On an icy High Sierra Mountain-morning this past March, Field & Stream magazine editor, Sage Marshall, and I joined Autumn for a day of fly fishing. And, as he put its in this article:
"Harry, who is Numu, or Paiute, on her father’s side and Diné, or Navajo, on her mother’s, knows the lake well. I wanted to fish with her because I believed she would help me catch my first Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) and because I wanted to know more about her connection to the lake as a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe—a group that has fished here since time immemorial."
Pyramid Lake is about an hour outside of where I live in Reno; however I'd never been there. Once I knew I was going to be shooting this project, I drove out there a couple of times prior to the shoot day to see what the terrain was like and how the sun moved over the far mountains and across the landscape. From November until April, the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas have been pummeled with record snowfall, relentless rain, and seemingly never-ending cloudy and lousy weather. However, not this morning. The only day of that week which wasn't forecast to be completely overcast was the day the magazine had scheduled the shoot. Shooting without a cloud in the sky happens, especially when it's to shoot an event or a commercial project where I'm not in charge of scheduling. And, since I like shooting into the sun I've become adept at using trees, branches, people, and other objects to keep the sun from blaring directly into my lens. However, not today. The lakefront area was largely rock formations and there was nowhere to hide from the piercing sun. As the yellow orb of life rose over the mountains in the distance it created some very cool, ethereal-looking scenery, yet when the solar rays bounced off of the water it was like staring directly into a nuclear reactor through a magnifying glass. Yet, we made it work. Besides, it's been a couple of months since I shot these photos, so I've started to grow accustomed to the patch over my right eye and skin grafts covering my entire face...
The first time I ever heard of fishing at Pyramid Lake was in a New York Times story about how fishermen there fished from ladders, which I found odd. Evidently, it's because maybe 50 yards from the short there's a steep shelf that drops off and the lake become extremely deep (maybe my distance estimation is way off). Fishermen use the ladders to stay up out of the water as far out as they can and cast into the deeper, cooler water, before they encounter the shelf and sudden drop off into the lake's dark, swirling underbelly, or something like that. Turns out, there were some ladder fisherman out the day of our project, as well.
Upon arriving at Pyramid Lake around 5 a.m., Autumn generously provided me with waders and wading boots, neither of which I'd ever worn before. Since the sun was rising in the distance in front of her and Sage, I figured I'd shoot from the for the backlit images I was looking for until around 9 a.m., then, once the sun was higher I'd enter the water to position the anglers where I preferred them to be in relation to the sun as it rose and the day grew longer.
Sage's piece focuses on how Autumn is changing the way people understand and appreciate one of North America’s greatest trout fisheries. As a fly on the wall shooting the photos for his story, my eyes were widened to the water usage rights her tribe has been battling the US government over for decades.
For context, below I've pasted a short excerpt from Sage's story, which can be read in full here.
But first, a handful of the 4,000+ photos I shot that day:
"I’d met Harry at the lake early that morning. After a short drive down a rough dirt road, I found her rigging up at her old white Chevy Silverado. She’s nearly 6 feet tall and is wearing a silver nose ring, a beanie, a puffy jacket, and Patagonia waders.
"We could still see the stars, and the headlamps of anglers stretched in a line along the shore’s dark rock outcroppings. It’s mid-March, prime time for the lake’s fly-fishing season. In warmer months, the trout dive deep, but when it’s cold, they’re within range of shore anglers.
"...The lake is so beautiful,” Harry says. “Paiute people like me have a direct connection to it. I often think about how my ancestors endured so much so that we can be here. My appreciation grows when I think about the history.”
“All these fish belong to the lake..." "We belong to the lake. We’re just taking care of the fish. As long as we keep that up front, we’re going to be OK.”
For this project, I used my standard photo gear package, and a few select lenses:
- Canon R3 body
- Canon 1DX Mark III body
- Canon 70-200 f2.8 ISIII USM lens
- Canon 16-35 f.28 III USM lens
- Canon 24-70mm f2.8 II USM lens
- Canon 50 mm f1.4 USM lens
- Canon EF to RF adapter
- Omega reflector
- Polar Pro lens filters
- F-Stop Loka camera bag (11 yrs old, discontinued I think)
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