Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Showing posts with label Bighorn Sheep. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bighorn Sheep. Show all posts

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day of Days on the Lamar River: Yellowstone Day Two

Lamar River

Fly fishing in Yellowstone is all about tough decisions. For example, should I fish the Lamar River today or perhaps the Yellowstone? Or the west side rivers such as the Madison, Gibbon, or Firehole? Or numerous other fantastic streams, rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds...well you get the picture. I suppose it is a good problem to have, and like most other decisions in life, the best way forward is to simply decide and be done with it.

So I found myself headed for the Lamar River Valley in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. My second full day in the Park was bright with promise and more than a hint of the unseasonably warm afternoon in store.


After the great breakfast at Canyon the previous day, I almost stopped again a second time, but knew that I had plenty of food that needed eating. With the chilly early morning, this kicked off a routine that stayed largely intact throughout my camping trip: drive to my fishing location early, and then eat breakfast by the water while things warmed up. That proved to be a winning formula that I'm still using here in Tennessee. Upon arrival in the Lamar Valley, I found an open pulloff and fixed a breakfast of bagels, yogurt, granola, and carrot sticks (hey, I needed something fresh!).

After eating, the water nearly at my feet was still open so I quickly donned my waders and rigged up a rod appropriate for the conditions. My 9' 5 weight Sage Accel seemed ideal for the mix of nymphs and midges early in the day that would, I hoped, transition to dry flies or even hoppers in the afternoon. Little did I know what was in store for me that day!


In the first 70 yards or so of water, I saw a couple of fish that lazily crept up to glance at a heavy tungsten bead head Pheasant Tail nymph, but they just weren't ready to commit to such an offering. Just upstream, a large pool was formed where a riffle dumped into a seemingly bottomless hole. To one side there was a large rock formation sticking out into the current with a large back eddy on the upstream side. And in that back eddy? A big foam mat with noses poking through regularly to take some microscopic bug.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I forded the riffle across rocks that were surprisingly slick. I was wearing my Patagonia boots with rubber soles and found they just weren't as good as felt. Creeping into position just above the back eddy, I started casting my hopper with the heavy beachhead nymph dropper. A couple of half-hearted slashes told me that they knew what hoppers were but probably just weren't expecting to see any this early in the day. A change of flies was in order. A smaller dry fly was my first attempt, but these fish were more stubborn than your average cutthroat. Next I dropped a Zebra Midge behind the dry fly and that proved to be the answer and good for 3-4 fat trout.


Eventually I decided that the majority of fish under that mat were probably either spooked or just getting smart so I headed on upstream. Fording the riffle was again treacherous, but just short of impossible. In other words, I was nervous the whole way, but in the end it worked just fine. Vowing to stay on my side of the stream from here on out, I moved up to the next pool, this one a nice bend pool.

All things considered, this pool just didn't seem like the midge factory that the previous spot had been. With a lack of rising trout, I returned to the hopper/dropper setup and significantly increased the dropper length for such deep water. Slowly working into the inside of the bend, I was finally throwing my flies into the riffle at the head so the nymph would sweep over the drop off. Just as I had hoped, the hopper shot down after several drifts and when I set the hook, a big golden slab flashed.

As with most situations where you have a big fish on the line, my heart momentarily stood still before panic set in. Just as quickly I realized that only a calm effort on my part would ultimately help me to land the fish. Talking myself through the fight, I fought the fish and countered its every move. Every time it would start to come up in the water column, I caught a glimpse of those bright golden flanks. Finally I slipped the net under and the fish fell in just as the nymph fell out of its mouth. Talk about a close call.

The big cutthroat would prove to be one of the largest I landed during my trip, measuring right at 19 inches. After such a long fight, I didn't want to go through the whole hero shot routine so I took a couple of shots in hand and then let it go.


Heading upstream, I had a couple of shots at decent fish before running into another group of anglers. My morning was more successful than I had hoped for, and so I happily headed back to my car for a break. It was time to look for another spot.

By this point in the day, a few things were coming back to my remembrance. Just the day before, a gentleman I spoke with had mentioned that the Lamar was muddy when they passed it. The week before, rain had fallen across the watershed. Known to muddy easily and clear slowly, the Lamar is said to fish extremely well if you hit the stream on the day that the water is clearing, or at least that is what my memory was telling my based on repeated readings of Craig Matthews and Clayton Molinero's  Yellowstone Fly-Fishing Guide. As it turns it, both the book and my memory were correct. I was in the middle of the day of days, one to remember for many years to come. The afternoon was warming even more than I had anticipated with the temperature gauge on my car pushing into the upper 70s. Driving towards the next spot with my windows rolled down, I heard the sound I hadn't dared to hope for this late in the season: grasshoppers!!!!

Having driven past the junction pool where the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek join many times over the years, for some reason I never actually stopped to fish there. As it turns out, that was a mistake. The hardest part about fishing here is finding it open. Normally there are other anglers already fishing it, but on this day of days I found it open and beckoning me.

This time I found rising trout. Best of all, they liked my hoppers. I'm not fancy when it comes to fishing and tying hoppers. My hoppers are simple foam and rubber leg jobs, quite similar to the classic Chernobyl Hopper. Apparently the fish liked them though as they chewed threw one and then another until I was glad that I had fly tying materials and a vise along with me. I would be tying again that evening.

Lamar River cutthroat trout

Eventually, I did something I never thought I would do and quit fishing. At some point, it is probably greedy to keep catching trout under such conditions. I was more than satisfied and decided to hike up to Trout Lake just to see the scenery and see if any fish were moving around.

After a quick but intense hike up the hill, I headed straight for a spot that normally holds a fish. Sure enough, there it was. The hopper was only mildly interesting but a beetle was much more intriguing. Enough so, in fact, that I hooked it after only 2-3 casts. A quick circuit of the lake and a hike up to the next lake above provided some great views but no more trout.



By this time, the sun was headed towards its rendezvous with the horizon. Recognizing that I had enough time to head back to camp and still fish an hour or so, I decided to make a run for it. The Gibbon was calling. Along the way, I found the usual bison and also some bighorn sheep posing for tourists taking pictures so I joined in the fun.




After shooting this picture, I was driving again, headed towards the highlight of my trip. Of course, I didn't know that at the time...

To Be Continued


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Head Gear

Recently, while cruising through the Big Thompson River canyon, we spotted a bunch of Bighorn Sheep.  That in itself was not particularly unusual or shocking, but the cool part of the trip was seeing a group of 3 mature rams hanging out on and around the highway.  These bad boys were sporting some serious head gear, and I would hate to be on the receiving end of a headbutt from one of these critters.


Of course, it didn't take long for me to begin pondering the implications for fishermen.  After all, one of the most important pieces of equipment that we have is our favorite lucky fishing hat.  Not only does it have all that good fish-catching mojo stored away, but it also shades and protects our eyes so they can spot fish.  But imagine this now: What if fly shops started selling head gear that very closely resembled something a viking sailing the north Atlantic would feel comfortable wearing.  Imagine how intimidated the trout will be when they see that coming down the stream at them.  They will probably just role over and wave the surrender fin...

I think I'm onto something here, but it will probably take me a while to discover how to come up with some Bighorn Sheep horns legally and more important cheaply.  In the meantime, here's an old one but a good one of what I might look like with quality elk head gear...