There are two properties to consider before casting any fly. First, the weight of the fly, and secondly, the air resistance (drag) of the fly. It took me a while to realize the weight of the fly is the driver/determinant of the choices of which line and rod that we should use. I have neither caught a fish that took my fly because it was so happy with the NRX rod I was using, nor has any fish shown particular excitement, one way or another, when I use this or that Amplitude line. Of course, it is better to have good equipment, but if you can’t cast the fly, the game is over. So, when you mull this over, I hope you will realize that the fly to use for the particular species you are going for is the first determinant of the tackle.

Let’s consider the weight of the fly. The heavier a fly gets the meatier fly lines you need to cast it. The mantra is — mass moves mass as simple as that, and everyone understands this simple truism. However, one of the most frequent questions I get here (Florida Panhandle) is, “Why can’t I cast that Clouser with my eight weight?” Then I answer, “Well, can I try?” Then do and find that this Clouser can’t be cast with the client’s eight weight, using the standard casting technique. The problem is that most casters haven’t mastered the casting technique needed to cast heavy rigs.

I have three possible solutions to this situation. First, I recommend a lighter Clouser for that rod size (less mass in fly). Secondly, I recommend a heavier line/rod combo for that specific Clouser (more mass in line). It is obvious — we must match the mass of a fly with the mass of the line. Thirdly, I can teach the Belgian cast. But guess what the clients do? They go and buy more gear of course. I know, I did the same until I learned to cast properly. However, you can’t buy a cast, see https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=888

In the previous blog I described the technique (Belgian cast) used to cast heavy flies https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=3188.

Now, consider the drag (air resistance) of a fly. It is a given that the drag will increase with the fly’s size. We can counter that only to a certain extent. We can increase the speed of the fly, however, but when the fly’s speed is doubled its drag will then quadruple.

You can see the trouble mounting. Big and heavy flies just aren’t easy to cast. That’s just simple physics, something which is immutable. Big fish love big flies – that is one of our mantras, too. So, we really can’t do much about the drag (except fishing at high altitudes). That leaves only the weight to be considered.

Bob's Banger
Bob’s Banger

This is Bob’s Banger. It is a great fly, and I love it. The question is — can we decrease its mass? The Banger weighs 0.073oz or 2.08gr.  Where is that mass, and do we need all of it? The mass is located in the long shank onto which the fly is built. The long shank has no other function. Because of the long lever the shank length is a disadvantage when fighting fish. Now the bulb should come on!

Plastic Tube - popper built on it
Plastic Tube – popper built on it

We can easily build the same fly on a light plastic tube. Tube flies are very simple to tie, and I find them easier to deal with. What about the hook? We use so called tube hooks for the job. Tube hooks have short shanks (advantageous), and we simply thread the leader through the tube and tie onto the hook. Then we pull the eye of the hook into the rear end of the fly where we sometimes have a piece of silicone tube (hook holder) snugly securing the hook in place.

The short shank hook
The short shank hook
Identical Bangers
The tube fly assembled – ready to go

It is not important to secure the hook, and the tube usually comes loose when you are fighting fish, and interestingly, rides up the leader. Thus, tube flies seem to be more durable. Furthermore, they don’t ever rust.

Identical Bangers
Identical Bangers

The long shank edition weighs in at 0.073oz, whereas the tube version weighs 0.044oz. In grams 2.085 vs. 1.24.

So, the answer to the first question — “Must big flies be so heavy?” — is equivocally no.

The answer to the second question — “Can the mass of a big fly be decreased?” — is yes.

I rest my case.


Tube flies have been around for a long time. They are extensively used in salmon fishing. I came across them in the salmon rivers of Iceland 30 years ago. Of course, the saltwater tubes are used here in the States, but they are not as well known as they should be.

