Talking Backcountry Essentials for DIY Fishing

by Fire Girl Jess on October 4, 2017

I had fun penning this piece for, talking about a selection of some of my favorite gear for backcountry escapades.

“Fall in the backcountry can provide a clean break from the “bumper car” experience on frontcountry rivers. But those un-pressured cutties and eager brookies must be earned. And you must be prepared to work. By the time boots hit the dirt, most experienced backcountry anglers have figured out their fishing gear. For creeks, the typical kit includes 3- to 4-weight rods and assorted topwater bugs. For lakes, heavier rods, intermediate or sinking lines, and a few trusted streamers might make the trip.”

Read the full feature here.


Campaign Images for Costa Sunglasses

by Fire Girl Jess on September 30, 2017

Two years ago I joined a team of anglers, marketing pros and lodge experts for an expeditionary shoot on a small, remote atoll in French Polynesia. We came away with a stellar story, new friends and the images for Costa’s 2016 campaign. I was happy to see an email roll into my inbox yesterday with a familiar image; Costa is using imagery from the shoot for the launch of their #OneCoast campaign. Always happy to see clients continually return to imagery!



Behind-the-Scenes Look at Fly Fishing Hokkaido

by Fire Girl Jess on September 26, 2017

Solution for mucky-bottom wading with dual cameras… stuff one in the waders.

Sometimes fly-fishing and the pursuit of stories takes us to unusual places. I’ve spent the past week on Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, fly fishing and making images. The fishery is extremely healthy and productive, the scenery stunning and the people friendly. Despite a typhoon, an earthquake and the impending threat of missiles from North Korea (it was that kind of week) it was a productive, fun trip and I’m excited to pull notes and images together into stories!

Look for full-fledged stories coming soon in Australia’s FlyLife Magazine and the U.K.’s Fieldsports, but for now here are a few grainy behind-the-scenes shots from the old iPhone.

Trekking through Haneda.

Volcanoes and water. Everywhere.

Fish, three meals a day. Score.

Dusk long exposures over Lake Akan.

Gear mamagement 101.

The essentials.



by Fire Girl Jess on September 11, 2017

Several summers ago I found wandering the streets of New York by myself, camera bag hooked over my shoulder. My steps led me to the 9/11 site and what I thought was a few minutes quickly turned into a few hours.

This image is a little soft, a little shaky — I was a little shaky. And somehow it fits. I was 13 when the towers fell, and promptly was written up in school for leaving a class campout in Glacier National Park to go listen to President Bush address the nation. It had been a bad fire year — somewhat reminiscent of this one, 16 years later — and an exhausted hotshot crew was parked across the road, standing around their rig listening to the address. They didn’t mind a ranch kid from Kalispell joining in to listen… and somehow the ash and smoke in the air from our wildfires matched the mood.

Take a moment today to reflect.


Instagram Tips for Aurora Photos

by Fire Girl Jess on August 22, 2017

It’s such a pleasure to be represented by Aurora Photos; their team is doing a great job of offering up resources for photographers and photo buyers / editors alike. When they reached out recently for several business-based Instagram tips, I was happy to share a few. My Instagram is an ever-evolving process… I’m always learning what people like (and don’t like) and trying to share those realistic, behind-the-scenes moments that makes the all happen.

Below are my tips for Aurora; read the rest of this feature on their site here.

Look Outside Your Immediate Target Audience. I specialize in fly-fishing and outdoor adventure travel, but I’ve seen an increase in fitness and general travel followers when I tailor a post to less-technical viewers. A fun one-liner with a post about my favorite sandals for airplane rides? That’s guaranteed to land a few new followers outside my normal “dude with a beard and a fly rod” genre.

Tell Stories. An image is worth a thousand words, as they say. When someone is flipping through their feed, I want the image to make them stop and look deeper. It’s a tenet of strong photography, and it’s important here too. Instagram is a great tool of escapism… enable that a bit; let people into the story. They’ll respond.

