Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label David Knapp Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Knapp Photography. Show all posts

Monday, April 12, 2021

Just Had a Camera Along

Lately, I have gotten away from carrying a camera everywhere I go. Oh, sure, I have my cellphone. I also snap way too many cellphone pictures, but they often leave something to be desired compared to what a dedicated camera can accomplish. Thus, when it so happened that I had my camera in tow this evening, I was prepared for the sunset picture I stumbled across. 

The last time I saw an amazing sunset at this same spot was not too long ago. I went whizzing by and had a brief realization of the beautiful reflection there. Still, I was in a hurry for some reason or another. Furthermore, my camera was safe at home and I knew the cellphone just could not do the scene justice. Tonight, I was again racing past when I saw it. A perfect calm reflection of the sky in this little pond. And tonight I had my camera.

I'll have to go back to this spot again. The opportunities are just too perfect. This initial batch of pictures came out okay for a quick 30 seconds of shooting. None of this would have happened except that I just had a camera along. I need to do this more often. Anyway, here are my favorites. 






Monday, June 06, 2016

Remote Smallmouth Creeks

One of the great things about living on Tennessee's beautiful Cumberland Plateau is the abundance of great smallmouth bass streams, some of which also harbor the elusive muskellunge. These streams are mostly in remote, hard to get to areas which adds to the quality of the fishing both from a catching perspective and also just the overall atmosphere. The glorious thing about the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams is that they are almost always empty except for the people swimming and playing in the creek in very close proximity to the access points.

Given the choice, I would avoid fishing in crowds every day. Not seeing other anglers, except for those I'm fishing with of course, can make a good day of fishing out of a slow day of catching. That is why I love fishing the Smokies in winter so much. Empty streams, fish or no fish, are my overwhelming preference.

I've already been out to check on some of my favorite smallmouth bass streams a few times this year. Some of the trips were very good while only one was what I would term slow. On these streams, slow usually means at least a few fish were still caught and this time was no exception. The pinnacle of smallmouth bass fishing, at least so far this year, was on a trip a few weeks back with my buddy Jayson.

Everything came together at the last minute, with both of us having a day off from work, and we readily agreed that smallmouth bass should be the choice of the day. Arriving at the stream, we both rigged up our preferred smallmouth bass fly rods and were soon walking down to where we wanted to start fishing. I found one really good hole and started going through my fly selection process. Changing flies often is how I like to dial in the flavor of the day. One healthy smallmouth was willing to hit my PB&J streamer, getting the skunk off, but otherwise things were slow.


About the time I landed that first fish of the trip, I noticed that Jayson had disappeared around the bend upstream. Knowing him, I assumed he had found some good water and maybe even figured out the fish. Wandering upstream, I found him tight to a fish. It turned out to be a green sunfish.


Convincing him to get out of the water was not difficult when I mentioned the big bass possible downstream. We hit the trail again and before long got in to a good section that usually has some quality fish. Jayson had figured out that fish would readily hit a popper, so I decided a big black Stealth Bomber would probably work just as well. Turns out I was right!

We both caught a decent number of fish on the surface, not once going back to streamers or nymphs. Some of the fish were quality fish as well which kept things interesting. That big 20" wild smallmouth is still eluding both of us on this particular stream although we have seen some fish that are at least that large.



We ended the day on a good note, with Jayson getting a nice smallmouth while I watched from a perch high on a rock. The fish just couldn't say no to his popper.



The smallmouth fishing will stay strong through at least September. I have several other streams that I want to explore further, but time is not on my side. With some luck, I'll be able to enjoy a handful of other days out fishing for smallmouth this summer. Until then, I have some good memories of a day on the water!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Light and Trout

As you probably already know just from a quick glance at the Trout Zone, I enjoy photography almost as much as I enjoy fly fishing which happens to be quite a lot. Finding that perfect shot where light and subject combine to create magic is nearly as fun as catching a nice trout. Sometimes, though, the two combine.

