Thursday, September 26, 2013

Of Tigers and Brookies

I figured it was about time to display some fish porn around here.

The more I visit central Utah, the more it feels like I should spend more time there.  Something about the crustacean-rich waters of the region invariably produces fish with incredible markings and coloration.

Tiger Trout Toned

My brother and I enjoyed a great trip down South earlier in the year.  Trips of years past have been marked by various unusual happenings such as close quarters combat with a fully-primed skunk in the confines of a wall tent .  This season, however, the only noteworthy events involved catching and releasing obscene numbers of beautiful trout.

A Brookie in the Hand...

A few of the desert stillwaters I fish offer vistas about as attractive as Conan O'Brien wearing a pair of jeggings.  Not so in the alpine country of the Beehive State.

Cody - Casting at 10,000 Feet

The full-size version of the above image shows more detail than my blog format allows.  You can click HERE for the larger size.

Cody Touches Fins

Here Cody shows a very typical fish for the area with rich colors and jewel-like markings.

Tiger trout are increasingly common in Utah's waters, but just like other species they seem to manifest more extreme patterns and buttery yellows than in other locations.

Dripping Tiger

All of these images and a few more can be seen in higher resolution in my HIGH COUNTRY FLICKR SET.  Trips with Cody are invariably entertaining in and of themselves, but it was great to touch some colorful fins, take in some thin air, and visit a few new lakes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Den of Reds

Prior to getting started with this post, I feel it may be necessary to define a term:

Shatscatter (noun):  1) An irregular and/or unexpected dispersion of shat. 2) Any voluminous mass consisting in whole or in part of decaying vegetable matter, macerated life forms, mammalian offal, or excrement which can be splashed, sprayed, fallen upon, or diffused in alarming fashion.

If you have never knelt down in a sulpherous shatscatter while wearing a really nice pair of jeans - you may not have engaged in extensive wildlife photography.

This Spring I was fortunate to happen upon a den of red foxes, which is a first in my lifetime of outdoor pursuits.  Numerous trips were made to the location as the kits were actually using two dens, separated by several hundred yards.  One spot was well-suited to morning light from the East, while the other was only approachable from the West and best photographed late in the evening.

Den #2 was an elevated mound in the middle of considerable, swamp-like shatscatter ranging in depth from 4 to 12 inches.  Having scouted the location I brought shat-proof boots that I knew would allow me to approach the den to within 20 yards or so.  The kits had been spending most of their time on top of the den, so I planned on being able to shoot from a standing position, putting me at eye-level with the young foxes.

I setup while the kits were inside the den so as not to alarm them one evening.  To my surprise, as all seven of them emerged to play in the cooler temperatures of dusk, the group became extremely curious.  Three of the foxes left the elevated area behind and moved towards me onto a much smaller mound only 4 yards from my lens and much lower than my line of sight.  Animal portraits are far more engaging when captured from an eye-level perspective, so I knew the only option was to kneel down and sit on my heels.

In one fluid movement, I descended into a shatscatter that would give a muskrat a fit of the dry heaves. This was the type of fetid ooze that a pair of pants never fully recovers from, and that potentially can fracture a marriage upon returning home.  The result was that I avoided casting a shadow into the frame and was able to get the imagery I was chasing.

Sitting Fox Blog Size

Red Fox Kit - Vigilant

Red Fox Kit Watching the Sunset

Blog Size - Red Fox Kit Closeup

Blog Size - Grassy Stare

A number of the images are landscape orientation and best viewed larger than my blog format accommodates.  If you are interested click on over to my Flickr set where these shots and others can be seen in higher resolution:

Red Fox Set on Flickr

Happy 4th of July everyone - get out there and step in something.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sage 6060 Stealth Reel

A few friends of mine claim that I own so many fly reels, that putting them all in the same place could potentially form a gravitational singularity that would eventually consume the Earth.

While I have serious doubts as to this possibility, I choose not to tempt fate and disperse my reels evenly across the geography I have available.

The point is that I'm no stranger to fly fishing hardware, and have owned or used just about everything on the general market at one time or another.  Excellent offerings exist in all categories from a variety of manufacturers.

