This year’s “20 Days in September” Photo Contest represented another gigantic leap forward, generating more than 2,500 great photos from anglers around the world. (Although anglers outside the U.S. aren’t eligible for the prizes, many took the challenge seriously.) Even those who couldn’t get the full 20 days in seemed to enjoy discovering new waters right in their backyards and sneaking off for a few casts at lunchtime or after work.
Last week, we presented you with 10 finalists for the contest’s prizes. Right off the bat, one image began to run away from the others. After the first day of voting, our winner was already a runaway, but the battle for second and third places was a squeaker. Congrats to all the photographers who made the finals!
Your top choice was lesgeezy’s swirling, colorful shot (above) of brook trout in spawning colors. The red spots with blue halos and incredibly white leading edges of the fins are arresting. Winner Leslie Giesey, of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, describes how she captured the moment:
This picture was taken in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. We headed out on a 10-mile hike in early September with the goal of fishing a new creek we had scoped out on the map. When we reached the remote creek, we fished the entire length of it without ever meeting another person. Initially, the trout were small but abundant. As we moved downstream, they began to grow in size, and the colors became more vibrant. The water was so clear, we were able to scout and find pods of wild brook trout where cool springs ran into the stream. They spooked easily, but after switching flies a few times, we were able to catch trout after trout, each one more stunning then the last. This fish and location will remain a memorable one
For capturing such a powerful image, Leslie will receive a Helios 3 Fly Rod of her choice. As for the challenge itself, she says, “I probably got a solid fifteen days of fishing in September. Not usually hard to accomplish while working/living in Yellowstone, but we had some snow and hail storms towards late September that kept us indoors.”
In second place was strippin.trout’s unique perspective on a cutthroat trout and a mountain wildfire. Dan Layne, of Butte, Montana, described how the scene came about:
We had some unusually hot early-September weather in Montana, so we decided to go to a lake and try to beat the heat. Of course, I always bring my fly-fishing gear with me on any trip to any body of water that possesses the chance of holding fish. There was a raging wildfire in the area that had recently picked up a lot of momentum with the warm, dry weather. We weren’t sure if we would even be able to access the lake, but it turned out that we were able to. My wife and our three labradors were able to cool off, and I snuck away with my streamer rod for a few minutes. On my first cast, I caught a pretty substantial cutthroat trout. I knew that the backdrop of the photo had the chance to be something special, so I suggested removing myself from the shot by plunging underneath the water. My talented wife did a fantastic job of capturing the elements and mood of the moment. The close proximity of the wildfire is something that I won’t ever forget. We were all able to cool off on a hot Fall afternoon, and it ended with a lasting memory!
For coming in second, Dan gets a pair of our new Pro Waders, which are built for the toughest conditions and can take, for those anglers who will go to whatever extreme necessary to find fish. Dan says he fished 22 days in September, to successfully complete the challenge.
Third place went to iheartbarges’s sweet shot of two young boys sharing a moment on the water. Photographer Dan Kopera, of Currituck, North Carolina, explains how the image came about:
Our three children absolutely love all types of fishing and exploring the waterways ranging from the ocean surf to the small creeks we have access to in coastal North Carolina. The picture was taken in the week after Hurricane Dorian had overflowed our neighborhood pond, and on one of the first evenings after things returned to normal. On this particular night, the boys hooked into a few bluegills with both spinning gear and worms and an old fly reel of their great grandfather’s, paired with a new rod and some midges.
Dan’s prize is a Mirage LT Fly Reel! He says, “We probably got the full 20 days out in September! The contest was a fun push to try some new locations as well.”
Everyone who voted for our finalists was eligible for a prize, as well. We plugged in the numbers, and the widget at random.org spat out a winner: Derek West, who wrote, “Great pictures!”
Finally, thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s “20 Days in September” Challenge by fishing, submitting photos, voting, or commenting (or all of these). This was a wonderful September for me, featuring lots of great weather and multiple species. However, this is the first time I did not catch a Battenkill brown, a situation that must be rectified in October.
Here’s a great idea: Let’s all do it again next year!