Photo of the Month: Moonrise on the River

Photo of the Month: Moonrise on the River

Friday, March 05, 2021

March 2021 Trout Zone Anglers Newsletter

If you haven't checked out our newsletter, please do so HERE. It has lots of good info for upcoming fishing as well as some deals. You can also navigate to the SALE page via the menu bar and see what is for sale. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Caney Fork Scouting Trip

Low water on the Caney will be a rarity for the next couple of weeks, but I found a few while it lasted. If you haven't subscribed to my YouTube channel yet, you probably missed this video. Check it out below, or even better, head over and watch it on YouTube and subscribe to my Trout Zone Anglers channel while you are there. 

Monday, March 01, 2021

First Spring Wildflower Hike

Spring wildflowers and spring dry fly fishing go hand in hand. Both usually kick off the season around the same time. With more than a little rain lately, the spring dry fly fishing might be tougher than usual this year, but the wildflowers are still blooming where they are supposed to. 

Yesterday, I wanted to play around with some new techniques with the camera and post-processing. Focus stacking is a way to get better depth of field in pictures, and my main motivation for learning this technique is spring wildflowers. That said, I'm sure I'll also be using this technique in landscape photography as well. 

Practicing Focus Stacking

Before leaving home, I gave it a quick try on the crocus blooming in my front yard. The method of focus stacking in Photoshop was quite simple, and I was ready to get some wildflowers photographed.

Focus stacking crocus

We headed to a nearby segment of the Cumberland Trail that we enjoy short trips to quite frequently. We are tremendously blessed to have so much good hiking close to home. On many days, we have a hard time deciding where to go because there are so many choices. This time, not wanting to spend a whole day, we decided to stay closer to home. My main goal was wildflowers which narrowed down the options considerably since it is still early in the season. 

Applying Focus Stacking Principles in the Field with Spring Wildflowers

Arriving at our hiking location, we were surprised to find the gate closed. The sign still said it was open, but we couldn't access the usual parking area. Thankfully, there was room to park just outside the gate without blocking anything. Soon, we were walking down the hill and starting the loop hike we enjoy. It didn't take long to find the first wildflowers of interest. 

Spring beauties are one of my favorite early season wildflowers. They often grow in profusion, covering large areas in small white and pink blossoms. The main color is generally white, with small streaks of pink if you look closely. My parents' yard is always a treat this time of year once they start blooming because of the density of blooms. Since it was still early, we didn't find as many as there will be in another week. There were still more than enough to enjoy some photography and practicing my photo stacking technique. 

My camera is a nice one, but so far I only have two lenses for it. Thus, I was stuck using a non macro lens and doing my best to make it work. The results have been better than I expected, and while I still want a dedicated macro lens as soon as possible, this will at least get me through spring wildflower season. 

Spring beauty wildflower focus stacking

Obviously, a macro lens would have been sharper, but considering how small these flowers are, I'm still reasonably satisfied with the result. I at least have something to play around with during the spring wildflower season. 

After I took a few pictures, we continued our loop. The main attraction would be close to the end I hoped. In the meantime, I was keeping an eye out. Surprisingly, all I found was some type of speedwell, and a few more spring beauties. I had been looking for some other early bloomers such as bloodroot or anemone or toothwort, but they simply weren't there yet. 

By the time we were approaching the end of our loop, I was excited to see what was blooming where I expected things to be. Sure enough, we rounded a corner and I began spotting blooms right away. Sharp lobed hepatica blooms in profusion in this area due to a strong limestone outcropping. I have a few places in our area that I know I can go find these beautiful flowers, but this is the most accessible. There were even a few exceptionally colored blooms in addition to the usual white flowers. Here is my favorite, shot using the focus stacking technique. This image is a composite of eight individual images, each with a varying depth of field. 

Focus stacking sharp lobed hepatica spring wildflower

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Glacier Day Seven: Late Day Bonus

After completing a 14.5 mile hike, you might assume we would be tired and done for the day. Part of that assumption is correct: we were tired. However, we were not so tired that the day was over. The big hike to Gunsight Lake and Florence Falls had been a lot of fun, but we finished early enough in the afternoon that we still had many hours of daylight left. Before any further adventuring though, we wanted to eat some more. Lunch had been completed on the return hike from Gunsight Lake, and we were starting to get hungry again. 

