Sunday, July 31, 2011

More from Yosemite

I finally got around to sorting through some additional pictures from the Yosemite trip. I've got to whittle this down to a few that I'll actually print for the wall.

Bridal Veil Creek

Sun rise over Bridal Veil Falls

Hanging onto a Ponderosa

Ponderosa Pine

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Meadow

Another Yosemite Meadow


Purple Flowers

Near Sentinel Dome

Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

Half Dome from Glacier Point

Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls

Looking down

North Dome, Tenaya Creek Valley, Half Dome

That little orange dot is one of about two
dozen people on Half Dome

Yosemite Valley, Late afternoon

Yosemite Valley
The business end of a rattler

The other end

Flowers on the way to Hetch Hetchy

Spray Rainbow

Tueeulala Falls, Hetch Hetchy

O'Shaughness Dam, Hetch Hetchy.
That's the Tuolomne River down there.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. We saw BIG trout cruising the
shoreline. Bring your rod. I didn't

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Not for Fly Fishing
Was toying with visiting a small tailwater nearby after work.

Of course, it would have helped if I had remembered  to put waders and a rod in the back of the car when I left this morning.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This ain't your grandaddy's Trout Unlimited

From over on the TU Blog:

If you fish for trout anywhere in the United States, and you’re not a member of Trout Unlimited, ask yourself, “Why not?”

Okay, so that's a bit self serving coming right off the mothership's blog.

But head over and read Owl Jones' posting on his new perspective on TU. You can join TU for only $17.50 by taking advantage of TU's Introductory Membership.

Also, Travis over on The Tailout gives a good report not only of the fishing but unlike Owl Jones one of his fellow bloggers, actually includes some facts about the conservation efforts in the Centennial Valley of Montana.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Up the Poudre Blogs for TU

I've been following the bloggers who TU took up to Montana to cover their conservation efforts. Of the posts from yesterday I thought Sanders struck the right balance between fishing and conservation in a well written piece. Go over and give him a read.

Fishing with Marc

Marc and I first met when we were both competing for the Trout Unlimited bloggers contest on the Outdoor Blogger Network. We’re both non-winners garnering not even an honorable mention (a point about which we both remain remarkably less than bitter. See, there’s that sarcasm again). But perhaps we took away from that event something more profound that an all expense paid trip to Montana.

From a blogging perspective we’re kindred spirts. Our blogs seem to have a similar mix of reports, commentary and sarcasm. And we both seem to enjoy fishing the same kind of water. Sure, we’ll fish a Blue Ribbon fishery if we get the chance but we do share an affinity for smaller streams that wander through rugged terrain.

Marc’s backyard is the western edge of the Smokies. Mine is the Housatonic. And yet, Marc suggested we fish together some weekend. And so we did two weeks ago. While we were fishing on two streams hundreds of miles apart, in a stroke of brilliance Marc suggested that the way to connect the two experiences was to fish the same flies. It’s something I think of as a Two-Fly Trip.

The idea of Two Fly is to select a surface and subsurface fly and fish them exclusively. Beyond that, there’re no rules. Enjoy some time on the water. Catch fish. We then agreed to collaborate on a report. That report is below. We hope you enjoy our first Two Fly trip. I hope there are more to come.

I won't repost the combined report. Head over to The Perfect Drift and read Part 1 of our combined report.

UPDATE: And also read Part 2

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Waiting for the red eye

What a week.

We just spent the morning up at Hetch Hetchy which despite being filled with water was quite impressive. Met my first rattlesnake up close and personal. A good five feet long. Can't wait to share those photos. Saw a monster trout cruising the shoreline and regretted not having a rod at hand. Yes, I love the small mountain stream fish but a giant cruising the depths does get the heart racing.

Three hour race to SFO which Ann thankfully split with me. Now overnight home.