That is what happened the other day and I didn't even know what I had until I got home and looked at the pictures on my computer. Most pictures end up not quite as good as you remember the scene in real life. This time, however, I was definitely pleased with the result. When I snapped this picture I was just in the middle of taking several and had no idea what I had captured.

Rainbow Trout from Tremont

I love the mix of light in this picture. The below-water portion of the little rainbow trout blends in so well with the rocks that it is no wonder we have such a difficult time spotting fish in these rocky streams of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While I would love to take full credit for the way this picture turned out, sometimes the beauty produced by the camera is largely luck and this image definitely falls into that category. Either way, I'll enjoy remembering the smile on the angler's face during our guided fly fishing trip in the Smokies as he landed this beautiful wild rainbow trout.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Water for California

Things have been awful quiet around here. No, I haven't given up on blogging although I understand how that could appear to be the case. Instead, things have been busy and not on the fishing front either. I've been blessed to have some good family time lately. A trip to California to see family allowed me some time to enjoy spring like we will have here in a few more weeks.

Fruit trees were loaded down with oranges, tangerines, lemons, kiwis and grapefruits that I enjoyed immensely at meal times. Just run outside, grab whatever fruit sounded good straight off the tree, and go back in to eat!

Tangerines on the tree in California

I also looked over some local water and stopped in at a local fly shop, Fly Fishing Specialities. This was a nice shop with a superb fly tying department. Stop in and check it out if you are in the area. It is well worth your time. I didn't take any fishing gear with me on this trip but fully intend to return on a longer trip some time in the future to fish a little.

One thing I did confirm was that the snowpack up in the Sierra Nevada mountains is at an acceptable level, something that is a rarity as of the last few years. In fact, this should at least be a normal year in terms of runoff. Both the trout and people of California should be glad for that.

Sierra Nevada Mountains snowbank in California

Lake Tahoe snow

Finally, I always have my camera with me and this trip was no different. Here are a few shots I got while out in California.

Abandoned rock quarry water reflection

California coastal redwood

Sunset in California

Yolo Bypass Great Egret

Yolo Bypass white faced ibis

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January Brook Trout


As the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, I began to think about fishing goals for the new year. I'm not a resolution kind of a guy because why wait until the calendar changes to get things on track? However, from a fishing perspective, it is easy to get stuck in a rut and keep doing the same thing each time I get out on the water. With that in mind, I've set a goal to catch a brook trout each month of the year. Originally I even contemplated doing it using dry flies only or maybe Tenkara, but for now those ideas are on hold.

Still, when I decided to head up to the mountains this past Sunday, I knew the early morning hours would be spent chasing brown trout. After having such a good day the previous Sunday, I figured it was too good an opportunity to ignore. I still had that monster to track down and land. For some reason that fish was nowhere to be seen. After doing a lot of scouting and a little bit of casting, all I had to show for it was 3-4 half hearted chases and one fired up fish that couldn't find the hook. The time had come to move on to plan B.

Before heading to one of my favorite brook trout streams, I rolled into Townsend to warm up and chat with the guys at Little River Outfitters. A short stop turned into a longer one as the nice warm shop was hard to leave. I knew that I might not get back to the mountains much again in January though so I eventually forced myself back out into the cold to go find those brook trout.

When I lived in Colorado, winter time streamer fishing on Boulder Creek right in the middle of the town of Boulder was one of my favorite things to do. I could get out for an hour or two, walk the ice along the banks, and maybe even catch a trout or two. Often I would be surprised by nice brook trout that hammered the streamer so I knew that they loved streamers. If you know me this is probably shocking information, but I actually have not fished streamers for brook trout in the Smokies, until this past Sunday that is.

As it turns out, the native brook trout of the Smokies like streamers as well although water temperatures in 30s meant that the hits were few and far between. I did get this beautiful fish on just the second or third cast which meant I could relax the rest of the time and not worry as much about catching trout.