English consultant: My good retired neighbor Joe

Fishing had been deemed essential by the Tallahassee Oracles (and it truly is) during the lockdown the of Florida beaches. So, Baz and I went fishing one glorious day. The weather was just great (disclaimer — whenever a fisherman begins a sentence with the bloody weather you know she/he in all likelihood got skunked), and the visibility into the water was fantastic. Even I could clearly see the fish. There were a lot of redfish and jack crevalle schools milling about. We just anchored the boat in such a way that we expected the jacks to swim on the outside of us, and they did, one school after the other. You just have to cast to those big badass fish, and when you spot them, the urge is immediately there. We decided to use a big popper called Bob’s Banger, which is only cast by folks with masochistic tendencies (sadomasochistic when we hook our company). These big and heavy poppers are a pain in the – wherever you like your pain best – to cast (how to cast big poppers – see at end). For the first school of fish we cast the fly in front of the fish as they bore down on us, but the line did spook them and that was that.

Bob's Banger
Bob’s Banger (4” long 10cm)

When anglers first see the jacks come in formation in two – three feet of water, they often just freeze. They just stare – eyes popping, mouth gaping, sphincters can go iffy, and they are totally unable to get off a cast. Those beginners who unexpectedly do get off a cast bungle it without fail. There is usually only one chance to deliver a decent cast to each school. The schools were coming thick and fast at us, and all the jacks swam the same way as you can see below. We decided to cast the popper straight out and have it waiting in the blue part you can see below. The rationale was to cast an unhurried long cast where we could strategically place the fly where we wanted it. That done, we just waited for the next school to come cruising.

Here come the Jacks
Here come the Jacks – tighten up those sphincters

This school of jacks showed up as predicted, and you can see the line that has just been biding its time. When the time was right the popper popped away, and some fish just ignored it, and swam under the line, but suddenly a bruiser in the 20-30 pound class swam under the fly. Suddenly the jack turned back and up, and came to the surface just in front of the popper, in precisely the same way a big salmon takes a fly on the surface. Baz and I both saw this magnificent take but it happened so quickly that it was impossible to catch in a photo.

Flyline laid out
Fly line laid out – red arrow on popper

I set the hook and the fight was on. Jacks simply take a very dim view on being hooked, and they are fast, strong, and mean, but not impossible to deal with. After a while the fish tired and I eased it towards the boat. Baz grabbed the leader and was ready with the net in the other hand. And presto — the fish broke off. He turned around and sternly asked “Jonaswhat was the pound strength of that leader?” (he knows that I sometimes just slap on whatever I happen to have in my pocket). Eyes downcast and somewhat sheepishly I murmured “maybe ten pound.” That answer just earned me THE LOOK.

Damn – in the doghouse again. But I managed to rescue my tattered standing, and finally pulled off a really long cast, with a backhand delivery, to hook a redfish that I managed to land; proof see below.

This blog is deficient if I do not honor the jacks with a picture. The jacks are a force to be reckoned with for sure, and here is a picture of one of them.

Jack Crevalle
Jack Crevalle – the Popper in its mouth

The jack crevalle is in the jack family with the GT (giant trevally). GTs get much more press, but are no more of a game fish than our crevalle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crevalle_jack

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_trevally

How to cast big and heavy air resistant flies

The Bob’s Banger in the first picture weighs in at 0.073oz or 2.08gr. So, it has considerable mass and a lot of drag, too, being 4 inches long (10cm). The considerations as to a fly’s “cast-ability” are its weight and its drag (air resistance). This fly is both very heavy and also has a lot of drag. I would advise using at least a ten-weight line or bigger if you have it for such a beast (mass moves mass). The leader that works best has the thickest butt you can find (again more mass in the leader – SA now makes a leader with 0.03” butt). Forget about a long leader, but instead shorten your leader to 7.5′. Now you are in the game, but if you try to cast this beast the “usual way” it will probably not go well. I advise you to open your loop and lob the popper out there. The cast I am referring to is the Belgian cast or the constant tension cast. Beware of casting videos where the teacher says “horizontal back – then up and over” for instance. If the line is horizontal and the caster points the rod straight back, all tension in the rod is gone and the fly will ricochet. Start the backcast horizontally, and when the rod tip is coming to the three a’clock position you start to bring the tip up. At that point, the heavy fly will swing up high – you come to the delivery position and go straight into the forward cast. And there should be no pause. Here is the best Belgian video I can find.