Every time we visit one of these National Parks I am smitten by some facet. The dunes of Cape Cod are those of my youth and sharing them with my children makes me hope that they'll connect to that special place in the same way I have. The skies of Wyoming and Montana cannot be beat. And the variety of flora and fauna in Yellowstone stun ones brain as it tries to catalogue all that is seen. But Yosemite is different.

The space here feels more intimate even as the vistas spread before you. Perhaps it's because you can actually get down into each of the spaces that you see and begin to get to know them. It is also very familiar. I've seen and obsessed over photos of this place for decades and I could almost see around every corner to the next thing. And yet despite this vision it was new and exciting and evocative in a way that surprised me.

We will be boarding soon.

I must return here.

Fishing the High Country

One of many fine pools
Fishing was not high on my list of things to do while in Yosemite. I am much more interested in just plain gawking at beautiful things as well as the photographic possibilities. But I am a fly fisherman and they do have water here (the waterfalls were the tip off) so I called Jimmie Morales of Sierra Fly Fishing a few months ago to line up a day on the water.

The water is high this year. As Tom C. and others have observed snow packs were multiples of normal and have been slow to run off. As a tourist to Yosemite, that's great news. The waterfalls that are normally shadows of their early Spring selves are still running at a good clip. Of course, most of those waterfalls flow into the Merced so it's also running at a good clip.

When I'm fishing with the boys I'm more interested in good fishing than I am in what some would refer to as quality fishing. We don't need big fish, we just need enough fish to keep things interesting. Those were the instructions I gave to Jimmie and he found some good water to fish.

To say that I'm unfamiliar with the topography here would be a wild understatement. Sure I see the river in the valley and its structure is much like the many rivers you and I have fished but everything else is a jumbled puzzle of familiar objects constructed in unfamiliar ways. A nice meadow stream or a tumbling freestone water that you'd expect to go on for miles doesn't. It takes a turn and abruptly tumbles down a long, impassible chute or plunges over a cliff.

That said once you find water to fish you generally find the fish. The streams at altitude are not very fertile and the growing season for trout is short. So you find that most of the trout run lean. But they're there. I've watched several streams over the past few days and I can't recall one that didn't have a least a few fingerlings swimming in an eddy. And most contained a trout or two laying about in the places you'd normally see trout holding.

Surveying the water
We fished two streams. The first fed one of the large waterfalls that plunges over the rim of Yosemite Valley. We fished it miles upstream where it's little more than five or six feet wide. Jimmie started with a demonstration about trout behavior in this stream. We walked up near a long pool and observed a bunch of fish holding where you'd expect to see them. He then demonstrated the spookiness of these wild fish. We held about twenty feet away while he walk to the water. He made it two or three steps before every trout in the pool headed for cover. Point taken: very spooky fish.

First fish
Sam was first up. We were fishing ant patterns. I think the Carpenter Ant is the official insect of Yosemite National Park. They're everywhere making a meal of the fallen wood. The trout seem to know they're there too. Sam managed a beauty of a Rainbow after only a few casts. He also managed a bunch of strikes so the fish were there and were aggressive.

We then passed the rod as we worked upstream. Rotating from pool to pool everyone got on fish though Chris clearly had the magic touch and was consistently getting good strikes and putting fish in the net. Sam and I fished two pools that just screamed "trout live here" and got us nary a look. This put us behind in the count early while Chris lucked out and managed fish practically everywhere they should have been.

With the water high, the Brookies seemed to be living in the grass. It wasn't uncommon to see a fish rising in among the willows that dragged in the current. I imagine that those were pretty good spots to find ants and other bugs that had wandered too far out a branch. One particular Brookie was only seen because it splashed in a clump of long grass that was swaying in the current. When we looked for the fish we only saw the head poking out into the current. Two casts and he came to hand.

