Pro Tip: How to Take Great “Hero Shots” When You Are Alone on the River

Written by: Will Long

Will Long was able to get this great hero shot with an iPhone and a flexible tripod.
All photos courtesy Will Long

[Editor’s note: Last month, Will Long wrote a story about winter fishing in Colorado, and several folks commented on the great photos he was able to create, even though he was alone on the water. So I asked him to tell us how he does it.]

Fly fishing with a friend, family member, or loved one can be a great way to spend some quality time together, and it does have some other advantages. You have someone there to lend you a hand when needed, whether it is netting a fish for you or taking a photo of you with your catch. While that kind of camaraderie is always enjoyable, there is just something therapeutic about going out on your own. Fishing by yourself allows you to just put all of the cares of world aside and get out and enjoy nature. Since a large majority of fly fishers practice catch-and-release, we now rely on taking photos of our catch to show others what exemplary fishermen and fisherwomen we are.

This can be a little difficult when you are fishing by yourself. There are a few things I have found that can assist in getting that great photo while keeping the fish safe. I like to use my iPhone 4S to take photos while I am on the river. The photos the iPhone take aren’t professional quality, but they are pretty darn good. I put my iPhone in a Lifeproof case, which keeps it safe from the elements while fishing.

One way to get a good shot is to just get a picture of the fish while it is still in your net. When you have a smaller fish, a close-up to capture the beauty of the fish can suffice. But it’s a different story when you catch a larger fish. A picture of a trophy fish lying all folded up in your net just doesn’t do your catch justice. What I have found works best to get that trophy shot is a tripod. You should have enough pockets in your fly vest to add a tripod to the arsenal.

One awesome tripod I found that works like a charm is the GripTight GorillaPod Stand; it’s a great product to help you get that trophy shot when you are fishing by yourself. There are several different versions of this stand, but the GripTight model is designed to hold your smartphone. Its expandable claws will hold your phone even with its case on.

The flexible tripod allows you to set up it on any terrain and it will securely hold your phone to take a picture.

The stand features a ¼”-20 screw so it can also hold a small point and shoot camera.

This GripTight stand fits great in my vest pocket and is quick and easy to set up. Once the fish is in your net, you can pull out your stand, put your phone or camera on it, and set the self timer. Then grab the fish and pose for your trophy shot. I have a camera app on my iPhone 4S called Camera+, which is a great photo-editing app and it also features a self timer. I set the self timer for 15 seconds, set it in the grips on the stand, position it somewhere safe on the side of the river, grap the fish from my net, and pose!

It works like a charm, and the fish is only out of the water for a short period of time! This is a great way to get a trophy shot when fishing by yourself.

22 thoughts on “Pro Tip: How to Take Great “Hero Shots” When You Are Alone on the River”

  1. Thanks Will for the details of your technique…Since I fish alone 90% of the time, I appreciate your sharing how to take such wonderful photos with minimal, if any, damage to the fish. I also commented on the “Poll” concerning this topic since I was the one who originally asked you about your self photo techique. Awesome fish, and great photos! I hope to be able to take a shot of a nice fish like yours once the rivers are fishable again. If you are ever in Michigan, look me up and we’ll hit the Au Sable together.

  2. Why are we promoting taking fish out of the water for “hero” shots. Lame. You guys should know better. In fact this is F$$$ ridiculous…

    1. yes well said …this whole hero thing is a joke. Keep the fish in the water if you want to show it …do it while it is still in the water. No respect for wildlife is rampant these days and this company makes it’s money off of fishing so they had better get with the program! fast!

  3. I’m worried that setting that tripod up, attaching the camera or phone, PLUS setting a timer for 15 seconds is an inordinate amount of time to take before returning the fish to the water. Simple rule I taught in our schools was whenever you pull a fish from the water, hold your breath. By the time you have to take another breath, the fish better be in the water and you should be resuscitating it if needed. Leaving the fish in the net in the water might help, but then you have to worry about the fish injuring itself against the rocks as it struggles in the net.

    Simple solution is to take a picture of the fish and forgo the grinning self-portrait. Put your rod next to the fish for personalization and sense of scale. May not be a nice as the grip and grin shot, but better on the fish and you still have a visual record of the catch.


    1. Better than the teeth of a Grizzly bear or claws of an Eagle, but I bet you would have a problem with that too. Chill people.

  4. I’ve never tried to capture a photo of a fish out of the water and maybe never will. But if one chooses to, be mindful to care for the fish and quickly return them to the water.

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  7. To the many others that commented bashing him for having the fish out of the water for a long time I believe the man has enough sense that he keeps the fish in the water while he is preparing for his shot…. Stop looking for a reason to run your mouth

    1. I know it’s an old thread but what a bunch of pretentious pricks commenting…he could have everything set up when he starts fishing the run then snap a selfy when he lands the fish with minimal time out of the water… Whiny little guys on here

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