Relaxing in Camp and Eating Yet Again

The drive back to camp was completed as quickly as one can under the conditions, and we were soon devouring another delicious meal featuring burritos. This had become a big favorite for us on this trip. We eat a lot of them anyway, but they had turned into a quick and easy but delicious meal with good nutrition after the big hikes we had been doing. An ample amount of black beans, lettuce, tomato, a little shredded cheese, avocado, and either salsa or Taco Bell sauce provided plenty of calories.

While we were relaxing in camp, I decided to try and get some pictures of the wildlife around camp. I was particularly interested in a little oven bird that had been hanging around. While I got a picture or two, they didn't turn out nearly as well as that of a robin that was hanging around. Here is what that one looked like.

American robin at Glacier Campground
American Robin ©2020 David Knapp

Late Day Drive to Polebridge

After lunch and a little time to sit and enjoy the birds, we started thinking about an evening adventure. With nothing better to do, we headed back up to Polebridge. We drove up there far more than was probably necessary, but we enjoyed the late day drives and the scenery was beautiful. The first trip had produced some good fishing, but in subsequent trips I simply enjoyed the drive.

On this evening, we again struck out on wildlife. This trip produced less wildlife encounters than we had hoped, but the scenery more than made up for that. Being there in the middle of the heat of summer probably didn't help. Without any wildlife to keep us occupied, the highlight of the evening ended up being the sunset. 

Sunset at Polebridge

The evening was beautiful even before the sunset. We drove south along Inside North Fork road, hoping for some critters. The one bit of excitement happened when the road passed Winona Lake. We thought for sure a moose had to be feeding there, but it wasn't our day apparently. The waterfowl there were interesting, though, and kept us occupied for a bit. With darkness approaching, we didn't really want to drive all the way back in the dark. After turning around at the Quartz Creek Campground, we were soon back to the bridge over the North Fork of the Flathead. Looking upstream and downstream, we saw one of the best sunsets we enjoyed on this trip. The camera didn't come close to capturing the beauty of the moment, but we and some others on the bridge tried anyway. Distant thunderstorms up over Canada were on the horizon to the north, while the moon was coming up over the river to the south.

Sunset on North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge looking north
North Fork Flathead River at Sunset ©2020 David Knapp

Looking south at moonrise over North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge
Moonrise and Sunset on North Fork Flathead River ©2020 David Knapp

After enjoying this beautiful scenery, we turned towards camp. We had one full day left and wanted to get well-rested so we could make the most of it. The next day would be tied for my favorite hike in Glacier National Park with the Sperry Glacier day we had already completed. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Time For a New Tennessee Fishing License

This is just a friendly reminder that it is license time again in Tennessee. Annual hunting and fishing licenses are good through February of each year, which means your old license is about to expire. You can purchase a new one online. Just don't forget before your next fishing trip!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Glacier Day Seven: Hiking to Gunsight Lake and Florence Falls

Our trip to Glacier was definitely winding down, but we still had to great adventures. Thankfully, the best was saved for last although not intentionally. The next to last day was pretty good also. 

When we had first started planning this trip, my good friend Roger told me about an epic day hike he had done in Glacier National Park. The Gunsight Pass Trail is around 20 miles from end to end and connects the east and west side of the park. That sounded like a worthwhile goal to aim for while we were there, but then COVID hit. With the shuttle system shut down, we needed to stick to the same or at least close trailheads. Thus, we chose to do Sperry Glacier which followed part of that original route from the west end. Late in our trip, we decided to head up to Gunsight Lake to do part of the other end. Sometime, eventually, we want to do the rest of this hike. I have some fishing I want to do right about in the middle.

The early start routine got us to the trailhead at a good time, but then I needed to take a pitstop. We headed down the hill to find a convenient place for my much needed "break," then quickly drove back up. Thankfully, there were still a few parking spots even with the detour. We were in luck. The plan was to hike out to Gunsight Lake, take a quick detour to Florence Falls, and back. The trail elevation profile looked manageable, and if we did everything, would be over 14 miles for the day. In other words, we had a good solid day of hiking ahead of us. At 14 miles, I figured there might be some time to fish. My Tenkara rod was stashed in my pack along with camera and a couple of lenses. Lunches were packed as well as water and a filter.

