Charles Frederick Holder.

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

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weighed fourteen pounds. I think I saw one, for a
fleeting moment, against the green brakes ; but it is
needless to harass the memory.

If one had the space and inclination to chronicle the
various tales of the rainbow trout, its leaps and plays, a
small volume could be made on this fascinating theme
alone. A friend told me that in casting with three flies
two fishes saw them coming, met them a foot or two in
the air and were caught after a splendid play.

Late in the afternoon I came to a deep pool of the
arroyo abounding in trout of small size, and might have
filled my creel, but I climbed the cafton side, made the

92 Life in the Open

trail, and later crossed the stream and rode into camp,
twelve miles from the valley, four thousand feet up, and
in the heart of the Sierra Madre, with range after range
between me and the sea. The camp was a log-cabin
of an old mountain friend, and that night I sat by the
fire and looked up the chimney and counted the stars,
listened to the cry of strange birds and the weird laugh
of the coyote, and breathed the rich odors of forest
trees, nodes ambrosiancz. Since then this attractive
cafton has been swept by fire, and has lost much of its
beauty ; but new trees are growing, and Nature will soon
renew its delights and fascinations.

The San Gabriel Cafion with its splendid reaches is
the home of the rainbow trout, and some fine catches
have been made here by lucky anglers. The San Gabriel
River is available from several points. The angler will
find the Mount Wilson Trail at Eaton Cafion, Pasadena,
a delightful diversion. It carries one from Pasadena
eleven miles up the slope of the Sierra Madre, nearly
six thousand feet above the sea ; affording innumerable
views which well repay the trip, aside from the objective.
The summit of Mount Wilson is an attractive park,
the site of the astrophysical observatory under Dr.
George E. Hale. Near here are two camps or hotels
where the angler will find congenial entertainment, and
the latest fish stones. The trail down the north slope
is about four miles in length, and can be made by burro
or horse, or on foot, and the angler will find one of
the most tremendous " drops " in the Sierras, literally

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 93

about a thousand feet to the mile. This leads to the
wild and picturesque West Fork of the San Gabriel
Canon, and whether a burro with a pack can penetrate
it depends upon the individuality of the burro and the
effect the elements have had upon the stream during
the past winter. The camp authorities will doubtless
post themselves in the future as to the condition of this
trail and the West Fork ; the angler can be advised in
Pasadena by telephone, and if the trail down the West
Fork is not available, he can have his outfit shipped to
Follow's Camp from Azusa, and make the descent of
Mount Wilson in light marching order, with blankets
and rations for two days. A better plan is to take a
guide who will pack the light kit and leave the angler
full play with the rod along this fine stream, with its
thirty miles of fishing, which will bring him in two days
to Rincon, where the stage can be taken for Azusa.

It is assumed that the angler of Southern California
is a lover of mountain climbing, and this route is a con-
stant delight to such an enthusiast. The view from near
the pagoda-like observatory into the San Gabriel abyss
is a revelation in itself a deep gulf or rift worn out by
the rush of waters. It invites the angler in a thousand
tongues to descend and explore, and tosses back his
voice in a marvellous series of echoes.

Around Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura in
the Santa Ynez Mountains some charming trout streams
may be found, which are now systematically stocked and
protected. The Sespe, fed by cool springs and the

94 Life in the Open

drainage of a large area of mountains, is one of the
most attractive streams in Southern California for the
early trout fishing. From Los Angeles it is reached by
taking the train to Fillmore, about fifty miles distant,
from which the angler goes about five miles by team to
Devil's Gate, reaching Pine and Coldwater creeks and
the West Fork. If the angler desires to intercept the
Sespe between its rise and the sea, he can go up the
Ojai Valley from Ventura. Along this road, a fine trout
stream flows, a constant delight to the stroller.

From Nordhoff, the little town in the Ojai Valley-
one of the most fascinating bits of country in Southern
California, with its big trees, its velvet-like carpet, its
multitude of birds, and lofty hills all about, the angler
can ride on horseback twenty miles over the mountains,
coming out at the Sespe near Sulphur Springs.

Near here is the romantic Matilija Cafton ; and at
Santa Paula the picturesque creek of that name and
the Sisar flow through a wild and attractive country,
affording ideal conditions for the angler. Santa Paula
Carton is one of the most interesting in this part
of the Sierras, and the accommodations at Sulphur
Mountain Springs are excellent. The summit of Sulphur
Mountain, easily reached from here, is the centre of a
fine hunting country ; deer, dove, quail, and trout being
the special attractions to the stroller through the range.

