The Visions of an Angling Artist


“Brook Trout in Water.” Acrylic on canvas. 36″ X 18″
Paintings by Sarah Lauridsen

A few years ago, we featured the artwork of Sarah Lauridsen, a Vermonter who is both an avid fly-fisher and artist. Today, out of the blue, she emailed me the brook-trout painting above, which blew me away. This time of year, the brookies are decked out . . .


“Brook Trout in Water.” Acrylic on canvas. 36″ X 18″
Paintings by Sarah Lauridsen

A few years ago, we featured the artwork of Sarah Lauridsen, a Vermonter who is both an avid fly-fisher and artist. Today, out of the blue, she emailed me the brook-trout painting above, which blew me away. This time of year, the brookies are decked out in their spawning finery, and Sarah’s painting nails the colors. As you can see from the paintings below, she’s a master of colors and texture.

To see more of Sarah’s artwork, visit her website.


“tarpon Cheek.” Acrylic on canvas. 30″ X 15″

“Rainbow trout in water.” Acrylic on canvas. 48″ X 24″

Sarah shows off a gorgeous New Zealand brown trout.
Photo via Facebook

Video: Bob White, Master Painter and Outdoorsman


We have featured the gorgeous art of Bob White many time on this blog (see here, here, here, and here, for example), and this short video profile gets to the heart of what makes him able to. . .


We have featured the gorgeous art of Bob White many times on this blog (see here, here, here, and here, for example), and this short video profile gets to the heart of what makes him able to capture the nuances that make his paintings resonate so profoundly with anglers and outdoorsmen. I first met Bob at a charity event in Vail, Colorado in the early 2000s, not long after he’d done the illustrations for Tom Rosenbauer’s Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing. Years later, he was an Orvis News Trout Bum of the Week, a post I highly recommend, as Bob has lived a remarkable fly-fishing life.

Nick Mayer: Science as Art, and Art as Science


Wyoming Rainbow Trout (detail)
Paintings by Nick Mayer

Naturalist and artist Nick Mayer combines the observations of a scientist with the eye of an artist to create gorgeous fish paintings in his Lincoln, Vermont studio. His love of fly fishing, fly tying, fish . . .


Wyoming Rainbow Trout
Paintings by Nick Mayer

Naturalist and artist Nick Mayer combines the observations of a scientist with the eye of an artist to create gorgeous fish paintings in his Lincoln, Vermont studio. His love of fly fishing, fly tying, fish art, and scientific illustration painting began very early in life. As a three-year-old boy in Michigan, he fished the Big Two-Hearted River with his dad, and eventually his passion for fishing developed into a career.


Bull Mahi Mahi

With undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology from Brown University and experience working for fish-and-game departments in Alaska and Oregon, Mayer brings passion, scientific understanding, and precision to his work, which he sees as an aid to studying and helping in the conservation of fish. His paintings of freshwater and saltwater species are portraits of a specific fish, rather than a generic example.


Beaver Pond Brook Trout

Mayer begins with the kinds of accurate scale placement and fin-ray counts expected in a scientific illustration, incorporates the colors carefully blended to be lifelike by a naturalist painter, and then adds the unique features of that particular fish—the trace of a small scar, a slight drop in the tail, or a split in a fin. Mayer’s latest venture is Caught on Watercolor: a project in which he paints one of a kind originals of clients’ trophy fish based upon photographs.

To see Mayer’s work, visit his website.

Artist Travis Sylvester is a Master of “Net Working”


Sylvester does amazing work with color and texture. This fish really seems wet.
Photos by Travis Sylvester

Artist Travis Sylvester–whose work we’ve profiled before–sent me images of one of his new pencil drawings, which he calls “Net Working,” and it’s pretty astounding how he can capture the . . .


Sylvester does amazing work with color and texture. This fish really seems wet.
Photos by Travis Sylvester

Artist Travis Sylvester–whose work we’ve profiled before–sent me images of one of his new pencil drawings, which he calls “Net Working,” and it’s pretty astounding how he can capture the natural world with just pencils. The piece is 28″ X 20″, and it’s a portrait of a rainbow trout that was caught on the Madison River and photographed by Michael Stack from Fish Tales Outfitting. You can see many of Sylvester’s works and purchase fine art prints at his website.


The drawing begins with the eye.

The net and the fish’s head begin to take shape . . . .

Travis works on the water effects.

The Minute Detail of Artist Chase Bartee

Written by: Chase Bartee, Tight Loops


Each painting is an exact rendering of a fish, such as this golden trout, landed during Chase and Aimee’s travels.
All art by Chase Bartee

As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was drawing things. Both my parents are creative and gifted in their own rights, and strongly encouraged their kids to explore their own creative . . .