Starting Our Hike to Gunsight Lake

Even with the extra events and longer drive, we were still hiking well before 8:00 am. Soon, our pace slowed down significantly. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere. I wanted to document as many as possible although I wasn't taking the time to try and identify them on the spot for the most part. Cellphone pictures sufficed since we were still trying to move along at least a little. 

Streambank Globemallow on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Streambank Globemallow ©2020 David Knapp

Cow Parsnip on Gunsight Pass Trail
Cow Parsnip ©2020 David Knapp

Thimbleberry flowers on Gunsight Pass Trail
Thimbleberry ©2020 David Knapp

Down at the lowest elevation of the trail, we had to cross Reynolds Creek. Shortly before the crossing, Deadwood Falls provided our first real stop. We hadn't made it very far, but the scene was beautiful. Both my wife and myself wanted to document things with our "good" cameras instead of just cellphone pictures. 

Deadwood Falls on Gunsight Pass Trail
Deadwood Falls ©2020 David Knapp

Selfie at Deadwood Falls
Yep, we were there! ©2020 David Knapp

Deadwood Falls Panorama on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Cellphone Panorama of Deadwood Falls ©2020 David Knapp

Closer look at Deadwood Falls
Closeup of the falls ©2020 David Knapp

Finally, after a little water to drink and more pictures than necessary, we hit the trail again. Shortly after the falls, we crossed Reynolds Creek itself. This was a really nice suspension style swinging bridge that was super stable. It was one of the nicest bridges like this I've been on in fact. 

Reynolds Creek Bridge on Gunsight Pass Trail
The Bridge ©2020 David Knapp

Crossing Reynolds Creek on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Crossing Over ©2020 David Knapp

In the early morning sunlight, we found some other interesting details. Often, the details are what makes things interesting. When light is added, you get magic. Unless you have arachnophobia that is...

Spider Web on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Spider web on Gunsight Pass Trail ©2020 David Knapp

Scenery on the Gunsight Pass Trail

After crossing the creek, the trail wound through the woods but started trending slowly uphill. The keyword here is slowly. This trail is a long slow climb for the first few miles. In fact, you barely even notice that you are climbing. It really isn't much work. Occasional meadow views give glimpses of the high country ahead. The trail parallels the Saint Mary River. One particularly stunning view is at Mirror Pond, but great views become more and more prevalent as you trek ever higher. 

Mountain views on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Mountain and Meadow Views ©2020 David Knapp

Gunsight Mountain and Mount Jackson
Reflection of Gunsight Mountain and Mount Jackson ©2020 David Knapp

By this point in the hike, a theme began to develop. We weren't spending very long on breaks because the mosquitoes and biting flies found us. Up until this point on our trip, the bugs had been present but generally manageable and bearable. This hike would seriously put us to the test, however.

Florence Falls Trail

Not too much farther up the valley, we came to a trail junction by a small bridge over a creek. The trail sign said Florence Falls. After a quick discussion, we agreed it made sense to run up there quickly. It really wasn't too far out of the way, but the thick growth almost made us turn back. This was an extremely lush area, and we were talking loudly and making plenty of noise. Thankfully, no bears surprised us nor we them, and we soon found ourselves enjoying a beautiful waterfall. 

Thick growth on the trail to Florence Falls
A brushy section of trail! ©2020 David Knapp

Florence Falls was larger than I expected and difficult to photograph completely from the rather close overlook. Finally, I resorted to taking a series of pictures that could later be stitched together in Photoshop. I think it turned out well!

Florence Falls Overlook
Florence Falls ©2020 David Knap

Back on the Gunsight Pass Trail to Gunsight Lake

We soon headed back down the trail and continued towards our main goal, Gunsight Lake. The trail began ascending through increasingly open terrain. Fire had burned much of the forest through this hike and the warm summer sun had us wishing for shade. We both had hats on by this point to protect our heads a little.  The views were getting better and better. This trip was just whetting our appetite for more Glacier National Park trips sometime in the future. Seriously, this was some of the best hiking I've ever enjoyed. The scenery and wildflowers were spectacular. I could have spent a lot more time on just the wildflowers, but at some point you have to keep walking. 

