Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Elk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elk. Show all posts

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Summer Snowstorm in Yellowstone

The same weather system that brought such enjoyable fishing on the Gibbon River turned decidedly colder as the day wore on. After fishing longer than I deserved, the rain had begun in earnest and my lovely wife was getting cold and wet watching me fish. It was time to give up on the fishing and look for warmer ways to spend the remainder of our day. Getting in the car, we cranked up the heat and debated where to go. A late day drive seemed like a good idea. Perhaps a bear or wolf might be out wandering around in the deteriorating weather looking for one last meal before the weather got too nasty.

After some discussion, we pointed the car towards Mammoth Hot Springs and embarked on a long loop drive through the northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park. Rain was fairly steady by this time although not particularly heavy. In fact, if it was much lighter I probably could have fished the Gardner River. As is usually the case, the rain mostly eased off in the vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs. Some of the resident elk were out grazing and I snapped a couple of quick pictures out the window as we rolled past. 



A quick restroom stop allowed me to get a picture or two of one of my favorite western birds. Magpies are so striking and one of the big treats for me when I travel in the Rocky Mountain states. Since I don't get to see them often, I have to try and take at least a few pictures of them when I'm in their native range. Someone had dumped some trail mix or something similar in the middle of the parking lot. Magpies were coming from all around to get in on the excitement. I patiently waited in the car and snapped pictures as they swooped in for a snack. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures.



While the rain was minimal at Mammoth, we still had to travel back to camp at Norris and our intended route travelled up and over Dunraven Pass. The loop would take us to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation and with the cold weather, I was wondering if the pass would still be open. Snow was a distinct possibility even though it was still summer supposedly. The calendar said August, but the chill in the air suggested an early winter might be descending on Yellowstone.

As we began our long ascent towards the pass, the views opened up long enough to see what was happening up towards Mount Washburn. At this point, I was certain we would see snow. The only question that remained was how much. 


Thankfully, there were not too many other vehicles out and about. We were able to take our time and enjoy what will likely be the only August snowstorm either of us ever experience. The woods were magical. The snow was heavy and wet, coating all the trees with a thick white blanket. I was mildly nervous as I didn't relish the idea of spending the night out on a snowy road, but eventually we were over the pass and back on a downhill grade. 



By the time we reached Canyon, the snow had turned back to a fine light rain which continued all the way back to our camp at Norris. The snow stayed just a few hundred feet above us that night, but when morning broke I had a good idea. With the fresh snow, it was time to visit the Tetons. Check back soon for pictures from that adventure!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cataloochee Return

This year I have easily set a new personal record for most visits to Cataloochee in a single year.  Last weekend I traveled to Asheville to visit some friends.  On Saturday afternoon we made the drive over to Cataloochee.  They had never been and I wanted to show them the elk and the historic buildings, not to mention the overall scenery.  Here are a few shots from The Return.












Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Picture Report

Sometimes, my favorite trips do not involve fishing.  Okay, maybe I should have said occasionally or even rarely, but it does happen.  This past weekend involved a trip to Asheville for a cousin's wedding.  I promised myself to be good and leave the fishing gear at home, but when an opportunity to sneak off to Cataloochee presented itself, I was thankful that at least the camera was with me.  Despite being one of my favorite places in the Park, I have only been there a handful of times.  Clearly I need more time to explore in the Park (as well as gas money, etc), but when I do get the opportunity I always jump on it.

While most of the tourists were there to look at the elk, I was there more for the scenery and just to get outside.  Of course, you can't go to Cataloochee without taking at least one elk picture.  This big guy had been bugling a short time before.  However, as you can see, he soon calmed down and decided to relax a bit.


Just across the road, the Caldwell house kept me busy for a bit.  How many different ways can you take pictures of one house?  I found at least a few...






Any trip to the Smokies would be incomplete without walking a few stretches of stream just to look for fish.  There were plenty of fish feeding in the pool just upstream from the shot above (as always), but the rest of my scouting turned up no large fish as I am always hoping for.  Of course, that's probably a good thing.  Without a fly rod in tow, it is always tough finding big fish that are in a catchable state of mind.





Reminders of the rapidly approaching fall were definitely around.  Fall flowers are blooming everywhere here at home and even in the mountains.  The brightly colored leaves are my favorite though.


On the way in, the clouds obscured the valley.  On the way out, they had lifted just enough to give that good Smoky Mountains look.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Weather

My trip last weekend was the fishing version of making hay while the sun shines or something like that.  I had tentatively planned, or perhaps considered is a better word, a couple of camping trips this fall.  Every time something came up though so when last weekend was looking like good weather, I figured it was high time I headed for the hills before the snow started to fly in earnest.  The long range forecast was already hinting at our current cold and snowy weather so I had extra motivation to get out and fish before things became too miserable.

The thought of sleeping in my own comfortable bed kept me home for one night to rest up for the next two days of bliss in nature.  When I finally headed out, it was after a leisurely breakfast and all around relaxing morning.  As a fisherman, I know how to get up early to get to the good water ahead of everyone else, but for this particular trip, I was not too worried about fighting any crowds.  Some waters are thankfully overlooked.

On the way, I was continuously in awe at the beauty of the mountains surrounding me.  When I finally arrived at my destination, I took the time to figure out where I would be pitching my tent for the night and then headed out with the fly rod to look for some fish.  The perfect fall weather allowed me to simply wear Chacos instead of messing with waders and boots.  I soon found myself patrolling a likely meadow stretch and probing the undercuts and log jams with a nice yellow streamer.