Written by: Chase Bartee, Tight Loops


Each painting is an exact rendering of a fish, such as this golden trout, landed during Chase and Aimee’s travels.
All art by Chase Bartee

[Editor’s note: We have been posting the gorgeous films of Chase and Aimee Bartee (a.k.a. Tight Loops) for the past few years, and I’ve gotten to know them a bit in the process. As you might have guessed, they are both committed artists, and Chase has recently launched a series of scientific illustrations of trout. I asked him to give us his artistic background and to describe how he creates the beautiful and remarkable works.]

As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was drawing things. Both my parents are creative and gifted in their own rights, and strongly encouraged their kids to explore their own creative passions. As my love of illustration grew, so too did my interest in the natural world, with an emphasis on wildlife. I was the weird kid in grade school with hundreds of dead insects labeled and mounted with pins to boards in my room.

I grew up in Israel, which is about as far away as you can get from trout. My family is from Montana, and every summer we’d come home to visit. The brief few months that I had the opportunity to fly fish and marvel at the beauty and uniqueness of each trout caught would simmer in my mind for the next nine months in the Middle-Eastern desert. Most people who are familiar with my work will know me as a filmmaker [see below], but long before I picked up a camera I considered myself an illustrator and pursued that passion all the way to college, where I was accepted to the Rhode Island School Of Design on an almost entirely illustration based portfolio. My late teens and early twenties was a whirlwind of formative change, and when it came time to select a major, I chose film and video, and my fine art practice fell dormant for nearly a decade.

It wasn’t until meeting my wife, Aimee, who was an active artist that I rediscovered my love of illustration. Although I’ve always had a great love for gestural and visually abstract work, I could never break the habit of working in tedious and minute detail. The rhythms established in this kind of illustration are akin to the meditative practice of fly fishing itself. Scientific style illustration has a been a natural progression for my work to take. It’s been an interesting journey of rediscovery over the past few years, but I’m happy with where the work is taking me, and I’m excited for what the future will bring–both as a filmmaker and as a fine artist.

All of my recent scientific illustrations, in staying true to the genre, are painted from life. What that means is that each fish you see is an exact replica of the real thing. Every spot, fin ray, etc., is anatomically correct. While many scientific illustrators will choose a fish that is most representative of the species as a whole, I’ve simply chosen ones I thought were interesting and beautiful. The Yellowstone Cutthroat for example, came from Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone National Park, were the fish often develop of a blue/gray tint, as opposed to the classic warm brown and tan. All fish were caught, photographed for reference, and released. Depending on the level of detail in each specimen, they can take anywhere from 40 to 100 hours to complete start to finish. I sketch the fish in pencil first, and lay the outline/shadow for every scale. I then add color in a series of watercolor glazes. Once the fish that taken form, and spots/identifying marks have been finished in watercolor, I go back in with an opaque gouache to highlight all the scales. The final step, and often the most tense, is hand lettering the fish’s name in pen and ink.

To see more of Chase’s work, or to buy originals and prints of the trout portraits, visit his website, Tight Loops. And check this space at a later date for a post about Aimee’s work, as well.

Andrew Thompson: Capturing the Essence of Wilderness

Written by: Andrew Thompson


“Salmon Fishing with Sanford Gifford”—Acrylic on paper, 11 x 14 inches
All Paintings by Andrew Thompson 

Editor’s note: Wildife artist Andrew Thompson believes that painting at its very best can express the very essence of the wilderness and provide a unique insight into the character and. . .

Written by: Andrew Thompson


“Salmon Fishing with Sanford Gifford”—Acrylic on paper, 11 x 14 inches
All Paintings by Andrew Thompson 

[Editor’s note: Wildife artist Andrew Thompson believes that painting at its very best can express the very essence of the wilderness and provide a unique insight into the character and personality of the animals. Most significantly, it is an opportunity to experience the fish or animal in a way that can be shared by both the artist and the viewer. Thompson received a BA in Studio Art from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and spent over a decade in the art world as a scholar and dealer specializing in late 19th and early 20th century American paintings. His has been exhibited in extensively in New York and the Adirondacks and are included in private collections throughout the country. He lives and work in Brooklyn and Hague, New York, a small town on Lake George in the Adirondacks, and he travels to the Wasatch Mountains and Tetons as much as possible.]

I grew up in Brooklyn,* and while I spent summers on Lake George, I didn’t really start fishing until after college. I started fishing very seriously with a friend and coworker on Lake George and throughout the Adirondacks, but we weren’t fly-fishing. After Hurricane Floyd rocked the area of northern Lake George where I had been living and working, I returned to Brooklyn. It was there that I got into a conversation with the bartender at my neighborhood watering hole about fly fishing.

So began my life as a fly fisherman: The bartender worked the Saturday night shift, and I would pick him up as the bar closed at 4:00 AM. We’d drive out of the city and be on the Beaverkill, Neversink, or one of the branches of the Delaware a couple hours later.