https://www.thecampflyfishingschool.com/pages/belgium-cast

Belgian cast's rod tip trajectory
Belgian cast’s rod tip trajectory

English consultant: My good retired neighbor Joe

The spectacle of spring and the arrival of the migratory birds make for a miraculous time in Iceland, where I was born and raised. Here in the Florida Panhandle there is really no winter, comparatively. However, there is a distinct spring. It is spring when the migratory birds travel through to destinations further north (robins, orioles, etc.), and the ruby throated hummers arrive and make their presence known. Most are migrating through, but some take up residence in my yard. Then in the fall the hummers migrate south to Central America. Their migratory routes can be along the coast west to Texas and then south through Mexico to reach Central America. They can also cross the Gulf of Mexico, and that is quite a feat because these small birds cannot land on water. They can travel via the Florida peninsula to Cuba, and then use the Caribbean islands to reach South America.

So, what is so special about these birds? First off they are so tiny – 3.75” long and weigh in at 0.11oz (9.5cm – 3.2g). Then there is the physiology. Their resting heart rate is 500 bpm, increasing to a whopping 1200 bpm when flying. Then there is the wing speed – the hummer can beat the wings 50-200times per second! The birds can hover in the air, ascend or descend straight up and down from that position, and fly backwards. To be able to accomplish that their brain has grown to about 4% of their weight, the largest of the bird brains, based on percent of body weight (human brains are a paltry 2%). For this rapid metabolism they need lots of energy. I take advantage of that and have feeders with a sugar solution ready, hung from the pergola from late March onward.

Ruby throated hummingbird (male)
Ruby throated hummingbird (male) – approaching feeder

Then I can sit back and enjoy the birds and sometimes I manage to take a photo of them that is in focus. To freeze them in the picture you need insanely fast shutter speeds, for instance, the featured image was shot at 1/3200 of a second and still one wing is blurry. They also can slow down their metabolism at night and enter into a state of torpor just to awaken the next morning for another day, like waking up from the dead. These pictures are of a male (the females are very similar without the red patch). When a male has found the feeders, he tries to defend them from all other males. Females get to drink, and I smell an ulterior motive.

Here I managed to get a picture of the bird with the tongue sticking out. Their tongue is very long, and they use it as a micro-pump to get the nectar.

The coloring of their feathers and the red throat are based on the iridescence of the feathers. Depending on the sunlight the color can be striking. And generally, the hummingbirds have an absolutely breathtaking display of colors, depending on the angle of light and the iridescence of the feathers. The bird seen perched on my fly rod has a commanding view of “his” feeders which he will defend from other males.

In these times of the plague I find it reassuring that there is a lot to cherish and be in awe of in nature around us that goes about its business, regardless of our worries. The hummers are certainly a booster to the daily dose of antidepressants. I certainly love those wonderful birds.

You can find at Happy DIY’s website – https://happydiyhome.com – a comprehensive guide on 24 hummingbird flowers to attract pollinators to your yard – https://happydiyhome.com/hummingbird-flowers/ -.

English consultant: My good retired neighbor Joe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird

https://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/09/the-basics-of-iridescence-in-hummingbirds/

I enjoy observing various forms of wildlife where I live. I have touched upon some of the aquatic species in Pensacola Bay and in the Gulf. Now I want to do the avian part some justice. I recently took my dogs on our daily one-hour walk, starting from my house, and saw the birds I cover here. To spot all these birds during an hour’s walk within a small town is amazing. The spotting part is easy – these are big birds (except for the Kestrel), but if you don’t pay attention you will not see them.

The first bird is the great blue heron, and it’s ubiquitous around here. The heron and I have at least one thing in common, and that is fishing. However, the heron does not cast any fly, instead stalks the shoreline, and uses its sharp beak to spear its prey. The stunned prey is then just summarily swallowed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_blue_heron

The transparent nictitating membrane
The transparent nictitating membrane

The heron’s nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is transparent, advantageous if you stick your eyes under water and get your food there. I settle for polarizing sunglasses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nictitating_membrane

Red tailed hawk
Red tailed hawk

The red-tailed hawk lives and hunts around our recreational center – in the middle of town. There are several wide open fields, and it can view the menu from various vantage points. I absolutely wouldn’t want to be a rabbit crossing those fields. This hawk is quite the poseur, and is not nervous around people at all. I encounter him on my walks at least once a week.

