The Golden Ghost of the Rio Grande

Along with brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and great northern pike, carp are also found in the Rio Grande. Lately, with the water very low and fairly clear, I’ve been seeing carp swimming slowly around in a few eddies. It helps to be high on the bank or roadside, and wearing polarized glasses.

Every so often, one accidentally hooks a carp on a Woolly Bugger or similar fly, and it’s always a surprise because they are much bigger than most of the other fish in the river, and can easily break a 4X or lighter tippet.. Yesterday evening, having spotted a number of large carp in an eddy, I decided to give them a try. After fishing dries for trout on the wade down to the position I had decided upon, I put on a long 3X leader and a fly I had tied years ago, for a trip to the San Luis Lakes, in southern Colorado. These shallow lakes are known for their populations of carp. The fly was called Carp Candy.

Carp Candy

Carp Candy

The fly is the essence of simplicity, being constructed of leech yarn, sili legs and a bead for weight, on a #8 long shank hook. My feeling is that the fly choice is much less important than the presentation. Anything buggy-looking should do

I stayed back from the eddy, and cast into the adjacent riffle, feeding some line out. The line straightened, and was then slowly carried into the eddy. When the line arrived over the spot where I had seen the carp, I began a slow retrieve, with the idea of keeping the fly on the bottom. Within 10 casts, I got a strong tug. My strategy had worked! The large and powerful fish went way into my backing, but I could pressure him because of my heavy leader.

Not a greatb photo of the carp, but the best I could manage with one hand on the rod and the other holding my camera.

Not a great photo of the carp, but the best I could manage with the rod in one hand and camera in the other. 

Why is the carp called the Golden Ghost? It’s a take-off of the name for the bonefish – the Silver Ghost. Sight-fishing for carp in shallow water resembles the same for bonefish – at least in the minds of those who specialize in it. Perhaps it’s a way to gain some respect for the carp, which is not, to my mind, a particularly attractive fish. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the carp: “The common carp or European carp, (Cyprinus carpio) is a widespread freshwater fish of eutrophic waters in lakes and large rivers in Europe and Asia. The wild populations are considered vulnerable to extinction, but the species has also been domesticated and introduced into environments worldwide, and is often considered a destructive invasive species, being included in the List of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.” The carp roots in the bottom, and muddies the water of otherwise clear-running streams, degrading the river ecosystem overall. Ah, the lowly carp!

I could not catch a second carp, and returned to fishing for trout. I caught this brown trout just a few yards away.

Brown trout, caught on a white mayfly imitation

Brown trout, caught on a white mayfly imitation

Posted in 2016, Fishing, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Days Over!

The Dog Days of August are over! Like a lovely who says yes, a trout rises to my fly. Ah, sweet bliss! Now, that the new cooling brings the bugs out, eagerly awaited by the trout and myself. No more coy behavior, no more lockjaw. Now, they become voracious – the little ones leaping out of the water to snatch  the hovering mayflies out of the air. The trout is a jewel, like a hummingbird or orchid. I slip it back into the water, regretting somewhat that I inconvenienced it. But I’ll do it again.

Brown trout, caught on a #18 cream Comparadun. As the light faded, I landed this fish and lost two others.

Brown trout, caught on a #18 cream Comparadun. As the light faded, I landed this fish and lost two others. Rio Grande, Orilla Verde section, 8/26/16


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Mendocino Farm, CA – 1976

Whose farm? I don’t recall.











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Sierra Ski Tours – mid 60s

While going to school in Berkeley in the mid-60s, I would occasionally get the opportunity to do a ski tour into the Sierras. Seen here are tours to the Pear Lake Hut, in Sequoia NP,  a tour over Kearsarge Pass to Charlotte Lake, also in Sequoia NP, a tour into Whitney Portal and a tour to Matterhorn Peak from Mono Lakes. I also did a trip to the Peter Grubb Hut, which had great spring skiing on open slopes uphill from the hut, but I have no photos to prove it!

The trip to the Pear Lake Hut was in the company of a Sierra Club group from the Bay Area, and started from the Generals’ Highway. I used ski-mountaineering gear, which is now referred to as randonee or alpine touring. The photos below were taken with a 2¼ sq. camera (Rollie TLR or Hasselblad) .










We climbed Alta Peak from the hut, which provided fabulous views in all directions, including the Tableland to the northeast.

My other tour into Sequoia NP  started on May 1, 1965. It began from the east, and went over Kearsarge Pass. On this trip, myself and a climbing friend accompanied a snow surveyor, who was to take measurements at Charlotte Lake, and we stayed at the NPS hut located at the lake.