“Adirondack Brook Trout”—Acrylic on mahogany, 12 x 16 inches, painted maple frame

I soon started to fly fish in the Adirondacks, and I still spend most of my time on still water– chasing brookies, lakers, and landlocked salmon in wilderness ponds and lakes. I love paddling a pack boat or canoe and casting big streamers. (Not to mention the Adirondack technique of *cough* trolling a wobbler with a trailing fly *cough*.) In the spring and fall, Lake George can produce nice lake trout and salmon on the fly.

I go to Martha’s Vineyard every year and spend a few nights casting for stripers and mornings trying to hook up with a bonito or albies. I still remember my first albie. . . . I had no striping basket and my stripped-in line was in a floating tangle in front of me. The fish busted a foot in front of me, and before I even had a chance to gasp, the line was gone and I was deep into my backing. For sheer exhilaration, I can’t think of a more exciting fish to catch on the fly!


Thompson drifts a nymph on New York,s famed Beaverkill.
Photo Courtesy Andrew Thompson

I have three-year-old and five-month-old sons, so the last few years have featured far less fishing than I care to admit, but I still get to the Catskills, Martha’s Vineyard and fish near my house on Lake George. I like to cast for brookies in the brook that runs through my town, using a 3-weight rod that a friend made.

The nice thing about painting fish is that I can live vicariously through other fishermen and their more grand adventures. On a personal level, it is also away for me to experience a fish that I probably will not have the opportunity to fish for, such as the 6-foot Bluefin tuna I painted recently.

To see more of Andrew Thompson’s work, visit his website .

*For fly-fishing and sporting art aficionados, I went to the same high school as Ogden Pleissner. Something about downtown Brooklyn makes people want to go out to fish and paint.


“Cutthrout Fishing with Thomas Moran”—Acrylic on paper, 14 x 18 inches

“Fish of Lake George”—Acrylic on paper, 30 x 24 inches

“Lake Trout, Lake George”—Acrylic on paper, 8 x 10 inches, painted maple frame

“Cutthrout Trout”—Acrylic on paper, 11 x 8 inches

Angling Art: Capturing the Moment on Canvas


“Hooked Up” 16×20 Acrylic on canvas
Painting by Steve Cobb

A couple weeks ago, I used a great image (below) by my friend Sandy Hays to illustrate a post about how to get your nymphs to the bottom fast. Sandy shot the photo several years ago, . . .


“Hooked Up” 16×20 Acrylic on canvas
Painting by Steve Cobb

A couple weeks ago, I used a great image (below) by my friend Sandy Hays to illustrate a post about how to get your nymphs to the bottom fast. Sandy shot the photo several years ago, when he and I were fishing in the Spanish Pyrenees with guide Ivan Tarin of Salvelinus Adventures.


Sandy’s great image captured the moment when guide Ivan Tarin brought a brown trout to hand.
Photo by Sandy Hays

The afternoon when the post featuring Sandy’s image was published, I got a note from artist Steve Cobb asking if he could use the photo as a reference for a painting. I agreed, and he got to work. Over the weekend, he sent me the final painting, which is remarkable for the way it captures the essence of the moment. You may remember Steve from his awesome holiday flies, the Santa Claus and the Thanksgiving Turkey. He’s clearly a great painter, too.


Steve Cobb’s rendition of Sandy’s shot is remarkably true to life.

Steve Cobb lives and fishes in Upstate New York, on the northern edge of Adirondack Park. You can check out all his great art and holiday flies at QuietRaquette.com.

Angling Art: New Works by Galen Mercer


“On a Flood Tide, Restigouche,” Oil on Canvas, 24″ X 36″, 2016
All paintings by Galen Mercer

Artist Galen Mercer lives along the Battenkill in West Arlington, Vermont. Canadian by birth, he’s the grandson of two painters and the son of another, so it’s kind of in his blood. (He’s also . . .


“On a Flood Tide, Restigouche,” Oil on Canvas, 24″ X 36″, 2016
All paintings by Galen Mercer

Artist Galen Mercer lives along the Battenkill in West Arlington, Vermont. Canadian by birth, he’s the grandson of two painters and the son of another, so it’s kind of in his blood. (He’s also married to Orvis’s own Jaimie Mercer, the subject of one of my favorite fly-fishing photos.) Here are five of his most recent works. Here’s how he describes the project:

For the most part, the works reflect experiences from the earlier part of the Quebec salmon season, when rivers are fullest, and the largest and strongest fish have begun to return. There’s something inexpressibly vital and grand about that period; life is surging back into the valleys, every color is radiantly fresh, and both the weather and sport share an element of roulette. I’ve always been drawn to the force or brio of this time, and hope the paintings might recall a sense of that anticipation, surprise and wonder which Gaspé landscapes seems to embody then.

