Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snap It! And Get The Big Picture ~ Sunday Tippets

One of the biggest frustrations that I have on my river trips is when a picture doesn't turn out the way that I wanted it to.  So, I got thinking that maybe other people have the same problem when photographing fish or other outdoor scenery.  A quick email over to my friend, Gretchen Steele...and wah-lah!!  It's great to know people with special talents that can share some "tippets" to help the rest of us out.  

My guest writer is the author of  "Walkin With The Wild Woman" outdoor blog.  And she also has a professional photography website, "Steele Photo Services". 

I know that you and I will pick up something here to help us with our lighting problems, hero shots and making that fish look a little bit bigger.  = )   I am thrilled to present Gretchen Steele...


It doesn’t take a big expensive and fancy DSLR camera to capture great photos of your fishing adventures. In fact, who can concentrate on getting a good image if you are filled with fear that your expensive camera might take dip and suddenly become an expensive paperweight?  Remember, “The camera TAKES the image, the photographer MAKES the image”.

Thankfully through the miracles of modern technology, there are some fine waterproof and shock proof point and shoot cameras out there that are not only easier to have on hand when fishing by the grace of their small compact size,  but deliver a great images. 

While it seems we are all about the fish and the sought after trophy shot, it’s important to remember to document the whole trip – again thanks to modern technology and digital images it’s perfectly fine to click away like mad. You can always sort, cull and delete extraneous, poor, or just plain icky images. Better to have too many than risk not having that one important moment.

Here are a few tips to help make your fishing images creative, eye catching, and worthy of being a “wall hanger”.

1.      Get the big picture.  Back up, think big, and capture the entire setting and scene. Select the landscape setting on your point and shoot to help you easily achieve a grand large wide angle view of things. Many of our special fishing trips involve breathtaking settings. While an angler is integral part of the image, it’s not the sole focus of the image – as shown in the image below; the setting is what gives the viewer a sense of place and peek into the overall experience.

2.      Details count! Not only to you want to capture the whole scene it’s those tiny bit and pieces of things so often go overlooked. Use the close up or macro setting on the point and shoot and get in there to capture water drops on a reel, a good close look at that special fly, forceps hanging from a pocket. Any number of seemingly small details can be creatively composed and will provide you that image that jogs your memory and has you saying, “ It was such a teeny thing but it made such a difference”.

3.      Watch the light. One of the biggest bugaboos in fishing photography is lighting; from the dreaded hidden face due to a hat shadow to the whole angler and fish thrown into shadows because of the bright sun, light can alternately be your best friend or worst enemy.  Check to see if your camera has fill flash setting, if that is available, the small amount of flash – yes in broad daylight – can go a long way to making the subject of your image pop as well as helping to prevent the darned hat and face shadows. Another trick for the hat shadows is to simply raise the brim and pull it back a little on your subjects head. If fill flash isn’t an option on your camera, turn the flash on and shoot a series of images with flash on and again with flash off. This gives you a bit of cushion and you can decide after transferring them which works better for you. When possible insure that the sun is behind the photographer or at a side angle of about 45 degrees.  In very low light situations it never hurts to try the night setting on your camera.

4.      Move Around. Switch the angle that you photograph from. Snap from above, below, the side.  Simply photographing your subject from a different angle can often take a good image to great image status by adding depth and interest.  

5.      Have No Fear! Memory cards are cheap, deleting is easy. The more photos you take the better you will become. It’s that simple.  Do not be afraid to stray away from the standard grip and grin trophy fish pose and try an image of the angler releasing the fish or netting the fish.  Put your rod down and just sit back and really look at what you most want to remember, what catches your eye enough to make you think, “Oh I wish Bob was here to see this.”  Snap that image to show Bob what you see, tell your story with images from start to finish!

Lastly, always think conservation before creativity. Some fish, such as the huge sturgeons, should never be removed from the water, and in fact it may not be legal to so.  In that case you are going to have to don your waders, and work out into the water to do the photographing. If you absolutely are not going to wade out into the water, use a wider angle lens to capture the angler gently floating the fish on the surface.

Remember that in all fish photos it’s best to have the sun at the photographer’s back or at 45 degree angle and as always – sunglasses off – hat brims up – we want to see those smiling faces! It’s important to be conservation minded when doing catch-and-release fish out-of-water photos.  I often ask anglers to gently float the fish in the net until I am set up and ready to snap in order to minimize the time out of water.

