As first light breaks through the trees, the shoreline and frosted grass sparkle like a sheet of diamonds.
It’s just cold enough to see your breath, and the river is pushing steam (click). You see the run where a few days ago you lost the fish of a lifetime. Your fingers tingle in the still morning air. You look down at your gear with fresh tippet and fly and know this is the moment (click). A ray of light slices through the darkness and illuminates the line as it dances through the mist (click). The water looks almost black as the line goes tight (click). The fish breaks surface (click), instantly recognizing that it’s the brute from a few days ago. You look at your buddy’s face…he knows this is the fish you’ve been hunting for as a team all year (click).
For a moment, you break character and instincts take hold. You rush to the water, net in hand (click). With pure focus, you brace yourself as a determined current presses against your legs (click). The fish turns, and lasers your direction (click). Net submerged, he swims right in (click).
The fish gently cradled in the water, you feel the success of the moment; first as the angler, second as the photographer. The rest of the story tells itself as the giant disappears into the dark, swift water.
I’m a diehard fly fisherman. Instinct gleaned from years on the water undoubtedly helped sharpen my skills as a fishing photographer.
Really, fly fishing and photography aren’t that dissimilar.
I have spent days dissecting runs, mapping hydraulics, and observing fish behavior…all in hopes of increasing my chances of grabbing that one epic shot. Chasing light is just like chasing fish. Your job is to find the moment when everything comes together perfectly, then release the shutter at the right time. Often, the rush of capturing a great image is more exhilarating than catching fish. I find a huge amount of satisfaction watching “the moment” unfold, and there’s nothing quite like the personal bond created with the fish through the glass.
A good friend and great photographer once told me “you’ll never get the shot with your camera in a backpack”. Ever since, I’ve carried my camera around my neck and on the ready. Just like fish, you never know when the moment will come. If it seems like a good image, it usual is. Knowing when to take the shot is mostly instinct…go with your gut.
Photographer Matt Guymon has been an outdoor enthusiast all his life, and possessed an interest in photography since early childhood. He has a tremendous eye for composition, and in our opinion, is one of the finest fly fishing photographers in the industry. To see more of his work, click here to visit his Flickr gallery, and click here for his website. Follow @freestoneriverphotography on instagram for your daily fix.