By Patricio Mac Allister, Luis San Miguel and Nicolás Schwint.
Growing up and currently residing in Montana, Dan Armstrong has always been captivated by the expansive outdoor environment and in touch with the form and light created by its diversity. With over 15 years of professional experience and an education in photojournalism he expanded his career from freelance photographer to co-owning a commercial imaging studio in Bozeman, Montana. Be it editorial, advertising or studio photography he is available to travel on location for assignments worldwide or cater to client’s projects locally (www.daphotos.com) It is our pleasure to share Dan’s words with you.
Fd: When did you start fly-fishing? Can you tell us about your memories from those times?
DA: I started fly fishing as a youngster with my father and his friends. One of my most memorable experiences was hiking deep into the mountains of Montana to fish a couple high mountain lakes. Reaching boredom as a youth on this trip I found myself walking the outlet creeks and catching trout by hand.
Fd: Photography is one of your passions, along with fly-fishing. How do you handle both at the same time when you are outdoors?
DA: It is a tough balance to capture images and catch fish at the same time. I basically handle it by not shooting a ton on my local waters and concentrating my shooting on specific projects when it comes to Fly Fishing. That being said another colleague once said “You’d be a great fishing photographer if you didn’t like to fish so much”. I had to laugh so hard at this comment, if I didn’t like to fish why would I want to capture the beauty and action of such a fantastic sport.
Fd: Do you have any mentors in regard to fly-fishing photography?
DA: Fly Fishing photography came naturally for the most part. It was one activity I had always participated in but had never really focused on professionally until 10 years ago. However I do look up to the work of some incredible photographers in the industry and a couple that come to mind are: Brian O’Keefe (of course) he has made great images for as long as I can remember and I still want to share a beer with that guy one day. Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici is an inspiration as a Photographer in general. Isa isn’t scared to get in the trenches and put his gear second to making incredible photographs!
Fd: When you go out on a photography and fly-fishing session, do you have certain ideas of the pictures and the work you will do, or you prefer to see where the moment takes you?
DA: Going to the University of Montana for a degree in Photojournalism definitely influenced me to capture situations in their true uncontrived moments. This is great in Fly Fishing as their is so much natural emotions between the fly fisher and their prey, either in disappointment or elation. Working with Tom Bie and The Drake has allowed me to follow that vision within the fly fishing world.However when you are shooting for marketing or advertising outlets you often have to take the time to setup the situation and also make sure you are achieving the feeling desired. This can be frustrating but also it can be ironic that the delays end at just the perfect moment.
Fd: What kind of setup do you use to take your great underwater photos?
DA: Whatever I can get my hands on before a project comes up that may have to opportunity for underwater shots. With fly fishing photography it is not necessary to get an overly intensive housing as we don’t deal with a lot of water pressure. Surfing is similar but the housing needs to be a bit more buoyant and shock resistant.
Fd: What would you recommend to the starting photographer and to the anglers that want to have better pictures of their fishing trips and catches?
DA: Take the time to learn the process and don’t just rely on your new DSLR to do all your work. Never blame your camera for not getting the image you want.
Fd: You have been travelling all over the world for years because of fishing...
Fly Fishing photography has allowed me to go some great places on this planet. However it is a small slice of what I shoot professionally. I have been fortunate to visit 5 of the 7 continents chasing Kayakers, Skiers, Snowboarders and cultural outlets alike.
A) Which are your favorite fresh and saltwater spots?
DA: That is a tough question to pinpoint specific spots, BC is the most unique location for Steelhead that I have made it to. Argentina tops the list for trout in a foreign country. I was fortunate that two college buddies, Travis Smith and Rance Rathie, started a fly fishing operation in Patagonia. It opened my eyes to low pressure rivers and creeks allowing for more frequent hook ups with large trout. However Montana will always be my first pick to fish for trout, coming down to local knowledge and the amount of accessible water.I am a rookie in the Salt water world, Cuba was amazing not only for fly fishing but its mystique. Catching Rooster Fish in The Sea of Cortez would have to be my on my list of most unique experiences.
B) Could you tell us some of your best memories from your trips? Any funny story or risky situation that you recall?
One situation that is comical in hind sight and risky at the same time would have to be stuck on the outside of security trying to depart from Cuba. I was there with the editor of the Drake and we forgot about the potential of having an exit tax to pay on departure so we had spent all our local currency in haste thinking we would soon be able to use our US based debit/credit cards. After postponing the flight Tom convinced one of the flight attendants to loan us money until we got to Mexico to pay my exit tax. I couldn’t even convince a Cuban national to buy my smart phone for $40 to get me out of the country.
C) Any special memories of the people you fished and worked with in your trips?
So many, the fishing world at the core is filled with so many incredible people. My Grandfather would be number one, to see him catch a fish is one of the best feelings in the world. Last year I had the opportunity to travel to the country of Georgia to explore the potential of their rivers. We found a tough scenario but met some incredible local fishermen and one in particular will always be dear to me. Loseb Ninoshvili (Soso) was not only our tour guide while we were visitng but he became an unforgettable friend that showed us how “easy” it was to catch a river trout when we became perplexed by the rivers of Tusheti.
Fd: Do you have spots and species in your bucket list?
DA: Roping in the state record Mountain Whitefish in Montana is a goal I have set. As for species outside of my home waters I would have say hooking into a White Amur would be next on my list.
Fd: What is it that you enjoy the most about your job?
DA: The people you meet around every corner. It could be across the globe or a few blocks away.
Fd: As a final point, what does fly-fishing mean for you?
DA: Fishing to me is a way to check out, especially when the camera is in the truck. It is about the deep breath when you realize there is fish in this water, I don’t need to catch em all or the biggest one but just enjoy the connection and how lucky we are to be in this place.