Red berries and Mount Jackson
Red Berries, Fireweed and Mount Jackson ©2020 David Knapp

Hiking the Gunsight Pass Trail
Hiking the Gunsight Pass Trail ©2020 David Knapp

Fireweed and Mount Jackson
Fireweed ©2020 David Knapp

Larkspur on Gunsight Pass Trail
Larkspur, but which one? ©2020 David Knapp

The trail really began to climb, finally. We were making good headway towards the lake but this last ascent up to Gunsight Lake was narrow. The terrain was steep and brush both above and below. In other words, this was yet another good area to keep up the noise and let the bears know you were around. Finally, things began to open up and level off and we figured the lake was just over the next rise. That was more or less accurate. 
Taking Pictures on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Enjoying the Views ©2020 David Knapp

Wildflowers were all around, but at this point I was beginning to have a problem that kept me from going too crazy with the camera. Bugs. You see, the bugs were about as bad as anything on our trip. Okay, they actually were the worst of our whole trip, easily. The original plan was to enjoy our lunch on the shores of Gunsight Lake before adventuring around a little more, taking some pictures, and otherwise enjoying our time in this beautiful place. Unfortunately, the biting flies in particular as well as mosquitoes had other plans for us. We decided to basically look at the lake and turn around. I only shot a handful of pictures of this gorgeous scene. This is definitely one we'll be back to. I might actually take a bug head net with me though. 

Gunsight Lake Outlet Stream
Gunsight Lake Outlet ©2020 David Knapp

Gunsight Lake
Cellphone Picture of Gunsight Lake Outlet ©2020 David Knapp

On the last short approach to the lake, there had been some flowers that I found interesting. Clintonia uniflora or bride's bonnet was a new one for me, but I recognized it as Clintonia. We have Clintonia borealis here in the Smokies and the similarities were strong. 

Clintonia uniflora or bride's bonnet near Gunsight Lake

Heading Back to the Trailhead

After a quick picture, we hit the downhill trail hard. I was getting really hungry, but neither of us wanted to sit down long enough to eat our sandwiches in this fly infested environment. On the way back down the steep section, we met a pair of backpackers. It appeared to be a boy and his grandmother. The boy innocently asked if the bugs were bad at the campsite. I honestly replied that I didn't know because we hadn't gone there. However, I hate to think of how miserable it was at that campsite because it was close enough to the lake that it almost had to be bad. I would have been spending the afternoon, evening, night, and early morning all in my tent or kept on hiking. Seriously, it was some of the worst bugs I've ever experienced. Ah the price we pay for outdoor adventures.

Finally, well back down the trail, we stopped just long enough for a quick lunch. Huckleberries were blooming alongside the small stream we stopped at. I ate more than I probably should have and washed it down with freshly filtered cold water. It was one of the most satisfying lunches I've ever enjoyed. 

We continued on down the trail, looking forward to finishing yet another great hike. However, there were still a couple of highlights to enjoy. The birds had been fairly quiet on our way in that morning. Now, in the warmth of the afternoon, we saw and heard quite a few. I even got a picture of one that I had been trying to photograph for several days of our trip. The western tanager was an extremely beautiful bird. Unfortunately, the closest I ever got wasn't close enough, even with my nice zoom lens. This is the best I got. 

Western Tanager on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Western Tanager ©2020 David Knapp

Gray Jay on the Gunsight Pass Trail
Canada Jay ©2020 David Knapp

After the tanager, I decided to just carry my big camera and zoom lens. The best opportunity on the tanager had been missed because I wasn't ready. While I was glad for my consolation prize of a picture, I intended to be ready when the next moment struck. That is how I happened to be ready when this Canada jay happened by in a family group. This was the best of the few pictures I snapped before they were moving on. We were almost back at the car at this point, and the sun was still high in the sky. I started to relax a little, knowing we wouldn't be pushing daylight to get back. Looking around, I noticed a western red cedar. Again, the details were what intrigued me...

Western Red Cedar along the Gunsight Pass Trail
Western Red Cedar ©2020 David Knapp

Other Stories from Glacier National Park You May Be Interested In

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Glacier Day Six: Photography, Marias Pass, and Relaxation

Our trip in Glacier National Park was definitely getting into the home stretch. After our big hike, we wanted a breather before hitting it hard for a couple more days. We had discussed taking the day completely off from hiking but ultimately decided to not waste any of our vacation with sitting around. However, wanting to make sure we had the energy without too many aching muscles for the last couple of days, we decided to spend more time sight seeing than hiking. 

