Tag Archives: Tom Olivo

New York – Day #4 – 2017 Fall Field Campaign

Another very cold Saturday here in Rochester NY (near historic record lows for the day) as we celebrated Family day at Jim Metcalf’s Lodge on Little Sandy Creek.  Many thanks to Jim and his family for all the work and cooking they do to make for a warm barbeque gathering in spite of the temps which didn’t get above freezing all day.  See photo of ice forming on the submerged log.

There were some special fish landed (for the birthday girl) as well as a few exceptional migratory fish.  I managed to land several nice Brown Trout but the fish of the day for me was a crimson/magenta colored Rainbow.  Jay managed to hook a monster fish that we initially thought was Brownzilla’s significant other but it turned out to be a relatively fresh Chinook Salmon in the 20-pound range.  When he set the hook, the fish created a massive boil on the water’s surface with its broom-like tail.  At that moment, I looked at Jay and the expression on his face was “Holy S_ _ T.”

I ran for the net and after a significant fight, we didn’t get a look at the fish until just before it swam into the net (just about knocking Hip Boy into the river).  The canine teeth on this fish were impressive and we made sure to stay away from the business end of this late migratory beast.  For some reason, it was trying to bite me the entire time I was taking close up portraits.  The word on the river (amongst all species) must be out that I’m here so get even if you have the opportunity.

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Another day today hunting for the elusive monster brown.  The good news is that we will be above freezing all day.


2017 Fall Field Campaign – Brownzilla!!!

From the measurement and fishing guy…   What are the chances???

Yesterday we touched on record lows here in Rochester NY as the Fall Field Campaign continued.  The temperatures never got above freezing and the winds made the chill very biting (more so than the fish) but Jay Peck and I still managed to find an area to sight fish for some aggressive spawning trout. My fish of the day was a really colorful 15 pound male and Jay also netted a very plump hen in the 12 pound range.

Unlike fishing in Yellowstone National Park where the air temps can start out in the single digits, the water in the Madison River tends to be fairly warm compared to Little Sandy Creek in NY.  In the Park, the water is in the upper 40’s and low 50’s but here the water is in the mid to high 30’s.  This means that a fly fisherman spends a considerable amount of the day “chipping” the ice accumulation out of the guides along the fly rod. On the Madison River, a fisherman just needs to dip the rod in the water to remove the ice.  In NY, that only makes the condition worse.

More importantly, we stumbled upon Brownzilla (again) and managed to get some excellent close up portraits.  As we were concluding the day, we went to Jim Metcalf’s adult playground and just as we arrived his friend John was about to net a very large Hen.  Turns out, it was the same fish that Jay had visit his net 48 hours earlier a half mile downstream! 

So what are the odds that this epic outlier would be at Jim’s and caught just as Jay and I were arriving on the scene?  A million to one?  Two Million to one?  All I know is that the sun came out just in time for me to capture some terrific close up photos.  See attached.  Now it’s official that the largest Brown trout landed in this region happened in Jim’s back yard.  Very fitting.

What a privilege it was to see up close, touch and photograph this amazing animal. On the drive back to the shop, Jay and I were trying to estimate the fishes age and life’s journey in Lake Ontario.  It’s possible that there may be larger trout migrating out of the Lake to spawn but the chances of catching them on a fly is certainly remote.

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We are still hunting for the 20 pound male and we have a good chance of finding him over the weekend before the campaign sunsets.

Enjoy and more pictures of Brownzilla to follow.


2017 Fall Field Campaign Update From New York


I frequently describe my fishing outings as having a “Top Ten Day” which in practice can only really happen 10 times – Right?

Yesterday was one of those days where Jay Peck and I put over 30 fish into his extra large salmon net.  The only thing was that the fish weren’t salmon but they might as well have been.  Quality vs. Quantity was the word for the day as we managed to land the largest Brown Trout in the following classes:

  • 4 at 12 pounds
  • 3 at 13 pounds
  • 4 at 14 pounds
  • 4 at 15 pounds
  • 2 at 16 pounds and
  • 1 at 17 pounds.


Little Sandy creek is recruiting some exceptional specimens this year and Jim Metcalf is once again providing the special access.

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Without evidence (aka pictures) most fisherman would not believe these numbers.  Well, this isn’t a fish story.  Attached are some of the shots.  It will take me considerable time to process all the photos and I will get to them over the holidays.

More to follow as we head out for another day (this one being very cold 22 degrees and windy 20 mph swirling winds).



Brownzilla has Landed!

Brownzilla the 24 Lb Beast

Brownzilla the 24 Lb Beast

It finally happened.  Brownzilla made it into Jay Peck’s net today and tipped the scale at just over 24 pounds!  A massive Hen that dwarfs the 15 pounder Male that I landed (see attached) but we now know where the big fish are staging and tomorrow, we will be on the hunt for the 20+ pound male that has been eyeing her.

Impressive 15 Pound Male

Impressive 15 Pound Male

The water was high and muddy (just the way we like it) and the weather is getting colder which means that a new wave of fish should be arriving later this week.

