Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Monday, March 14, 2011


Our first full day in the bottom of the canyon was a day to relax and recover.  Everyone had varying degrees of soreness in their knees so a slow day sounded good to most everyone.  Three people opted to take a long day hike up to Ribbon Falls which was close to 14 miles round trip from the Bright Angel Campground.  The rest of us lounged around camp, took short walks up or down the creek to some fairly close overlooks, and to the river.  One particularly nice walk took us a half mile or so up the Clear Creek Trail to fantastic overlooks of the Colorado River as well as its tributary we were staying on, Bright Angel Creek. 

An early morning walk to the Black Bridge provided some nice scenery for my camera as the sun peeked around canyon walls and lit up the now chocolate milk colored river.  The tunnel on the south side of the river gave me some interesting ideas for pictures and made me wish I had brought some type of tripod with me.


After breakfast, we walked up towards Phantom Ranch and beyond, eventually making it up the Clear Creek Trail for the views before descending back to camp for lunch.  In the afternoon, we hung out near the river, soaking up the sun, and of course I did a little fishing.  My first opportunity to catch a fish came as we headed up towards Phantom Ranch.  In camp, prior to the hike, I tied on a wooly bugger with a BHPT as  dropper.  The water was cold, and I wasn't going to bother with dries unless I found rising trout.

Despite the lack of rising fish, I found plenty of insects.  Clouds of mayfly spinners could be found above the trail in the middle to late parts of the day.  Midges and a few caddis and stoneflies were seen from time to time along the stream.  There was obviously lots of food available to the trout which explained why all the fish I caught during the trip were very healthy for such a small stream.

As we headed up the trail towards Phantom Ranch, I saw the upper bridge into Bright Angel Campground and went over to take a look at the creek.  On the hike down, I lost my polarized sunglasses, but the water was so clear that I didn't have any trouble spotting fish.  As I stared at a nice run just above the bridge, a fish soon materialized below.  I quickly moved down below the bridge, and, having carefully noticed exactly where the fish was, picked it out again once I was at the level of the stream.  Stripping out enough line to make the cast, I made one backcast and dropped the flies just upstream of the feeding rainbow.  The trout chased the bugger downstream, turning as it took the fly.  Immediately I lifted the rod tip and the fight was on.  Some friends came over to see my first Grand Canyon trout, and were kind enough to also take pictures for me.

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Catherine McGrath Photograph

I moved up to fish 2 other runs above the bridge before rejoining my friends.  More fish came to hand, all exhibiting the pale, silvery color that the Colorado River run-up fish all sported.  The fish were all strong, accustomed to living their life in the heavy flow of the big river.  About this time, my lens cap went in the drink marking the second time I've lost one in the act of documenting a catch.


I didn't have much time to feel sorry for myself though because my friends had all wandered well up the trail towards the Clear Creek Trail.  I followed along, stopping just long enough to photograph an agave that clung precariously to the canyon wall.  On the way up the Clear Creek trail, I received a few funny looks and comments from hikers coming down from the heights above.  "Long ways until a place to fish," one person said.  I just grinned, not mentioning the nice fish I had just caught or the dark pool I was able to spot on Bright Angel from my now high vantage point.

We all soaked in the sun and the views, drinking in the beauty of the canyon, wishing we could stay forever but knowing we had to absorb as many memories as possible since that wasn't realistic.  My eyes were recording the scene in my mind while my camera was doing the same.  Between the two, I might be able to remember the trip fairly well.

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Back down along the creek, I caught a few more fish before heading back to camp for lunch.  After satisfying my hunger, it was down to the confluence of Bright Angel with the Colorado River.  Along the way, I picked up a couple of small rainbows.  After hanging out with friends along the river, I headed back up the creek and found my first honey hole.  Up until this point, I only caught 1-2 fish per pool or pocket.  The sweet spot yielded 5 fish ranging from a small streamborn fish to 14 inch run-up fish.  This was just a foretaste of things to come.

By this time, it was getting towards evening and time to call it a day.  I talked to a couple of fisherman from New York state about fishing their home waters as well as streams we knew in common in the Yellowstone vicinity.  After we had talked for awhile, my three friends that had walked to Ribbon Falls came trekking by, reminding me that it was about time to head back to camp and join everyone for supper. 

The descriptions of the beauty of Ribbon Falls convinced some more of us that we better try to make it up there the next day sore or not.  I was just hoping that my knee would make it there and back.  Any serious knee trouble would severely hinder me on the journey back to the South Rim in 2 more days.  Still, I made plans to hike the next day, having no idea how amazing the next day would be...


  1. Hi David. You got some great shots. You do need to work on not losing sun glasses and lens caps, though. LOL.


  2. Beautiful photos. Looks like a perfect time to be down in that Canyon. Thanks for sharing.