A Well-equipped Fisherman And Another One… Not So Much

Some fishermen have all the “right stuff” but for others there’s just something missing.

Yesterday after spending the entirety of Christmas morning at Bear River MBR looking for decent light and birds and being essentially skunked because of thick clouds (with the exception of some poor quality documentary shots of very unusual bird behaviors) I came home, licked my wounds and tried to take a nap. But when the sun peeked out in the late afternoon I went down to my local pond and had more fun with “fishermen” (of both the feathered and human varieties) than the proverbial barrel of monkeys.


1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I’d noticed this Great Blue Heron perched among a teeming flock of gulls on the shore at the far side of the pond but eventually it took off and I lost track of it as I concentrated on other birds. The next thing I knew it was flying over the far shore and across the almost black and foreboding storm clouds hanging over the nearby Wasatch Mountains in gorgeous late afternoon light. This is the first shot I was able to get as the heron passed in front of some trees on the far side of the pond.



1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Then the heron did me the favor of starting to curl my way…



1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

so it began to come closer and fly at an oblique angle to me with those brooding and very dark clouds in the background.



1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I nearly clipped a wing in this shot but I really like the almost vertical extension of the left wing in contrast to the perfectly horizontal position of the right one.



1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Then the heron banked slightly away from me with both wings held straight out which allowed for an interesting mix of light and shade on all the ventral surfaces from the reddish-gold sun as it was about to set. The surface area of those wings in this position looked to me to cover almost a quarter acre! All in all I was able to get about 15 shots I like of this bird in that beautiful warm light against the dark storm clouds so I was quite pleased with myself. And with the heron.

Great Blue Herons are one of the most widespread and adaptable wading birds in North America and they’re simply superb fishermen (“fisherbirds” or just plain “fishers” if you prefer). Their extremely long legs and fearsome stabbing bill on the end of a long, flexible neck provide them all the tools they need to make them unexcelled fishermen.

But not all fishermen bring their entire toolbox to the pond. Directly below this heron as it flew over the far side of the pond was another fisherman that was decidedly less well-equipped.



1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, baited – after all, that’s what fishermen do…

He had most of what he needed to be successful at his craft including a (tiny) fly rod, fly line, flies (presumably) and loads of determination but he didn’t have one of the most essential tools – a reel. So he looped all of his line over his left arm and attempted to cast that way. I had to wonder why he didn’t have a reel – perhaps it malfunctioned, or he forgot it at home or Santa just neglected to include one under the tree that morning to go along with the rod and line.

During bird lapses I couldn’t help but watch him through my lens as the poor guy attempted to cast his line out over the water with most of it draped over his arm in a jumbled-up mess. Predictably it didn’t go well.



1/2320, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, baited – after all, that’s what fishermen do…

Inevitably he quickly developed knots in his line and spent more time trying to untangle it than he did actually fishing. Eventually he gave up and left the pond.

I’m not making fun of this hard-luck fisherman – far from it. In fact I admire him because he was obviously trying hard to enjoy an activity he loved and attempting to compensate for impossible and apparently unexpected conditions as best he could and that’s exactly what I often have to do as a bird photographer. He was patient and never exhibited any signs of frustration or anger that I noticed and that’s a major improvement over my typical reaction to similar situations with my camera and lens.

So my hat’s off to him, though I’ll admit that I couldn’t help but smile at his misfortune (and at that rod between his legs…). About the only thing that could have made things worse for the poor guy was if the heron had pooped on his head as it passed low and directly overhead…



28 comments to A Well-equipped Fisherman And Another One… Not So Much

  • Frances J Lake

    I like the way the wing tip is waved up on the 4th frame. These are great close up shots! I like these guys, versatile in their food and environment.

  • Laura Culley

    EC is RIGHT! I can see the heron laughing its head off, too! Silly humans. We’re really not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier 😉 But this guy reminds me of my cat, Maynard G. Krebs, a large male gray tabby. He LOVED watching the birds outside my living room window where I placed several feeders. But for that guy to ever catch one, the bird would have had to walk into his mouth and close the door behind him!! He was a major cat nerd.
    Great blue herons (and their other cousins) are gloriously beautiful and graceful despite all those long legs and huge wings, but I don’t want to get in the way of that huge beak again. They were NOT fun in a rehab situation, but to be fair, I’m not good in a hospital situation, either. I GET that and I don’t have to deal with alien beings trying to grab me.
    I just love the late afternoon light(s). It makes those lovely reds of a redtail and HH just POP and gleam! What a glorious sight!
    As Mia would say, life is good!

  • Marty K

    Great Blue Herons are among my very favorite birds! You have some mighty magnificent shots of this one — I love the way that warm late-in-the-day light highlights the bird against the darker sky. Sigh. 🙂

    I would say you could subtitle this post, “From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!” 😉

    Hope your “evening bird” was just as delightful — and had all the trimmings!