For the Icelandic readers, our language has two words for its falconsfálki and haukur (fálki i.e. gyrfalcon). Haukur is the same word as hawk. In USA there are numerous hawks, but they are not in the falcon family. The red-tailed hawks are quite a bit bigger and chunkier than the Icelandic gyrfalcons. I must say that I find the table manners of the gyrfalcon more refined, than those of the red-tailed hawks. The gyrfalcon will sever the spine of its prey before dining, but the hawk does not observe such niceties, and just starts eating its prey. The prey might be dead from the impaling talons, but often it’s not.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_hawk

Bald eagle
Bald eagle

Then I noticed two bald eagles soaring – too far up to photograph (I use an old photo for this blog). They are unmistakable with their white heads and tails. Their number seems to be growing, but that might just as well be due to my powers of observation. The fishing prowess of the bald eagles is legendary and known to all. Their table manners, however, are appalling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_eagle

The eyesight of these raptors is much, much sharper than ours (6-8 times better).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision

Osprey
Osprey

The ospreys are everywhere here in the coastal areas. They are superb hunters and eat preferably live fish. They cruise over the water and then dive down, hitting the water with their talons first. They can become totally submerged, then pop up again and take flight with a fish in their talons. I have noticed when they fly off with their fish, the fish’s head always faces forward. Whether it has to do with aerodynamics, or the osprey is just being nice with a scenic flight is unknown. Then the osprey tears the fish apart and that is that.

I think they have a sense of humor, or at least one of them has. One day I went fishing and was catching Spanish mackerel left and right, and releasing all the fish I caught. When I came home an osprey flew over and dropped a mackerel on my driveway!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osprey

American kestrel
American kestrel

The kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon [weighs ca 4.1oz (120g)] and is similar in size to a mourning dove. I once noticed a smallish bird sitting on top of the uprights of an American football goal at the recreational center’s grounds. Those uprights are really high. By sneaking in and using my longest tele (approx. 640mm – handheld – sometimes you just get lucky), I got this shot of the kestrel surveying its hunting fields. The big hawk and the small kestrel can coexist because the kestrel goes for insects, invertebrates, and the small fare. So each bird occupies a different niche. Judging by the droppings (the white stuff) on the pole, it is clear that this is a well-used vantage point for the kestrel. I find the kestrel to be a beautiful bird.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_kestrel

Great horned owl
Great horned owl

Now for my biggest surprise of the dog walk. I noticed some movement in an abandoned eagle nest. This huge nest sits very high from the ground in a dead tree. In order to be able to see over the top of the edge you need to be far away. First I spot the “horns” and then I see the unmistakable owl face. Then I spot the owl chick. I had never seen this owl before. The great horned owl is a huge bird (22” or 55cm high) and an apex predator. Only the great gray owl is bigger here in USA, but the gray owl is a resident of the north part of the US. The great horned owl is found all over Canada and the States. The owl kills its prey by squeezing it if it survives the initial impact. Those talons are able to exert 500 pounds of pressure per square inch (30psi is your car tire pressure)!

After I posted this I got this e-mail and correction from Lucy Duncan.

Hello Jonas,

Your blog was certainly interesting. I would make only one correction, and that is of the nest in which the Great Horned Owl nests. It is not an abandoned eagle’s nest. The trail is called the Eagle’s Nest Trail because there used to an eagle’s nest there 70 years ago when my husband was a boy here. That tree and nest had long been forgotten by any eagles by the time I moved here in 1966, but in the 1970s or early ‘80s, a tornado took that tree down and the nest with it. The nest you now see is an Osprey’s nest. Or, I should say it was an osprey’s nest! The owl nests much earlier than the osprey, and when the owls leave that nest, an osprey could move in. If there were a competition for the nest, the owl would certainly win.

So, Every Jonah has a Whale…..  and you have woven quite a delightful tale of your own.

Thank you for sharing.

Lucy

Thanks Lucy – I opted to place the whole e-mail here to prove that someone does indeed read my blog!

Also please have a look at Capt. Baz’s comment after the blog entry.

https://greathornedowl.net/great-horned-owl-talons-diameter-size-color-force/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_horned_owl

To see all these birds in the span of an hour is incredible but true.