The Los Angeles River as it passes through the
City of the Angels is a river by courtesy at times, but
after a rain in the mountains, it often runs banks full.

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 95

Tracing it up, it winds through San Fernando Valley
and merges into the Tejunga, its main source of supply,
which with the Santa Clara River in the upper Soledad
Canon often provides the angler with fair sport.

Many of these streams that sink into the sand in
places, as the Los Angeles River in the San Fernando
Valley, and the Arroyo Seco, and seep along beneath
the surface for miles, to appear again, are sources of
constant wonder to the angler who knows only Eastern
brooks that always hold their own in the open, and flow
through fields of nodding flowers ; but the California
streams reach the sea at times in winter, though during
the summer and fishing season they are often land-
locked by sandy wastes.

The rainbow trout is indigenous to the California
Coast Range canon streams, and ranges from the Klam-
ath down to about the Missions of San Juan Capistrano
or San Luis Rey, and varies much in colour in different

I have seen one from the Arroyo Seco upper pool
that was a light olive-green, covered regularly from
head to tail with small round black spots. Another
trout taken in the San Gabriel was blue and had
splashes of red upon the sides ; the belly of pearl, with
faint spots. The large fish in the streams of Santa
Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Diego now
range from one to two and three pounds when sea run ;
but Sage gives the maximum weight of Williamson
River trout as thirteen pounds, and Mr. W. H. Glass

9 6 Life in the Open

tells me that his largest rainbow, taken in Bear Valley
Lake, weighed ten and one half pounds, while another
weighed twelve and one half pounds.

The fame of the rainbow trout has travelled wher-
ever rods are known, and the fish has been distributed
far and wide, even introduced into England ; and almost
everywhere, it is said, retains its wonted vigour and
game qualities. The open season in California is from
April first to November first, and in San Bernardino
County from May fifteenth to November first.

A feature of fishing in Southern California is the
ease with which the mountains are reached. Los
Angeles is but thirteen miles from the mouth of the
Arroyo Seco, Millard, and other attractive canons ; the
Ojai Valley, Santa Paula, or Santa Barbara streams
are but a few hours distant, while the San Gabriel
River can be reached from the city by train to Azusa in
less than an hour, where a stage takes the angler into
the mountains to any of the camps along these typical
Southern California streams. The camps are at an
altitude of several thousand feet, where hot weather is
practically unknown ; indeed, one of the surprises to the
angler in this country is the summer climate : warm
days come in trios and pass, but sunstroke and heat
of the character that is experienced in Chicago, New
York, and other Eastern cities is unknown.

The available waters of Southern California lakes
and streams are stocked yearly by the State Board of
Fish Commissioners with rainbow, Eastern brook trout,

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 97

and cut-throat trout. Black bass have also been placed
in lakes and reservoirs in Los Angeles, Orange, and
Santa Barbara counties. Too much credit cannot be
given the Board of State Commissioners, as were it
not for their constant efforts trout fishing would have
been a thing of the past long ago in Southern Cali-
fornia. Every year, every available stream is supplied.
San Bernardino receives one hundred thousand fry per
annum. The Bear Valley reservoir is constantly re-
stocked, as are all the tributaries of the Santa Ana River
and the San Gabriel, and those in the counties of Santa
Barbara, Ventura, and San Diego. The Rio Colorado
has been stocked with black bass at the Needles, and
the sun-perch placed in the artificial reservoirs on the
desert at Indio, Thermal, and Mecca. Bear Valley
Lake contains the rainbow and the Tahoe Lake trout,
and large specimens have been taken.

Dr. Benjamin Page, of Pasadena, who has camped
in the splendid forests about the great lake, is the dean
of the anglers and mountain lovers who fish here. He
has cast a fly into every pool in the range, and has made
some notable catches. One I recall, taken in the Bear
Valley Lake in July, with rod and grey badger fly
and helgramite bait, was two feet one inch in length, one
foot two and a half inches in girth, and weighed seven
and a half pounds. This fine fish, a Tahoe Lake
trout, fought the skilled angler an hour and sixteen
minutes before it could be brought to gaff, and was but
one of a notable catch made by Dr. Page's party.


