Sometimes you find a river that takes your breath away. The challenge suddenly becomes capturing the essence of the river more so than catching the fish that are in it.
Timing is everything. Being on the right water at the right time of day, fishing the right fly to the right fish at the right moment. Here it was knowing the image I wanted and having the right conditions that allowed it to happen.
Knowing how to alter your presentation based on conditions can make all the difference to your fishing success. When your shooting, knowing how to alter your body position and perspective can make all the difference to the feel of an image.
It can be tempting to try and get everything into a shot. Ask yourself if everything is needed or will some of it cause a distraction. Whats the story your telling. The composition is arguably to most important factor to consider when taking a photo.
What story do you want to tell with your image? Here it was about the conditions, the dark skies, and the snowy ground. To avoid unnecessary distractions you may need to do things like lay face down in the wet snowy grass, but if that what it takes, then that’s what it takes.
Change your perspective and take a risk. Getting low to capture the waves breaking on a rock in the foreground added a lot to this image and highlighted how challenging the fishing conditions were that day. It also gave my camera a quick bath and forced me to scurry up the rocks to dry it off.

Getting low again. I often find myself squatting down with my camera inches above the water, there’s just something about the foreground leading into the subject that I really enjoy.Scenery with a foreground subject can be tricky sometimes. Sometimes you just need to decide whats important and make that your focal point.As I floated with my buddy Landon I explained a shot I was hoping to get. Knowing ahead of time what I was trying to do meant he could easily and quickly release the fish with minimal handling while allowing me to snapshots. No need to stress a fish just for a photo. A quick conversation before even hooking the fish can help you and really help the fish.Sometimes when it’s all happening so quickly you just have to start snapping and hope it works out. Often times it won’t, and that’s ok, but every now and then it comes together. This fish was trying hard to break off Chris Heiser in some structure and luck allowed me to capture a tail flick as it pushed once more towards the downed tree.Post-production is interesting. Some shots look heavily edited when you have barely touched them, others look completely natural but take a lot of adjustments to get them to that point. This is one of those images that came out of the camera looking edited. The bubbles behind the fish dictated the exposure of this shot meaning the bottom of the river darkened right out. Apart from a couple of very minor adjustments, this is how the scene actually played out.Light can be a lot of fun to play with. Netting a fish in an area with tree cover that caused patches of light and dark along with some interesting shadow from the net itself gave a beautiful glow to this rainbow.This is one of the only shots I have ever staged. My buddy Scot and I were fishing from a boat when we found this almost submerged stump. It was too good an opportunity to turn up. Scot stepped out, I drifted back in the boat, got low, and was able to capture the clouds reflecting perfectly off the glassy water while Scot seemingly walked on water. Photography should be fun and if it means you stage a shot on occasion, well then so be it.


Toby Nolan is an avid flyfisherman, photographer and fly fishing guide based in Bend, Oregon. When he’s not out chasing a variety of different fish species or taking photos he’s busy running his small business Branch and Barrel Designs. Be sure to check out his other awesome content on his Instagram @oregononthefly!