Summer 2009

Greetings friends and fish carvers,

It`s been quite a while since I`ve shared any personal news so I figured it was high time I made it happen. Consider this as an update on myself, family, outdoor endeavors, business and also some new workshops I`m offering soon at my own studio here outside Billings, Montana. I hope this finds you and all your families healthy and doing well. No complaints here and in fact I`d have to say I`m truly blessed and thankful.

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Jake and Alicia on the bridge by our house -Summer 2009
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Jake and Alicia on the bridge by our house
For a little family news, my oldest son Jake, who is 25 and an electrician, got married to a fine Canadian girl in February. Rika and I think she`s the perfect match for Jake and we couldn`t be happier for him. I have two other sons now playing football for Montana State and both are in the engineering program. Caleb is a red-shirt freshman, playing at defensive end and Joe is a senior and will be starting at tight end. We look forward to chasing those two around the country to their games again this fall.

Our daughter Erin, who will be an eighth grader next fall, is 5`-11" and still counting, loves to play basketball and that`s a great combination. She also keeps us hopping, going to all her sporting events. My wife Rika still works 4 days a week at the Cardiac Rehab dept. at our local hospital, keeps the household running smoothly and us all pointed in the right direction. I don`t know what I`d do without her.

In addition to my attempts to make a living as a woodcarver/sculptor/artist we live on an old farm and there is always work to be done. I don`t actually farm the place but between the maintenance of three buildings and hundreds of trees, and all the outdoor projects I keep dreaming up, it sometimes puts a major crimp in our fishing and hunting time. Now that most of my "slaves" have grown up and left home (a good reason to leave) I really need to tone it down a bit and not overwork and scare off my last remaining slave. (Erin)

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No need for a shuttle with my new, unpatented, "Tow 'n Flow", self-sufficient, floating tow system -Summer 2009
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No need for a shuttle with my new, unpatented, "Tow 'n Flow", self-sufficient, floating tow system
Anyway, we still find some time to get out and enjoy God`s creation here in Montana even though it seems I can never get enough. I love the mountains and rivers and even the remote rolling plains of eastern Montana. The state is huge and there`s a lot to explore. This summer, we hope to take at least one, 3-day backpacking trip to fish some of the high mountain lakes of the Beartooth Mountains in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and another extended canoe trip to float a remote stretch of the Judith River and explore the Judith River Breaks.

I`ve never floated this river before and I`m told there are Rainbows and Brooks in the upper reaches of the river and as it gets further from the mountains it develops into a great Sauger and Catfish fishery. I`m really looking forward to that canoe/camping and fishing/reference gathering trip and a lot of other one-day trips as well.

We live about a mile, as the crow flies, from the Yellowstone River and I float it whenever I can and sometimes I`ll take the hour and a half drive over to the Big Horn River where the fishing is usually good but it has a huge national reputation and sometimes you have to put up with a lot of fly lines whipping through the air. I take the canoe or the driftboat depending on who I`m with, what stretch of water it is and how we`re fishing. I just bought a new fly rod recently so I`m guessing I`ll be choosing the driftboat a little more this year in order to break-in the new rod.

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Caught on my fly rod near Billings :o) -Summer 2009
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Caught on my fly rod near Billings :o)
On the work front, I thankfully landed a unique job to start out 2009, carving two trout, a Brown and a Brook, for the new Cabela`s store here in Billings. They are both mature males in spawning colors, and that is not too unusual for me, but the fact that they are five feet long is! That`s right, five feet! Due to the logistics and difficulties of carving something that big out of wood, I opted to carve them out of high-density urethane foam. They hang over the entrance to the fly shop at the new store and they sure cause a lot of double takes and I`ve been getting a lot of positive feedback. I also carved a giant Rainbow and I am presently looking for a buyer. Know anyone that needs a five-foot Rainbow Trout?

About the time I was finishing up with those, in April I flew down to Kansas City, MO and was picked up by none other than my good friend, Don Frank, fish carver extraordinaire. A number of years ago, when this guy was faced with the task of carving several world record sized fish for Bass Pro Shops, he didn`t wimp out and resort to foam like someone else we know but grabbed the bull by the horns and carved wood! Old Don is the real deal and after tackling those three giant fish myself I gained a new respect and admiration for Don. Anyway we spent a day fishing for Crappie, and let`s just say it was interesting but a lot of fun.

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World class fish carver/taxidermist, Don Frank and his wife Carol standing in front of Don's shop in Missouri -Summer 2009
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World class fish carver/taxidermist, Don Frank and his wife Carol standing in front of Don's shop in Missouri
Next we headed to St. Charles, MO, along with his wife Carol, to attend the biannual World Fish Carving Championships. Don and I, along with Danny Patterson, the president of the National Fish Carvers Guild teamed up to take on the formidable task of judging the competition. The competition was good in most categories so it made the job tough, but Dan and Don know their stuff, were a delight to work with and I think we judged it fairly and to the best of our ability. If you haven`t heard, Ted Richmond of Kansas won Best in World, Natural Finish and Josh Guge of Illinois won both Best in World, Decorative Miniatures and Decorative Life-size as well, and Judges Choice Best of Show. For both of these guys it was their first time to break into the ranks of "World Champion fish carver" and to them I say congratulations and job well done.

About a month ago, I finished up teaching a National Fish Carvers Guild sponsored workshop at Ronny Leger`s shop near Sacramento where we carved and painted a Bluegill. Everybody`s fish looked great and we all came away with some new knowledge, tips, tricks and techniques for our projects back home. The best part about it for me was the many new friends I had the privilege of meeting and also getting reacquainted with some old friends. That to me is the best part of attending carving workshops.

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Prize pupil, Ron Ginter of Chugiak, Alaska, on paint day, with his excellent Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout -Summer 2009
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Prize pupil, Ron Ginter of Chugiak, Alaska, on paint day, with his excellent Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Speaking of carving workshops, I have had quite a bit of interest in some specific areas of fish carving and have decided to schedule a few new workshops this early fall at my own studio outside Billings. Please take a look at the Carving Classes page and see if there might be something that interests you. The September and October months are a great time to visit Montana. The weather has cooled off, the bugs are gone and the tourist crowds of summer are all back home with their kids in school. By the 2nd week of September the aspens are turning brilliant yellow in "the park" (and all of the high country) and a big highlight for me is the big bull elk are tuned up and bugling. Also, by September, it`s still t-shirt weather during the day, the nights are cool, all the rivers are running low and crystal clear and the trout really turn up their feeding to get fattened up for the long winter. Browns are my favorite trout and this is the best time of year to catch a colored up, extended kype, spawning male Brown Trout. It just doesn`t get any better than that.

If you have ever considered spending a little time with me, either one-on-one (the summer still has some dates available) or in a group class, now might be the time to give me a call. (406) 656- 9151. My wife Rika and I, extend an open invitation to come spend some time with us. Have a great summer and fall and don`t let yourself get too busy to get out and collect some reference!


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