One of the most beautiful trout species in Montana is the Yellowstone Cutthroat. Cutthroat trout throughout the state was in decline for years but thankfully due to the help of a lot of people, both the Westslope and Yellowstone came back from the brink. Today they can be caught in numerous rivers and lakes but are still highly sought after. Photographically they are a must for the files but like all aquatic species have to be handled with great care and very little time. During the height of summer, this is especially true.
One thing I learned a long time ago when working with aquatic species is to get low and shoot wide. Getting low helps to make the subject look bigger and as well as making it easier to hold the subject closer to the water, thus helping to reduce the amount of time the fish is out of the water. Remember the goal is to get the shots quick for a fast release. The wide angle helps to exaggerate proportions while also dramatically changing the focal plane when shooting wide open. The results can be really fun.
We’ve been chasing them for years but the Cutthroat Trout doesn’t give up its secrets that easily. There are enough known spots these days to catch Yellowstone Cutthroats but finding big ones is still rare so I was pretty stoked to catch this 14″ female. Needles to say I had to get a photo with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB5000. Something I learned long ago was that it’s always best to find a shallow spot with a nice background. This grassy bank made for an interesting backdrop to go along with the net as a prop.
I’ve really been enjoying fishing photography lately because it allows me to explore the relationship between subjects more thoroughly. You have this contrast between wanting to take a good photo of the person so that they have that memory and then you have the “really cool” fish photo of just that fish. If you were to ask the fisherman, they would say just photograph the fish, it’s more important. Both are key elements of the story, but the story isn’t complete without the other. Combine this with the urgency to take the photo fast for safety purposes and it makes for some interesting photography.
Spring in Montana is never the same from one year to another and this spring is shaping up to be another one for the books. After the record cold temps in February and March, the ice packs and snowstorms haven’t melted away yet. As a result of this many rivers still, have shelf ice on them. Fishing them can be dangerous as a wrong step can lead to you plummeting down into the unknown but photographically they can be quite rewarding. It comes down to the contrast of having that cold element with a sport that is typically thought of as being warm. Not mention that having a three-foot-tall ice chunk by you is just impressive.
Yep, that’s a frozen Dam. I was always under the belief that dams don’t freeze in the winter time because they are always turning out enough water to keep it warm enough from freezing. This is true in the case of Ennis Dam. Well, Holter Dam apparently wasn’t turning out that much water and it froze. That’s okay because it made for one really cool backdrop. Dam’s are a unique feature in photographs I find because it’s having to mesh the human-made world with the natural world and that doesn’t always work. Dan acted as my model for this shoot and even though he was backlit the bright backdrop made it so that he popped. No one thinks about fly fishing in the winter time but it is one of the best times to be fishing and the photography seems so unusual that it makes it interesting.
That’s right it is almost time for those great spring fishing days with the amazing colors and vibrant patterns of the various fish species that come from those days. The cold temps are finally starting to rescind which means the ice flows will begin to break up and the rivers will once again be more suitable for fishing. In the meantime it’s still prep time with studying the fisheries, looking at snow packs and getting those flies ready.
Ever since I got this new reel and rod setup, I have been taking photos of it. The Sage Pulse, 9′ 6wt and Ross Evolution LTX Reel are just an amazing combo! Beyond the feel and application purposes combined they are just gorgeous in any photo. Naturally this past weekend while there was a little break in the cloud cover, I had to grab a couple of quick clicks.
Winter is one of my favorite times to be using the flyrod because the fishing can be amazing. Rainbow Trout spawn in the spring and as they move up the river they become more aggressive. Males can grow large Kype’s on their lower jaw but this one takes the cake. I haven’t seen such a kype in such a small fish before but those little details certainly make for interesting individuals to work with.
As I have stated many times before, I love this time of the year! The cold dark dreary days of winter can start to eat away at your spirit if you don’t find ways to overcome it. For me that’s taking pictures, fishing and skiing; generally in that order. Each of these areas yield different rewards some due overlap.
One thing I have been pushing more and more in my fishing photography is the use of props and not just doing the smiling portrait with a fish. Sure it’s nice to have that moment but it’s also kind of cool to show the gear you used to catch that beast. This is one of my latest ones that a good friend was happy to hold as I made a few clicks. Really simple with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB-5000. You gotta use flash in order to bring out that color. Positioning can be tough and requires a little playing around until you find something that works for you.