I started flyfishing in the winter many years ago because one of my friends thought it was a good idea. It was really cold, the eyes on our rods would freeze, if you got wet it could lead to frostbite and we didn’t always catch something. Despite all that, it turns out he was right. Winter fishing has become one of the things I look forward to the most out of the year because the trout that we do catch has some of the most vibrant colors I’ve ever seen. Rainbow Trout move out of lakes and up the river to their spawning grounds and during that time the males mainly turn the most vibrant colors. Females can also get good colors but nothing like the males. Just one of these beauties makes the whole day worthwhile.
As anyone who follows my blog will have noticed by now, I tend to fish a lot and I like taking the Nikon Z50 mirrorless with me when I do. Both of these images were taken with the Z50 due to the ease and convenience of getting the camera out of the bag and able to shoot quickly. That’s important with aquatic species especially in winter when it’s colder. Thankfully yesterday was nice and warm so I wasn’t as worried.
Winter is a really cool time to fish for Rainbow Trout as they are moving upstream towards the clear water of mountain streams to spawn in the Spring. They will continue to make this journey until they reach the stream where they were born. It’s a unique characteristic of Rainbow Trout as not all trout do this. Another unique trait of Rainbows is the changing colors of the males throughout the spawning cycle, granted the top image is of a female. They will go from the more typical “Chrome” to “Rainbow” look to the eventual dark phase and then back to the rainbow look after spawn has been completed. The variation and duration of the colors vary from individual to individual which makes winter fishing a lot of fun.
Well it isn’t a fall brown but it certainly was one beautiful Rainbow. He hammered the white streamer during the afternoon bite and was kind enough to pose for a couple of shots. The one key I’ve found to this arena is to use flash. There are so many people who hate using flash but at the end of the day it is a great tool to know how to use. Flash is what made that color pop and without it would have been bland.
Images captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 f/2.8 on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
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.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, SB-5000, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Since it’s not always possible to have the camera in hand all the time, today’s the day to start planning this weekends shooting fun. Two days are never enough but at least it’s time behind the lens. Now whatever your field maybe, be sure to spend some time and do your homework today so that you’re prepared for the next day. Before I head out I always look into the area, the weather and what’s happening so that I stack the deck the best I can to get the best photos possible. Does this always pan out? No. But it doesn’t hurt either.
Images Captured with Nikon D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
While one of the most recognized fish species in the world, Rainbow Trout are actually non native species to the state of Montana. There is one sub species that is native and that’s the Redband Rainbow. Today’s species was introduced somewhere in the 1800’s from one of the west coast states. Despite that it has become a staple of today’s angler and for good reason.
Rainbow’s are not only pretty, touting their unique color configurations about, but they are also amazing fighters. They jump, spin, run and fight like crazy which make them fun to catch. But like all species they are fragile and right now we are going into the spring spawn which makes certain areas very fragile to human impact. Some spots are point blank closed to fishing but that doesn’t always stop people. Trout lay their eggs in reds which look like nothing more then dimples in the river bed, but underneath the layer of protective dirt are the eggs. They aren’t visible which make them easy to be damaged. The ethics for photographers that want to photograph these areas are just as important as the anglers. If we want these species to persist then we have to be careful how and where we capture these images. Read the rules and regulations first. If you’re going to photograph a spot be sure you don’t enter the water. Stay on the bank. Be careful and respectful.
Image Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Another winter has come and gone making way for Spring. The snow will be melting and the short, cold days will be replaced with long warm evenings. What does this mean for photography? Well the frosty mornings will be swapped out for even earlier sunrises, beautiful green landscapes, nesting birds and of course spring fishing.
My friend Dan holds up the last of the spawning Rainbows, soon to be on the reds to make future years of rainbows. This was a quick click with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB-5000. The changing of the season affects everything including photography. If you’re thinking subjects to photograph this spring make sure to do your homework now before April gets here.
I’ve received some very nice compliments over the last year when it comes to my fishing photography and I can honestly say that I truly enjoy it. It has been a great learning process between working with aquatic species, portraiture, flash technique and time management. That’s the great thing about photography is there is always something to learn as long as you find a fun way to learn how to apply it and for each person that will be something different.
I’ve done a lot of fishing this year and I can’t to do some more. The great thing about going out with friends is it’s so much easier to get good photographs. My friend Al hooked these two beauties and naturally I had to spend some time with them. This time around I tried something different and used the 18-35mm instead of my 24-70 AF-S f/2.8. I’ve had the 18-35 since March and it is just a really great lens! It’s wicked sharp and has a great focal range. What really makes the difference in the end is the flash. To truly bring out the color of each fish you need that pop of light. Flash is also important when it comes to the portraiture because it helps to remove the shadow caused by hats. Thanks to camera functions like E4 in the custom shooting menu, flash has gotten much easier and more enjoyable.
You can probably guess what I did on Saturday just by looking at the photos. I truly do enjoy fishing, almost as much as I enjoy shooting. Fishing is a lot like photographing critters because it requires the same patience and knowledge. While I have only been doing this type of work for about a year and over that time I have discovered many challenges to overcome.
One of the first challenges I learned to overcome was when to use flash and when not to. Color is really important and flash helps bring out color. But the down side is when you have a reflective surface, like these fish. Direct flash can then be more of a problem then a blessing. Knowing how to use natural light with reflective surfaces is a good skill to have in all areas.
Simple things like composition, lighting and background are a little bit easier to overcome. The two hardest ones I’ve found so far is catching the subject and then telling it’s story. There is of course the basic portrait shot and then you have to be creative and with an aquatic species you have to be quick. Now I’ve photographed many different subjects and I keep trying more because of these challenges and the lessons I learn from them keep me going back.
Images Captured with Nikon D4, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
They say that the key to success is to surround yourself with good people. I would have to agree with that statement. One of my good friends from college, Mikey, who works out in Seattle makes an annual pilgrimage back to Montana to hunt, fish and drink beer. It has become a tradition to spend four days doing nothing but goofing off and having fun. My good friend Alex found a new spot to go fishing and wanted us to try it out.
Needless to say we were happy that we did. Mikey was ecstatic when he caught this beautiful 19″ female Rainbow Trout and then a 20″ Brown Trout. Naturally I had the camera with me to capture the moments.
I’ve really started to enjoy photographing the sport of fishing, both spinner and fly fishing. I will say there is definitely more of an artistic feel to fly fishing images but at the end of the day it comes down to seeing those great images of big fish. It’s not easy though. First challenge is obvious, you have to catch a fish. After that it’s a matter of holding that fish at the right angle to make the fish look big, important and bring out the color. I use a standard and simple setup: D4, 24-70 AF-S, SB-900 on Lexar UDMA Digital Film.
This setup works great for me because I can fit all of it in a pack on my back. It’s quick and simple and allows me to go wide enough to bring in the background or go tight enough on the head of the fish. There is always the option of high speed crop in the camera if needed. Each fish is different and lighting can be a challenge. With Rainbows it’s real easy to get hot spots as their sides are like mirrors. Brown’s are a little easier as they have more color to them. The real challenge is working quickly to not harm the fish. Just like with any other species I work with I try very hard not to harm the subject. It’s a little bit difficult with fish but at the end of the day with the fish back in the river, the pictures are in the camera and the everyone has the memories, then it’s been a good day.