  • Wonderful flight shots of the heron! I especially like that dark palette the storm provided!

    Perhaps the human was trying to be “minimalist” in order to gain an appreciation for how our ancestors gathered food. In the process, he no doubt has discovered why our ancestors were constantly hungry. 🙂

  • When Laura gets to this post it will (again) reinforce her prejudices about the superiority of other species over ours. As it did mine.
    The heron is more beautiful too. That wing span, that grace – and it was exquisitely set off by the light and the backdrop.

  • Stephen Clayson


    Happy Holidays. Loved the shots. Nice talent for making great fowl shots in foul weather. I have also noticed over the years that you have quite the literary flare and an imagination for story telling!

    Merry, Happy, Festive, and Joyous,


    • Thanks, Steven. The “literary flare” you refer to (if that’s what it is) is something I’ve noticed recently about myself too. It just kind of developed naturally during my blogging career, especially over the last year or so. I’ve found that I kind of enjoy the writing process (when it works) and that’s something new for me.

  • I used to love to fish, but now the idea of catching someone in the mouth(or worse) with a sharp hook has lost its appeal. That is the dumbest looking fisherman I’ve seen…definitely a disaster hoping to happen!

  • Susan Stone

    Love the shots of the Heron – they look so prehistoric. All your talk about what great fishermen they are reminded me of a time when we were at Dana Point, California where there were some fishing boats. Apparently the owner of one forgot to put the cover on his bait tank, and a Heron and a Cattle Egret found it. The Heron was eating fish while the Egret watched, with a glaring expression. During the relatively short time we were watching, the Heron ate so much, I found myself wondering if it would be able to fly afterwards… Given how clumsy they look when they are taking off, that large load of fish would have made it very difficult. We weren’t there long enough to see what the Heron ended up doing, but it’s an experience that I will probably never forget. That bird gave new meaning to being a great fisherman.

  • Nancy Stocker

    My concern about this fisherman, and fisher-people in general, is that all the line he brought with him went home with him or into an appropriate disposal site. I have seen birds, apparently strangled in mid-flight, hanging from fishline that got tangled in and between trees. I’ve seen water birds with their legs or necks tangled in fishline, and a pelican with a hook in his beak. I once even found myself tangled in fishline when crouched near a lake photographing hooded mergansers. I was at the bottom of a steep bank, and it took me quite a while to keep my camera, long lens and tripod safe while escaping the fishline, and then scramble up the bank.

    Fishing can be great sport. Done carefully, it is certainly not a negative. I don’t think we take the time to explain to many beginners, however, how much they can hurt other species if they are careless.

    • Nancy, I agree – monofilament line used by bait and lure fishermen is a huge problem for birds and other wildlife and too many fishermen leave that line all over the place at popular fishing spots.

      However, this is fly line – very different stuff. And in my experience fly fishermen in general are much more environmentally aware and seldom leave line behind. In my own experience of many hundreds of sightings of discarded fishing line I’ve yet to see discarded or abandoned fly line . For one thing it’s quite expensive.

      This fellow took all of his line with him.

  • Dick Harlow

    LOL – OK, you had me fooled! I thought when I saw the Heron that you had another bird that wasn’t so good at fishing. LO and Behold, a human w/o a reel on a fishing rod. Man, I was just taking a sip of coffee and almost spat it out I was laughing so hard when I clicked on the “not so much”. I’m still chuckling over this post!
    Great clear sharp shots of the Heron. I’ll remember this post!!

    • “I’ll remember this post!!

      Good! I’m glad you had some fun with it, Dick.

      • Dick Harlow

        Partly because I use to do a ton of fishing when I was younger and I never heard of fishing without a reel. So this guy who is all tangled up in line is so unusual and humorous to me.
        14 degrees this AM w/10″ of snow and some ice. But, it is sunny and beautiful out – no wind yet!

  • James Waghorne

    And this is why the stories about “the big one that got away” were created.
    Fisherman fiction was so much more interesting and less embarrassing than truth.
    I personally know first hand.
    Life has become so much simpler with a camera.

  • Dominique Gusset

    Spectacular heron shots! I love that razor-straight leading edge of both wings on the last shot.
    Re. the human fisher, I was thinking that the other thing that could have gone wrong for him was if he had actually hooked a fish! How would he have played it and reeled it in?

  • Judy Gusick

    BEAUTIFUL heron shots, Ron. 🙂 The other guy – welllllllll hope his circumstances improve tho it is funny and he did try to “make do”. Must have gotten your dinner preparations done since you were able to go back out later! 🙂 -15 here this morning……………….

    • Judy, I actually went down to the pond and shot for a while then returned to my home to put the turkey in the oven and then went back down there again and shot some more. I do have my priorities… 🙂

      Brrrrr! It’s 35° warmer than that here about 500 miles to the south of you.

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