Pictures: Jonas and Drifa Freysdottir (Bald eagle and osprey)

English consultant; My good retired neighbor Joe.

One person in my stable of blog characters is Capt. Baz. No, don’t worry, this one isn’t about him. However, it started with him.

Hi Jonas – my little brother Dave is in town, and he really would like to learn to fly cast, was the gist of our phone conversation, followed by and it is on the house too!” I am fine with the work is your rewardphilosophy if I am teaching something. However, Baz, manual labour is a straight no no no.

Capt. Dave
Dave – you see what I am up against!

Dave showed up, and he was an exceptional student from the outset. When I am teaching raw beginners I find one issue in them all. It doesn’t have to do with the movement, but rather lack of it, i.e. they just can’t stop the hand/wrist and rod when they make the backcast. So, their backcast will look like the picture below.

Poor stop and/or too much wrist bend.

The motion we are trying to teach starts with our upper arm vertical, and under arm horizontal (90 degrees). Then the hand is moved up and back with constant acceleration to an abrupt stop until the underarm has reached the vertical position with the wrist firm. This movement should be smooth, and the acceleration constant, but the stop must be abrupt. There are some issues with the constant smooth acceleration, but that can be ironed out rather quickly. However, the abrupt stop on the back cast is very hard to accomplish in the beginning. The drawing below shows a good backcast.

A good stop.

This near universal inability to stop the hand/wrist and rod is a bit baffling when you come across this first when teaching (conveniently forgetting how I myself struggled). We use our arms and hands all the time to do all kinds of complicated tasks. We certainly can stop a forward moving hand hard (think fly swatterhammer). But, when you think about that particular backward motion, we do not use that often in our daily lives, if at all. When we gain the ability to stop our hand on the back cast – the backcast will be straight without slack – setting up a good forward cast. My task as a teacher is pretty much wrapped up when my students understand the importance of the abrupt stop and straight backcast. All the rest is tweaking this or that.

But returning back to Dave, it turned out that he could absolutely stop his hand wherever I wanted him to stop it, while keeping the wrist firm. On top of that, the constant acceleration part was there, too. This piqued my interest, so I asked him what his work was. Oh – this and that in business was the answer ” and I am a drummer (i.e. sort of a musician).” Now this was very interesting to me, and sure enough the musculature of his underarm was exceptionally well developed, and precisely those puppies control the wrist movement. Biceps and triceps have to do with flexion and extension of the elbow.

Underarm of a drummer
Underarm of a certain drummer – or Popeye?

We had two short sessions, and at the end he was double hauling, and shooting line with ease. A week later he calls “How long are these fly lines?” It turned out that he was casting into the backing (fly lines are around 100′, some shorter some longer). That is a very long cast for even excellent casters.

Since then, drummer Dave has shed his skin, and found Capt. Dave within – and is running a guide service. https://gulfbreezefishing.com

——————————

Last January Capt. Baz, Odell Mullis and I went to the Bahamas to escape the Florida winter, that is, what there is of a winter. This was Dave’s first encounter with bonefish and he had been told that they would be very hard to catch. We don’t go to a bonefish lodge, so it is low key and self guided. The Bahamian flats are just stunning. Vast flats become dry on low tide and then the tide comes in, and the bonefish follow to get to the smorgasbord of the inundated flat.

The flat at low tide

Yup, you guessed it, Dave with a bent rod became a recurring theme. Bent rod when I only almost had a strike!

Same flat with the tide in – Dave with bonefish

The bonefish subsequently released. Needless to say, Dave caught numerous bonefish on his first trip with us.

Release of a bonefish

I gotta go now – the UPS guy is at my door delivering my set of drums.

Pictures; Jonas and Odell

English consultant; My good retired neighbor Joe.

Below the Réttarfoss

Réttarfoss

In a previous post I covered this river – see below. The current post deals exclusively with the two uppermost fishing spots – i.e. the Réttarfoss pool and the Réttarstrengur run.

