Picture the challenge and excitement of chasing and capturing a trophy fish. Many people continue to go to great lengths to chase illustrious gamefish all around the globe. Often the more remote and hard-to-get-to places have the greatest potential for a prize, but not always. Sometimes the trophy swims in your home state or nearby waters.
A trophy does not always mean a fish is a giant for the species.
Each angler has a unique set of parameters by which to judge a catch. Size is often the driving factor, but unusual characteristics, sheer beauty, or simply the key to a memorable trip or vacation can be the driving force in the desire to commemorate one’s catch.
Traditionally and still today, this often means arranging with a taxidermy company to create a fiberglass replica of your fish. Via a charter boat agent or directly with the companies, fishermen have been mounting fish this way for many years. In the days of old, the taxidermist actually needed your fish and the preservation process was tedious, slow and did not last because eventually the oils in the fish seeped back into the process and degraded the mount. Now a days, the fish in no longer needed in almost all cases. Over the years, taxidermists have stockpiled and now share an incredible pool of molds, once cast from real fish, but now reproduced purely in fiberglass and paint. A variety of positions and often extremely lifelike, the key to these standard mounts is still in the artistic ability of the painter to breathe life back into inert material. Some taxidermists do amazing work and the fish look as if they are fresh from the water.
There are some inherent downsides to traditional taxidermy too. It still takes a long time to get a mount done generally and the cost is still a factor. There are associated costs that come after the fact and often throw water on the fire of excitement to get your fish. The crating, shipping and handling charges that come at the end of the wait are often equivalent or close, to the cost of the mount itself. Still its worth it for many and I’m not trying to knock them. I have a bunch of mounts myself and do not regret it one bit.
But now there is an option to traditional mounts and it has a historic, artistic flare that brings another level of enjoyment to the memory of your catch. Brian Heustis of Maui Fish Printing has been practicing the ancient Japanese art of Gyotaku or fish printing for many years. Just as in the early days of regular taxidermy, Gyotaku has depended on having the actual fish to make the print from.
The paint is applied directly to the fish and then a fine rice paper is carefully pressed onto the fish and then lifted, bringing with it the artist’s impression of the fish. “It is simple and tricky at the same time” said Brian. “I still enjoy seeing the result of a print when it is lifted from the fish because each one is unique.”
Brian has taken this process to a new level and it offers an amazing option for anglers who want to commemorate their catch with a different approach and some real-life benefits. Brian does an original fish print for any species he can get access too. But then he scans the print and via the wonders of modern computing, he can scale a black and white reproduction of the fish to any size to match the size of the client’s catch.
Now with his black and white print on the same delicate rice paper, Brian taps his artistic abilities to hand paint the fish to the customer’s pictures and desires. So each print is as unique as an original work of art, but fits the size and species of his client’s catch.
Brian has worked hard on his concept and it has taken time to gather the library of fish species that he has to print from.
The catalog of printed fish is now 180-plus species strong and growing.
Living in Maui, Brian of course has access to the many big game pelagics like marlin, tuna and dorado and has done some incredible prints including a giant marlin. He also has a wide variety of other popular fish via his travels and friends sending him original specimens.
This is such a unique way to commemorate a memorable catch and Gyotaku has certainly grown in popularity. “I’ve had an established and growing business here in Hawaii for ten years now, but getting the word out around the globe that anglers now have this option is my number one goal right now”, says Brian. “I’m not out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the taxidermy model. In fact, I model my method after the tried and true model of the fiberglass world, but enjoy the benefit of not dealing with the shipping and handling issues of bulky, solid mounts. My prices bring your fish print to your door with no unforeseen or additional costs.”
Lodges and charter captains are quick to get on board once they find out about Brian’s program and their clients could not be happier with the results of getting a print commissioned around their fish. Charter captains like having two options to offer their clients; traditional and Gyotaku mounts.
“On a recent visit to Zancudo Lodge in Costa Rica, Capt. Scott Goodwin saw Brian’s fish prints on the wall. “I walked into the spectacular open-air dining area of Zancudo Lodge and there on the wall was a stunning roosterfish print that I immediately recognized as one of Brian’s pieces”, said Capt. Scott. “What a unique way for clients of the lodge to preserve the memory of their catch and hang a gorgeous piece of art on their wall at home. I was familiar with his work from an Artist Spotlight I had done on BD.”
There are other benefits that Brian touts as pluses to his style of “taxidermy”. First, Brian does not need the fish once the first one has been printed and that promotes catch and release. Also his methods do not create the toxic wastes, unlike some of the chemicals used in traditional fiberglass methods. “Gyotaku is just a much more traditional, organic process that has been around for centuries and I really believe that there is a place for both kinds of taxidermy in the business. My clients often have hard mounts at home and now they enjoy this unique and personal option, that happens to be more affordable and user friendly”, commented Brian.
If you would like to learn more about Brian’s gyotaku mounts, you can call him at (808) 344-9954, email him, or check out his website. You will be amazed when you do.