This stream also held Browns and we caught a few of them too. Unfortunately, I think I waded into most of the good Brown holding water. Twice Jimmie suggested I approach a given pool from a certain spot and both times the place I ended up standing was bedside a nice undercut bank. I don't know what fish I spooked by wading in there but by the third time I learned my lesson. There was a nice gravel bank on which we could see at least one fish holding. Again, there was an undercut bank. So, before I waded up there I let my ant drift along the grass hanging in the water. What was probably the biggest fish of this river came to hand. Ten inches or so of Brown Trout.

After lunch we moved to what can only be referred to as a high gradient stream. When you've spent most of your forty-six years living at or near sea level hiking up a forty-five degree slope for a mile or so can be quite..... challenging. The water here was all large pockets and plunge pools of a variety that make our pocket water back east seem like a manicured Japanese Garden. Our goal was to climb to a stretch of water with a shallower pitch that promised long pools and more skittish trout. This water had only been officially stocked with Browns over a hundred years before so that's what we expected to find. We were not disappointed.

Looking downstream. And I do
mean "down".
Every pool held fish and we were generally sight casting to them. Like the previous creek, if the fish saw us, they were gone. Fortunately, there was plenty of cover and you could generally approach the water without being seen. Of course, that sometimes meant you were standing in the plunging water in the pool below the one you were fishing or were crawling over a rock, staying low, trying not to cast a shadow.

The casts here were short. We never had more than a foot or so of fly line out of the tip top guide and usually it was just the leader. Of few spots required a bow and arrow cast but in most you could get a short overhead cast if you angled it correctly. We lost a few flies but it was a small price to pay for fishing in such an extraordinary place.

Sam finished up the trip by fishing a sweet looking pool. The current broke around a large boulder just below the plunge and there were plenty of places for fish to hold. Chris and I had stadium seats on two boulders that formed the significant feature in the pool below. Sam worked the water hard and managed three strikes. One or two of those fish were on for a brief time but none made it to the net. It was a huge disappointment for us both. I would much rather have seen a fish or two to the net to end the trip but when I mentioned we should probably head back to the car smiles lit up the faces of two very tired boys (and their Dad, too).

For the rest of the week I watched every creek we wandered past. I saw rising fish. Fish swimming lazily in pools. I saw fish holding in the pillow in front of a boulder in the fast current. The whole family even spent time spotting trout on a bridge over the Tuolomne River. This place is far fishier than one would imagine and we didn't even get to sample the big rivers which are fabled for nice trout. If you get to the High Sierra, bring a rod. And an Ant pattern.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Quick Post from the Valley

We spent a bunch of time wandering the valley yesterday. Mostly staring skyward with mouths hanging open in the standard gawking pose.

As posted the other day, I'm not sure if you're seeing these as high quality images or if this ISP here is filtering them down to something that looks more like a picture from a half mega-pixel camera phone (which is what I see when I look at blogger).

As requested by my colleague, late of Maine, these are the full size files.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This is a test

Apparently I should be blessed to have an internet connection at all here in the wilds of Yosemite much less expect to actually have a good one. I've been troubled by the quality of images I've tried posting to the web but when I look at my posts the images are very degraded. This also happens when I look at CNN or any other website. After much googling to try and figure out what's going on it appears that some ISPs in these rural locales participate in a practice that dumbs down image quality to preserve bandwidth. What I can't tell is if it actually posts quality images and I just can't see them or if it uploads crap and all of you get to see garbage as well.

So, I made some smaller versions of some pictures and posted them below. They still look like crap to me. What I see are images that are a bit pixelated and blurry. Let me know if you guys back in "the world" see anything better or if it still looks crappy to you.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pinch Me

Cameras captured my imagination long before photographs. As a child just pointing the things at any old object and pounding away on the shutter of the Instamatic was a joy. Doubly so if a flash cube was attached. I also saw folks with fancier things that click and whirred and that just filled my little brain with boundless mechanical, photographical envy.

My photos were generally awful and the good ones were barely worthy of storage deep within some drawer to be viewed once every other decade. I liked taking pictures but not so much the photographs themselves. I suppose at a young age that's not unusual. But it's also because of the temporal shift between the time a film picture was taken and the time that a photograph arrived. That delay dislodged my interest in the thing that I had created.

