Spring Cleaning in the Park

The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC) lies tucked away in Golden Gate Park, discreetly hidden behind eucalyptus trees, across the road from the ever-popular bison paddock. Only a small sign that reads “Angler’s Lodge” signals the turn into the parking lot. One must then climb up the hill to find the quaint little lodge and the three magnificent tournament casting ponds.

The three casting ponds are each about 180 feet square and are filled to waist deep. They are open to the public year round, with occasional restrictions for games or tournaments or special events. For those of us who want and or need to practice our casting, the ponds and lodge provide a peaceful, social environment … and no end of commentary and advice from onlookers. Free casting instruction is provided there monthly by the club, introducing hundreds of people to the sport of fly fishing every year.

Casting games and tournaments have been a part of the club since the ponds and lodge were built in 1938, but the club’s premier event is the “Spey-o-Rama” (SOR) international spey casting tournament held in April. This three day event brings the best of the best casters to the ponds to set world record distance casts. In preparation for SOR those ponds must be drained and cleaned every year.

At the end of March the ponds are given a week to slowly drain, leaving slick, slimy inches of muck. Occasionally some maverick will release a carp or two into a pond, but otherwise there are no fish in there, which casual visitors strolling about the park find puzzling. There is no filtration or recirculation of the water, so after a year of leaves and debris blown into the water one can speculate on just what might crawl out of there, given enough time. The ponds are irresistible to dogs off leash, and Golden Gate Park concert goers have been known to take a quick dip, despite postings to the contrary. Park employees and a brigade of club volunteers clad in waders or boots, or the very brave in sandals, yield brooms, shovels, rakes, and wheel barrows to manually remove the gunk. Perhaps the most popular job is running the fire hoses to wash down the cement bottom. All the recovered residue is dumped into the Park woods, where it makes excellent fertilizer for the eucalyptus trees. The last few years the pond cleaning has been organized by club members and San Francisco Fire Department retirees Thom Jaquysh and Pete Howes.

The ponds typically remain dry for a few days after the cleaning for any repairs or to repaint lines that mark off distances for casting competitions. Those days of dry ponds are a siren call to skateboarders who revel in the newly available terrain. The ponds are then refilled with reclaimed, non potable water. Ever conscious of the environment in drought-ridden California, the entire process of cleaning and refilling has been skipped in some drought years.

This year the ponds have just been cleaned on a beautiful spring day. Come by next week to watch the competitors practicing for Spey-o-Rama in crystal clear water. Spey-o-Rama is April 20-22, 2018.