The crew for this trip was my fishing partner and friend Sibbihttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=1783 – and Hilmar Konráðsson, with whom I had not fished before – but I will gladly fish with again. Then there was my American friend and traveling companion Odell Mullis in the role of photographer. His job was the hardest – fingers freezing – electronics sluggish, and rain constantly splattering the lens.

The salmon in Hrútafjarðará can get up to Réttarfoss, but can’t jump that waterfall. Therefore, the pool below the waterfall invariably holds numerous fish at the tail end of the season. However, it is awkward to fish, and casting in the canyon can be problematic. The position taken by most anglers is close to the middle of the outflow from the pool. That is not an ideal position. You get too close to the fish to my liking, and you are practically on top of some of them. This violates two of my fly fishing tenets: no unnecessary wading and don’t get too close to the fish.

We were fishing there in late August ’19, and the conditions were challenging. Just a few degrees above freezing, and wind was barreling up the canyons from the north, and the blessed rain was there too, and there was a lot of both. The amount of water flowing was quite a bit over the average. No fun wading in those conditions.

Pool below Réttarfoss
Pool below Réttarfoss
Below the Réttarfoss
Below the Réttarfoss

By tiptoeing close to the black basaltic rocks to the position you see on the photograph above, we were in a relatively concealed position to cast over the outflow tract of the pool. However, the fly was not going to move across the water in a way we like it to do. After some rumination Sibbi says “let’s try a hitching tube here, and just strip it across the outflow.” This is why I love this guy – he is always ready to try something unconventional. The salmon loved this, too, and we had great fun for a while with multiple salmon striking the flies, and there were some takes and then some salmon landed. (It is called hitching when the fly is riding the surface and a V shaped disturbance on the surface forms – see video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0TYgn_oO2Q )

The current is usually sufficient to make this happen, but by stripping the fly we made it go faster than the current, thus making the V on the surface. This strategy saved the day for us and will certainly be tried again. This is a very good reminder not to get stuck in some routine. If your approach does not work, try something else. It really does not matter how you don’t catch fish – does it?

Réttarstrengur

After leaving the Réttarfoss pool the river flows over some rocks, and is shallow and spread out with no channel. At the rock formation – seen clearly in the third picture below – the river forms a channel, Réttarstrengur, that is pushed up against the west canyon wall. The salmon will be there from the run’s beginning, and can be found for 100 meters (more or less depending on the amount of water). There are always salmon there – you may not catch them, but they are there. We take great care not to get too close (no wading there), instead we use longer casts, and the fly must be delivered on the opposite side of the current for best results. Then you pull it into the current and now you mend. Small flies are our choice there. Take care to cast with quite a sharp angle not more than 45 degrees to insure the fly swings first over the fish – not the line then the fly. To do that you need longer casts as you do not want to wade or get close to the channel. Make an effort to keep the line and leader straight, that way the fly is fishing from the get-go. For the Icelandic crowd – see the excellent book Af Flugum, Löxum og Mönnum by Sigurður Héðinn a.k.a. Haugurinn page 72 on Smáflugur. Réttarstrengur is without doubt one of the premium runs in Icelandic salmon rivers.

Correct casting angle
Correct casting angle

You really should practice before your fishing trips, preferably with a casting instructor. I have witnessed multiple times anglers in expensive rivers with no cast at all. It is a mystery to me why anyone buys those costly permits, and shows up with no cast. Most anglers I come across in salmon rivers would do well to take some lessons. When you are riverside it is too late to learn how to cast.

You have expensive gear – why not spend on learning how to use it?
Fishing the Réttarstrengur
Fishing the Réttarstrengur

This is how far away from the river’s edge we like to be. There is no sense in getting closer if we can cast over the run with a sharp angle from where we are at. By and large anglers wade too close and also too deep. If you get too close – the fish see you, and it is game over. If you wade too deep you lose height and your cast suffers.

Fishing the Réttarstrengur
Fishing the Réttarstrengur

Sibbi keeps his distance and is rewarded with a beautiful salmon.

Sibbi has a salmon on in Réttarstrengur
Sibbi has a salmon on in Réttarstrengur

Subsequently released into the river.

Salmon released by Sibbi
Salmon released by Sibbi

Odell and Hilmar seeking shelter from the wind, cold and rain.

