The Yellowstone River fish kill, Global Warming, and the path forward.

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Ever since dead whitefish began sloshing up on the shores of the mighty Yellowstone River, a lot of ink has been spilled over the status of this most iconic of rivers.  To the untrained eye, Paradise Valley and this waterway appear to embody everything that draws people to our rivers. Sprawling views in every direction of a relatively untouched land, clear and cold water teeming with wild trout, and a river corridor supporting all sorts of fauna. When one lifts the rosy glasses a very different picture begins to emerge.

 

903 Emigrant Peak, the Audacious and Silly plan to build a mine behind this mountain has raised hackles

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Yellowstone River

This brawling river flows natural and protected out of Yellowstone Lake, undammed and wild as it tumbles over one of our most iconic falls then rages through The Grand and  The Black Canyons of the Yellowstone. As it exits the Park it runs headlong into humanity.  In Gardner, these flows are immediately augmented by an ever increasing amount of treated sewage being directly discharged. Soon after, head gates and canals begin diverting small and large quantities of its precious flow. Cold water tributaries flowing from the Absorakees and Gallatin Range are completely disconnected, being diverted to the farm fields nearby. This critical source of cold water to the heart of the valley is all but lost. What should be a high desert valley turns green for most the summer, golf courses and hay fields suck much of the life force. Water quality quickly begins to diminish as silt, nitrogen, phosphorous, and temperature regimes begin to change. Now, I am not a hydrologist, biologist, or any other sort of ist but I have eyes and see the water turning yellower, warmer, and slower. Governor Bullock said he would follow the science, that science leads to one place, the head gate at every irrigation canal.

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Above humanity, the mighty Yellowstone flows clear and cold through the Black Canyon

All this is exacerbated by extensive levying and an ever increasing demand on groundwater. The rip rap that often hides the largest of fish also acts to disconnect the very riparian areas that all flora and fauna rely upon.  Back Channels so critical to spawning are left dry in perpetuity, the very hydrology changes as the flow is hemmed in between these rock walls.  This acts to wash gravel downstream, where the vast majority of bugs would survive; left in its place is larger substrate not suitable for much other than using as an anchor. Critical spring creeks, Armstrongs and Depuy’s, are actually meant to be side channels and flushed in high water years.  Instead they are levied off behind no trespassing signs, privatized for the few and are slowly silted in, which, to a degree, deprives the main stem of this vital cold water infusion. The floods of ’97 actually took this ground back, back hoes quickly repaired the “damage.”  Every well and groundwater fed center pivot system is lowering the water table.  Along the whole river, springs large and small discharge their cold water into the bottom of the river.  This hydrology is being lost with every gallon of water being taken.  This water is critical to keep the river cold in summer and where these fish lay to over winter. The AG industry is a resource extraction industry, no different than the oil industry or a mining firm. What they extract is our water, and just like those other industries, they pay little or nothing for it, abuse this public resource for personal gain, and when shit goes bad, the public pays the price and the taxpayer picks up the bill, always.

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Headgates dot every main stem and tributary in Montana,

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Where are we?  According to the best available science, the virus that caused the fish kill has existed in the waterway for years, last summer’s low flows and high temps finally engaged it to fish kill levels. Save the Yellowstone?  Much public outcry has been expended on a proposed mine, articles about global warming dot the landscape.  While these are huge and important issues there is much more.  Marketing campaigns have been launched and donations accepted as people rally against the proposed mine, meanwhile the river dies a death by a thousand cuts.  Industrial level commercialization of the resource is furthering the decline as hundreds of guided trips a day pound away at the fish with not so much as a peep about regulating numbers. This is of course exacerbated by the fact global warming and water diversions are hammering other popular rivers.  Hoot owl restrictions begin earlier and last longer, the Yellowstone ends up taking the brunt, as people flock to the last open stretch of water.