Let People into Your World. Adding a ten-second video into your feed once in a while allows viewers to feel like they’re behind the scenes. In the past few months I shot iPhone videos of helicopters landing on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, people passing through the Lima airport at 1AM and a team bumping along a backcountry road in the Amazon jungle while dodging bamboo overgrowth. Video is a fantastic tool to relate to your audience… show that it’s not all fun and glory and good times! Sometimes the job is sleeping on airport floors, dealing with infected wounds and burning time on long car rides. Let’s not be afraid to talk about that!


So You Want to Be a Fishing Photographer or Writer…

by Fire Girl Jess on August 14, 2017

Packing up after the job is done. French Polynesia, on assignment for Costa Sunglasses.

I get at least two emails or social media messages a week. “Hey, what you’re doing looks like a lot of fun. I’m A) about to graduate or B) looking to leave my corporate job and want to travel the world to shoot photographs of people fishing. How can I get your job?”

It’s always flattering to have the public view one as an expert in, well… anything. And I’m more than happy to share the path that lead to me to where I am now. It’s an ever-evolving proposition, and I’m sure as hell learning something new every day.

Every conversation, be it a phone call, in-person, or via email, however, beings with this simple warning: it’s not as glamorous as it looks. In between the monster fish, beautiful locations and far-flung locales, there’s plenty of sleeping on grimy airport floors, getting tested for tropical diseases and eating whatever food might be on hand (readily identifiable or not. When in Rome, and all that.).

On island time, even with an infected foot. French Polynesia.

There are also the 3AM work sessions, glazed eyes from photo editing days and exhausted writing stints where I stare vacantly at a blank sheet of paper until I just decide to start writing gibberish. Stability is a forgotten thing — I keep a “go bag” packed for last-minute trips (see some of my favorite gear here), and keeping a steady relationship is challenging to say the least. I pay rent even though I’m gone anywhere from four to six months of the year.

So, yes, while it may look glamorous and exciting — and it can be both, though glamorous isn’t often the adjective I’d use — realize there’s a cost to those good moments.

On assignment for the Wall Street Journal, Bozeman, Montana.

Still thinking about becoming an outdoor / fishing photographer or writer? Read on; here are five tips to help you on your way.

1) Most important of all: be willing to put the work in. In my early years, I worked three jobs while teaching myself how to shoot. There’s no way to gain an instant skill set in this world… to be a professional, it takes long hours in the field, plenty of research and learning on your own and a willingness to set aside other aspects of your life in order to make it work.

Put the ego aside and realize you’ve got a lot to learn. We all do.

2) Develop your own style. The end goal is for someone to be flipping through the latest fishing magazine, lay eyes on one of your images and immediately know who shot it. A distinct shooting style sets you apart from your peers — and it’s something editors and commercial clients will look for. I’ve gotten some jobs because of my style, and had clients turn me down for others for the same reason. Sometimes it’s a good fit, other times it’s not, and that’s okay.

Your own style is a personal decision; don’t just copy how someone else shoots. Experiment, see what feels right, and make it your own.

3) Learn other aspects of the industry. This is especially true if you want to become fly-fishing-specific media. You need to know what life on the other side of the lens is like. Some of the best moves I made early on in my career were working in lodges internationally and fly shops around the U.S. This helped me understand the challenges on the other side of the lens, and also helped establish credibility. Now, I can arrive at a lodge for a shoot and honestly say, “Hey, I’ve been in your shoes. We’re good.” Everyone relaxes.

Also, do yourself a favor and learn how to cast. It’s hard to look like a professional in the industry — in any matter — if you can’t fish yourself. The first day out with a new guide on location, we’ll chat about the battle plan and expectations, and then I’ll casually pick up the rod for a little bit. I’m by no means a rock star caster, but I can get it done. When a guide sees that he’s with someone who knows what they’re doing, the day mellows indescribably. Learn to fish; you don’t have to be the best in the world but at least cover your basics. You won’t be respected it you don’t put in the effort.

Moving gear to the floatplane pickup. Shooting with Bristol Bay Lodge, Alaska.