Our day started off with a relaxing morning of sleeping in, if you can call getting up at 7:00 am sleeping in. Compared to our recent 5:00 am mornings, this was definitely a luxury. Once we finally got ourselves up, both my wife and I were presently surprised to discover we weren't too sore. Our main reason for a slow day is we simply didn't know if we'd be able to move that morning. We were both feeling pretty good and started second guessing whether we should have just done another big hike after all. However, we had some other plans we wanted to see about. That included a big breakfast of huckleberry pancakes which you can read all about HERE.

Hiking the Continental Divide Trail at Marias Pass

After breakfast and doing the dishes, time was already starting to get away from us. We decided to take a drive and see some areas we hadn't visited yet. I wanted to follow the Middle Fork of the Flathead east and see the scenery in that area. After consulting our maps, a short hike was settled upon at Marias Pass. Once we finished all of that, we'd just see what time it was and go from there. 

As we drove up the beautiful canyon, it quickly became apparent that my poor wife was more tired than we originally thought. She was quickly asleep as we drove up towards Marias Pass. It was a long enough drive that she was able to enjoy some rest before our short hike. When we got up to the actual pass, there were a couple of other cars parked at the trailhead which was helpful. It was not obvious where to park for this trailhead. The actual trailhead was not immediately obvious either but a group of hikers coming out helped clear that up as well. 

We grabbed our packs and cameras and headed north across the railroad tracks and were soon enveloped in a beautiful forest full of wildflowers and tranquility. The trail was supposed to approach and pass Three Bears Lake. We were hoping for maybe a good view or some wildlife but otherwise just glad to be out stretching our legs a little. 

Continental Divide Trail at Marias Pass

Soon, the trail approached the lake. As the forest opened up, more wildflowers appeared. We would have spent quite a bit of time here enjoying the flowers blooming in the summer sun, but the lake also provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. They weren't as bad as some spots, but just bad enough that we didn't linger beyond a quick picture or two. The fireweed in particular was eye catching. 

Fireweed along Three Bears Lake

After briefly skirting the lake, the trail returned to the forest. We had hoped to spot a moose or some other interesting critters on the lake, but all we noticed were some waterfowl well off in the distance. Not far beyond the lake, we reached a trail junction. We had already gone a little more than a mile with no real destination in mind beyond the lake. While we were happy to be out walking, we also wanted to see some more things, so we turned around and headed back. 

On the way back, I noticed another flower. This one was much more interesting and was a new one for me. Woodland pinedrops are apparently related to Indian-pipe and is a root parasite and produces minimal chlorophyl. I was intrigued by how tall these were, with several approaching three feet in height. After a few quick pictures, we moved on again.

Woodland Pinedrops near Marias Pass

By the time we got back to the car, the huckleberry pancakes were starting to wear off and we began to consider food. Not wanting to stop our adventures, we decided to see what was across the road. An interesting obelisk was there along with some other markers and statues. Here is what we found.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Stevens Memorial at Marias Pass

The obelisk was a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt for his work on conservation which has greatly benefited this particular area. The statue was of John F. Stevens who, along with a native guide, is responsible for the discovery of Marias Pass which allowed the Great Northern Railway to build a route through the Northern Rockies. Some other interesting signs told about the history of the area, both natural and modern. If you are passing through the area, it is well worth the stop.

Evening in Glacier National Park

We soon turned back towards West Glacier, planning to eat lunch back at camp. By the time all of that was completed, it was getting later than we expected. The evening hours were a prime time for wildlife and we were still looking for that grizzly bear. So, back into Glacier National Park we went. The long drive up the Going to the Sun Road never got old and we enjoyed the evening light as we went. It wasn't until we got all the way to Logan Pass that we found our first creatures of interest. A large group of male bighorn sheep were grazing near the visitor center parking area. We joined everyone else to take some pictures. This was one species we hadn't got any real good pictures of yet. 

