Catch of a Lifetime: Catch and Release
Ok. You’ve been on your fishing trip of a lifetime and caught a trophy fish. Like most of us, you take a picture of the fish and release the fish back to the waterways. Or you follow Daniel Blackstone’s two tips: Take a quality picture of the fish. Measure the fish from nose to tail and around the girth of the fish at the widest part. Then release the fish. Now it’s time to locate a professional taxidermist.
The word taxidermy drives from the Greek words taxis (arrangement) and derma (skin). Roughly translated as arrangement of skin. The origin of taxidermy goes back to the 19th century when the tanned skin of animals, birds or fish were stuffed with cotton or rags. The golden age of taxidermy was the Victorian Age (1837-1901) when mounting trophies of fish and game on walls was the rage. No respectable home was without some type of taxidermy. However, credit is usually given to John Hancock as being the father of modern taxidermy because the taxidermy process that he used captured that accurate representation. His birds exhibited a realistic, life-like quality with beautifully painted colors using a clay cast “fired” into a plastic mold then painted. The finished product was then exhibited as a fine piece of art on a wall or table.
Today taxidermists skillfully craft the “fish” into a piece of fine art by having the fish part of a natural habitat (rocks, driftwood, or grass). Custom pieces are meticulous hand painted using a photo as a guide for matching the vibrant colors for each fish. The finished fish has that “just been caught look,” not fake or unnatural. Because of the careful measurements taken earlier of the fish, the finished product matches the original size perfectly. Here are two examples of a bull trout and brown trout (courtesy of Daniel Blackstone’s Professional Taxidermy Service in Florida).
Gregory Ford is our presenter for the January North Idaho Fly Caster’s program and will be talking about the art of taxidermy. Greg has always been interested in the great outdoors and spends a lot of time exploring, photographing and fishing. After serving in the army, Greg was discharged and was uncertain what he really wanted to do. He credits his sister, Lindsay, with motivating him to follow his dream and using his GI bill, he enrolled in Second Nature School of Taxidermy in Bonner, Montana. Chris Cotten, a marine corps vet and owner of the school, immediately took a liking to Greg and pushed him hard to excel in his courses. Cotten observes that what especially appeals to him are Greg’s ethical and hard-working standards. He has a genuine passion to do the best.
Cotten is so impressed with Greg that Cotten brought Greg on board as an instructor for Second Nature School of Taxidermy. Greg’s unique style of teaching and eye for perfection make him a perfect fit for the school and students. Greg demonstrates the essential skills an excellent taxidermist must apply to his work in his customized art, as he employs his knowledge of fish anatomy; Greg applies his creative skills in sculpture, hand painting and tanning.
Locally, Mike Beard who owns Northwest Outfitters retains Greg as one of his certified fishing guides. Plus, Greg ties some fantastic fly tie patterns that are sold at Northwest Outfitters.
Greg has started his taxidermy business, Gone Fishing Artistry here in Coeur d’Alene. He is putting together his studio/workshop; building a website; and displaying his finished work at various fly shops in our area. Greg gives a lot of credit to Mike Beard for encouraging him to follow his dream, his passion.
Greg observes that a fly fisherman has three options for a trophy fish. There can be a skin mount using the actual fish. There can be a reproduction creating a replica from fiberglass and hand painted. Or a client can request a wood carving (sculpture) of the original fish. No matter what option is selected, Greg will bring the fish to life through the finished product—and the trophy will be mounted on a natural habitat background.
Here are three examples of his completed work. And yes, Greg will be bringing examples of his work to our January meeting.
Forrest Whitt & Jim McDonnell