Summer Fly Fishing

StreamO8Aug18#7786E2c4x6

My mind is busy as I inch my way along the bank of a small trout stream on a summer morning. Immersed in the sights and sounds of the stream and riparian landscape, I wonder if mayflies are hatching and hungry trout are laying in wait; I give thanks for the opportunity to experience cold, unpolluted water on a smoldering hot summer day; and, I always anticipate a surprise encounter – perhaps a heron, beaver, deer, butterfly, or maybe an interesting spider web.

StreamO6Aug18#7697E2c4x6

As I approached the scene above, I noticed fluttering along the rocky shore: orange and black, but too small to be a Monarch. It was a Viceroy butterfly, puddling in the mud at water’s edge.

Viceroy30July18#7431E2c5x7

My main goal (not always clear when I carry my camera) is to locate surface-feeding trout and fool them with a crude imitation of their natural meal.

This is late July and August, when the Trico (Tricorythodes) mayfly hatch is at its peak. Clouds of molting duns and mating spinners appear above riffles soon after daylight on warm, muggy late summer mornings. The grayish or transparent wings appear white when backlit, leading frustrated fishermen to describe the hatch as the “white curse”. Frustration enters the picture because these tiny mayflies, just a few millimeters long, are difficult to imitate and even more difficult to present as naturals to spooky trout in calm, clear water.

” … the Tricorythodes hatch is an angling revelation, offering some of the most reliable, challenging and fulfilling angling of the year.” (from “Hatches: A Complete Guide to Fishing the Hatches of North American Trout Streams” by Caucci and Nastasi.

Tricos7Aug18#7717E2c8x10

Tricos8Aug18#7771E2c8x10

TricoSpider17July16#2041E2c8x10

A Trico spinner captured in a spider web during its mating flight

Tricos die and fall to the water as spent spinners after mating. Trout then sip them from the surface film. The telltale “ring of the rise” has been at the center of fly fishing stories and literature for centuries.

Tricos8Aug18#7841E2c4x6

It’s logical to assume that a fish might expend more energy than is gained when feeding on tiny Tricos. To make it worthwhile, trout hover near the surface in narrow feeding lanes and calm eddies where currents funnel large numbers of spent or dead spinners.

Trico7Aug18#7753E3c4x6

When all is said and done, spent Trico spinners can be found in spider webs. The dry fly in the center, tied on a size #24 hook, is a crude and over-sized imitation, but also approaches the practical limit of fly tying and fly fishing. Surprisingly, it can be very effective when trout are feeding aggressively and have not experienced heavy fly fishing pressure.

TricosDryFly17July16#2070E5c8x10

The Trico hatch brings closure to my fly fishing season, but also fuels anticipation and planning for the seasons ahead. I’m a catch-and-release fly fisherman, so I just might have another chance at this beautiful brown next year, when it’s bigger and wiser!

Tricos8Aug18#7816E3c4x6

A brown trout and tight line during a Trico spinner fall

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

 

Advertisements

Searching for Spring in 2018

Despite the cold, late spring, I started searching for wild flowers in late April.  The search is a rite of spring, even if there’s snow in the air and it makes no sense whatsoever.

The flower buds of willow shrubs were on hold (April 27),

WillowShrub27Apr18#2838E2c8x10

As were the new shoots of False Hellebore after a freezing rain (April 29).

Hellebore29Apr18#2879E2c8x10

Desperate for color in a wintry April landscape, I detoured to the edge of a wetland and discovered a reliable indicator of the advancing season: Skunk Cabbage (April 29).

SkunkCabbage29Apr18#2865E2c8x10

Finally, the weather took a serious turn for the better. The season of renewal erupted, with April events spilling over into early May. Migrating birds, black flies, wildflowers, baby animals, mud…..Spring!

Bloodroot4May18#3024E3c8x10

Bloodroot

Trail5May18#3040E2c4x6

A Rails-to-Trails recreation path, with willow shrubs in bloom (May 5)

WillowShrub3May18#2999E5c5x7

The early blooms of willow shrubs (May 3), a lifeline for hungry bees

MarshMarigold5May18#3038E2c5x7

Marsh Marigold (May 5)

StreamOxbow5May18#3123E2c8x10

A tumbling brook, swollen by melting snow and frequent rain (May 5)

WhiteTrillium5May18#3054E3c8x10

White Trillium (May 5)

RedTrillium5May18#3086E3c8x10

Red Trillium (May 5)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wetlands in Ice and Snow

Deep snow, rising melt-water and stressed animals have caused me to observe and photograph from a distance, often using my truck as a blind. Two storms and forty inches of snow blanketed the landscape in early March, leaving an interesting mix of “signs of Spring” … ice … and a blanket of snow.