Shelter from the rain and wind
Shelter from the rain and wind

Here is a short video from Réttarstrengur.

Land Iguana

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Fifth day.

Isla Seymour Norte is just north of Isla Baltra where we will be leaving from tomorrow. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Seymour_Island

The frigate birds nest on Seymour, both the great frigate bird and the magnificent one. The magnificent frigate is a bit larger, but they look very much alike. The way to tell the males apart is by the color sheen of the feathers on the back of the birds. The magnificent has a purple sheen – the great has a greenish sheen. The female great frigate has a red eye ring and the female magnificent frigate sports a blue eye ring. The frigates have the largest wingspan compared to body size of all birds. They spend most of their time soaring effortlessly over the oceans months on end. They can even sleep when they are airborne and seem to have the ability to rest one brain hemisphere at the time. However, they can’t land on water – feathers get wet and heavy. Previously I have seen them several times but never up close. The frigates like to follow ships on their journeys. The males have a scarlet throat pouch which they inflate to impress the females. The female birds have a white throat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigatebird

https://www.birdnote.org/show/sleeping-wing

Great frigate
Great frigate (green sheen)
Magnificent frigate
Magnificent frigate (purple sheen)
Great frigate chick
Great frigate chick (rusty on top of head)

Waking around the path we came upon a booby in love. The series of pictures are priceless where he dances around – picks up his stick – shows it to the love of his life – more dancing – alas she was not interested and scorned him while we were there. Let’s hope he can win her over someday.

Diving at Seymour Norte was great and I managed to snap a picture of a parrot fish that is more or less focused – getting better at that. During the snorkeling I saw a Galapagos shark glide by – a turtle – and a whole host of colorful fish.

Parrotfish

That concludes this Galapagos series.

Santa Fe

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Fourth day.

Santa Fe – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Island

We started the day on Isla Santa Fe. A modest climb up the lava edges led us to a plateau. The soil was bone dry and cacti littered the landscape. No leaves yet on the palo santo trees, but soon it will start to rain. We did not spot any porpoises but they have been reintroduced to the island.

Land iguanas were cooperative and we spotted several of those guys. One of them even smiled to us. Could have been gas though. However, this is a smile only a mother would love – sorry iguana.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_land_iguana —

I must post some more iguana photos – they are just so cool.

On returning to our boat in the dinghy we saw a sea lion that had just given birth. The hawks were monitoring the situation and momma sea lion was nervous. She decided to head for the beach with the pup in her mouth. Immediately the hawks swooped down on the afterbirth, and then it was total mayhem. The “Nature red in tooth and claw” comes to mind. Usually attributed to Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

Next stop was the tiny Isla Plaza Sur – just east of of the much bigger Isla Santa Cruz. The scenery there was just stunning as you can see in the picture below. This is one of the most amazing places I have been to. We witnessed restoration project i.e. the small cacti have to be protected until they reach a certain hight. The iguanas are vegetarian. The lava rocks someplace were turning white – called Galapagos marble the guide joked. The bird droppings will have their effect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Plaza_Island

Isla Cruz Sur
Isla Plaza Sur

The red billed tropicbird was there in force showing of its aerial prowess. It’s a stunningly beautiful bird.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-billed_tropicbird

Next on the menu for us was to observe the swallow tailed gull. Note how big those eyes are – it’s a night-feeder and the end of its bill is florescent. For Icelandic readers – lundi (Puffin) also has a florescent beak.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swallow-tailed_gull

Next stop Seymour Norte.

Black rock crab (will turn red when bigger)

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Third day

Isla Floreana

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floreana_Island

Despite the population size the early thirties in Floreana was a place for a mystery drama. https://www.thoughtco.com/unsolved-murder-mystery-the-galapagos-affair-2136125

Punta Cormorant was our first destination. There is a brackish lagoon there with a Flamengo sighting possibility. Two coves are accessible on each side of the Punta with a short hike through the Palo Santo forest. The Palo Santo trees were bare, waiting for the rainy season. We were lucky with our sightings – flamingos – green turtle – nursing sea lion – penguin – plus the usual suspects! We sure ticked all the boxes for that location.