Able to enjoy myself, I spent more time looking around than fishing after catching that trout. My camera provided another avenue of enjoyment. Here are a few of the stream shots. Notice the dusting of snow on this cold January day.




Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas 2015 Giveaway Number Two

The first giveaway has generated some good feedback and hopeful people entering for the unique artwork. The next item up for the giveaway is a recently featured "Photo of the Month." A lot of people seemed to like this shot so I had it printed on an 11x14 canvass for this year's Christmas giveaway. Here is the finished product ready to be sent to you.

Brook Trout Picture for Christmas Giveaway

This picture is ready to hang near your tying desk, in your office, or anywhere else that you would like. The fish was caught in October of this year on a blue line in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a true southern strain brook trout dressed in its finest colors. Love chasing brook trout? Then this picture is for you!

The winner for all of these contests will be drawn on Christmas Eve and announced here on the Trout Zone at that time. Winners will also be contacted via email.

To enter, please send an email to TheTroutZoneContests@gmail.com and use "Giveaway Two" as the email subject line. Simply tell me in the email why you would like this unique photograph and where you plan to display it at. A winner will be drawn by a random number generator on Christmas Eve day. Shipping included to continental US.

Be sure to share this with all of your friends as well! There is still more to come so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Native Brook Trout

There is nothing better than a native southern Appalachian brook trout in a high country stream. A true jewel of the Smokies, these fish have been here since long before we showed up. Thanks to a lot of hard work by the Park fisheries department, these fish should be here for a long time to come.


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


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Black Mountain

Today was drawing to a close before inspiration struck, and I decided to head for Black Mountain. Many happy hours have been spent here wandering through the woods with a camera. On occasion I've also been known to take rock shoes and a crash pad to do some bouldering but not on this day. Here are a few of my favorites from today's trip taking a short hike on Black Mountain.

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Black mountain

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Time in the Woods at Cumberland Mountain State Park

Growing up in Crossville, Tennessee, trips to Cumberland Mountain State Park were frequent. We would often hike around the lake or even tackle some of the longer trails that the park offers. In fact, it was the very first place I ever went fishing at the age of maybe 5 or so. I've come a long ways in my career as a fisherman since the days of a red and white bobber and night crawlers but still enjoy heading over to Cumberland Mountain State Park to fish or even just to hike whenever I get the chance.

A couple of days ago, I made the short drive over and after rigging up a 4 weight, headed down the trail. These trips are not so much about fishing, but of course, as a good angler, I must carry a rod. On most trips, I make it a good distance down the trail before I start to slow down enough to notice my surroundings. This trip was no different. Trailside flowers eventually got my attention enough to stop and dig out the camera.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Moving on, I contemplated a favorite fishing spot, but seeing it grown up with weeds decided to skip it until colder weather when Mr. No Shoulders would hopefully not be around. Later, the trail dipped down close to the water and there were enough bass and panfish cruising to get me interested. A couple of fish as well as several rejections later, I moved on. Again, my camera was brought out. By this time I had slowed down enough to notice many things around me and enjoy them for what they are. Sadly, life moves along quickly enough that sometimes these small blessings go unnoticed. Time in the woods usually corrects that problem.

The hemlock and pine trees grow tall in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Along with a camera stop, I also observed the water enough to spot a good sized sunfish. Getting it to eat the fly was not difficult, and my camera was then employed in a quick shot of the nice redear sunfish.

Redear sunfish from Byrd Lake at Cumberland Mountain State Park

By now I had caught just about all of the fish I really wanted or needed to catch and my eye increasingly wandered across and through the forest. Where I had caught the fish looked just like a jungle although, to be fair and for full disclosure, I've never actually been to a jungle.

Far upper end of Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park


 The flowers are around all spring, summer, and fall if you know where to look.

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Flowers along the trail in Cumberland Mountain State Park

Like all good times, this one had to end so I headed down the trail and back to my car. Living close to Cumberland Mountain State Park means I can go back again soon though.

Trail around Byrd Lake and Cumberland Mountain State Park