Telling Stories

Additional images and photographers stories from the article in FlyLife Magazine winter issue 2018. For the winners and finalists go to FlyLife Topshot Photo Competition 2018.


Scrolling through hundreds of entries in this year’s Topshot photo competition, I started to shortlist those that immediately grabbed my attention. But my short list very soon became a long list and I was happy not to be one of our online competition judges, invited to help nominate a final six for public scrutiny and voting.

Six, and only six! Wow, that would be a tough task. I now had a shortlist within a shortlist and still had 30 or more images. Time to phone a friend, having already shared the image link with longtime FlyLife designer and layout collaborator, Jeremy Price.

Surprisingly (or not), the images Jeremy enthused over were all at the top of my own shortest list. The jubilant celebration, the brownie with the sulphur dun, the aerial shot of the river bend, the epic New Zealand panorama, the frigid reel, the rod bent like Beckham and the sea of clouds above the lonely boat to name a few.

In debating why a salty Brisbanian graphic designer and semi-retired Tasmanian trout doctor would be drawn to the same images — knowing full well that these might not translate to popular choices in the splash-and-grab world of social media — Jeremy hit the nail on the head. “They all tell stories,” he said.

And if they don’t fully tell the story, they certainly hook us into any accompanying text, demanding to know so much more. How do I get there? What’s that all about? Who is that dude with the dog? What’s that guy after in the high-country creek? Is that child securely anchored?

Other shots, we agreed, blind us with colour and sheer beauty, particularly those stand-out portraits of the fish we seek. We all admire the real thing for a moment or two in hand, even attempt to capture their spirit in a snap-shot, but rarely do we do justice to the essence and vitality of the living fish.

So here are some of our favourite stories from the photo competition, in pictures. And if you would like more words you’ll find an explanatory paragraph or two on the FlyLife website together with more information on the judges’ six finalists and the winning entries based on the public vote.


1. Chris Murdoch – You beauty!

My son Callum, on the left, after a difficult and largely fruitless day, on pretty much his last cast hooked the fish in the shot. It was clearly a good fish. His largest prior to this around 4lbs. A 30 minute fight ensued, covering over 400m. The fish was brought to the bank multiple times only to run strongly again Finally the moment of capture and the shot. What’s unique? The shot just embodies the joy, relief, triumph of capturing a special fish. In this case a beautiful brown over 8lbs.


2. Matt Daniel – Armageddon – One more cast

The photo was taken at Little Pine Lagoon. The unique cloud formation known as  Asperitas was only named officially in 2017. As is often the case on Little Pine there was a lot of boat traffic on the lake that day so i had to be patient to get the composition I wanted.


3. Simeon Patience – Friends who Czech together, stay together – Finalist, Topshot 2018

Friends Czech Nymphing together in a beautiful New Zealand river hunting the big browns.


4. Robert Dotson – Bug eye

This south island New Zealand 7lb brown was getting his candid photo taken when this kiwi sulfur dun mayfly (Ameletopsis perscitus) landed on my mate’s arm. Perfect timing as we aided him to crawl down onto the trout’s head and explore his predator from topside.


5. Ray Montoya – My best mate

Me and my pup, Lulu hunting Arabian permit, aka Indo Pacific Permit, aka blochii in Southern Oman.


6. Robert Dotson – Rangi & Ao (Heaven & Earth) – 1st place, Topshot 2018 

One of the luckiest days of my life on the south island. This double-digit brown sipped the dry literally as we heard the throbbing heli blades rounded the corner for our pick-up. Fate or dumb luck? Yummy either way.  The pilot waited a few minutes while I shot some quick shots and then anxiously took off as winds were kicking up in the gorge.


7. Neil Charter – End of Day

The sun starts to sink over the hills and the changing light plays with the river. When the wind drops out and the river calms I am as happy just to stand and indulge as I am to cast a fly. Again just a faithful Lumix FZ300 on panoramic. No touching up what you see is the way I saw it.