Mt. Whitney and Alabama Hills, postcard

Alabama Hills

Mt. Whitney and Alabama Hills, postcard

On the way up to Kearsarge Pass

On the way up to Kearsarge Pass

Charlotte Lake, Sequoia NP

Charlotte Lake, Sequoia NP

Whitney Portal:

Me, skiing on the slopes of Whitney Portal

Me, skiing on the slopes of Whitney Portal

Mt. Whitney east side

Mt. Whitney, from Whitney Portal


Mts. Ritter and Banner (left) in the winter, from US 395

Matterhorn Peak. Also a 2¼ sq. negative.

Matterhorn Peak

Matterhorn Peak

Posted in 1960s, Hut skiing, Nature, Personal history, Photography, Ski touring, Skiing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orilla Verde, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, August 2016

The fish are few and far between during the “dog days” of August. Lately I’ve been catching only small bass. But I especially like the views I get of the gorge, when I’m out in mid-stream.

Downstream view of the cliffs and , beyond, the Picuris Mountains

Downstream view of the cliffs that edge Pilar Mesa, and, beyond, the Picuris Mountains

Upstream view of the mesa, that's defined by the Rio Grande on the left, and Taos Creek on the right

Upstream view of the mesa that’s defined by the Rio Grande on the left, and Taos Creek on the right



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Zion National Park, Great West Canyon – Fall, 1977

The Great West Canyon hike begins at the Lava Point lookout, in the Kolob section of Zion NP. Kathy and I arrived there in the Fall of 1977, having heard great things about the hike from our colleagues at the Southwest Outward Bound School.

A steer

Along the way, a steer


The campground at Lava Point, and our beat-up VW Squareback. The aspens have turned.

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

We hiked down off Lava Point into Wildcat Canyon, and travelled SSE, passing the head of the Left Fork of North Creek. North Creek, with its Left and Right Forks, is the same as Great West Canyon. The famed “Subway” section of canyon is located in the Left Fork. We continued cross-country on the same heading until we intersected the drainage of the Right Fork, and found a nice camping spot on a little flat, at the very head of the canyon.


View from Lava Point into Wildcat C anyon

2. ZionGWC#29'77TDeN

Heading SSE and approaching the junction with the Left Fork drainage

3. ZionGWC#30'7_TSim

Heading downhill towards the Right Fork drainage

Pothole, located close to our campsite

Kathy, at the pothole near our camp

Campsite. Kathy is still in "bed".

Campsite. Kathy is still in “bed”.

The next day we descended into the Right Fork,

Kathy, stemming between the canyon walls

Kathy, stemming between the canyon walls

and soon came to the Black Pool. This shadowed pool would have required a very cold swim if we couldn’t bypass it – but we did. We traversed on ledges to the bottom end of the pool, and then rappelled  (see below) back to the bed of the canyon.

Rappelling into the bed of the canyon

Rappelling into the bed of the canyon


The lower end of the Black Pool, reflecting a ponderosa pine tree and sunlit cliffs above


Kathy, at a pinch


The rare sunny spot


And back into the shade of a slot portion

The bed of the canyon and creek

Boulder and creek, with reflections of sun-lit walls above




Our camp, right by the creek. We spent two nights at the Grand Alcove, the scenic high point of the hike.

Sun gleam on creek

Grand Alcove, sun gleam on creek

Grand Alcove, creek and Box Elder tree

Grand Alcove, creek and Box Elder tree casting a shadow


Soapweed yucca

7. ZionGWC#15'77TDeN

Grand Alcove, and Kathy


The seep line in the Grand Alcove


Kathy, and the seep, in the Grand Alcove


Kathy, in the Grand Alcove


Me, the Grand Alcove (Kathy Miller photo)




Kathy, in the Grand Alcove

Kathy, in the Grand Alcove


Grand Alcove

Rappelling out of the Grand Alcove. I overlooked telling Kathy to pad her shoulder for the rap[p[el, which resulted in burns she remembers to this day!

Rappelling out of the Grand Alcove. I overlooked telling Kathy to pad her shoulder for the rappel, which resulted in burns she remembers to this day!


The lower end of the Grand Alcove, Kathy


Grand Alcove seeps and hanging gardens, much of which is columbine


Pool, at the lower end of the Grand Alcove


Pool, at the lower end of the Grand Alcove


This falls also required a rappel to bypass


Nearing the end of the hike

After passing the junction with the Left Fork, we climbed a hill to the Lava Point road, and started hitch-hiking. A couple of locals stopped and proceeded to give us a raft of shit, based on their presumption that we were “Sahara Clubbers”. Of course we were. And, as such, were not very popular in that part of Utah in those days. Probably no different today.