Bighorn sheep ram at Logan Pass

Ram bighorn sheep at Logan Pass

Bighorn Sheep Rams at Logan Pass Parking Lot

The herd of rams moved all over the parking lot. They were looking for snacks and other goodies that tourists had dropped. They were mostly unconcerned about everyone standing around taking pictures and that is a good thing. They had some serious headwear that could probably do damage if you were on the wrong end of it. 

As the sun sank lower, the moon began rising in the east, providing still another excellent photo opportunity for us. 

Moonrise in Glacier National Park

Moon over Heavy Runner Mountain

On the other side of Logan Pass, the sun was quickly sinking to the horizon. The light got warmer and warmer, lighting up the Garden Wall as it sank out of sight. We enjoyed the last few moments of that rich evening light before making the long drive back down to camp. We had another longer hike planned for the next day and needed to get to bed. 

Garden Wall panorama at sunset

Clouds over the Garden Wall at Sunset

Monday, February 15, 2021

How Much Is Too Much?

Sitting around this evening, my wife told me that her mom had inquired about a hike we had recently done. When I asked my wife why her mom was suddenly interested, I found out something interesting. Apparently my mother-in-law had seen something about it on TV. Some news piece or something similar was done to highlight different out of the way hikes in the area. My first thought was oh great, another one ruined. 

One of my favorite local hikes and one of the best hikes on the Cumberland Plateau, Virgin Falls used to be an out of the way spot visited by just a few. Same thing with a few others I can think of both in our immediate area and beyond. Now, if you visit Virgin Falls on a weekend, be prepared to share the trail with anywhere from 50-200 of your new best friends and maybe even more. I've seen cars parked down the side of the road in both directions, damaging the shoulder, creating ruts, oh, and of course completely ruining the feeling of solitude that originally brought me to this amazing place.

I've seen the same problem explode in the Smokies. Last year was particularly bad, of course, as COVID sent many people into the outdoors where recreation was not only safer but often free or very low cost. That trend will continue for at least another year it would appear. But COVID really isn't the only one to blame for this problem. The issue of overcrowding was already a thing with Virgin Falls. In fact, it motivated Tennessee State Parks who oversees the area to institute a backpacking fee and permit process. The backcountry campsites were seeing horrendous overcrowding and the surrounding areas were getting trammeled by unconscientious, unlearned, and occasionally unscrupulous adventurers. 

The amount of trash both in the backcountry and also roadside has grown a lot as well. The sad thing with the increase in traffic is that not everyone has the same ideals of leave no trace. In fact, many people ignore it either purposefully or because they don't know any better. Piles of poo and tissue paper abound in the woods near backcountry campsites, while people let their dogs go right in the trail without bothering to clean up after their furry friends. Don't even get me started on the intentional garbage people leave because they don't want to carry out the wrappers their food came in or in extreme circumstances, that heavy tent. 

Yes, the great outdoors is being rapidly loved to death. Yet, during the discussion that motivated all of this, there was something nagging in the back of my mind. Even I am at least partially responsible for this. You see, I tell anyone and everyone about my favorite hikes, just the same as many tell people about their favorite fishing spots. I am always shocked at how many people will ask complete strangers on the internet about the best places to fish and will usually get back incredibly detailed responses on small out of the way trout streams. Yes, technology ultimately is to blame here, but we need to use more than a little self control and common sense.

The free flow of information has allowed people who would never set foot into the Smoky Mountain backcountry to learn about the glorious brook trout fishing found there and head off in search of their own photo op. Blogs like mine don't help. Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time have probably noticed a trend. Older posts contain more information than newer ones. I, along with many others who love wild places, noticed a little too late what all that free information was doing to the previously pristine places we treasure. Yet, information continues to get out.

A few years ago, the internet message boards were all the rage, and woe unto anyone who foolishly decided to hot spot. Never mind, of course, that this was usually done innocently. Some kind person really wanted to help someone else out. People quickly figured out the effects of doing so, and would chase the unfortunate person right off the board who dared to speak of such secret things. Now, all a person needs to do is join the right Facebook group, ask where to go, and some person who has been to stream X once with their cousin's best friend's uncle will pipe up with all the details. Never mind that they probably couldn't catch a cold once they got there. Still, the damage is done as armies of adventurers roam throughout previously untrammeled and untamed wilderness. 