The angler should always have wet hands when handling the fish, and keep it out of water no longer than absolutely necessary. The rule of thumb I use is no longer than I can hold my breath.  Hold the fish properly for the species, some can be held lip style, some should have their whole body supported. At all costs avoid the dreaded grip and grin, with the fish held straight out in front of the angler in death grip with both hands , yes, it makes the fish look larger , but it’s a trick we are all on to and it also makes the anglers hands look abnormally large.  I ask the angler to bend her arms at a 45, with elbows touching her sides or abdomen.  That still gives a good separation of fish and angler yet doesn’t make things seem disproportionate.

Harvest – If your fish are going to be harvested, you have a bit more leeway. You can actually take the time to clean up the fish and the angler and get a little creative with posing.  Have the angler admire her catch for the day, arrange the tackle combination used alongside the fish, get in close.  You still need to remember to work fast and keep the fish wet. The longer the fish is out of water, the more the colors begin to fade.  You want to capture those sparkling drops of water on a brightly colored fish.

So remember, be brave, let your creativity go wild, don’t just limit yourself to trophy photos when fishing, snap photos throughout the trip of anglers casting, close ups of rods, reels, bows, netting a fish.  Capture the memories of the entire trip!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Healing Waters

A Guest Post 

By Steve Zakur

Last week, Emily's husband, David, received a kidney from his sister. I
pray that all is going well for both of them and that they'll be back
at something resembling normal soon.

Writers often wax poetic about the healing powers of our sport. The
syrup that is poured on the topic would put a six-year old sugar junky
off the thing. But there is something to the notion.
I find that time on the water helps me physically distance myself from
the stressful noise in my life. It's more difficult to stop the mental
machinations and it can take several consecutive days before the
voices in my head turn from work to fly selection and reading water;
eventually my head emerges from hunched shoulders.
Efforts like Casting for Recovery and Project Healing Waters take
folks wounded by chance and by war and introduces them to the things
that most of us find each day on the water. While I'm sure it's not
everyone's game, I bet some wounded find the connection to that
something we all know and move forward.

 Last weekend I stood in the sleet and snow in Pulaski, NY. After two
days of Indian Summer, the weather turned to what most know as
typical Steelhead weather.

The morning started out gloomy. Just before the weather turned almost
a dozen anglers stood under gray skies in the run below where Jonny
and I were fishing. Everyone was doing their best to put in the time
when the bite was clearly off. While I didn't feel crowded by the
other anglers, it was clearly different from the normal, solitary
existence of a small steam angler.

As the weather shifted and the sleet, hail, and snow fell I was
shocked to see the masses scatter. Aren't Steelheaders known for their
hardiness? Within fifteen minutes we had the entirety of the run to
ourselves. Far too much water for one to fish but very pleasing to
have to one's self.

All that was left was the rhythm of the cast, the rush of the water,
and the sound of pelting weather on my jacket. The only thoughts I had
were of fly selection and sensing tension on the line. In the next
hour I caught nothing but released much. If not for the clock running
out on this trip I could have done with a bit more casting and
stepping through the healing water. And I wouldn't have minded another
tug by a fish-shaped, nickel-bright object.

Life is busy right now. Demands both personal and professional seem to
have peaked and there's precious little room for anything else.
Like most of you I will continue to tuck away quick trips to the
water; to find and preserve that something else that exists.

Some days it is just fishing. But mostly, it's something else.

I thank Steve Zakur for being a guest writer today. 
 You can enjoy more great writing by Steve,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day...Time To Take A Couch!

Thanksgiving is a day when many Americans gather together with family for an afternoon of food and football, but just how far do people travel to spend turkey day at Grandma's house?  The AAA estimated that 42.2 million Americans traveled more than 50 miles over Thanksgiving weekend last year. 
Here are some fun factoids...errr...giblets for you.

1.  The National Turkey Federation estimated that 46 million turkeys—one fifth of the annual total of 235 million consumed in the United States in 2007—were eaten at Thanksgiving.

2.  Cranberry production in the U.S. is expected to reach 750 million pounds in 2011. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are the top cranberry growing states.

3.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds and measured just over 12 feet long. It was baked on October 8, 2005 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio, and included 900 pounds of pumpkin, 62 gallons of evaporated milk, 155 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of sugar, 3.5 pounds of salt, 7 pounds of cinnamon, 2 pounds of pumpkin spice and 250 pounds of crust.

4.  The sweet potato is most plentifully produced in North Carolina, which grew 972 million pounds of the popular Thanksgiving side dish vegetable in 2010. Other sweet potato powerhouses included California and Mississippi, and the top producing states together generated over 2.4 billion pounds of the tubers.