8. Mark Kelly – Prospecting – 3rd place, Topshot 2018

This stretch of the creek looked way too good not to have a flick into. In any case it does not matter what the fishing is like, it is enjoyable spending time with mates.


9. Bryon Chamberlin – Rage – 2nd place, Topshot 2018

A tarpon’s last attempt at throwing the fly before being landed. I was fortunate to capture this image while doing double duty as photographer and skiff driver. I saw that the tarpon was about to do one last jump, I took my hands off the wheel and throttle, grabbed the camera, a split second to acquire the subject, focus and release the shutter. Then after landing the tarpon for my friend and drying off. I grabbed the camera to review my shots. I got my “Yes!!” moment after zooming in on the image and seeing that I got tarpon in frame and sharp. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…


10. Arek Kubale – Burn no bridges – Finalist, Topshot 2018

This wooden footbridge over the River Bobr (Poland) somehow survived WWII, though the riverbed still remembers the violence with its shoals of sharded pottery.  Cross it at your own risk (literally: the bridge is closed to all traffic) to ply the Bobr’s clear waters for brown trout and grayling.


11. Samantha Wright – The grandson’s envoy

My nephew is back in Australia and couldn’t come fishing in New Zealand. So he sent a representative to sit in his place, next to his Grandad. We were fishing on the Tuki Tuki River in Waipawa, N.Z


12. Frederik Lorentzen – Spring creek wonders – Finalist, Topshot 2018

My best fishing buddy Peter taking the last cast on a perfect day in the farmlands of NZ.


13. Jeremy Charter – Mr Bream

Poking around in estuary creeks with a  5wt can be fun. When the winter bream congregate and hold up in shady deep corners of the scrubby lined banks a well placed fly can be smashed. Such fin perfect statesman are a joy to catch. The photo was taken with a 7DMk2 and note the old Australian made fly reel. Not the perfect camera to be wielding in a Kayak, but takes a lovely shot.


14. Mark Hoffman – Summer swoffing silhouettes

Taken early morning on the Manukau Harbour, Auckland as two anglers discuss their approach to new water being explored.


15. Ibrahim Macrae – Cocos ghost

One of the reasons Cocos (Keeling) Islands is so unique that so few fly fishermen have ever heard about it. So privileged to have access to stunning bonefish right your doorsteps. To catch and watch their incredible silvery display in the bright, early morning sunlight. Photo taken on Samsung Galaxy s7.


16. Mark Kelly – The bend

My mate Callum is a rod maker. This custom made fibreglass blank gets an awesome overhead bend as a better than average brown heads for cover in a deep undercut bank.


17. Robert Klinger – Early starter

A young flyfisherman trying for trout on the Lech river in Bavaria.


18. Ondrej Kasik – It’s the beauty that we seek…

A rainbow hen with a beautiful color pattern. Canon 700D


19. Janis House – Forever casting

Loved capturing the image of my husband doing what he loves xx.


20. Andrew Mckinstray – Trigger time

CXI Flats Trigger Fish. A truly testing and frustrating species and a reward available in so many different colours.


21. Daniel Costelloe – Dun deal

Dun hitching a ride to safety on a bubble in the headwaters of Western Lakes, TAS. In the process of bending over a water level taking this photo with my camera, I had the feeling something was watching me. Only to turn around an notice a rather large rather black tiger snake hissing at me. This Dun was hitching a ride on a bubble which was getting blown down a wind lane in a small tarn full of large Brown trout. The photo of a large brown got away!


22. Neil Sewter – Tantangara

Fly rod, the morning after a winter night fish. In between cast’s having to dip the rod into the water after the eye’s freeze over, I have the photo as my screensaver to remind me whenever I have the in cling to go for a fish when its cold.


23. Simon Gilbert – Hookup, and release

Dry fly fishing south of Queenstown (NZ). Approximately 6-8lb fish that was ‘released’ soon after the photo was taken. Terry Clarke late season fishing in a small stream.