Steve Dally's White River Fly Fishing Guide Service

Taking A Different Point of View

Unusual angles can make a picture

Unusual angles can make a picture

MODERN digital point and shoot cameras are a godsend for fly fishers capturing memories, easily quickly and at phenomenal quality, in a light and easy to carry package. Heck not only are they capable of taking the spills, stumbles and splashes of everyday fly fishing they can even shoot stunning pictures underwater.

But what the brains haven’t come up with is an extra pair of hands to hold and control the fish for the solo fly fisher. If you are like me most of the time you are fishing solor, even when you have a fishing buddy along. It might be fine dragging him off his spot for a trophy but taking shots of “everyday” pretty fish is another matter. And Bec has given orders that I’m to shoot pics of every pretty fish as inspiration for her watercolors.

So here’s a few shooting tips for fly fishers carrying point and shoots along and want some quality pics for inspiration back home.

The grip and grin of solor fly fishing _ trout on the rocks

The grip and grin of solo fly fishing _ "trout on the rocks"

FIRSTLY, the camera I’m using on these is few years old, and only 3.2 MP. The current crop of water and shock proof cameras are WAY better. Here’s a pretty good summary of what is out there, from my research (i’m way past due for a new one) the leader still seems to be either Olympus or Pentax. The Pentax might have the edge with HD video but the Olympus has the edge on images.

Whichever camera you might choose these all have great “brains” to do all the hard work, choosing apetures, speeds, white balance and all the techie stuff. I generally dial down the ISO to the lowest level, and shoot the biggest files you can, on the principle I can easily make them smaller without losing quality, but its impossible to go bigger without ruining the pic. Stick it on auto and trust the technology, worry about framing the image and the fish itself.

No matter whether you are shooting along or with a friend, I like using a rubber net to control the fish, let it relax and recover with a minimum of harm, while you go about getting out your camera, getting it it started, dealing with the rod and fly. I check the fish is upright and breathing in the net, before I start the other tasks

Be mindful too of the state of the fish, some will relax quickly and allow you to position them easily. Others go nuts splashing and flopping, these fish require a lot more care, or indeed sometimes you are better off letting them go free without a pic.

The standard approach for the solo fly fisher is usually to lay the fish on the bank or gravel bar as per the pic above. Its a little like the “grip and grin” fly fisher holding a fish shot when there is two of you. You have seen them so many times they all look the same. Plus there is a risk of hurting the fish, on dry gravel. I like to have a bedding of wet moss if possible. I really don’t like this for those “crazy” fish.

Try closeups of everyday fish to make them more interesting

Try closeups of everyday fish to make them more interesting

Most of the current crop of waterproof cameras have a pretty wide angle lens and great capacity to shoot in close, unlike mine. But even so if you are reduced to the “trout on rocks” try something different, like focussing on the fish’s head or fins. This is the less is more style of shot, as the closer in (hence the less of the fish) the more interesting the image becomes.

Some fish are easier shot on the leader

Some fish are easier shot on the leader

Our crystal clear waters here on the White do make a pretty nice backdrop for photos. And some fish are best shot on the leader. Often its easier to shoot some smaller, wild fish while you lead tham up current. These aren’t my favorite type of pics, they can look a little staged but they do work. Try the close in option with these as well.

A few years back, when I was regularly shooting images for magazine plus a few other commercial gigs, I was asked to shoot a charity pet calendar, so I went researching some ideas. The best piece of advice I found was change the angle of view. We are all used to seeing pets, and kids for that matter, looking down. So try lower angles, ” at their level” to make the shots more interesting. Hence I spent a couple of weeks on my belly and the lesson hasn’t been forgotten. Try angles people don’t see very often.

Hold the camera low for a more interesting angle

Hold the camera low for a more interesting angle, the view of the riverbed was an unexpected bonus

I tend to shoot quite a few fish from this sort of angle, holding the camera low and “aiming”. Often this is a pretty good way to shoot relaxed fish, with either your hand at the tail or under the belly. Its easy to keep the fish’s gills int he water to allow it to recover then a gentle lift to show the eyes and mouth.

The only downside, if you like, is the fact you are shooting blind, so press the shutter a few times, and adjust the angles a little.

Hold your camera low

A little judicious cropping can create a new look

One of the benefits of shooting on the highest image quality is the ability to crop down large pics. Most cameras come with decent software to do this. With all the pics we put on the web here, I actually save all the pics we need and do all my editing on

Back in the day I used to play with images on Photoshop, still the icon of image editing, but the ‘bucket is relatively fast, cheap and easy, though I wish they would add a feature to allow you to rotate pictures by degrees, so its easier to square horizons. A tilted horizon is probably the most common flaw I see in point and shoot cameras, particularly when you are shooting through the back panel with polarised glasses on.

Shooting multiple images reduce the chances of these

Shooting multiple images reduce the chances of these


Finally, I’m going to repeat it. Take LOTS OF PICS! Unlike the old days when I was shooting pro slide film, memory cards are huge and cheap. You can quickly cull out any duds. And if you are careful of your fish, you can shoot pics fast.  That way you increase the likeihood of getting that once in a lifetime shot.

6 responses

  1. Nicely done Mr. Dally, great ideas!

    August 25, 2009 at 4:10 pm

  2. Bill Barksdale

    Great tips, Steve. My only gripe with underwater/waterproof P&S digitals is that, to my knowledge, none offer image capture in RAW. I’m hoping we will see this development in the not-too-distant future — and in a camera that will fit in the user’s shirt pocket — since RAW offers so many advantages when working on images in Photoshop or similar programs.

    August 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  3. Thanks Bill appreciate the comments RAW would be really nice , the picture quality is very good, though not matching the good DSLRs.

    _ Bill is a real professional photographer so I’ll ask you mate now you poked your head up :).

    Do you carry a P&S when you are fishing, what did you or would look for when buying.

    Any tips you might have that I missed?

    August 30, 2009 at 11:57 am

  4. Thanks for the suggestions Steve.

    I fish alone the majority of time and find taking fish photos very frustrating. This weekend I borrowed my wife’s little Nikon point and shoot which takes really nice photos. The only complaint I had with it is the shutter speed seems very slow meaning that there is quite a delay between the time when I depress the button to take the photo and the camera capturing the image. To your knowledge do the Olympus and/or Pentax cameras offer an adjustable shutter speed, or more specifically a fast shutter speed? — I do not know if this is adjustable on my wife’s camera or what the setting is.

    August 31, 2009 at 8:29 am

  5. Gday Pat thanks mate, give our best to your wife.
    I’ll correct your terminology a tad shutter speed refers to the speed the shutter open and closes in taking your photography rather than the delay you are referring too. Shutter speed is adjustable, the delay from when you hit the button is not.

    The shutter delay is a pain with pretty much most digital cameras. Its getting all those processors etc fired up. Mine is the same. It seems that the more you spend the faster it gets but not always so when buying a camera its one option to look at.
    I can’t comment specifically on these two cameras as I don’t have one yet as to which is the fastest.
    Unfortunately a quick google wasn’t able to answer it either.

    September 4, 2009 at 9:40 am

  6. Dennis Ewing

    Steve I was just introduced to a great free photo program that you may have heard of by now but if not here is the info to download it. Google the word picasa. When the list comes up click on You probably could go directly to address. I didn’t go that rout but it probably would work. the program has a feature called straighten that allows the picture to be turned to fix that horizon problem you mentioned. It also has a great red eye correction feature that is the best i have seen. Give it a look.

    October 7, 2009 at 10:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s