SwampGeese11Mar18#0684E2c4x6

Open wetland with seasonal water

Hoodie6Mar18#0150E2c5x7

Hooded Merganser in a hardwood swamp

Muskrat7Mar18#0353E9c8x10

Muskrat feeding on submerged vegetation

SwampGeese9Mar18#0586E2c4x6

Hardwood swamp teaming with wildlife (location for the remaining images)

Muskrat9Mar18#0616E5c5x7

Muskrat in a hardwood swamp, browsing Northern White Cedar (1 of 2)

Muskrat9Mar18#0628E5c5x7

Woodies6Mar18#0073E21c4x6

Wood Ducks cruising along in a hardwood swamp; 1 of 3

Woodies6Mar18#0082E2c5x7

Woodies6Mar18#0094E21c4x6

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

October Memories

Sunrise22Sept17#4006E2c8x10

Wisps of clouds and soft colors defined a warm and peaceful sunrise

LeavesFrogs10Oct17#4715E2c5x7

Natural rhythms were interrupted by unusually warm, dry and erratic weather patterns

LeafSpring10Oct17#4724E2c5x7

Early leaf drop and muted colors in woodlands shifted attention to the landscape underfoot

MoonHarvest7Oct17#4533E5c8x10

The Harvest Moon reminded all of the landscape overhead

GeeseGulls17Oct17#4865E2c4x6

Harvested fields were crowded with hungry geese

GeeseGulls17Oct17#4820E2c8x10

Gulls as well as geese foraged in dense, low fog on cold mornings

CanalRdPond24Oct17#5404E2c4x6

Searches for fall landscapes led to familiar haunts, like the old mill pond

BeaverMale19Oct17#5293E5c8x10

Driven more by photoperiod than the tricky warm weather, a mature male beaver prepared for winter by harvesting an aspen tree and stashing branches at the family lodge

Sumac25Oct17#5462E2c8x10

Staghorn Sumac was on fire!

ChickenOfTheWoods28Oct17#5590E5c5x7

A large ash tree, dead for many years, returned to life. An impressive mass of “Chicken-of-the woods” fungus fruited on the base of the snag and lit up a drab woodland scene.

LeavesStream30Oct17#5644E2c8x10

October reflections

Photos by NB Hunter (October 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

 

A Beautiful Little Duck

After years of observing and photographing natural events, I’ve learned one thing for certain: opportunities must be seized, because “next time” is wishful thinking in the context of a lifetime. Twenty four years ago we had a 43 inch snowfall in March.  A similar event occurred this year, blanketing the region with about three feet of snow. Since the Spring migration was underway, there was a unique opportunity to learn about the response of wildlife to deep snow, freezing temperatures and frozen surface waters in late winter. When travel advisories were lifted, I began searching rural areas, farms and aquatic habitats in an attempt to capture the moment.

One of my discoveries was the presence migrating waterfowl in small streams and wetlands that were ice free. Wood ducks were in the mix and became my subject of interest.

WoodDuck21Mar17#3985E9c4x6

The unique beauty of a male Wood Duck has universal appeal. Artists, photographers, nature lovers – all treasure the moment when a drake presents himself in full breeding plumage!

WoodDuck21Mar17#3993E5c5x7

WoodDuck21Mar17#4003E5c4x6

Wood Duck foraging along the banks of a small stream

By late March, most of the snow had melted and a new and exciting landscape appeared. The vivid scenes with brightly colored ducks and snow were gone, but aquatic habitats were fully charged with melt-water and primed for breeding pairs to explore and occupy.

WoodDucks24Mar17#4304E2c5x7

Photos by NB Hunter, March, 2017. © All Rights Reserved.

Spring Scenes and Winter Landscapes

A rainy, overcast day with dirty snow and mud seems like a good time to reflect on the month of March and illustrate early spring in Central New York. I’ll emphasize wet places and some of the birds that frequent them.

HoodedMerg20Mar17#3938E5c5x7

Hooded Merganser

RingNeckDucks23Mar17#4207E2c5x7

Canada Goose and a pair of ring-necked ducks

Geese21Mar17#3966E2c3x5

Canada geese grazing in a farm field

Killdeer18Mar17#3789E3c5x7

Killdeer grooming at a spring seep

Mallards21Mar17#3957E7c5x7

A pair of mallards under the reflection of deep snow

GBHeron23Mar17#4247E9c8x10

Great Blue Heron over ice and Canada geese on open water

SnowGooseCG18Mar17#3806E5c4x6

A solitary Snow Goose in a flock of Canada geese

SnowGeese26Mar17#4573E9c4x6

Migrating snow geese above farm fields, refueling on waste grain

Photos by NB Hunter, March 2017. ©All Rights Reserved.

Ice on Moss 2017

Spring water splashing and freezing over moss-covered rocks creates one of my favorite winter macros. I often photograph the same site, knowing that these are incredibly dynamic landscapes that never repeat. They’re also fleeting. I had hoped to do more with this particular formation but the next day found nothing but melting snow and rushing water – no ice.

icemoss21feb171487e3c8x10

icemoss30jan179959e2c5x7

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.