecting ledges, the big tangles of brush, but down
goes the fly to the melody of running waters. It
shoots along, enters a little arcade of brakes, and then,
ah ! how the line straightens out ; a new and unknown
music, the click of the reel, breaks in upon the rush of
waters and the rustle of leaves ; how the slender rod
bends and doubles as the gamy trout of the Sierra
Madre makes its rush down-stream, dashing by polished,
slippery stones, around the smooth edge of boulders,
through the rift where the sun blazes brightly, and
caressing the water with its sparkle, out and along the
edge, to stop, double around a stone, and come up-
stream with a flying rush. This is a trout stream indeed.
There is not a ragged stone in sight ; the waters have
worn and polished every one, so that even the tree-toads
that mimic them have difficult work to hold on. This
saved the day, as the line slipped deftly over their sides
and came taut just as the gamy fish made another
splendid rush clear away, with the reel in full cry, zee,
zee, zeeee, echoing musically among the willows and
alders. Nowhere was the water over a foot in depth.




A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre

8 9

There were no deep pools, yet this radiant creature
played his game with a skill that was marvellous. In he
came on the reel, bending the split bamboo to the dan-
ger point, then breaking away in the riffle, bounding on
slack line into the air a foot or more, shaking himself
like a black bass, landing almost in the shallows to shoot
into midstream in so gallant a rush that I was forced
ahead, and led down through the green where he
plunged into a little cascade, made a quick turn, and
dashed into a wide but shallow pool, taking his place
beneath a huge combing rock to defy me, forcing me
down so that I had to cross the reach and play him from
a little gravel beach in the eddy. As I routed him out
he went into the air, and for a second I saw him in a
rift of the sun a radiant, beautiful creature, too beauti-
ful to catch. Time and again he manoeuvred to go up
or down, but by more luck than skill I kept him there,
played him to a finish in what was doubtless his home,
and brought him, fighting, to the net, the living rainbow
of the Sierra Madre.

I have landed brook and lake trout and some of the
gamiest fishes of the sea, but inch for inch this trout of
the Coast Range, this Salmo iridius, is the peer of them
all. Perhaps it was my fancy, possibly I was carried
away by the beauty of the place, the charm of the situa-
tion, but I forgot certain black bass, certain brook trout,
and a wild, miniature gorge I knew in New England, and
mentally awarded the rainbow the palm.

The fish which I took from the net weighed nearly

90 Life in the Open

two pounds and was an ideal trout a splendid fellow,
that, dying, eyed me with disdain. He was well propor-
tioned, and comparing him to the brook trout I saw that
he had larger eyes, a small mouth, the head more salmon
like. His colour on the back was an iridescent green ;
the sides lighter, tending to white, and dotted, stamped
with small, black, velvet-like spots, while from gills to tail
was a band of reddish blotches, a combination that blazed
like a rainbow when the trout leaped in the sunlight.

I kept on up the cafton, following the trail, then
taking the stream and fishing down, in short sections,
with varying success and always a splendid play from the
animate rainbow. In these wilds of the Sierra Madre, at
least half the charm is the environment. I walked or
rode, led on and on by the constant change, then turned
and followed the stream in its race to the sea, to again
turn back. As I worked into the range the canon deep-
ened and large pools and deep gorges appeared. Once I
crept up to one twenty feet across ; and on its rim grew
masses of brakes, olive-green plumes that caught the
slightest breeze. Opposite were groups of wild lilac,
its delicate lavender flowers showering into the pool,
while long, pointed bay-leaves, like mimic ships, and
acorns nearly two inches long, that had rolled down the
cafion side, floated about. On one side clumps of
columbine made a blaze of colour ; and on the other
a vivid green carpet of moss marked the passage of the
stream from the pool above ; the water coming gently
down like a sheet of quicksilver.

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 9J

Into this mirror of delights I cast, dropping a fly di-
rectly at the foot of a white rock, with no response.
Again I tried, then, failing to secure a rise, I climbed
above and crept through the verdure, pushing aside big
bunches of fern, to the edge and looked in.

The water was a splendid emerald green, and at
the bottom I made out several trout gently fanning
the current. The next fly bore a worm, but not a
fish moved. I tried all the flies I had, and finally
in desperation caught a tree-toad from the rocks and

This was the lure of lures. A great trout came
partly out of water, like a flash of light, and then some-
thing went bounding into the air, shooting over the
edge of the basin down the stream to the next pool.
It is always the largest fish that escapes, and I have
been told trout have been taken in this stream that

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 5 of 21)