Less than stellar results soon led to a fly change and then I started locating fish consistently.  The fish would flash out from a deep cutbank or weedbed in a pool or a mass of logs that just screamed "brown trout castle!"  For some reason, I was still having a difficult time connecting though.  One particularly nice 18-19 incher surged out of a huge weedbed and when I threw back after missing him the first time, nailed the streamer but unexplainably still missed the hook.  Dejected, I continued exploring until I happened to look over my shoulder.  This would be the theme of the week.  Great scenery surrounded me but it seems I only noticed when I slowed down enough to glance around and actually enjoy it.


Realizing its never just about the fishing, I decided to try a new stretch of stream and began fresh with a new mindset.  Moving with stealth, I was soon spotting fish.  However, I didn't catch many and definitely nothing too large.  It was one of those days where I was just enjoying the experience and never bothered to pull out the camera until the last fish of the day.  It was a chunky brown and I was content to call it a day after landing the colored up beauty.  Glancing over my shoulder, I was again reminded that I needed to slow down.  Time away from nature tends to speed life up and complicate things.



Staring at the sunset transforming the sky above, I was mesmerized into remembering why I actually bother to head out into the wilds.  The rest of weekend proceeded at a much slower pace as I began to actually enjoy the experience instead of just making the experience.  Things were now right, and I knew that the next day I would fish much more efficiently.  Mindset is important even in fishing.  My best days fishing have always come once I was relaxed and not trying too hard...I had reached that point and knew that the fish better watch out the next day.




After taking in the sunset and remembering that I did have a camera with me, I headed back to camp to fix some food and maybe even see some shooting stars.  Having accidentally left my fleece, I layered on the long sleeved shirts and topped it off with my raincoat as a windbreaker.  Camp chair set up in the now dark camping facing the mountains, I sank down to enjoy the stillness of the night.  Overhead, the stars were shining brightly and it was only a couple of minutes before the show started.  The Orionid meteor shower was supposed to be happening, and seeing one so quickly suggested it might be a good night to try and photograph some.  Digging out the camera along with gloves as the cold was starting to take a toll, I started taking pictures.  Sadly, other than two more shooting stars, the show was pretty much a bust.  The night sky was awesome though including the moon.  I enjoyed shooting until the cold was too piercing, and I headed for the warmth of my sleeping bag for the night.




The long night was made longer by the fact that the "forecast" low was reached probably by 9:30 p.m. and quickly passed as the mercury dipped lower.  My sleeping bag was still within its acceptable rating temperature wise but I definitely could have slept warmer.  Thus, when it became light the next morning I was excited for the sun to hit my tent and warm things up.  After going for an extended period without the light getting significantly brighter, I made myself squirm out of the sleeping bag and back into my long sleeve shirt layers.

A thick band of clouds was blocking the sun to the east although it had risen above the ridge at this point.  Deciding to try and get some good shots in, I drove down the valley searching for the perfect light and angle to photograph the mountains to my west.  Experimenting several times, I found several nice shots although not the one I had originally envisioned and hoped for.  What a perfect excuse to go back sometime!!!



Just about the time the sun burst from behind the clouds, I realized that since the stream was so close, I should probably fish a little before heading back to camp for breakfast.  I was soon into fish including a nice 15 incher that shot out from a dark undercut bank next to a back eddy.  Happy with the experience, I didn't even bother to take out the camera.  Not far upstream, I would decide the camera was a good idea.

I was walking slowly just looking when I spotted two browns laying out on the far side of a deep hole watching for a meal.  When I spotted the fish I was already too close but decided there was nothing to do but attempt a cast.  With the sun almost directly behind me, they may have been blinded and not able to see me.  Whatever the reason, when my fly splashed just upstream, the larger of the two nosed over and decided to see if it was good to eat.  After a brief fight on 2x tippet, I horsed the beautiful fish into the shallows for a couple quick photographs.



Releasing the fish, I made sure it was ready to go but kept the camera ready.  As it swam purposefully away, I shot three quick photos and the first one turned out great.


Looking up, the reflection of the forest called for a photo as well so I just kept on shooting.


After working upstream a bit further, my stomach reminded me that I still had not eaten breakfast (unless you call chocolate chip cookies breakfast), so I found myself headed back to the car and then camp to take down the tent and also eat something.  Along the way, I found more photo worthy scenery but was hungry enough that I was satisfied with just a shot or two.


Fueled up with some awesome pomegranate and dried cherry granola, it was back to the hunt for fish.  Lots of fish were out feeding by this time of the afternoon.  One nice trout in particular was in an almost impossible spot with heavy brush both above and around.  I finally managed to drop a fly in but only after spooking the fish so my efforts were futile.

Not far upstream, a different story emerged.  I found a nice female brown hanging out watching for food.  She followed my fly on the first cast but missed the hook.  The second cast was right on target and I watched as she turned and ate.  Carefully taking a picture, I had her back in the water in no time and she rocketed back to the sanctuary of deep water.


The rest of the afternoon became more and more focused on pictures.




Eventually, I realized that more fishing would probably be greedy and it was time to head towards home.  Starting the week exhausted was not in my plans and I didn't want to get home too late.  My sudden urge to travel coincided with the elk's late day trip back to the meadows to feed.  The zoom lens I had been lugging around all weekend suddenly seemed awfully necessary as I quickly changed it out with the lens I normally leave on the camera.

During my drive out of the area, I came across at least 5 separate herds of elk.  The males were still bugling at least occasionally which is always great entertainment for a Tennessee boy who only saw such things on National Geographic growing up.













After tearing myself away from the last photo opportunities, I headed home content.  The mountains fill my soul with such tranquility that it is always a little sad to leave, but I realize that the greatest impact I can have on society is probably where people actually live so it was not entirely reluctantly that I travelled back over the mountains.  I was rested and rejuvenated to teach for another week.