Best Day on the River!

Thank you Shawn for opening my eyes! If you ever have the chance to work with Project Healing Waters, I highly advise you do it. These men and woman are amazing. Thank yo for everything that you have done for us.

Understanding Exposure

By no means am I a pro photographer yet. Not enough time behind the lens, not enough time pressing down the shutter. But very similar to fly fishing I love the practice. As I was growing up I would just love to go cast, not really fish, even though I was mostly on the water, but just cast and practice the art of casting. Now I find I love practicing shooting with the SLR.

One of the first books I ever read was called “understanding exposure”. This taught me that I need to stop shooting in P or Auto mode and move onto M or Manual mode. One of the greatest advantages to the digital camera age is the amount of mistakes that you can make and it really does not cost you anything. I take thousands of pictures that are junk, can you imagine the cost of my hobby if I was still using film?? But what shooting in Manual mode has taught me is how to read and understand the light meter. What f stop to use and how to use the camera in a creative way.
So the picture above I wanted to focus on the crease fly. By the way one of my new favorite top water patterns for small-mouth. Not sure why it took me so long to fish it for small-mouth but so far it’s my favorite 2010 small-mouth fly. Anyway back to the picture. While shooting in Manual, I need to change my focus point as well. Adjusting the focus point to the crease fly, and then wanting a somewhat blurred backdrop I choose a f stop of 3.5. The next step is what ISO to shoot in. For the well being of the small-mouth I had to make a quick decision. I wish I could of made a couple shots at 100, 200, and 400. But as this was an evening shot and I wanted to get it right I choose 400 and snapped off a couple quick shots and released the small-mouth unharmed.
As I try to compare photography and fly fishing. In fly fishing especially when you are hunting big fish you get one chance and now in photography knowing and understanding your camera to get the right shot with the understanding of not harming a living creature, puts a little pressure on the situation. I love it!

Big Lake Blues

I really just like the different experiences when shooting, the different landscapes, horizons, or locations. Even though this is still Michigan, getting a chance to go out with Trout Scout Charters and take a couple shots of the big lake scene was right up my alley. With blue being my personal favorite color, finding the back drop of the sky very appealing to my personal eye.


Working with the blues of the sky and the clear Lake Michigan water. The day we were out we had some nice 3-4 foot waves, so the turn over of the lake gave me a very dark blue/black water apperance. I had to battle ISO trying to shoot in the 100’s but with all the movement it was hard. When shooting outside I love to use the lowest ISO that I possibly get away with. Next time on the Trout Scout I think I’ll bring a tripod and hope for less waves to really slow down the shutter speed and pull out even more color. Gotta love digital photography and the opportunity to just keep leaning from our opportunities. Thank you Capt. Lance to taking us out.


Fish Eye Len

Good news and bad news, first the good news bought a new lens this month. Now I have a Canon EF 15mm f.2.8 Fisheye Lensthat is going to add some creative shots to the picture gallery. Now for the bad news, my Canon EF 16-35 is in the shop, with a busted screw. I have grown to love my 16-35, it was my widest lens before buying the new fisheye. The fisheye is going to be fun to play with but I know I’m going to have to be careful, as distortion is one of it’s draw backs. Distortion as a fishing guide can give your photo’s a different look a creative look, but I also know it can loose you credibility if you are not careful. Holding and shooting your catch of the day in a particular way is creative art, but the line can be crossed if you use your shots for bragging rights. As the shot above shows, the focal point is the chartreuse fly and the brown trouts head. While the depth of field is shallow as I was trying to blend out the angler and emphasize the trout. Hoping to create a different look, while maintaining the size and shape of the trout without distortion. I think I did okay. I took this shot with an ISO of 200 at 15mm with a f/ 5.6 at 1/125.

Warmwater on Summer Days

With the dog days of summer upon us, there are pretty much a couple things you can do right now when it comes to fishing in Michigan. 1) Trout fishing with hoppers and furballs, 2) Warm-water species i.e. smallmouth and largemouth or 3) count the days until steelhead start showing up. I for one love my steelhead but also love the pursuit for the warm-water species. I personally think that smallmouth are the hardest fighting fish that we have in the great lakes area, pound for pound. They are also the most aggressive fish that we have, their curious nature usually gets the best of them when it comes to fishing with a fly. Big flashy flies both streamers and poppers get these fish to smash your offering. Also I believe that smallmouth are the best cross training fish that we have, that we need to use them as an angler to better ourselves as casters and fish fighters. It may seem simple but little techniques can be perfected on a smallmouth river that you can use later when fishing for trout, steelhead, or salmon. When opportunities might not be as plentiful (i.e. swinging flies for steelhead), but the practice of smallmouth has prepared you and your ready to cash in. The next 8 weeks are prime with July, Aug, and September being the best months. September is becoming one of my favorites as most anglers are hitting river mouths looking for Kings, Tippy Dam reservoir can be flooded with large smallmouth with the feed bag on. Make sure to take advantage of the warmwater season and cross train your angling skills.