Posted in 1970s, 1977, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Redrock/Sandstone, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Antelope Canyon, AZ – 1988 and 2002

The erosional rock sculptures found in Upper Antelope Canyon are, probably, the most photogenic in the world. Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are located on the Navajo Reservation, close to Page AZ. Page is the city that came into being as an adjunct to the building of Glen Canyon Dam. Glen Canyon, likewise, had some of the finest rock sculpture you would ever see. But the reservoir impounded by Glen Canyon Dam, irreverently called Lake Powell, first buried those rock sculptures under water, and, as the lake has emptied, under silt. Additional incongruities are seen in the immediate area of Antelope Canyon, consisting of a railway that hauls coal to the Navajo Generating Station, and the station itself, which sits within a mile of the Canyon.

My friend, David Hiser, a photographer for the National Geographic magazine, had heard about Antelope Canyon, and mentioned it to me.  In the fall of 1988, a few of us drove down from Aspen, Colorado, to find out what the fuss was about. First, we visited the local Navajo Chapter house, in Page, to get permission to visit the canyon, and then four-wheeled up the sandy arroyo to its mouth. Only a few photographers knew about Antelope Canyon at the time. The sandstone wall that stands at the mouth of the canyon was covered in graffiti, and cow shit was everywhere. The Navajo Tribe had no idea what a money-maker this canyon would prove to be.

The grafitti-covered wall at the mouth of the canyon

The grafitti-covered wall at the mouth of the canyon, 1988

Flash photo, in the gloomy confines of the canyon

Flash photo, in the gloomy confines of the canyon. Only a little patch of sky can be seen overhead.1988

The convolutions of the walls block out light in those months that the sun is inclined away from the vertical. Only in the summer months are sunbeams able to reach to the bottom of the canyon.

Flash photo, in the gloomy confines of the canyon

Flash photo, in the gloomy confines of the canyon. The floor of the short canyon (a quarter of a mile?) is flat and sandy, making for very easy walking. 1988

The sandy passage is, in most spots, very narrow.

The sandstone canyon has been sculpted by flash floods

The sandstone canyon has been sculpted by flash floods. 1988


Windows have been eroded through some of the formations. 1988


The lower walls are lit by reflected light from above. 1988


Fabulous forms – seen only in similar “slot canyons”. 1988


A window eroded through a rib. 1988

We also explored Lower Antelope Canyon on the same visit. It is located just downstream of the highway bridge, and has a different character than the upper canyon. It begins as hardly more than a slit in the sandstone bedrock, and then quickly widens as it drops away. We were able to climb down into the canyon a short ways, before being stopped by a vertical drop off. We had been told that we would have to rappel into the canyon at a point downstream from there. After a little exploration, we located an arm of sandstone to anchor our rope, and rappelled in. We “prusiked” up the rope (a prusik is a special knot that allows you to climb a rope) on the return.


David Hiser, in a chamber above the drop off. 1988


This is a view downstream from where we were stopped by a vertical drop-off. 1988


David and the others are below me, as we return to the surface. 1988


David rappels into the canyon, downstream of where we first attempted to enter. 1988


A fin, lit with light bouncing up from below. 1988


The golden glow. The sun is striking a wall just out of sight to the right. 1988


An natural bridge spans the canyon. 1988


A natural bridge. 1988


The canyon deepens rapidly. 1988


Same, 1988


A sculpted room, near the end of the canyon. 1988


On the return. The second natural bridge seen on the way down, 1988


On the return. The first natural bridge seen on the way down. Presumably, erosion first cut the right hand channel, which is seen to be more elevated than the left hand channel, creating a fin. Then erosion cut straight through that fin, creating a natural bridge. 1988


A window and a muddy pool beyond


More of that golden glow




Me, photo by David Hiser, 1988

I returned to Upper Antelope Canyon in 2002, this time with Kathy. The canyon had, by then, been discovered, and was now a Navajo Tribal Park.  There was an admission fee, which included 4-wheel transport up the arroyo to the mouth. The entry wall, covered in graffiti in 1988, had been cleaned-up. And the canyon, short as it was, was very crowded. In many spots – those no wider than the span of a tripod’s legs – movement was halted when a photographer had chosen to take a  timed exposure. And there were a lot of photographers there (myself included), as one would imagine.

We didn’t visit the lower canyon, which had, in the intervening years, seen the installation of ladders, for the descent of the first vertical pitch and elsewhere. As the above photos show, the lower canyon presents much trickier terrain than the upper canyon, which poses great hazard in the event of a flash flood. And, indeed, in 1997, a guided group was caught in the lower canyon by a flash flood, with all 11 of the guests being washed-away and killed.

The following photos are of Upper Antelope Canyon, taken in 2002, with better lighting of the canyon than in 1988.


Upper Antelope Canyon, with tumbleweed and juniper branch still life


The swirling forms are the product of swirling waters – these waters carrying very abrasive sand and grit


The lines seen in the rocks are horizontally-deposited sedimentary strata



The canyon walls glow in many shades


The last time our route home from Page took us past Antelope Canyon, we didn’t stop. The crowds there were just too large for comfort.

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