My father had a old Voigtlander that he had picked up while in Germany during the 60s and that was my gateway drug to 35mm. The photos got better but the technical aspects of photography were beyond my grasp or interest at that point. I learned some basics, the Sunny 16 rule and depth of field, but I couldn't put exposure and composition and story together in a way that was even remotely compelling.

Shortly after I graduated from high school I managed to pick up my first SLR. Good times. I began to study the technical and scientific aspects of making good photos and prints. The photos got better. I practiced a lot. Tore through many rolls of film and spent far too much money on developing and print making. 

When I discovered great photographers, Stieglitz, Adams and Rowell, I began to understand ways of seeing. Their photos made me focus less on the act and more on the result. And the places they visited, captured and rendered opened me up to artists like Bierdstadt and Cole who gave me a whole new appreciation for light and composition. But most of all, these many artists showed me the Sierra Nevada. A magical place where fantastical vista intersected with talented artists and birthed works of art that spoke to me deeply.

The Sierra Nevada was a place I had to visit.

And I am here.

This evening we drove up Route 120. We had been on the road the better part of the day. San Francisco was behind us and we had come through the pass at Altamont and crossed the Central Valley and climbed up through Groveland. We checked into the inn and grabbed dinner at a local diner. By 7 p.m. we were finishing our meal not twenty miles from the mecca. We were all a bit tired but with plenty of light I could not resist pushing on and seeing the valley for the first time. If things worked out, we would even catch some magical light as the sun descended in the west.

We were not disappointed.

Seeing El Capitain and Half Dome for the first time was moving. Despite forty-six years on this planet and a highly rational brain it was one of those pinch me moments. And those moments just continued as we descended into the valley and saw each of the storied sights as we drove along. With only two hours before dark we barely had time to catalog things before turning westward. I can't wait for each and every one of the next few days. We won't go deep on this subject, but we'll certainly have a chance to get below the surface of this remarkable place.

Pinch me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

South of San Francisco, Sunday

Picasso licking stamp
Yesterday, we went and saw the Picasso exhibit at the de Young Museum. Picasso wasn't a big fisherman but he did paint a lot of figures that could easily be misconstrued as fish. Or any other object for that matter. All in all, a good showing.

I was a bit disappointed at their photography exhibit. The exhibit that was running was not so much photographs but mostly objects arranged to suggest the photographic process. In the words of one reviewer commenting on an oil portrait covered in tissue paper "[the artist] appropriates the functional paper forms as an aesthetic formal device, subverting the trope of a traditional portrait.". Whatever. I like the photographs with frames and, you know, actual photographs.

Right next door was a Japanese garden that was nice in the way that Japanese gardens are though in a slightly over commercialized sort of way. You paid $5 to get in to pay another $5 to drink tea. I suppose that's to try and keep the non-tea drinking riff-raff out. That would be me. It did give me the chance to exercise my camera muscles that have been dormant in a non-piscatorial way for some time.

First sign of fish. T.J. and Jonny rejoice!

A river?

Our hotel. 

Buddha says, "Stop. Simplify. Go fishing."
In the afternoon we were torn between more city stuff and getting out of town. Being outdoorsy types, we chose to drive south on the 1.

The drive south had all the scenic splendor that one would expect of a drive along the Pacific Ocean. We really had no destination in mind though eventually we decided to strike out for Ano Nuevo State Park to see the Elephant Seals. Of course, Google told us that access to the seals closes right around the time we would have arrived so we stopped a Pigeon Point and wandered about examining the rocks, the sea and the creatures that could be tormented by teenage boys.

Fully jet lagged we made a bee line for the hotel and room service. I very much enjoyed the ten dollar beer and twenty dollar quesadilla. There are times when one will pay almost anything for a little comfort.