5.  Though many competing claims exist, the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present-day Massachusetts, in 1621.  Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest feast, acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations.  The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three daysMore than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.

6.  The top five most popular ways to serve leftover Thanksgiving turkey are: sandwiches, soups or stews, salads, casseroles, and stir-fry.

7.  Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clucking noise.  A large group of turkeys is called a flock.

8.  Several Thanksgiving day parades are broadcast on television. These parades are organized by big stores in several American cities. The parade organized by the Macy's store in New York is the biggest. Giant balloons 200 meters high float above the street. The balloons are in the shape of creatures from popular cartoons and television programs. People on the ground hold heavy ropes so the balloons do not fly away.  Hey...Look!  It's Mr. Potato Head!!

Stemming from traditions seen in Europe, the first parade was put on by Macy’s employees who were first-generation immigrants wanting to have festivals similar to the ones their families experienced growing up in Europe.

9.  Thanksgiving also is a time when Americans share what they have with those who do not have much. Churches and other groups provide free meals for old people, the homeless, and the poor. Many Americans give turkeys or other food to these groups. Some spend part of the day helping to prepare and serve the meals.  Several families in my neighborhood go downtown in the morning to the homeless shelter.  It is a great experience to volunteer and share time with those that are so truly appreciative.

10.  Did you know that the River Damsel started her blog on November 24, 2010?  Yes, my friends, the blog is coming up on its two year anniversary!  Wow... Hard to believe.  This will be the  264th post.  And we've almost hit the 100k mark on views.   I know that it wouldn't have been as successful if it wasn't for my wonderful readers and commentors. 

So, thank you from the bottom of my little RD heart.  I have thouroughly enjoyed my time with my fellow bloggers.  The friendships made are definitely a bonus... It has been a fun ride as I have traveled around the states visiting some of you.  And it's not over...yet!  Next year's calendar includes Western New York, Colorado, and New Mexico.   So, we will take the lap top along and write about more journeys.  Because it is an "adventure in every riffle"...


                                   (Sorry...don't know how to draw a turkey!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ice Ice Baby!

Could this be the Siberian cousin of the Tenkara Sasquatch???
With winter on the doorstep, all of us fishermen have a decision.  To put up the rod until spring or to battle the elements of cold, ice and snow...  I made the decision last year to ski in the morning and fish in the afternoon.  And it worked out great!  But, this year, I want to add a new dimension to my winter fun.  Ice Fishing!  That's right.  And to learn from one of the best on the summer stillwater and the winter ice... Craig Peacock.  This fisherman is from my hometown, Salt Lake City, and helped me find my first tiger trout last year.  And this is "Ice Ice Baby"!

Thanks, Craig, for giving us a few tips today on ice fishing and keeping those fishing rods out during the winter months!

By Craig Peacock

I am honored to be a guest blogger for the week.  I hope for a speedy recovery for the patient and the return of the River Damsel in the very near future!

Gone are the summer days of camping. 

No more riding:

 No more BBQ:

It is time to face the reality that the float tubes and still water fishing are done for the year.   It is time for the ice to gum up the guides and the snow to stick to the boots and the bugs to get smaller and smaller.  It is everyone’s least favorite time of the year!  (Except for the River Damsel's)

No more of this...

May I offer an alternative to this cold miserable time of year?  ICE FISHING!  Granted, it is not my favorite type of fishing, but it is better than not fishing at all.  Done right with the right equipment and gear, it can actually be quite a riot!  I would suggest you need some gear to get out and enjoy it and the initial investment can be fairly cheap or super expensive depending on what your tastes are.  You can go as cheap as a used hand auger and ice fishing rod a few jigs and get a setup for under $50 and be fishing.  You also can buy an ice hut, heater, flasher, power auger, multiple rods, tons of tackle, and a snowmobile to haul it all out and invest 10K.  It is all up to you! 

This author chooses and ice hut, heater and power auger for comfort.  I am a wimp when it comes to the cold sometimes.  Being toasty and eating a nice, hot bowl of soup and catching fish at the same time... is a lot of fun.  We generally bring out the lanterns and can fish all night if we want to.  But with a heater you can fish in short sleeve shirts and be comfortable in the tent.  (I can see the River Damsel shaking her head "yes"!)