Still, once in a while something special comes along and in my opinion Sage has just raised the bar in the heavily competitive 6/7 weight arena where, incidentally, 80% of my angling takes place.

Some time ago I wrote a review of the larger 6000-series bodies and found them to be outstanding reels for saltwater or anything requiring a dependable brake and a stick larger than an 8-weight.  At that time I really wished (and discussed in my commentary) that Sage would improve the selection of finishes available to become more competitive aesthetically.  Saltwater is only something I get the occasional chance to enjoy, so also on my wishlist was a 6-weight version of the flagship reel.

Enter 2013, and Sage now offers the 6060 in several new finishes including Stealth, Azure, and Storm for lighter tackle.  It's a dinger of a home run.

Just about every reel I've ever used has some kind of quirk which, in daily use, winds up causing a galloping neurospasm.  Maybe there are no reference markings on the drag knob, or the tension thereof is insufficient and results in unintentional adjustments.  I change spools a lot, especially when fishing stillwater, and many models are flawed in various ways here too.  O-ring seals become very difficult to remove in the cold, some have small parts that may come loose and can potentially be lost, and others utilize spool releases that are tiny or difficult to access with gloves.  I happen to cast and reel with my right hand, and changing retrieve direction can be a hassle with a number of current designs (a few are even best left to the factory or dealer).

The 6000-series addresses all of these issues...perfectly.

Releasing the spool, as anyone who has used this lineup knows, is a true industry innovation.  It's easy, can be done with gloves, works regardless of temperature, and is exceedingly unlikely to happen inadvertently.

Blog Size - Sage 6060 Stealth - Front

The drag knob has an ideal resistance, as well as being incremented with readily visible numbers.  As a big plus, it also traverses the full range of adjustment in 1 revolution.  Retrieve can be easily changed from left to right hand using the supplied wrench.

Sage offers a utilitarian design in terms of weight savings and frame strength, but it's visually compelling as well. In the new Stealth finish, the whole package is unbridled bad-assery.

Blog Size - Sage 6060 Stealth - Rear

I really have to hand it to Sage.  The 6060 is the first reel in the 6-weight class with which I can find no quirks. Over the past several years I've been fishing a variety of hardware from companies like Nautilus, Lamson, Galvan, and Sage.  All are very good.  Until now, however, I haven't used anything that manages to function so seamlessly and glitch-free in all the key areas.

If you are considering this reel, just pull the trigger.  It's a shot across everyone's bow.

Fly to Water Rating:

 - Drag: Fully sealed, numbered, with ideal tension.  Best spool release in the industry.
★ - Price: On par with the competition, less money than many flagship offerings.
★ - Weight: 6 2/5oz - not the lightest in the segment but balances nicely on 6/7wt rods
★ - Design: Looks wicked, functions seamlessly in all conditions and with gloves, nice finishes.

A five star sweep.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Whiteheaded Largebird

Have you ever been so cold that your reproductive regions could be preserved for cryogenic science with no additional cooling required?  One of the great things about wildlife photography is the way in which you can experience abject misery for extended periods of time.

Take this weekend, for example: I stood within 40 yards of a whole convocation of bald eagles for an interval so extensive that whole life cycles of insects were taking place around me. Eggs were laid. Larvae hatched. Eventually these were able to successfully pupate and emerge as sexually mature adults. Temperatures were well below freezing. During this veritable epoch, a vast expanse of fog settled upon the wetlands obliterating all hope of anything resembling a successful photograph.

The day ended.  Total clicks of the shutter: Zero.  This is the part of wildlife photography that isn't always apparent - the time that is allocated to pitiable failure and adult language.

Dawn the following day brought identical conditions.  After a few hours, however, a rapid change took place  and suddenly the air was clear.  Light rained down.  Eagles flew.  Birder's Remorse faded.  Shutters clicked.

