The History of Trophy Fish Carving
Fly-fishing as a sport or a peaceful pastime started to become fashionable during the reign of George IV of England (1820-1830). Angling became a court amusement attracting the interest of the upper classes, and the idea of preserving specimens of particularly large or important fish became popular. As an alternative to taxidermy and casts, carved wooden models of fish proved to be a very attractive way to display trophies.
Exact measurements of the fish aided the carver's efforts, and the finished carving was artistically painted with oils. Many of the carved fish models were of Atlantic Salmon and carved in half-section, with the dorsal fin, adipose fin and anal fin as part of the silhouette and the pectoral and pelvic applied separately. As time went on the models became more rounded and from 1920 onwards, the eyes began to be carved out in semi relief. The artist mainly used a palette of greyish blue, with a dark head and back shading down through the paler tones to a cream-coloured belly, and with vertical rows of thick white crescent-shaped scales.
In recent years, some of the finer fish models by carvers like John Bucknell Russell, John and Dhuie Tully (nee Russell), Tommy Brayshaw, P.D. Malloch and others, have gone for many thousands of dollars at auction. After almost a century, these beautiful carved and painted fish carvings are considered works of art.
Modern day carvers like Robert Law, Roger Brookes, Gene Bahr, and Yves Lauent, continue the tradition of creating trophy fish carvings in wood.
Some of the above text is from Ronald S. Swanson's book-"Fish Models, Plaques and Effigies.
Fish Models, Plaques & Effigies - by Ronald S. Swanson
Ronald Swanson writes that he saw his first fish model in Scotland, while on a fishing trip with his father. After 17 years of searching he landed the first fish model in his own collection. He traces the story of fish models to the early 1800's when sport fly fishing became popular in Great Britain and Norway. He then crosses the Atlantic to Canada and the U.S., and he concludes by looking at farther-flung locations such as Chile and Kashmir.
Swanson includes information on makers, from the earliest to contemporary times, arranged by geographical location. Some of the model makers are also well-known artists or decoy carvers.
There are chapters on all the major Scottish makers, John Russell , the Tullys and the Malloch makers. Also English model makers Harry Ashford, W. B. Griggs and Arthur Raikes . Tommy Brayshaw of British Columbia, as well as many others.
An appendix reprints the catalog from the first exhibition of fish models ever, in Moreton In Marsh, hosted by London antiques dealers Simon and Edwina Brett in 1988, and includes photographs of the exhibition. Photographs from other exhibitions follow. The final appendix illustrates models and effigies of record Atlantic salmon.
Photographic Plates Vll, Vlll, lX, X, Xl, and some text, courtesy the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University.
Some text also from Simon Brett's "Selected Items from an Exhibition of Carved Wood Fish Models-1988"
Countryside Investment Corporation, c/o Ron Swanson, Box 190, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303
Local Heritage Services in Moray, Scotland
LIBINDX - Index to sources of Information relating to Moray
Maine Antique Digest