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 In the western water wars, above is our share, below is theirs904

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As Montana’s economy evolves away from resource extraction to tourism, these new industries must unite to protect, improve, and preserve the resources they make money off of.  A holistic approach to the greater needs to be implemented.  This all starts with minimum in stream flow legislation.  Without that everything else is pointless. Single issues like a mine, or small projects like paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a few CFS from a rancher, are simply not seeing the forest through the trees. Whatever improvements are being made with habitat or flows are nowhere near keeping pace with global warming and increased residential and commercial water use.  The pressures on these ecosystems are relentless, occurring every hour of every day, and require valley wide rehabilitation.  What is true on the Yellowstone is true on every river.

912  Yellowstone at full bank, cottonwood bottoms rely on this sort of seasonal flooding, Much of this dies a slow death behind levies.

907  If this kind of theft occurred at a convenience store, rest assured the perpetrator would not be driving around in a brand new f 350……

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This is where I would usually insert a link to relevant groups in regards to minimum stream flow legislation but there seems to be none.  Instead we hear platitudes about “resiliency,”  neo liberal schemes with fancy names like “mitigation banks,” laughably ineffective voluntary drought irrigation cutbacks,  and tears shed over “stakeholders.”  These “stakeholders” being the very demographic who deny global warming are in turn blaming it for the lack of water, their rather large straw sucking the precious flow for their own fiscal gain. It may come as breaking news, but we are all stakeholders and this is clearly outlined in our state’s constitution. As the picture of the true costs of global warming on our waterways comes into focus,  the reality is, if we are to preserve our cold water fisheries, minimum stream flow legislation is our only course of action. Saying it cant be done is weak tea. So, I give to you one brave man who has stood for what is right for decades, as to why this article is titled the way it is, well you can connect the dots there:

http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/for-montana-s-water-rights-a-radical-and-likely-doomed/article_41e597d6-e4ce-5a09-9b0c-da06b6463b6a.html

Our past times, many of our professions, and indeed our existance are inherently connected to the environment. Support businesses and manufacturers who hold these values. Patagonia is fearlessly leading the charge, Orvis is quietly a force for good, REI, Black Diamond and many others. Non Profits like the Center for Biological diversity, Earth Justice, the Wild Fish Conservancy, the Upper Missouri waterkeepers, MEIC, and alliance for the Wild Rockies are who to support and more importantly where you want your money to go. Do your research on this, many small advocacy groups do great things well many larger well known organizations sold out decades ago.

There is another way of ranching, good land stewards do this voluntarily, unfortunately they are in the minority. Minimum stream flow legislation is the only way to force their hand on a large scale. It is not an either or scenario:

http://blog.nature.org/science/2017/05/01/recovery-ranching-gone-right/

 

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How Bad can it really be?  These three rivers join to form the Jefferson. This was toted as a collaborative success.  The lower Jefferson died an ugly death last summer.  The fish kill on it was not witnessed because nobody was on it to see.  It peaked at over 75 degrees, it looked like a stagnant series of puddles, ranchers were busily digging in the riverbed with their backhoes creating coffer dams to form pools and siphon the last of the water.  20 cfs at the bottom, meanwhile the three rivers that make this river were gushing at nearly 900 cfs.  Is 22 cfs a fair allotment?

sf final!

Posted in Blog

The Rainbow of Trout!

Trout Pictures – Madison River Rainbows – Image 200

Madison River Rainbows!

 

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Rainbow Trout Riffle – Image 201

Rainbow Trout Riffle

 

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Missouri River Rainbow Hog – Image 203

Missouri River Rainbow Hog

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Emigrant Peak and rainbows on the rise at sunset – Image 210

Emigrant Peak and rainbows on the rise at sunset

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Spawners – Image 212

Spawners

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Tailing Rainbow on the Missouri – Image 209

Tailing Rainbow on the Missouri

Fly Fishing Art Photo – A six pound 24 incher from the Yelowstone.

A triploid mutant from the Yellowstone River

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The Sphinx, Madison Valley, Montana

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Gallatin River, Montana in fall – Image 217

Gallatin River, Montana in fall

Fly Fishing Art Photo – dancing with the current – Image 218

dancing with the current

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Alaska Leopard Rainbow – Image 213

No Pebble Mine!

