Orvis the dog watched intently as professional fishing guide Chris “Uber” Raines defied the wintery weather to fly fish for steelhead on a flies-only stretch of the Pere Marquette River near Baldwin. The stretch of the National Wild and Scenic River known as the Claybanks looked like a winter wonderland as the biggest, stickiest snowflakes I had ever seen clung to everything in sight. “There is something almost magical about standing in the river as the water sweeps past you and the snow is coming down; it’s mesmerizing,” Raines said.

This was a perfect day for die-hard fishermen, Labrador Retrievers and photographers. It didn’t start out that way. January 17, 2012, started out with pouring rain. Brad and I had committed to a yearlong book project, photographing Michigan all day each Tuesday of the year. This was the third Tuesday, so we had to find a way to make good images despite the ugly weather. We say, “bad is good” in outdoor photography, meaning that often the best images are made in the worst weather.

I spotted and photographed misty-looking Emerson Lake near Walhalla with a giant weeping willow in the foreground making the scene appear more mystic. Ten more miles down the road Brad spotted a scene sure to brighten the gloomiest shooting day—bright red winter berries amidst cattails. The rain and mist softened the swampy background and made the winter berries rocket out of the scene far more than they would on a sunny day. Even with two good images in the bank, it looked like a very challenging day to make strong book images that would wow people. But onward we went; we were not about to give up. Michigan would surely find a way to deliver on her worst day. By mid-morning we had worked our way to the Pere Marquette Lodge Orvis fishing shop south of Baldwin, hoping to learn where we could photograph some trout fishermen. While owner Frank was obliging us by arranging for us to rendezvous with one of his guides who’d be doing some off-duty fishing, we noticed the rain was turning to snow. A half-hour later, when we started hiking a wooded trail to the river at Claybanks, the world had been transformed into a fairyland. Chris was hoping the fishing would be good. Brad and I knew at that point we were going to catch some magical photographic moments. We each did. This image wound up being my favorite shot of the entire year-long book project, during which I tripped the shutter more than 20,000 times. I sure was glad we overcame our gloomy attitudes at the start of that rainy morning and kept on keeping on. “Don’t be a quitter,” is a lesson my dad insistently taught me, and I’m glad the lesson stuck.

 

Orvis

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