Now, with the rise of click bait, large companies create websites with no more purpose than to answer the specific queries people enter into Google. They go and find some expert to write an article, pay them a little to kiss and tell, make sure the search engine optimization is done correctly, and sit back and enjoy the advertising revenue from all those people clicking their article. Yet, we all do it. And that is the trouble. How much is too much these days? Where do we draw the line in sharing information in a world awash in more information than anyone knows what to do with? Nowadays, we have facts and alternative facts, but in all the mess, wild places continue to suffer from overuse.

It is easy to go down the rabbit hole of asking how dare people fish my stream and hike my trail, but in reality I'm just another person out there adding to the congestion. At what point do we need to step back and add self imposed limits to lessen crowding issues? 

Yet, in it all, there exists much hope as well. With the massive influx of new interest in the outdoors comes the opportunity to convince that many more people that wild places are worth preserving. For fly fishing, we have huge issues with crowding that still have to sort themselves out. At the same time, all of these new converts are more people to advocate for clean air and clean water. Ultimately, all of us suffer if those things are gone. As earth's population continues to soar, it is becoming more and more crucial that we figure out how to balance our desire for wilderness with the footprints we leave. With more people becoming interested, we have an even greater opportunity for positive change.

The one thing we can all do now is, admittedly, somewhat selfish. We can go back to the days when hot spotting was a huge taboo. One of the greatest joys of nature is to explore. When you find your own hidden paradise, you can imagine at least briefly that you have your own secret. When a spot comes to you through a social media tag and you're just there to get your own selfie, it really isn't yours. The hidden spots, the ones you've worked diligently for, those are your spots. The only way they'll stay that way is if you keep them to yourself. 

In fly fishing, as with other parts of life, there is always the tendency to tell one close friend or family member. Of course, they share with just one close friend or family member as well, but eventually the secret leaks out. I have fishing buddies that I share lots of general info with, then I have a very small handful of friends who I share the true secrets with. Those are the ones who I know really will keep it under their hat. Nowadays, there really aren't that many secrets left. And this brings us back to the question: how much is too much? At what point do we draw the line, or should we even draw one, when it comes to sharing about the great outdoors? 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Nymph Variation

The pheasant tail nymph is perhaps one of the best flies of all time. It can catch trout in a ton of different situations and is extremely versatile. It probably has more variation than most other flies combined. All of these variations are still pheasant tail nymphs at least in that they utilize pheasant tail fibers for the tail and abdomen if not more. One simple variation that we use a lot is pheasant for the tail and abdomen with a traditional wire rib, and a dubbed thorax. You can include the wing case and legs or not. I've found that most of the time that isn't necessary. 

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Nymph Video

Below is the video of me tying this fly in a hot spot version. At the end of the video, I share some brief but important observations about the hot spot. I hope that part will get your mind searching for new possibilities if it is something you hadn't considered before. I'm going to do a longer post and/or another video soon just on UV materials in your fly tying. Note that not all bright thread will be UV reactive so consider that if it is important to you when tying and fishing a particular pattern. I don't tie all of my flies with this feature by a long shot, but it is nice to have at least a few handy just in case.

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Nymph Basic Recipe

  • Hook: Firehole Outdoors 516 jig hook #12-#18
  • Bead: Slotted tungsten bead, color of choice, size to match hook
  • Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0 for #18
  • Tail: Pheasant tail fiber
  • Rib: Small copper Ultra-wire
  • Abdomen: Pheasant Tail fibers
  • Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub
  • Optional wing case and legs: Pheasant Tail Fibers
  • Hot Spot: Fire Orange 6/0 0r 8/0 UNI-thread OR Globrite Floss

Directions: Basically, tie this fly like a normal pheasant tail nymph, dubbing the thorax instead of using peacock herl. At the end, tie off and finish. Then start some fire orange UNI-thread and give 4-6 wraps and then tie off and finish again. Alternatively, tie a regular pheasant tail nymph and just add the hot spot. This is an excellent pattern particularly for nymphing on higher flows like we experience in the spring. In lower water, I generally recommend more subtle patterns without the hot spot. 

