Legends of the Game VIII
By Bob Leeman

I remember being in the Cliff Parke’s basement one day, a long time ago, and watching him work at his Bangor home.

Cliff was an “old school” fish taxidermist who carved out the body of the subject from a block of soft pine wood. He would then pull the entire skin of the fish over the whittled-out block, tack it down from the back side, then block up the fins and tail until flat, and then let dry.

The finished product was not entirely done until it was coated with a polymer of sort, then tacked onto an often oblong plaque to suit the length.

The whole process of skinning, carving, etc. took days to complete. But the final result was a mount that should last for years.

I have two fish mounts done by Cliff back in the l980s. One is a five-pound white fish and the other a five-pound brook trout. Both were taken on a trip to Labrador.

These are both on display in my rec room and look just as nice today as when mounted.

Now, fast-forward to today’s genius woodcarver, artist, and sculptor, Gene Bahr of Sebago, Maine. His taxidermy tools consist of carving knives, paintbrush, and skills used in his creations from a block of hard and dry basswood.

Years ago, Gene got pointers from friend, David Footer, a master artist and taxidermist himself, who fitted skin over a prepared form, sometimes referred to as “stuffing”. But Gene preferred then to apply his talents to wood carving and artistry, and maybe save some of those “trophy fish” that might be released to fight another day.

Something new in this game, as they say, and the rewards would be more than just satisfaction.

So, for Gene and this new strategy, all you need is a photo and a few measurements, like length and girth. It’s really gratifying to release a trophy fish and know it is going to live and reproduce another day. And, in your camera and pocket are the proof and facts. Artist Barh will do the rest, and the end result will be your trophy, in all its color, size and beauty, for you and others to admire for years to come.

In this modern day of taxidermy, there are available all sorts of fish and animal forms, in plastic mostly, consisting of heads, eyes, bodies, and on and on; making it easier all the time for participants in the activity.

(Bob Leeman is a Master Maine Guide, outdoor writer, naturalist, book author, and a co-host of the “MAINE OUTDOORS” radio program on Sunday evenings from 7-8 p.m. His three books are all available at several bookstores and fly shops, or directly from him. For information on his books, please call 207-989-7696.)

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