More photos to follow.


2017 Fall Field Campaign – Yellowstone Day 4

Another grand day out in Yellowstone as Katie and Sarah traveled down to join the party (the smiles are priceless).  Once again, the fish were on as we put over 20 fish into the net but a few of them had the rare-intense spawning colors that made them truly stand out.  For the 4th straight day with the sun out and clear skies, we were able to sight fish all day trying to coax the largest fish to take our fly.

These were definitely some of the most impressive fish caught during the Fall Field Campaign.  Three more days this week to close out the season in the Park.  Still hunting for Mr. Brownzilla and will provide an update at the end of this week if he makes it into my net.

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Enjoy the photos and plan your trips.



Creating “Fish Art” during the Fall Field Campaign

This week during the Fall Field Campaign in Yellowstone National Park fishing the headwaters of the Madison River, I had a chance to capture the best close up photos of migrating Rainbow and Brown Trout that I’ve ever taken.  A good friend of mine (Jim Squyres) who fished with me on Thursday, asked me…  T.O., now that you’ve had considerable practice in taking photos of fish, what were the variables that I took into account when focusing on taking the close up portraits? 

Well, for what it’s worth… Here is the anatomy of an FFP photo shoot.  And by the way, many of the variables that I’ve learned to manage can be applied to help anyone take better photos even with their cell phones.  It just takes practice and lots of shots to become “on-demand quick” and consistent.  Whereas I’ve never taken a photo course or had any coaching, It’s not that difficult if you are willing to experiment.

While I’ve always had a passion (borderline obsession) with fly fishing for spectacular game fish.  My new passion is to capture/document/share with people the special visual experiences of fly fishing in remote scenic locations around the world. This all started when I caught my first fish at age 4 (a yellow perch on Lake Marie in Bedford Hills, NY).  I remember it vividly with its bright contrasting colors of yellow on black.  You might say that it left a lasting impression as I’m now up to 60 species of game fish that I’ve managed to capture close up portraits.


The many variables I’ve learned to manage while taking “Self-Portraits” on the fly:


  1. The setting…  Identifying and then setting up a “field studio” in the vicinity of where you land your fish. In my case (at our secret spot), the studio is in a shallow channel along an island in the middle of the river.  I’m ideally looking for “Gin-Clear” water about 2 to 3 inches deep with a textured river bottom (gravel) and some deep green vegetation.  The water depth is important so that there is a constant flowing film of water over the body of the fish and the proper depth also allows the fish to “recover” from the battle with their gills staying submerged.  The gravel, vegetation and flowing water also gives a moving wavy texture to the photo capturing the fish’s natural river environment.  Sometimes I will include my landing net to add another element to show the fish “swimming out” and to manage positioning the fish without actually handling it with my hands.
  2. The fish…  You ideally should have a superb subject that represents a unique specimen. I’m looking for size, intense spawning colors and a unique individual feature of the fish.  Maybe one out of 10 fish will meet these criteria.  This year, the Brown and Fall Spawning Rainbow trout migrating up the Madison River are the healthiest I’ve ever seen in 17 years of fishing in this location.  Managing the fish when by yourself can be a challenge but if done properly, the fish will cooperate and stay relatively still while recovering in the water.  Think Fish Whisperer here.
  3. The light and angle…  If you can magically order-up a severe clear weather day with “cobalt blue” skies, the best light at this time of year is between 8:30 to 10:00 AM and 3:30 to 5:00 PM (now if you can only catch the best fish during these ideal windows of time – NOT easy).  The angle of the light has to be relatively low to create a shadow of the pectoral fin on the body of the fish as well as prevent light reflecting off the scales of the fish – directly back into the camera lens.  The low light angle also allows for the colors of the fish to be amplified with the natural light or when a flash is used (which I use most of the time – even during the daylight).
  4. The camera and lens…  I have a Nikon D-800 camera with a variable telephoto lens that zooms from 28 mm to 300mm (f 1:3.5 to 5.6).  The reason that I really prefer this lens is that it allows for maximum zoom (in for fish and out for landscape shots) with just one lens.  I also have UV and Polarizing filters that allow me to adjust the lens angle to cut through the water’s glare and have a perfect “window-pane view” through the water.  I virtually always use an automatic setting on the camera because the D-800 is rather large/heavy and trying to manage the settings of the camera with one hand while at the same time – managing the fish and other variables is just too challenging.  I also like to position the fish (considering the light angle) so that the body has about a 30-degree angle across the photo’s landscape orientation.  The focal point of the portrait (towards the leading edge of the fish) should allow for a gradual depth of field change that compliments the unique color features of the fish and the water’s texture.  Finally, I often like to have the crisp focal point on the eye of the fish or the gill plate to give the impression that the fish is looking directly at the camera. The orientation and scale:  My preference is an exaggerated landscape orientation that emphasizes any one of four body areas of the fish.  These include the head and jaw, gill plate, the body scales, fins, and tail section.  With each species and individual fish there is often a unique body element that can really make your photo.  For Trout and Steelhead, it’s the intense colors of the gill plate. The exposure:  I tend to slightly under expose all my photos -.3 because the fish’s scales often reflect the light back into the lens and whereas it’s easier to adjust the lighting up in post-production, it’s really difficult to do much with a photo that’s over exposed.
  5. Post-production work…  I routinely use a simple photo editing software included in the Microsoft Windows program (Microsoft Photo Gallery).  It allows me to edit a high volume of photos with minimal time.  Because the Nikon D-800 features a 36-megapixel processing image, I can crop the photos at virtually any size and still have a high-quality photo.  I usually shot in the highest quality JPEG image format for file management convenience and to quickly adjust for lighting-exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, color saturation, and detail.  If you follow these guidelines and take great original pictures, there is virtually no need to “photo-shop” the images.  In fact, I have never used photoshop and only do minor editing of all my photos.