Trout Pictures – Ocean going Rainbow – Image 204

Ocean going Rainbow. The venerable steelhead making its way home

Trout Art – Nature's Artwork – Image 208

Nature’s Artwork

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Native inland Redband Rainbow – Image 214

Native inland Redband Rainbow

Trout Pictures – Leopard Rainbow – Image 215

Leopard Rainbow

Fly Fishing Art Photo – Caught one – Image 205

Caught one!

Trout Pictures  – Smith River, California Steelhead – Image 438

Smith River, California Steelhead

Fly fishing Art Photo – Release – Image #220

thanks dude

 

Posted in Trout Photos

All the prettiest things!

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Beartooth Plateau, Montana. Sunrise

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notice the inlet to that lower lake.....

Montana backcountry lakes

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Yellowstone Cutthroat

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Crazy Mountains, Montana

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Montana Wolf

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Mule deer, Montana

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Over/under photography is the most difficult. Rainbow, trout from the Gallatin River drainage, Montana

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Bridger Bowl, Montana

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Brown Trout, Madison River, Montana

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Osprey, Ennis Lake, Montana

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Golden Trout, Wind River Range, Wyoming

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Beaver Pond Brook Trout, Montana

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Kingfisher, fish king!

 

Posted in Trout Photos

Fly Fishing Prints: Yellowstone Cutthroat Photograph

A framed print of these cutthroat trout would make a great fly fishing gift.

Fly Fishing Art - Yellowstone cutthroat #900

Yellowstone cutthroat #900

 

Posted in Trout Photos

Salmon Photo in Alaska

Underwater photograph of a Sockeye Salmon in Alaska.

Sockeye Salmon #7

Sockeye Salmon #7 – Lake Illiamna, Alaska

Posted in Trout Photos

High Country Cutthroat

High Country Cutthroat

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     The fabled rivers of Montana hold sway in the minds of fisherman the world over. Look the states over and you would be hard pressed to find a more ideal line up of flowing water to toss feather and fur to eagerly awaiting wild trout. Winding their way back and forth, hemmed in by stunning mountain ranges on both sides, the cottonwood filled river bottoms are the stuff of dreams. There is another Montana though; in nearly every cirque, through vast basins, and precariously perched on rugged plateaus there lays the high mountain lakes. While angry brown trout and football shaped rainbows have taken over the main stem rivers, high up in these rugged wilderness areas, the true native Cutthroat trout runs the roost.

Fly Fishing Photos - notice the inlet to that lower lake.....

notice the inlet to that lower lake…..

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Locked up beneath ice for more months than not, these lakes and their inhabitants survive on the fringes. A barren and bleak winter-scape springs to life when the snow recedes. A circus of wildflowers and game animals rush to utilize the short growing season. Cutthroat trout, having sat dormant for many months, feed with reckless abandon, bum rushing the tributary creeks in a furious attempt to spawn and bring about their next generation. The original native fish’s last stronghold, they survive in the high alpine lakes in the margins. Their riotous red cheeks and vibrant yellow hues look barley real. Cold and clean water is their lifeblood, these Cutthroat have been pushed all the way to where granite and ice thrust skyward. Where aquamarine waters pool beneath talus slopes just far enough away from the long reach of man.620

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Spectacles to behold no doubt, high Alpine lakes are a photographers delight, and a fisherman’s nirvana. As with anything worth chasing it never comes easy. Heavy loads up daunting switchbacks keep the masses at bay. Ten thousand feet in the Northern Rockies can bring fearsome cold, and soaking thunderstorms. Every bump in the night brings frightful thoughts that a rogue Grizzly bear wit, mayhem on her mind may stalk just beyond the reach of your headlamp. The duality of splendor and suffering is what keeps these places for the few.

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No matter how many times you look at it on a map or on Google earth, arriving to your destination brings that sense of discovery and awe. While the work is hard and the fish most likely small, I always set aside a few weeks to escape into the wild. To mindlessly throw flies at cruising fish, to see the thick band of the Milky Way painted across the sky, to cavort around with the picas and Mule Deer, and just to get away.

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Fly fishing photos - 622617619616Know your lakes.  Some you can harvest from due to overpopulation!