4) Take notes. So, you only want to be a photographer… forget all that writing stuff. Okay. You should still pack a notebook and pen (or a phone with note-taking capabilities). Take notes — names, places, distances, fish habitat, funny phrases, etc. Good, complete captions are key — editors will appreciate if you have the correct information, and plenty of it.

5) Just shoot. So, you’re not flying halfway around the world to cover an exotic fishery. Grab a friend and head to your neighborhood river. Play with light, play with fish, play with moving your feet and capturing different angles. Just play. Shoot subjects other than just fishing. You’ll be amazed at some of the images that you come away with.

Make friends with your gear… you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.

Perhaps the biggest rule of all is to do what feels creatively right. I don’t know how many times I’ve been out shooting and see something spectacular through the lens, then just feel a goofy smile cross my lips. You’ll know when it feels right. And sometimes those shots take a lot of effort — technical set-up, lighting, hiking in long distances, wading deeper than your comfort level, ignoring that pesky little blacktip shark that keeps cruising by, etc. — while other times, it seems as easy as pie.

Pick up your camera, get on your feet and shoot. Learn how to use your camera — get it the hell off auto. Network within the industry. Don’t be afraid to work… it’ll take you far. And, at the end of the day if you decide being a professional is just too much, don’t let it dampen your creativity or your love of fishing. Everyone comes at this lifestyle differently, and that’s the beauty of it.


Hit List: My Favorite Summer Outdoor Gear

by Fire Girl Jess on August 6, 2017

Foxy the trout dog keeping watch during a summer backcountry trip.

Somehow we’re into August — just where did summer go, exactly? — and I’ve been making the most of a few weeks back in Montana. Spring and early summer was mostly spent on the road, and finally I find myself back in Big Sky country for a little while, waking to smoke-scented skies and that late summer haze.

One benefit of being home for a stint is there’s nothing keeping me from getting up with the sun, getting gym and work done early, and heading up into the mountains for a bit of recreation. While the hills around Bozeman are lousy with tourists and yuppies, there are still some places where it’s possible to escape the crowds. I’ve been loading up the stand-up paddleboard for a bit of evening fishing, logging mileage on evening hikes and exploring a few backcountry creeks brimming with healthy populations of cutthroat trout.

Along the way, I find I keep reaching for the same gear over and over again. It’s the same when I’m traveling — I find basics that I can trust, and use them repeatedly until they run out or literally begin to disintegrate (it’s been known to happen). This is a non-photo gear list… this is for all the general outdoor folks looking for gear that “gets it done.”

Here are a few things I’ve been reaching for again and again this summer:

  • BOTE Breeze Stand-up Paddleboard. Water makes me happy, and any excuse to spend more time on (or in) it is a worthy endeavor. This inflatable SUP has been strapped to the roof of my Subaru at least three days a week, and is proving to be a fun, stable platform for either recreational touring or fishing. Last week I managed a breezy downwind run on a local lake, aiming the board to run with the wind and fishing as the wind pushed me. Effective and fun… though the paddle back up-wind was a workout. (It also proved to be a stable carrier for a YETI Tundra stocked with beer while floating with a group of visiting guides from Alphonse last week.)
    This has been my year of the SUP, apparently, with a Peruvian Amazon SUP expedition this May and then a SUP bass fishing multi-day in June with Mia Sheppard from Oregon’s Little Creek Outfitters. I’m excited to see what further adventures we undertake… the board folds up to fit inside a backpack, so I foresee many flights to tropical locales in the future!
  • SealLine’s Blocker Dry Sacks (in the photo above) have made life on the SUP easy… I just throw what I need in the bag, clip it to the SUP, and go. The 15-liter size is perfect for sunscreen, my wallet and keys, and a snack, and the white color doesn’t heat up like a dark-shaded sack would. I have total faith in SealLine’s welded-seam construction (read: no worries when I catch an edge on the SUP and flood my board), and it folds up small enough to fit in my pocket, making it a no-brainer for travel.
  • Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Face Stick: Blame the fact I’m turning 30 this winter, but I’ve finally realized that red-level sunburns are not the healthiest thing around, and I’d better act like an adult and up my sunscreen game. After a long search of looking for a zinc-heavy product, this 50 SPF Zinka formula goes on fairly clear and gets the job done. As a bonus, the twist-up applicator means I can put it on without worrying about sunscreen gunk getting on my hands and then the cameras!