Let me know if the hot spot pheasant tail works well for you!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Glacier Day Six: Huckleberry Pancakes Finally!!! Vegan Huckleberry Pancake Recipe Included

One thing I look forward to on all trips to the Northern Rockies is huckleberry ice cream. I first discovered this delicacy in Yellowstone. Ever since that first taste, my trips to Yellowstone National Park usually feature as much huckleberry ice cream as I can reasonably consume. Hint: It is a lot!!! Anyway, on our trip to Glacier National Park this past summer, a debate was ongoing even before we left. We were trying to decide if joining the masses pursuing huckleberry ice cream was smart in this age of COVID. The funny thing is, we never completely answered that question, but we did generally steer clear of people. Getting exceptionally sick on a big vacation we had been planning for years just didn't sound fun. We were willing to forego some of our usual trip activities, such as eating out, in exchange for a healthy trip. But what about those huckleberries? 

As our trip drew nearer and nearer, we were still trying to figure out how to get in on that huckleberry goodness when inspiration struck. My wife and I greatly enjoy pancakes and specifically blueberry pancakes. What if we premixed some pancakes so that we only needed to add liquid ingredients and hopefully some huckleberries to try a new variation on one of our favorite delicacies? So, the night before our trip, I quickly mixed up threw separate batches of pancake mix. We have developed a small variation on the recipe in one of our cookbooks to make these pancakes healthier and also vegan. Not that we always skip the eggs in general, but in a lot of our baking we prefer things that way. So, here is the recipe I use for both blueberry and huckleberry pancakes. And no, I'm not fancy enough to even began to know about the nutrition information so don't bother to ask. I just know these things are delicious!

Vegan Huckleberry Pancakes Recipe

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups unsweet almond milk + a little more to reach desired consistency
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
Fresh huckleberries stirred into batter (as many as you want!!!)

After mixing each batch of dry ingredients, I placed them in a quart ziplock bag. We would add the almond milk and oil when we mixed them to cook.

Huckleberry Pancakes in Glacier National Park

Once we got our trip started, I more or less forgot about the huckleberry pancakes, until we moved to Glacier Campground that is. During our first couple of days in Glacier staying at Fish Creek, we casually looked for huckleberries on one of our drives but kept striking out. Our luck changed when we moved to Glacier Campground. There were numerous huckleberry bushes throughout the woods beside and behind our campsite. We were very fortunate with our campsite location as this wouldn't have been possible with many of the campsites that were in the middle of the campground. Our campsite was on the edge of the campground with lots of woods behind and to one side, however.

As we were getting close to finishing our epic 20+ mile hike to Sperry Glacier, we began to think seriously about food and also the next day. Neither of us knew how we would feel the next morning. There was at least a chance we would barely be able to move. So, we did something that we hadn't done during our whole time at Glacier: we decided to sleep in. The funny thing is that we were so used to waking up that we were still up at a ridiculously early hour. Part of that could have been excitement. We were going to finally try huckleberry pancakes!

A quick trip through the woods by our campsite produced more huckleberries than we needed. We probably went a little overboard on the huckleberries as we often do on the blueberries when we make those pancakes. I'm a firm believer that more is better, at least when it comes to fruit filled pancakes. We washed the huckleberries and then stirred them into the batter. It was hard to tell if there was more batter or more huckleberries. In other words, these were going to be epic huckleberry pancakes. 

I fired up my camp stove and got to work cooking the pancakes. We were ravenous after the previous day's big hike and those pancakes sure hit the spot. Cooking them seemed like an eternity, but eventually they were done and we were ready to dig in.

Cooking huckleberry pancakes in Glacier National Park

We finally sat down to a big pile of hot huckleberry pancakes and soon devoured every last one. I mostly did peanut butter and honey on mine while my wife stuck with just the honey. Maple syrup would have been good as well, but of course that would be just another thing to keep in the cooler. I am probably strange in that I usually do peanut butter (natural) and raw honey on my pancakes almost exclusively although my wife probably missed her usual maple syrup. Still, they were absolutely perfect. These were by far the best huckleberry pancakes I've ever had (okay, they were the only ones I've ever had) and in fact the best pancakes in general I've ever had. I think I have a new favorite for those trips out west. I'll still look forward to my huckleberry ice cream, but now I'll look forward to huckleberry pancakes at least as much and probably even more!
Fresh vegan huckleberry pancakes at Glacier