I would recommend visiting your local sporting goods store and talking to the sales staff.  You will need some basics and ice rod, strike indicator, jigs or bait, warm clothes, and something to sit on.  The best piece of advice I was given, was the strike indicators.  The bit is so light even with some really large fish that you must have this piece of equipment.  Do not wait until you can feel the strike!  When the wire indicator moves... you set that hook and hold on!!  Give it a try and you might find that ice fishing is the cure for the winter blues. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fly Fishing With Kids ~ Sunday Tippets

For the longest time, I have wanted to do a post on the benefits  of teaching kids how to fly fish.  Well, now I finally have the opportunity to share someone's experiences with this!  I have been following a blog that represents "family fishing" to the max...  Brian Bradfield, of brianontheflybrings fun and family togetherness to the outdoors.  A western New Yorker, his home fishing includes trophy lake run brown trout, salmon and steelhead.  They have it all!  It has been a delight to follow him on his journeys through his writings and pictures.  He's one of those guys that you feel like you know him, even though you have never met.  It is my pleasure to have an amazing post today from "the family fly guy", Brian Bradfield.  Thanks, Brian!!

By Brian Bradfield

Here is Ethan with a 4th lake Rock bass caught on the fly

Fly fishing with kids can be a chore. Sure there are plenty of beautiful photos of parents taking their kids out fishing or of their child holding their first fish while smiling ear to ear. But let’s be honest here…there is a lot of work that goes into making each trip a success, especially when you take more than one of them out for an afternoon of fishing.

Ethan hold his first ever solo caught brown trout on the fly!

There are snacks to pack, extra clothes for when they fall in, sweatshirts, backpacks to put it all in, sunscreen, a back-up plan to devise just in case the fishing is poor, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. And that can and will change as they get older. In fact, I used to carry extra diapers when they were still in pull ups.

Jonathan holds one of many tributary trout we caught
 on this spring day, with Ethan looking on.

But now that my kids are six, eight, and ten years old, they can go find a spot back in the brush and take care of business all by themselves. Which reminds me - Make sure to know your local flora. Poison ivy and kids don’t mix!!!!!


Jonathan with a rather large
 pond caught blue gill

There are other dangers as well. Try to navigate in and around three kids all casting flies at the same time, and you will soon realize how important it is to separate them by at least three rod lengths, or more. Even a thorough and highly entertaining lecture on safety from Dad won’t and can’t change the overwhelming enthusiasm kids will feel when you put a fly rod in their hand. Creating distance is important!

Jonathan holds a very nice lake run
 brown we took last year

This brings me to the actual “fishing with kids” part of this blog. I began taking my kids with me when they were very young. Sometimes I would take just one, sometimes all three. In those first years I had a kid carrier that I would put them in up until they pushed the 35-40lb. weight limit (I’m very glad those days are over with.) I also chose spots that I could wade safely with a kid on my back and yet still catch a few fish.

Katie with a late spring smallmouth bass
 taken on a woolly bugger!

As they got older I began to set them up with their own rod, and fish with them. We would fish local ponds and other small creeks that hosted tons of easy to catch warm water fish like smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, rock bass. These are fish that don’t require precision drifts or perfect casts, Ideal for young kids to cut their teeth on.

Katie and I went fishing on a cold
 February day on one of
 Lake Ontario's WNY tributaries....
this is just one of the brown trout
we caught on that day.

As their skills improved I began to take them to spots that Dad likes to fish, spots that did require more attention to detail, spots that were challenging, spots that didn’t give up their fish so easily, spots that they saw Dad holding a big fish. This is when frustration would set in and they would always want to go home within the first half hour of not getting any bites. So we would work together to get our fish. I would guide their hand as they made a drift, or hook a fish and let them reel it in. The point was that we were figuring out this challenge together. And that made all the difference!

They can all catch their own fish now, although they have yet to master the tougher places, like a local spring creek or Lake Ontario tributaries. But my oldest son Jonathan is well on his way! He can now dead drift a nymph at our local trout stream and pick up a few fish before I can have everyone else set up. 

Here, Jonathan fishes a fall down where we hooked a large female lake run brown trout, but couldn't seal the deal.

We enjoy tying flies at the kitchen table from time to time. And let me tell you my eight year old Katie is the best fly tier out of all of them!

My youngest son Ethan may be the best caster out of the three of them. He can roll cast like a champ. Maybe I should introduce him to the switch rod? 

Here is Ethan getting ready to release a wild WNY small stream brown trout...

Sunday Tippet ~ Like I said, it’s a chore. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides I’m still looking to add too my collection of photos with kids smiling while holding a fish.

On a recent tributary fly fishing trip,
 Ethan found the snake,
 Jonathan caught the snake,
and Katie holds the snake before its release!