Nursing sea lion
Nursing sea lion

We spotted a Green turtle ambling up onto the beach. The turtle will crawl above the high-water mark and dig a hole there whereupon the eggs are deposited. The eggs are covered with sand and the turtle makes its way to the ocean again. Curiously the sex of the turtle is temperature dependent – over 31 centigrade in the nest will produce femalesunder 28 Centigrade males and in between a mix. I have seen news that there are now more female turtles hatched. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/temperature-dependent.html

Green turtle
Green turtlehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_sea_turtle

On the brackish lake there were indeed flamingos snacking with their heads upside down finding their food in the mud. The Palo Santo trees are waiting for the rains to start. The hillside will turn green and conditions will become more tropical. https://animalcorner.co.uk/animals/galapagos-flamingo/

On our way to the ship we had a stroke of luck and spotted a Galapagos penguin. This little guy was cleaning up on a lava outcropping and our guide spotted him. The Galapagos Penguin is of the banded variety (relatives in Patagonia and South Africa), and the only penguin to venture north of the equator.

Galapagos penguin
Galapagos penguin – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_penguin

From Punta Cormorant we sailed to Corona Diablo, that is a volcanic crater half submerged. This turned out to be a fantastic snorkeling experience. However, my skills at shooting underwater photos is limited, but the wet suit sure is dressy.

On to Post Office Bay. Whalers started the tradition of leaving letters in a barrel in Post Office Bay. When it was time to return home they stopped by the collective post office and took letters heading for the same destination and hand delivered them to the addressees. – https://www.galapagosislands.com/blog/post-office-bay/

The usual suspects.

The Mangroves are vital for coastline ecology. This tree has adapted to saline environment and excretes salt on the underside of their leaves. If you do not believe me lick a mangrove leaf. Their importance will increase with rising sea levels. Let’s hope this shoot will make it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove

Mangrove shoot
Mangrove shoot

Next stop Isla Santa Fe.

Galapagos Albatross

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Second day

Isla Espanola is a volcanic island, as are the other Galapagos islands. The islands sit on the so-called Galapagos microplate, which in its turn sits at the junction of the CocosPacificNazca tectonic plates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galápagos_Microplate

At tectonic plate junctions there will be volcanic activity. I am used to lavas coming from Iceland. The lavas and the craters are familiar, but decidedly not the flora and fauna. The igneous rock is softer than the metamorphic one. The Pacific ocean pounds away relentlessly, thus the Galapagos have been formed and eroded in cycles over the eons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Española_Island

These photos are from Punta Suarez. The hawk and the sea lion from Bahia Gardner.

This is the island to visit to see the waved (Galapagos) albatross and the only island they nest on. When an albatross pairs up for egg discussion and nest building, they dance. They extend their necks then lower their beaks. Then there will some beak “fencing”. The following video show some great moves. Now if the dance is accepted, they pair and nest and raise their chick. After that they leave the island and each other and stay away and apart for 2 years flying wast distances over open seas. When it is time again for nesting the male birds will arrive first. Then female birds come back one after the other and the only way the pair can find each other is to do their signature dance.

The signature dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90MfHbdfzAM&feature=youtu.be

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waved_albatross

Here is a gallery of the smaller birds. I can’t identify the finches, so I lump them into “Darwin’s finches.” These finches are famous for the work Darwin did when he visited the islands, and led him to the theory of evolution

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_finches

Now for the lizards. Lava is porous and water just seeps through the top layer and disappears, that fact has important repercussions for all life on the islands. We can imagine a long drought – land iguanas going hungry – an enterprising individual starts foraging in the wrack on the beach, and little by little over a long time we have marine iguanas

The lava lizard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microlophus_delanonis

The Marine Iguana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_iguana

The boobies are are in the same family (Sulidaehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulidae -) as the northern gannet (ísl. súla) which Icelanders know from their shores. These birds are magnificent and their dives into the sea are spectacular. At Punta Suarez there are breeding colonies of both species.

The Nazca boobieshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_booby

The Blue footed boobieshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-footed_booby

The Galapagos hawk and the sea lion standoff at Bahia Gardner. The hawk is the apex predator in the Galapago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_hawk

Galapagos hawk and a sea lion.

Next stop Isla Floreana.