Final tip: Take care of your equipment if it’s not waterproof but remember, if you don’t take some calculated risks you will not be able to get really good shots.  I have actually fallen into the river once while wading with my D-800 and have been ejected out of a boat in Alaska with my D-7000 (each time with my camera inside my Gortex shell).  In both cases, the damage was relatively minor but my camera was toast until I could get it serviced by Nikon.

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Now that I’ve outlined the variables I’ve learned to manage while taking “self-portraits,” attached are some of the best shots that I’ve ever taken because all the unique elements came together this week.   I have another 7 days of fishing in the Park left for the season so the best is yet to come.

Enjoy and plan your trips.


PS:  In my next post, I will discuss the elements I’ve learned to manage with taking scenic and panoramic photos.

Bear Trap Canyon Expedition

20171016-Bear Trap Canyon Expedition

It was a special day yesterday as Dan Larson and I had the unique opportunity to float through and fish the Bear Trap Canyon section of the Lower Madison River.  I also took “Drone Boy” up for a flight to capture a few photos from 325 feet above the river. This stretch of the river is famous for its three “class IV sections” that can range from challenging to dangerous (depending upon the relative water flow). Dan and I elected to get out of the raft at the most extreme section so that we could get some shots of our Guides running the rapids.

20171016-Bear Trap Canyon Expedition

In spite of the crystal clear – Cobalt blue skies, it was risky business trying to control my DJI Mavic Pro drone in 20 MPH winds (that probably gusted to 30).  On both of my flights inside the steep walls of the canyon, the drone lost touch with the controller and would not respond to my flight commands.  The wind was so strong that the Drone interpreted the conditions as “an immediate obstacle threat” and it was all I could do to regain control of the quad.

20171016-Bear Trap Canyon Expedition

Fortunately, I was finally able to control the elevation and when I dropped down to about 50 ft. in height above the river, I was able to maneuver behind a large Lodge Pole Pine.   Once sheltered by the wind, I regained control and was able to land the craft on the rocky river bank.  To the guide’s knowledge (based upon the simple fact that they are the only outfitter that has access to the canyon), I am the only person to attempt to fly a drone in this remote location.

20171016-Bear Trap Canyon Expedition

The fishing was slow (Dan and I managed to net about 10 fish each) but the experience was extraordinary and I can’t wait to go back under more favorable weather conditions (CALM).


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Enjoy and plan your trips.


PS:  The best photo taken during the day was the panoramic picture taken by my i-phone of the “Kitchen Sink” rapids.  Note how the camera’s processor interpreted the water flowing at a whitewater pace.  It is uniquely textured with fish scales.  🙂

Your MT moment for the week of 6/28

A little MT nature photography to make your week (cut me some slack as I can’t fish with my Hip damage, so I have to shoot something).

Evidently, Eddie has negotiated a deal with Momma Antelope and they are now co-habituating as close as 50 Ft. to our house.  This would never happen with a Whitetail or Mule deer and it’s interesting to observe. Continue reading »

Montana Moment for 6/18

A little MT nature photography to make your weekend.

It has been a great Scenic Nature week here in Bozeman that began Tuesday PM with an incredible cold-front storm that moved through the valley.  We also had many more sightings of Momma Antelope with her baby fawn and several Elk just below our home.

Wednesday was the annual fishing day at Hyalite Reservoir for Blair Karasin, Jim Squyres and me to catch Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, Arctic Grayling and Brookies (which are the best eating species of trout).


Finally, our “stone-cold-killer” cat Earnie brought me a Father’s day present to make my weekend.

Montana Moment for 6/10

A little nature photography to start your weekend.

It has been a great four days here in Bozeman that began Wednesday AM when we have had the privilege of seeing Momma Antelope drop a baby fawn just below our home.

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Wednesday PM presented a great amplified sunset that allowed me to capture uncle Blair’s favorite deck chairs.  Thursday PM produced a dark gray cold front move across the Gallatin valley. And finally, this morning at 5:40 a massive cold front wedge moved in that abruptly dropped temperatures to 39 degrees packed with wind gusts of 30 miles an hour.

More to follow and – Plan your trips!