RD:   When there is a little work involved in usually find out that it is worth doing.  Satisfaction comes from going the extra mile and seeing a smile on a child's face from your efforts makes it all the better.  Not to mention the lifetime memories that your children will have...
And for holding this snake...Katie gets the "Pink Hat" award for finding an "adventure in every riffle"!!  She is definitely a Lil' River Damsel... =)  We have a thing for other little critters around here...

Be sure to check out Brianontheflydotblogspotdotcom...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

AWAKE ~ By Sean Sanders

My guest writer, Sean Sanders, lives and fishes in the Front Range of Colorado, trying to find balance between life as a husband, caregiver to two crazy bulldogs, and the daily grind of selling stuff. And while not on the water, he is busy trying to justify his fly fishing obsession on his blog Up the Poudre (  I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with him during last year's Rocky Mtn. Frenzy... Now, he shares with us, yet another awesome read... enjoy.


We dream in colors, seeing things in distorted truths, breaking open a world of which we experience in flashes, waiting only for the buzzer to pull us back into a mundane reality. Like clouds rolling in and out of frame, time lapsed for the impatient, with forcing storms bringing rain and life to landscape. The summer blurred in ashen smoke, a canyon closed, and with one strike, the river turned black.


The cheap coffee from Ted’s Place burned a sad reminder that I had left a full pot of black at home and unattended. The bulldog’s are assuredly pacing anxiously. Yellow lines blinked intermittently, cautioning, as I entered the canyon for the first time in months. Three fly rods for the day trip, nervous I wouldn’t recognize a vein I’ve traced more times than I’m allowed to admit. Recovering, I return.

Mishawaka survived. Twenty four hour watches pushed back flames for days. The cross in the hill remains. Divine intervention? Maybe. Hard work and luck? More likely. I picked up the empty styrofoam coffee cup as the tunnel spit me further up the hill. I don’t remember reading the sign that begs, “No Diving”.

Hills charred on hot wind and drought, as “High Park” fought 86,000 acres in no particular order. Scars cut through forest, cleaning deadfall as fuel. Taking on directional gusts, the fire left its mark. Reminding us on banks and empty hills which once lived proud. A clean slate planted, as beetle kill still dots unburned reserves in Roosevelt National Forest.

Neighbors left standing to lend a hand to what remained, filling trucks and trailers with the belongings of others, and displaced animals that can’t speak for what they saw. The march is on, the faint drum beat echoing throughout a war torn canyon.

The last donut was eaten, as I hit seek on the radio dial, trying to receive confirmation of an outside world. While the hum of four cylinders broke the emptiness, two lanes together drove me forward, as water poured clear from unaffected headwaters south and west.

Campgrounds devoid of human activity welcome with open gates, eagerly awaiting the return of charcoal smoke from familiar summers. Ghosts of laughing kids skip rocks at turnouts, adults throwing tennis balls to unbridled labs. While the blue and yellow rafts sit idle in parking lots thirty miles below. White bellies of trout flushed, have left fortunate souls to reclaim water for themselves. As the guided sports fish somewhere pure, on water less stained in mind. A depressed gas pedal pushes onward.

Hooking the clip of the gravel guard to the bottom lace of my boots, the four weight accompanied me down to the river. The oversized net secured tightly between my pack and back, my sleeves were rolled up. Business like.

A rock I knew well broke the surface taller than I remember, the water level is low. A small caddis floated drunkenly, as a gulp from the far bank sent sound waves rippling from the source. Midges accompanied, and the electric buzz of grasshoppers crackled. I looked down at the size 20 baetis and clipped it off, unzipping the pack, the plastic box revealed a match that wouldn’t matter.

I shook the hopper out of the grass, and watched the small midge slide out behind. A nose broke the surface uninterested. Passing. This new river alive. Recalibrating. Showing its cards one at a time. Healing.

The fly box opened, as I found the small emerger. An olive and brown imitation, flashed wing case and all. The midge slid back into its slot, inactive. No weight behind foam, the emerging mayfly trailed unburdened. Free to float or sink, diving in, two flies at a time.

An alarm sounded somewhere in the distance. Growing in intensity, two eyes opened to the blinking digital numbers that read 5:58. Hitting snooze, I tried to remember the last cast and if something took. But it’s too late to go back.

*The High Park fire made national news this summer. The Cache La Poudre was in its crosshairs, and has paid a price for being in its path. But as with anything, time heals. New growth in the canyon is proof that mother nature has a plan. The trout fishing is slow in the burn area, which is to be expected, but there are fish to be had, and that makes me happy.


Sean in the Poudre. 2011 Rocky Mtn. Frenzy...
Hoping to see it this way again one day...