Bring on the veggies


Enjoying the fruits or should I say veggies of our labor. Some of the first produce showing up in our first garden. It has been a very enjoyable process, digging, racking, planting, pruning, weeding, watering and now finally starting the eating.
As the intent of the blog is to show the many joys of out door activities, my main focus will for the most part be water related joys. Here are a couple pics of what working the land can provide. More fish related pics coming soon, as the hopper shots are starting to come in. Hot weather not only helps the tomatoes grow, but gets our hoppers going as well.

Hopper Time


I have my next project, and it is really one of my favorite hatches that occur in our area for trout. The grasshopper! Over the next couple weeks I’ll be accumulating footage for a short video with the star being the grasshopper. The main focus will be to show how this bug can pull up some dandy trout in the day light hours. Can’t wait to find more willing stars to shoot over the dog days of summer! For a personal plug for the guide business, I’ll be floating the pine, pere marquette, and manistee in search of trout willing to eat these tasty morsels. If you interested in booking a day contact me, plenty of open days to choose from. Enjoy and make sure to come back and see the finished video, hope to have it up in mid August. Contact me via email jray@hawkinsflyfishing.comor 231.631.5701

Tight Lines,
Jon Ray

Biggest Trout Memories

Being a fishing guide first and photographer second, being part of somebodiesbiggest trout ever is always something special. First to be there and walk them through the experience of the the fish you can hear but just can’t see. Helping them locate what log the fish is sitting near, how to wade into location, how to make the cast, how to mend the fly, and what to do if the fish eats your fly. As a fly fishing caddy, helping the angler choose the correct angle like a pro golfer working with his caddy before a really important putt on a difficult green.

Guiding is my love, I have so many special memories of so many people’s firsts. The first day they went fly fishing seeing their cast progress, the first day they landed a steelhead and got that monkey off their back, the first time they heard a big trout eating hex in the middle of the night and they calmed their nerves and made the cast. All are so special is actually why I love my job so much.
But now being a photographer to be able to capture the image, to see the joy in the anglers eye, as they beam with joy. To burn these memories onto film and to have these memories for the rest of our angling days. Now to have been the guide and the photographer is making these experiences even more special.

What color are Damsel Flies?

Had a pretty impressive damsel fly hatch yesterday, when you slow down and watch these are pretty amazing bugs. Have you have watched a damsel destroy a sulphur, eating the helpless yellow mayfly whole! Usually leaving just the wings of the yellow mayfly behind.

See hundreds lined up on the shore line in the tall grass, looking and waiting for the next helpless mayfly. And what color is damsel? That blueish green armor they wear is so cool. But so hard to match on the vise, new colors of flashabou are helping, but still mother nature creates such cool color combo’s.

Anyway the damsel is one of the secondary bugs on a river, when you slow your day down and watch that bring life to the shore line. It is a fly that you don’t find in every catalog or fly shop, but if you throw one long enough the trout takes on a damsel are veracious. I never can have enough of the big fly take from a trout. And with so many lining the banks, and so many other anglers just throwing the mayfly. Think and fish differently!

Myth or Legand? The Hex Hatch

The michigan hex hatch is like so many great things, it’s so hard to predict and just when you think you have it figured out. She will throw you a curve ball. Knowing different hex flats, and understanding which ones hex should pop from first is part of the game, and the information that we hold dear.

I do find it funny that like so many different hatches in michigan when hunting big trout, we are so dependent on the “bug”. When the bug hatches and the big fish are feeding you look like a hero. But when no “bugs” fly (for whatever reason, even though it’s the right temp, the right night, the right everything) and no fish feed, this myth of a hatch creeps into your mind. The power one bug has over so many of us as we try to hunt her down, and use her power to catch the biggest trout of the season on a dry fly.
Just like all things that are good, there is over hype. I would put the hex hatch in the over hyped category as everybody wants a shot at the title of biggest trout caught. As each bend in the river can hold an angler with a rod, a headlamp, and the hope that the hex will fly tonight. Then when the hex don’t show, there is always the reasons, too cold, too early, dew point came too fast, and/or must be the wrong spot tonight.
But like all these that are good, they keep us coming back for more. No matter the hype.