Camp Wasewagan Revisited

A few years ago, I posted about the Cave clan’s annual Labor Day trek up to Crazzy’s Camp Wasewagan near Angelus Oaks, California. It has been a tradition that has gone on for about 44 years, the last 20 of which we have been fortunate enough to attend.

Santa Ana River Brown TroutAside from the swimming, hiking, musical jam sessions, eating, drinking, and requisite camp fires, there just happens to be the main fork of the Santa Ana River running through the center of camp. Which, of course, plays perfectly into my angling addiction. The DFG semi-regularly stocks the river with 8-12 inch Rainbow Trout, plus there is a “native” population of Brown trout that has sustained itself even though they stopped stocking that species over 20 years ago.

This year, however, I was fearful that the fishing would be nearly non-existent due to the extreme drought-induced low water levels. Though, when we arrived this past Friday, a fierce weather cell had just gone through the area which tinged up the usually crystal clear water, “swelled” the average depth to about 8 inches, and left the skies perfectly overcast. Needless to say, once the truck was unloaded I was getting my line wet. In just one hour, I ended up catching and releasing 8 trout including this beautiful 8″ Brownie.

Camp Wasewagan Fishing kidsThis gave me hope that we would still have some exceptional fishing despite the dry conditions. That hope proved short-lived when I took this group of young but eager anglers out for a post-breakfast session. By then, the skies were clear, the water had cleared up, the levels had dropped back down to an average 6″ depth with very few pools to hold fish, and the fish had become very skittish. As a result, Santa Ana River Rainbow Troutthe three kids on the left were the only ones to catch any fish, and they all were too small to keep for the BBQ. I managed just one solid bite … this 13 incher which proved to be the biggest of the weekend.

Knowing the fishing was tough in camp, I headed down the road about 5 miles on Sunday and found a couple of decent pools that were back-to-back. I was able to land 5 more fish there: two in the 6″ range, two in the 8″-9″ class, and one 12″ keeper. Normally, 12 inchers are very common place in this part of the river. But, the camp staff informed me that the two keepers I caught were the biggest fish they saw pulled out all year. Certainly the drought we have been in is a major contributor to the downturn in size and numbers we are experiencing. Hopefully, we’ll get some serious rain in So Cal this Fall and Winter. Between the unprecedented low lake levels, and what I saw on the Santa Ana river, it could determine whether there’s any freshwater fishing to be had here in 2014.

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