9 8 Life in the Open

The pools in Deep Creek, in the San Bernardino
mountains, are of great beauty and size, often chiselled
out of the rocky and literal basins of stone, flanked by
stupendous masses of rock, down which the clear waters
splash and foam, pouring from one great pool into
another on their way down the stupendous slope of
the range. Such is the lower Big Pool. The upper Big
Pool, Deep Creek, is even more remarkable, if possible,
for its water-worn rocks, the clearness of the water, and
its melody where it falls in a level sheet ; then striking
a sloping ledge it bounds down into the pool, a mass of
molten silver, carrying life and aeration into an ideal
pool in the heart of the forest where the angler does not
cast in vain.

This fine mountain stream well illustrates the possi-
bilities of mountain climbing and trout fishing, abound-
ing in long reaches of forest, tumbling down great
distances in short periods, at once one of the hardest
streams to climb, and one of the most beautiful and
satisfactory to the lover of mountain life.

Deep Creek is an eastern fork and possibly the
largest branch of the Mojave River, and can be traced
into a desert second only to the Sahara in its terrors
of heat in midsummer ; hence, one of the most remark-
able trout streams in the world for its contrasts. If
any one should point out this dry river-bed in the
desert as a trout stream, he would be laughed at, as it is
a mere streak of water-polished stones overwhelmed by
sand-dunes for miles over the desert, what water there is

A Rainbow in the Sierra Madre 99

being far below the surface or entirely gone ; but if traced
up to the foot of the San Bernardino range, that rises
ten thousand feet above the desert, it soon appears
and for miles climbs the Sierras as one of the most at-
tractive trout streams in California, abounding in huge
pools, and scenery of the wildest description, where the
elements appear to have had full sway and have vented
their fury upon rock, forest, and range.

The stroller along the picturesque shores of South-
ern California will find here and there peculiar lagunas,
small bodies of water separated from the sea by the
sand-dunes, yet at high tide connected by a little chan-
nel that at other times is not always apparent.

These lagunas are often the mouths of the Southern
California trout streams. There is one at the mouth
of the Santa Ynez, near Lompoc, reached by steamer,
stage, or rail from Santa Barbara ; one at Alamitos, and
at Long Beach where the San Gabriel River reaches
the sea ; another at Venice, where the genius of Abbot
Kinney has produced a beautiful town on water-way
streets, after the Venetian fashion ; another is found in
San Diego County where the San Luis Rey River runs
into the sea ; and there are many others along shore ;
but the four mentioned are the mouths of rivers down
which trout may reach the sea, at times, and in and
about which is found the steel-head, supposed by some
to be the sea-living form of the rainbow, but by others
considered a distinct species. The steel-head bears
some resemblance to the rainbow, but would never be

ioo Life in the Open

mistaken for it, at least in the south. In April and
May it can be found about the entrance to some of
these streams, and in the Santa Ynez has been taken
weighing twenty pounds, leaping five or six feet into
the air when hooked, and making a splendid and vigor-
ous play on light tackle.

Chapter VII

Following the Lowland Wolf

THE meet of the Valley Hunt was at a certain
oak not far from the edge of the Arroyo Seco.
At an early hour the soft melody of a horn
came through the orange groves followed a few mo-
ments later by hounds and riders, the men mounted on
high-pommelled Mexican saddles with a brave showing
of silver and carved leather.

It was a winter morning in Southern California, and
as the hunt turned to the south and rode through Pasa-
dena the ground was silvered with heavy frost in places,
the summits of the Sierra Madre were white with
snow, and the sentinel peaks of San Antonio and San
Jacinto, ten thousand feet in air, loomed up, white
domes against the pink glow of the morning sky. You
could see the snow flying on San Antonio, hovering
like a cloud at its summit ; you could see the big
trees laden with snow on Mount Wilson and Mount
Disappointment. Winter was abroad and visible, but
here, mocking-birds, orioles, finches, song-sparrows, from


I04 Life in the Open

every tree and bush sang of spring and summer. The
blossoms of the heliotrope, banked against houses,
filled the air with fragrance ; roses piled high in great
masses of splendid colour over doorways and verandas ;
the orange groves were white with bloom, and as the
hunt left the town and struck into the open the full
beauty of this California winter was seen. Fields of
barley stretched away on every hand ; acres of oranges
and lemons, and groves of pom-pon-like eucalyptus.
The roads and lanes were lined with green, and great
stretches were starred in yellows the faces of a small
daisy-like flower, while the Copa de oro was unfolding,
releasing countless bees that had passed the night in
these golden-tinted prisons along the mesa. It was
winter in Southern California winter among palms,
bananas, and a host of tropical and semi-tropical trees.
Yet the air was crisp and cool, as one might expect
where the night-wind had caressed snow and ice on the
slopes of San Antonio.