Thanks All

www.fisheyeguyphotography.com

https://www.facebook.com/fisheyeguyphotography

Posted in Trout Photos

The Olympic Peninsula

A collaborative Blog Post featuring Photos by Roger Mosley and Fish Eye Guy Photography

with words by Jill Lutz 

459 438 431 The Olympic peninsula, in all its grandeur, is the gem of the Pacific Northwest. The peninsula is home to a diverse ecosystem that drives the peoples people that call it home and the waters that bless its coast.  With the snow capped peaks that feed the headwaters of a multitude of rivers and creeks, the rain clouds that become trapped within valleys bring forth the ethereal rainforests, and the hypnotizing sea stacks that checkerboard the coastal waters.  Pick any direction to explore and you are bound to be in awe of its beauty. 454 441 406 458436 407 412 410 416 The connection to the pacific ocean, and the peninsula, have been vital to Seattle and the surrounding communities, creating a sea faring culture which is unstoppable by the changing industrial and technological advances within and around the city.  The Olympic Peninsula functions as the glimmer in the urbanite’s eye, inspiring their appreciation for the wonders of the natural world that exist in their backyard. 453 429 450 414498 451 405 455 499 426413

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Although the peninsula’s rural landscape may fool visitors in to thinking they have escaped time, the rivers and oceans tell a different story.  The salmon that nourish indigenous cultures and give balance to the ecosystem as a whole are in dire straits.  Loss of habitat due to the usual culprits has taken its toll.  Decades of unsustainable logging and misplaced hydroelectric projects have worked hand in hand with hatcheries and overharvest to make these salmon runs a shadow of their former self.   Desperate attempts to stave off the extinction of the most iconic sports fish, the mighty steelhead, are underway as well as the largest dam removal project ever, the two dams on the Elwha River near Port Angeles.  A campaign by Wild Olympics is in full swing to set aside vital habitat abutting the National Park.  The headwaters of most rivers are protected and there is no reason the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic salmon species cannot return to their full glory.

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402 403 404   452 400 Thanks to Roger Mosley for throwing some incredible images into the mix:

https://www.facebook.com/RogerMosleyPhotography

Please follow all my work here on this blog or on my facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/fisheyeguyphotography

Info and action here:

https://www.facebook.com/wildfishconservancy

https://www.facebook.com/wildolympics

https://www.facebook.com/wildsteelheadcoalition

http://www.northforkstudios.net/

Posted in Trout Photos

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon

A national treasure

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     At the turn of the century, the industrial revolution ran like a wildfire up and down the west coast leaving ecosystems in tatters and the once iconic salmon runs a mere shadow of their former selves.  Dams were erected, forests were chopped down, mines constructed, and irrigation diversions all sapped the once vibrant salmon rearing grounds of what was needed to sustain their populations.  Canneries were some of the first buildings constructed along the Columbia and overharvest was commonplace.  Before we even knew what existed, it was gone.  The keystone species which supported all forms of life entered a precipitous decline continuing to this day.  In the far north, there was one place which avoided this fate, Bristol Bay, Alaska.  This vast region was protected by its shear remoteness, harsh climate, and unforgiving wildness.  Like an apparition from a bygone era, sockeye salmon still pour out of the Pacific Ocean by the millions to these untouched and pristine waters.  The relentless arm of industry long held at bay now has its eyes squarely set on developing and thus destroying this, our last functioning mega salmon run.  Pebble Mine is the vanguard for an industry which wants to build massive open pit mines in this delicate region.  The battle against Pebble has reached a critical stage as just recently the EPA  announced they will use the clean water act to begin a process that may block the proposed mine entirely.

