One of the harder things to teach beginner fly fishers is not only how to play a fish, but how to hold a fish for a picture after it’s been netted. And, of course, when taking fishing pictures, the presentation of the fish is the most important thing. People’s tendency is to feel how slimy a trout is, and give it a squeeze to hold it still for the picture. The trouble is, the more you squeeze, the more likely a fish is to panic and struggle out of your hands.
Cradling the Fish is Key
I personally think that as long as you get your hands under a fish, put your thumb on top and fingers underneath, and cradle it out of the water, you should have no problem keeping it relaxed. Show the fish as if you were showing someone the picture on your oversized slab of a cell phone. Hold it just out from your body to show its natural beauty without sticking it in the camera. Waiting until the photographer is ready to take the picture, quickly lift the fish out of the water, present it to the camera, and return it right away.
Most of the folks who come out with us on guided trip are really looking for a great time in nature, but also a timeless picture that will go on their desk for those many months they can only wish they were fishing. To take the signature shot, be aware of your surroundings. A drab riverbank can detract from that gorgeous “grip-and-grin”. Be aware of the beauty of your surroundings and capture as much of that in your background as you can. As long as you can see the person’s happy face, get some context from the background, and record the full side of the catch, you’ve got the makings of a “keeper” of a pic.
And of course nowadays with the technology in cameras, and apps etc. you can have some fun in the “editing room” with cropping, filters and what not to really make your photo pop. Some people are purists and discount modifying pictures, or say that its overuse is an issue. But I say play away! Have fun with both your fish and the photos you worked so hard to capture.
Editor’s note: Billy McMillan (above with cigar) is one of our fishiest guides and a professional chef, whose streamside meals rival his fishing prowess.