The Valley Hunt pack consisted of about fifteen
greyhounds, built for endurance ; tall, rangy, as large as
deerhounds ; some coming from Australian stock, that
had hunted the kangaroo in the open reaches of that
country ; others having been bred to the hard work of
taking jack rabbits in the great vineyards. Massed,
they presented an inspiring picture, as they trotted
along; their trim, blue-and-tan coats shining; their
bright intelligent eyes glancing to right and left.

The game on this winter morning was to be the

Following the Lowland Wolf 105

coyote or lowland wolf, the clever animal so familiar in
the West. Only the day before I had seen the feathers
of a turkey in the middle of a wide street ; the ventrilo-
quistic laugh of the coyote had been heard over the
arroyo, at San Rafael, and the time seemed auspicious.

For a mile the horses walked to the south, reaching
a point midway to the Mission Hills from Pasadena, then
turned into the fields, which were open and clear to the
San Marino vineyard, two miles distant. Here a stop
was made and saddles re-cinched. When a clever Cali-
fornia horse is cinched, he takes a long breath and re-
sists, and as soon as the rider is mounted he " shrinks "
to a remarkable degree ; hence a second or often a
third cinching is necessary before a long run.

The master of the hounds was now fifty feet ahead
with the hounds, and the hunt moved on over the
alfileria and burr-clover. It was still early, and a slight
haze gave a mirage effect that was very deceiving. A
buzzard appeared like a roc, and a distant cow loomed
up as large as an elephant. Suddenly something else
appeared and the master of hounds pulled rein. About
three hundred feet ahead, standing on a little rise, an
object that looked like a gigantic dog was silhouetted
against the sky. It stood half turned, its big ears up.
Then the hunt moved slowly on, creeping up to it,
while it stood and watched, never moving. Soon it
resolved itself into a coyote that eyed us with evident
contempt, nor did he move until the master of the
hounds spoke to the pack and they dashed ahead.

I0 6 Life in the Open

Greyhounds, except in rare cases, have no scent, at
least it is of little use ; they run by sight only ; and as
the master spoke a familiar word that in the universal
language meant game, each dog raised his head and
looked eagerly forward. Some leaped bodily into the
air and glanced around quickly ; then, all seeing the dim
form ahead, lengthened out and rushed on, followed by
the roar of pounding hoofs, the clanking of snaffles and
chains. There is nothing quite like this sudden leap
into action of twenty or thirty horses as eager for the
sport as their riders ; and that they enjoy it every wolf
hunter will tell you.

The coyote held his post for a second, then, seeing
that what he might have taken for a lot of herders or a
herd of cattle were coming his way, he swung around,
dropping his tail and head, broke into an easy run, and
slipped down the side of a wash where the white sand
of a little arroyo wound away, flanked by prickly pear
and sage.

Over the bank went the dogs, spreading out like a
fan by instinct, followed by the hunt, the knowing horses
settling on their haunches and taking the slide as a
toboggan, then lengthening out into long lines in the
wash. Suddenly the coyote dashed to the left, up an
old trail he and his ancestors had made, and regained
the mesa ; the hunt going on to some break, and losing
by this clever trick. Once up on the plain again, the
hounds were seen well bunched, and the hunt now
stretched out, the good horses taking the lead, the poor

Following the Lowland Wolf I0 ;

ones already discomfited, as it had been literally a run-
away from the start. The ground was hard ; it had not
been ploughed for several years, so afforded the horses
a vantage ground, and a number rapidly closed in on
the hounds. The master, mounted on a fine sorrel,
" Del Sur," was riding directly behind the dogs, his eye
gleaming with pride at their movements, their splendid
action. Near him were four or five riders, careful not
to overrun even a slow dog, giving them the field. The
pace was furious, and over three miles of level country
stretched away to the Mission Hills, the home of the
coyote. He must be run down before they are reached.
All this time, or since the coyote has dashed out of the
arroyo, the dogs have been running " on orders." They
have lost sight of the game, but the master of the
hounds has the wolf in his eye, a gray spot shooting
along like the wind, and he directs them, the hounds
with wonderful prescience taking the direction of his
horse and turning as he shouts.