Gear Down

Image Details
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR @ f/4.8, 1/1600, ISO 100

Saturday, February 16, 2013

So Juvenile

Juvenile bald eagles, a lot like their human counterparts, tend to be a pain in the butt.  Immature birds invariably have chips on their shoulders, and are always ready for a brawl.  Physically a young eagle will appear larger and more imposing than their older counterparts as they have longer flight feathers to help them learn the ropes of aviation.

Since their plumage (especially at the head) lacks the contrast of adults, juveniles are a significant challenge photographically.  Directional, soft light is needed to bring out sufficient detail in the eye to engage the viewer.

Baldies will generally attain their adult plumage sometime in their 5th year, and they are often mistaken for golden eagles during this color phase.

In the wake of numerous, unsuccessful attempts this year to get close enough to the eagles at the right time of day and in favorable light - it was very rewarding to click the shutter on this juvenile today:


Image Details
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8, 1/1600, ISO 100
Distance to Subject: Approx. 25 yards

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love Cuts Like a Knife

As a public service to the spouses of sportsmen everywhere, I am offering up a gift idea just in time for Valentine's Day:  Knives.

Let us first examine in an objective format the current gifting expectations that represent heartfelt love in a relationship:

Gifts for Men: Nothing or a .99¢ greeting card.  An attempt is made here to reflect the perceived lifetime emotional contributions to the partnership in a monetary way.

Gifts for Women:  A weighty combination of scarce ores and pressure-formed minerals from deep within the Earth, which are then extracted and sold at retail for roughly the GNP of Honduras.

Together we can make this they year when guys of the male gender receive a modicum of equity for Valentine's Day.

The great thing about my suggestion is that your average male aspires to own his body weight in knives. In other words there is no need to be concerned about gift duplication.  15 or 20 fine pieces of outdoor cutlery are collectively known as "a good start" in terms of the lifetime need.

Also, Valentine's gifts should generate enthusiasm on the part of the recipient.  There is significant historical precedent to suggest that Gangnam Style is a  less energetic version of a guy's universal reaction to receiving a bladed gift - hence the strong value proposition of edged weapons for key emotional moments.

My own personal collection (still in its infancy) contains a favorite folding knife: The Zero Tolerance ZT0301ST.  The blade is S30V stainless steel, tiger striped using a Tungsten DLC coating which is very durable.  I really like the assisted opening mechanism (a Ken Onion/Strider design) on the 301 as well.  Handle material is 3-D machined G-10 and titanium, which is extremely strong and provides a solid grip wet or dry.

Zero Tolerance ZT0301ST Ranger Green

Happy Valentine's Week!  Guys: ALERT! 3 DAYS LEFT TO GET HER SOMETHING.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not Easy Being a Vole

There is something in a man that doesn't love a vole.  Kestrels, on the other hand, eat them like jalepeƱo poppers.

I have seen quite a few successful predations involving these little members of the falcon family, but never one that was initiated from level ground.  The vole emerged from some vegetation about 6 feet away from the seemingly resting bird.  It was a little astonishing to see the kestrel take a few quick strides, leap into the air, and use one quick flap of its wings to extend the jump and land directly on target.

99 problems and vole ain't one of 'em.

Kestrel Predation on Vole

Image Details:
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8, 1/1000, ISO 220

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stay Frosty

Pheasants believe strongly in a few basic maxims of life.

     1) RUN AWAY!!!

Overall that is the main rule, and they do it well.  Only slightly less emphasized in phez elementary is this:


If the unthinkable happens and rule #1 fails, a pheasant will hold still with a bravado bordering on recklessness under the belief that doing so makes them totally invisible.  I always find it pretty comical to see the expression of surprise frozen on a bird's face at this moment.  Probably it's a combination of shock that running did not work as planned coupled with an impending loss of bowel control.  Either way, it's a high alert situation.

Frosty Hen Pheasant - Vert

I think this is probably the closest I've ever been to a wild pheasant with a camera.  The distance here is about 8 yards.  Light will make or break an image like this, and the morning sun was in the perfect position to cast a golden glow on this pretty little hen. 

The year's first birding trip was a lot of fun even though opportunities were scarce despite covering a lot of ground.

Image Details:

Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/5, 1/1000, ISO 100