(1) 2017 Calendarspre-order now!

(2) Instagram… I’m going to try sharing images there. Find me: floris_van_breugel!

(3) I apologize for the lack of adventurous posts lately. I have spent much of my photographic time and energy the past two summers on a research and photography project studying the alkali flies of Mono Lake. When everything is ready, I’ll have something fun to share!

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Now on to the main story. Aubrey and I had a few days to explore the Sierra, and we decided to go against our natural inclination and spend a few days at Thousand Island Lake, known to the backcountry rangers as “Thousand Tent Lake”. Ordinarily, we would avoid such busy places, but it is a beautiful lake, and neither of us had seen it except in winter.

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Backpacking over Garnet Lake

Aubrey hikes with an impressive view of Garnet Lake and Banner Peak.

After encountering many hikers and backpackers on our way in, we didn’t see a single person for the two nights we camped near the lake. It turns out, if you get away from the crowds, you can find peace and quiet even in these most popular backcountry places.

Autumn has started in the high Sierra. Bilberry shrublets are turning crimson, and the aspen are taking on some golden colors. Finally, a respite from the heat of summer is within sight (but still a good couple of weeks away here in Pasadena).

Banner Peak, Thousand Island Lake, Sierra Nevada

Race to Autumn : Prints Available

Bilberry bushes are the first to turn color as autumn descends on the Sierra Nevada. Banner Peak rises in the distance above Thousand Island lake, a popular backpacking destination.

Banner Peak, Thousand Island Lake, Sierra Nevada

Sierra Stormrise : Prints Available

Sunrise over Banner Peak and Thousand Island lake in California's Sierra Nevada / Ansel Adams Wilderness. Later that day the first snow came to the mountains.

Because this was a quick 2-night backpacking trip, we decided to keep things interesting by bringing a packraft (acquired for my Mono Lake studies) and a fly fishing pole. Aubrey has had that pole for about 15 years, and this trip was it’s first serious debut. As it turns out, fly fishing is a nice compliment to photography – both happen during the “golden hour”, typically in beautiful and quiet places.

Unfortunately, the first two days of the trip were quite windy, which makes paddling and casting difficult. The second morning, however, there were a few still moments (before the first snow storm of the season rolled through). After diligently reading the Curtis Creek Manifesto on fly fishing, Aubrey spent some time practicing her overhead casts on the lake. No fish were interested, but the setting was lovely.

Fly Fishing, Thousand Island Lake, Sierra Nevada

Sierra Fly Fishing

Aubrey casts over the glassy waters of Thousand Island Lake, with a view of Banner Peak, in California's Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada backcountry.

Morning Coffee

Making our hot morning cup o' joe, with a view of Banner Peak.

Upon arriving at Garnet Lake, and seeing the calm waters, I quickly inflated my boat to go for a paddle. It’s a truly relaxing experience to float among the granite islands, covered in tiny trees, where few people ever go – it’s a bit cold for a swim, and most people don’t bother carrying boats into the backcountry.

Sierra Packrafting

Me floating in Garnet Lake on my packraft. Photo by Aubrey.

Packrafting the Sierra Lakes

The view from my packraft in Garnet Lake.

On our hike out, the trail meandered along a nice stream with the occasional quiet pool. I said to Aubrey, “I bet there’s a fish in one of these pools.” We started looking, and sure enough, we spotted some trout. This is where fly fishing is really done, not those big windy lakes! We stopped, and after a few casts, Aubrey caught her first fish (on a fly rod)! She let it go, and maybe it has now learned to avoid out of season caddis flies (which is the pattern she used).

Fly Fishing the Sierra

Aubrey fishing in a small Sierra stream. 

Fly Caught Trout

Trout caught by Aubrey in a small Sierra Stream.

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