The hunt is now stretched out over half a mile. The
sun has emerged from vermilion clouds, and is flooding
the valley of San Gabriel with light, illumining the lofty
snow-caps with ineffable glory ; while all along the range
a crimson light is stealing, and deep purple shadows
are creeping into the canons like weird spectres of the
night that fear the light of day.

A shout from the master of the hounds, the dogs
sight the game, and, still silent, stretch out, working
like machines. If you are well to the fore you will

I0 8 Life in the Open

hear his exuberant expressions of delight "Well
done, Mouse"; "Good Chiquita"; "Good boy, Ramon"
as the dogs shoot ahead. The ground is dangerous ;
there are badger holes, washes, and pitfalls made by
squirrels, out of which owls fly as we rush by. You
put your reliance on your mustang, and watch the dogs
and that spectral gray spot far ahead. The pace is in-
creasing ; the dogs are warming up. Your mustang has
the bit in his teeth, and you remember to have read
that only a race-horse can keep up with a coyote ; but
this pace and country would have killed a well trained
racer. Your clever, wiry horse leaps every hole ; he
knows them by intuition ; and takes everything as it

Suddenly the dogs make a sharp turn ; the coyote
has changed his pace and we are well in. Old Ramon
has forced the turn. How they run ! like machines,
every movement telling of grace, springs of steel, and
beauty of motion. Across a rough field we go,
through a. high mustard patch, then out into a narrow
road. The best horses are well bunched behind the
dogs, and like a rush of mighty wind the hunt sweeps
down the road, gaining on the coyote at every leap.
The hounds had spread out and looked like streaks of
dun and blue. They appeared to make no effort to
see, but that they were pulling up on the ghostly form
was more than evident. Occasionally I saw the game
turn and glance over his shoulder, then with his big
ears well back he shot on again at marvellous speed.







Following the Lowland Wolf I09

The dogs relieved each other in running ; one would
take the lead for a few moments, then drop back as
another surged to the front, the effort of keeping to
the fore being exhausting. But gradually they drew
ahead. Suddenly the coyote swerved, turned sharp
around, and dashed down into a narrow wash over
which we went ; some caving in the treacherous earth ;
others cleaving it ; the dogs piling in, then on franti-
cally as the coyote appeared farther down.

The trick was well played, the game gaining two
hundred feet, and then it was a race for the foothills.
It is the unexpected that happens. Suddenly a barb-
wire fence appeared. In some marvellous manner the
coyote squirmed beneath it and sped away to the hills,
while the hunt lined up and the master of the hounds
leaped to the ground to prevent the hounds from cut-
ting themselves in their desperate attempt to follow.
The horses had made a splendid run of three or four
miles at racing speed, and after a rest the fence was
opened and the hunt continued.

The coyote by this time was in the Mission Hills, so
the riders and hounds followed up one of the caftons
that cut through the range, reaching the south slope ;
then, in pursuance of a definite plan, spread out in a
long line and mounted the steep slopes, using the sheep-
trails as pathways. The hills were like green velvet
mounds, and part of a range called the Puente or Mis-
sion Hills, running parallel with the Sierra Madre, and
farther down growing larger, near Santiago Cafton, there


Life in the Open

rising into a snow-capped mountain. The plan was to
sweep the range from behind and force the coyote down
into the open valley again. The summit reached, the
hunt extended along the divide and various peaks for a
fourth of a mile, and as the coyote had not been started
it was assumed that he was lying in some little cut on
the north slope below.

No fairer view could be imagined. Below, the
valley of San Gabriel, a winter garden : vineyards,
groves of the olive, lemon, and orange, great squares
of eucalyptus, groves of the black, live oak, with lofty
palms here and there, and beyond, as a background,
the snow-capped Sierra Madre. ,

I had dismounted, and stood wiping the dust from
the face of one of my own hounds, and assuring her
of my complete satisfaction and admiration, when my

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 6 of 21)