My web friend said I need to write stuff on my blog. I just don’t know what to say. From here on, I hope to find happiness and take a moment to fully take in the places, people, and creatures I cavort around with. Thanks to you all. www.fisheyeguyphotography.com
High Country Cutthroat
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.
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.
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.
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.
A collaborative Blog Post featuring Photos by Roger Mosley and Fish Eye Guy Photography
with words by Jill Lutz
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. 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.
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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Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon
A national treasure
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.
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.
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.
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
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: https://fisheyeguyphotography.wordpress.com/
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The Greater Yellowstone Region
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.
Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat
Teton Star Trails
Tetons and their Native Cutties (artwork by AD Maddux)
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.
“Clients” of mine, Big Spenders….
Freeing the Heel, stoking the mind in Montana.
Photos By Ned Gall and Patrick Clayton
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:
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
Thanks to Ned Gall, Matt Shortland, Daniel Ryan and everyone bringing the stoke.
Bristol Bay, ALaska