From Santa Clarita
Directions to Frenchman's Flat on Piru Creek: Drive approximately 15 miles north from Santa Clarita on I-5 to the Templin Highway exit. Turn left and drive under the freeway and then right on Templin Highway. This road was formerly Hwy 99 before I-5 was constructed. Follow the road north to where it drops down to the parking area at Frenchman's Flat next to Piru Creek. Anglers can park here and walk 3 miles upstream along the old road to fish the catch and release waters.
Less than a hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles (assuming no traffic), Piru Creek offers an easy escape from the nation's second largest city. This creek traces a 50 mile-long arc created by the tectonic clash between the Coast and Transverse ranges around the Sespe Wilderness. The rugged terrain and the need to protect endangered species habitat has limited access to much of the creek. However, extremely easy access to lower Piru Creek from Interstate 5 is available.
The flow of the lower creek is driven by water releases from the dam on Pyramid Reservoir. This tailwater offers one of the few reliable year-round cold water trout fisheries in Southern California. A three mile section just upstream of Frenchman's Flat is managed as a catch and release Wild Trout Stream by the California Department of Fish and Game (though not everybody plays by those rules... see below).
Piru Creek is biologically rich, providing important riparian and aquatic habitat for several species. The creek supports large populations of the endangered arroyo toad and sensitive pond turtle. It also provides habitat for the threatened Santa Ana sucker and California red-legged frog. Look to the skies in the afternoon and possibly glimpse the massive California condor, floating upon the thermal updrafts above the rugged canyon.
In Harms Way
Unfortunately, not all visitors to Piru Creek appreciate the value of preserving wildlife. I've talked with a fellow angler who has fished Piru Creek since the 1990's. Mark told me of trips to the lower section and hooking up with large rainbows in the deeper pools. Some fish getting to the 20 inch range.
As I mentioned above, a three mile section above the campground is posted and managed as a Catch and Release, Wild Trout fishery. You might assume such a move on the part of CDFG would help preserve the larger adult rainbows Mark recounted. Without strict enforcement, and close proximity to greater Los Angeles, the fishery has suffered.
In my recent trip, Mark mentioned spotting a couple of guys "fishing" the creek just above the campground with a gill net. He's witnessed other incidents of poaching and attempted to fight-the-good-fight. After listening to Mark, it's not difficult to imagine where the larger adult (or any of the resident fish) have gone if gill-netters are running loose here.
Although the state of California needs more wardens, each of us in the angling community can chip in to help. If you happen to witness poaching or any fish and wildlife violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number:
1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888 334-2258)
Some information provided by Friends of the River.