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     No single species defines the Pacific coast more so than salmon.  While efforts to restore and preserve these salmon runs in the lower 48 continue, in Bristol Bay things exist as they always have.  A thousands year old native culture rely on them, the tundra springs to life due to them, apex predators gorge on their abundance, and sustainable economies rely on their return.  The Aleut-Alutiq, Athabascan, and Yup’ik cultures catch, dry, smoke, and subsist off this source of protein as they have for time immemorial.  Their first language is their own and they are the most intact native cultures in North America.  Salmon push to the headwaters of every available river system resulting in an irreplaceable transfer of nutrients from sea to sky.  These still intact salmon runs support the largest populations of Grizzly bears on the planet. Caribou herds graze the salmon fertilized plants and everything relies on this food chain, even down to the smallest plants and organisms.  Sustainability is more than a buzzword when it comes to the commercial fishery.  This massive region supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery on earth and is managed in such a way to go on forever.  It is a billion dollar a year industry that provides the healthiest of food to the most discerning of consumers.  Sportsmen worldwide, dream of someday wetting a line here and this thriving industry in itself is worth another hundred million dollars, providing employment for thousands.  This place overwhelms the senses and enlivens the spirit; its mere existence gives us hope and a place to dream of.  Bristol Bay now faces its most dire of threats at its very heart. Mining interests have found some of the largest deposits of precious metals on earth and plan industrial development as large as any projects on earth.

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     The intensity with which this ecosystem and landscape hum is unmistakable.  At its center are Lake Illiamna and the Nushagak River.  Alaska’s largest lake and its tributaries are responsible for almost half the regions sockeye salmon and represent the largest salmon run on earth.  The Nushagak is the next largest producer and one of the top king salmon rivers on the planet.  The proposed Pebble Mine is directly above these drainages and exploratory mining is occurring throughout the region.  Hard rock mining of this magnitude spells disaster for the fish, the culture, and the ecosystem.  In scientific terms these fish stocks are known as a strong portfolio.  The genetic diversity of so much productivity guarantees their sustainability and vibrancy.  The potential loss of this core population threatens not only the immediate area, but the region as a whole.

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b 15     Salmon are counted by the hundreds as they wriggle over concrete barriers up and down the Pacific coast, while in Bristol Bay they are stockpiled by the millions.  So numerous is this run, if you were to stack them nose to tail they would stretch from Bristol Bay to Australia and back.  The fact that salmon still exist on many southern rivers is a testament to their fierce determination and evolutionary mastery.  Stragglers still perpetuate their species against the steepest of odds.  Their efforts know no limit.  A Sockeye salmon known only as Lonesome Larry was the only one to return to a Lake in Idaho after swimming 900 miles and passing 8 dams.  Redfish Lake, which in a bygone era, saw tens of thousands of these ocean going vagabonds return and had nearly lost its namesake.  This story has been repeated over and over from the Puget Sound to Los Angeles.  The usual culprits, who led to the downfall of our iconic Pacific Coast species, now want a repeat performance in this last great place.  Bristol Bay is the last treasure in the chest and it is where the line will be drawn.  The EPA now has its chance to preemptively veto Pebble Mine by using the 404(c) clause of the clean water act. If ever there was a legitimate case for this, the headwaters of the greatest salmon runs on earth is it.

We are down to the last few days, Sign this NOW! www.savebristolbay.org/takeaction

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This 3 month odyssey to Bristol Bay was funded by individuals who believed and supported me via kickstarter, it was backed by the good stewards at Orvis and lent a huge hand by the Egdorfs.  Thank you.  The only way I am able to share this content is through this blog:  http://fisheyeguyphotography.wordpress.com/ 

And my facebook page, please enjoy and share with everyone:

https://www.facebook.com/fisheyeguyphotography

Sign this NOW!:

www.savebristolbay.org/takeaction

Posted in Trout Photos

The Greater Yellowstone Region

The Greater Yellowstone Region

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Teton Silhouette 

     Smack dab in the center of North America and atop the spine of the continental divide there is a spot where magma from the center of the earth relentlessly pushes towards the surface.  Known as a supervolcano, its last rupture was responsible for one of earth’s great mass extinctions and still to this day it smolders and shakes.  This great tumult gave us the Greater Yellowstone Region, one of this planets most awesome landscapes and vibrant of ecosystems.  The center of gravity in the Northern Rockies, from its deep and consistent snowpack, rivers pour off this plateau like spokes of a wheel.  The Missouri, Snake, Green, and Yellowstone Rivers all begin as small trickles here amongst herds of buffalo and elk. Grizzly bears, moose, and wolves roam in an age old dance of survival.  Circumnavigating the plateau brings you from beacon to beacon.  Mountains and ranges so distinctive they have become the things of lore along with the legendary trout that swim beneath them.  To the south, the Tetons roar their way skyward above the Snake River where crayon colored Cutthroat trout pounce on anything floating.  The Mighty Sphinx is lord of the Madison Range and the river known as the fifty mile riffle needs no introduction.  Emigrant Peak and Absorkees to the north gaze down on the Yellowstone River flowing freely towards the great plains. Three species of native trout have carved their niches on separate sides and all are in peril.   John Colter, Jim Bridger, and numerous trappers would return from exploring this place, describing its thermal features, wildlife, and landscapes.  Nobody ever believed them, dismissing their stories as mere mountain man myth. The Place is real and still to this day it is the wildest place left in the lower 48.   I count myself as lucky to have chosen this region to be my home since I was 18 years old. 901