  • Alpine Start instant coffee. When a couple boxes of these instant coffee sticks showed up in my mailbox, I was intrigued. For years I’ve been lugging around the Starbucks Via instant coffee sticks; they’re a great way to ensure I’ve got access to daily caffeine (important when I’m working) and easy to share with fellow travelers. (A guide in Alaska several years ago put me onto the trick that you can just shoot down the powder… not ideal but gets the job done for long days on the water!)


  • YETI Rambler Tumbler in seafoam (’cause color, you know). Speaking of coffee; the YETI Rambler is my morning go-to coffee mug. It’s then washed and left to dry by the sink, only to be picked up hours later for it for a lunch or dinner smoothie. Easy to clean, insulating (no more wrapping dish towels around my smoothie cups!) and pretty darn cute, it gets daily use when I’m home in Montana and usually ends up traveling with me on the road as well.
    The Magslider lid means I can dash out the door with a full mug and not worry about losing the majority of my daily caffeine intake to the interior of my Subaru. Bonus: it doesn’t get too funky if I forget to wash it and it spends an afternoon in the car… or a week, as evidenced when I downed coffee on the way to a recent flight and then left the cup in the car. Alpine Start’s Original Blend is a comfortable medium roast that’s not overly acidic, and is quite good even just black —  critical for travel! The little packets can easily fit into a packet or camera bag, ensuring easy caffeine consumption regardless of the circumstances.

  • Summertime means I want as little get as possible to lug around (it’s hot out) and versatility is key. The Loon Rogue Quickdraw Forceps have become part of my summer arsenal; the cushy grip doesn’t slide around if my hands are wet or sweaty, and the scissor / flat geometric jaw hemos get the job done when changing flies, releasing fish that have taken the fly deep, or even fixing that runaway strap on my camera pack. And the carabiner finger loop means I can clip them anywhere – pant loop, camera bag, sling pack…
  • Keeping on the theme of simplicity, the Helly Hansen Sensei Singlet has become my new favorite gym / SUP tank top. The easy fit and breathable fabric let me focus on the job at hand, whether that’s sneaking a cast to that lurking cutthroat or logging miles on the trail. (It packs to practically nothing, too.)

Photo courtesy Patagonia.

  • Those who know me, know that I practically live in an ancient teal-colored Patagonia Nano Puff. That jacket’s been around the world in the past five years, and has the wear-and-tear to show for it. Duct tape patches periodically take up residence on the threadbare elbows, and it’s got more than one rip from fly barbs and general travel. Suffice to say, I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of the jacket.
    That’s why I was so stoked to have a new Tough Puff Hoody from Patagonia arrive a few weeks ago. An angler’s upgrade to the original Nano Puff series, the Tough Puff fits just a bit better than my old Nano (longer   in the sleeves and the waist, which means it’ll stay put under waders) and features a two large chest pockets that will soon be filled with small fly boxes, lens caps, and other random items of the trade. Bonus? Stretchy fabric. That makes me happy… no doubt this jacket will log some serious miles in the seasons to come. (Is there such a thing as a jacket passport?)
  • Little known fact: a long time ago, I sold hiking and hunting footwear in an outdoor store. Shoes are always something I’m keen on, and I’ve been eyeballing the Olukai ‘Ohana flips for years; this spring I finally broke down and bought a pair. There’s a reason you see people who own Olukai own more than one pair… the sandals are functional (non-marking and uber-grippy) and the sole is like an orthotic. Comfy and functional for the win… these are my go-to. This past week they went from meetings in Los Angeles to the river in less than twenty-four hours, rocking both circumstances in the plane rides in between with admirable comfort.


*** Full disclosure, some of these items have been sent my way, others I’ve paid hard-earned money for. At the end of the day, they’re all products I’d buy again and recommend to friends!