Of the painting above, he says, “A brilliant day on a full river – the Lower Restigouche is a major study in scale. Panoramic views and vast ranks of Maritime clouds enliven its rugged landscape. Broad and physical, a wonderful and healthy sense of diminution attends this section of the river.”


“In the Big Mountains,” Oil on Canvas, 18″ X 25″, 2016
The breadth of a great salmon river. The promise and bewitching afterglow of a June evening.

“Twelve Greens,” Oil on Canvas, 16″ X 21″, 2016
Salmon boats at rest. A timeless aspect of every salmon camp. The variety and nuanced shades of
riverine greens, keyed to the traditional colors of a Sharpes canoe and amplified by bright sun.

“In the Shadows of Diamond Pool,” Oil on Canvas, 18″ X 22″, 2016
The operatic setting and mysterious beauty of ‘Diamond Pool’ on the Restigouche. Large salmon lie in
the rocky trench formed at the base of this dazzling mountainside.

“Passing Storm, Baie-des-Chaleurs,” Oil on Canvas, 19″ X 25″, 2016
A veiled and moody study of the aftermath of a great storm I witnessed one evening on this body of water. Nearly every salmon that ascends a Gaspe’ river journeys up this immense, marvelous bay. There’s magic in this thought.

Video: Find Your Water—”An Artist’s Frontier”

The star of the first episode of Season 2 of the “Find Your Water” series is Josh DeSmit, whom we profiled last summer. Follow him on some fishing adventures, as he discusses the. . .


The star of the first episode of Season 2 of the “Find Your Water” series is Josh DeSmit, whom we profiled last summer. Follow him on some fishing adventures, as he discusses the connections between his experiences on the water and his paintings. It’s fascinating stuff, and the visuals are exceptional.

The “Biological Regionalism” of Artist/Guide Alberto Rey


Biological Regionalism: Arctic Char, Hrutafjardara River, Iceland
All paintings by Alberto Rey

Artist and fly-fishing guide Alberto Rey was born near the Gulf Stream that flows by Havana, Cuba, and he has lived near moving water ever since. After seeking political asylum, his family moved. . .


Biological Regionalism: Arctic Char, Hrutafjardara River, Iceland
All paintings by Alberto Rey

Artist and fly-fishing guide Alberto Rey was born near the Gulf Stream that flows by Havana, Cuba, and he has lived near moving water ever since.

After seeking political asylum, his family moved to Mexico City and then Miami, before settling down in a small coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania. It was there that Alberto started fishing at an early age. His fishing expeditions were rarely productive but the long hikes to the stream and the sense of discovering nature seemed to become almost as important as finding those elusive fish. Perhaps it was that sense of discovery that first lead Alberto to study Biology in college before he got seduced by art.


Biological Regionalism: Catskill Brown Trout

He did not pick up a rod for about a decade after he graduated, as he became obsessed with establishing his career. After he was offered his current position as an art professor in a small city near Lake Erie, he was able to pick up the fly rod again and begin to study the biology of the stream and the migration patterns of the steelhead that swam in the stream that flowed near campus. A couple years later, Alberto started a youth fly-fishing program to provide a productive activity for the inner city youth, and soon afterwards, he became an Orvis-endorsed guide.


Biological Regionalism: Catskill Brown Trout

It became clear that exposing youth to their natural environment and creating activities where they participate in protecting their local waters, can make a significant, positive impact on their role in society. Alberto soon also used his artwork to expose the public to their local unprotected natural assets that needed their attention. He started creating small paintings of the native fish species and the landscape where they were caught. The work slowly got more ambitious and now his exhibitions included large, ten-foot paintings, videos, water data, large scale maps and informational plaques about the history of the stream and the communities that settled next to it.


Biological Regionalism: Cutthroat Trout, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

The work is now in twenty museum collections in the United States and Europe. This month, Alberto is traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he has been invited to create an exhibition documenting the very sacred but extremely polluted Bagmati River that flows through the city. As part of the research, he will also be fly-fishing for snow trout in the only clean parts of the stream high in the Himalayas.


Biological Regionalism: Bull Trout, Bitterroot River, Montana

As a way of sharing the impact that fly fishing can make in our communities, Alberto and friends will holding our fourth annual Children in the Stream Conference. The conference is the only one of its kind in the country where they spend four days discussing the nuts and bolts of starting a youth fly-fishing program and discussing how to into integrate fly fishing into the science, art, literature and social studies curricula in schools.


Biological Regionalism: Catskill Brown Trout

Alberto’s studio and home are now located on the banks of that steelhead stream that he fell in live with twenty-five years ago. This is where he and his wife have raised a family and where he continues to guide, teach, create art, and run an eighteen-year-old youth fly fishing program.


Alberto’s installation at Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State
Photo courtesy Alberto Rey

Click here for more of Alberto Rey’s artworks.