Westslope Cutthroat

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Bighorn Sheep

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Absorkee Sunset

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Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat

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Teton Star Trails

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Tetons and their Native Cutties (artwork by AD Maddux)

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Mayfly

  909The Mighty Yellowstone

910 (1)  Yellowstone River Browns and Bows911Paradise Valley, Emigrant Peak, Montana

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Whitetail

913 Speed goat, Antelopes on the run 914  The Mighty Buffalo915  Speedgoat vs. coyote916  Madison River Shark917Moose, yum leaves  918Fairy Slipper  919Arrowleaf Balsam root  920   921     922 923  Great Horned Owl924Henry’s Fork Hog  925 Redtail Hawk  The Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River

    My struggle to survive as an artist has made me feel like a mere visitor to my home region.  A decade ago I set up my pictures at the first of many outdoor art shows I would end up doing.  Since that day all my time and effort during summers has been spent printing, framing, and selling my pictures.  With limited resources I would try to make hay while the sun shined.  This allowed me only a few precious days a month to be in the field.  The romanticized vision of an outdoor photographer meeting the reality of a starving artist.  Some way, somehow this is my summer to spend every day plying the clear water tributaries of our national treasure in search of the most epic of trout.

Not an easy business, this is it.  Come support all us working artists.

“Clients” of mine, Big Spenders….

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Mesa Falls

Posted in Trout Photos

Freeing the Heel, stoking the mind

Freeing the Heel, stoking the mind in Montana.

Photos By Ned Gall and Patrick Clayton


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 If you have been lucky enough to spend any time choking on Bridgers cold smoke these last few years, you have no doubt seen this guy ripping around.  Hair flying wildly around more reminiscent of the sixties, smiling, laughing; the kind of ski bum you think of from a bygone era; every line he skis seems to end with him airborne. Matt Shortland stands out here in Montana as the embodiment of positivity and stoke.  Much like this small community run nonprofit ski hill, he is not concerned with making a name for himself, getting rich, or being the biggest anything.  Existing in the now and living for the feeling of floating through feet of low density blower somewhere north of everybody else.  Matt arrived here at 18 having never skied a day in his life, 7 short years later he sets the bar, skiing the same craggy limestone clefts that Scott Schmidt, Doug Coombs, and Tom Jungst made famous.  His skills have taken him to the podium at telemark skiing’s premier freeride competition and his passion for the sport has made him a friend to us all.  A photo tribute to a person and place:

Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Photo:Ned Gall

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Photo:Ned Gall

                            

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Matt is the portrait of a young man with an indomitable spirit. Through grit, persistence, and determination he has been able to fashion his life in a way that reflects the essence of a die-hard ski bum. Who would have ever predicted that a kid from a land without snow would have grown into a man who has become a testament to the happiness and freedom that can be found in skiing? It is our pleasure to call Matt our friend and it means more to me than you will ever know to be able to call him my brother. -Daniel Ryan

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ImagePhoto:Ned Gall

Thanks to Ned Gall, Matt Shortland, Daniel Ryan and everyone bringing the stoke.

www.fisheyeguyphotography.com

www.nedgall.com

https://www.facebook.com/fisheyeguyphotography

Posted in Trout Photos

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden

Bristol Bay, ALaska

Posted in Trout Photos

Sockeye

Sockeye

Bristol Bay, ALaska

Posted in Trout Photos