Welcome to the fish taxidermy section of our site
Skin mounts, casts, Bow fronted cases, restoration, and bespoke project mounts.
Our Fish taxidermy services
We specialise in advanced, high quality skin mount fish taxidermy. We can also produce resin based replicas (casts) to any degree of complexity. We also have a unique method for producing skin mounted fish in a two sided presentation (example here ). Fish painting is an art in itself and requires a detailed, accurate and faithful portrayal of the original fish. In most species, this involves hand painting every individual scale at least twice and applying multiple layers of subtle tones to create the natural look of a particular fish
Few taxidermists in the UK have taken the time to develop methods and techniques, in the context of modern materials, which can allow for very high quality results in a skin mount. This may be because it takes many years to develop and learn the techniques necessary to do it well. The comparatively low demand for skin mounts today may render it uneconomic for many to take the necessary time and effort to learn how to do it.
About fish taxidermy in the U.K.
The few taxidermists in the UK today who can or will do skin mounted fish provide basically three main options to the client wanting a fish mounted.
There are a small number of taxidermists, who still offer the traditional skin mounting techniques, perfected by the likes of Coopers and Homer which, although they work, are actually well over 100 years old and have long been superseded. Of course, these techniques are tried and tested, and there are a few fish taxidermists in the UK who produce some beautifully crafted pieces, which one would struggle to tell apart from those of the old masters. If this presentation is your preference, then there several practitioners, who will be happy to produce work in that style for you.
Secondly, there are some taxidermists who may not have the requisite skills or time to produce a quality skin mounts and instead, offer a replica or cast. In this method a mould is made over the whole fish, usually in silicone rubber. It is then covered in layer fibreglass to support it. Once set, the fish is removed from the mould and, having served its purpose, is disposed of. The mould is then cleaned and resin is layer painted into it, to produce a replica or cast of the original fish. Some casts can be very basic and poorly made they are little more than pouring rubber on the flacid body of a dead fish. Look carefully at previous examples from anyone offering a cast. This is not to denegrate the cast as an option. As with most methods it is about the skill of the operator. Casting some fish is the only option and in a higher quality casts or complex pieces, many mould parts must be made. The fins, mouth, head, and gills may all be moulded separately, requiring considerable technical expertise. The cast is removed from the mould, prepared and painted in the same manner as for the skin mounted fish. Again the painting requires considerable skill. In the strict meaning of the word, a cast fish is not in any way actual “taxidermy” because nothing of the actual fish is used. Making a cast employs just some of the skill sets a fish taxidermist should have but done well they can be superb display items.
Modern skin mount fish taxidermy.
There are many methods to skin mount fish, we have developed our own, unique techniques and materials to achieve a finished mount which is solid, stable, grease free and anatomically accurate with minimal shrinkage. A fish mounted using these methods can be presented in a traditional or contemporary manner so, if your preference is still for a more traditional presentation, such as a fully decorated bow fronted case, we will be happy to build a bespoke, bow fronted case for you, though it will not emulate the work of others, be they modern or traditional.
Techniques of skin mounting a fish are as many as they are varied. However, at its most basic, the requirement is that the skin of the fish is completely removed, very thoroughly cleaned, degreased and preserved. The head and fins are removed and dealt with separately. The main body is replaced with a solid rigid artificial body or “form”. The preserved and degreased skin of the fish is then carefully modelled and secured to the form to ensure anatomical accuracy. This is then allowed to dry out for a number of weeks and it loses its entire colour and fades back to a dull grey brown. Once dry; the fins, head and eyes must all be variously attached, modelled, fine sculpted and stabilised ready for final finishing. The entire fish must be completely repainted and toned to restore all the subtle markings and scale detail. The skill of the artist is required along with a detailed knowledge of the fish as a subject. The painting can take many hours of work to complete. It can take over 25 hours to paint just one side of a salmon of around 25lbs. This is excluding the work to mount the skin and create the presentation for the completed mount. Fish taxidermy, done well, is time consuming and requires many skill sets, the cost is commensurate with the skill and time it takes.Read More
In our own personal experience most clients, who have the fish frozen and given an informed choice, will opt for a skin mount. To get to the heart of it, no matter how well produced and painted a cast may, be the fact remains it is still a replica and has nothing of the original fish in it. Consequently, clients sometimes comment that they feel that there would be something missing or they simply dismiss it as a “plastic fish” and will not even entertain the notion. There is of course also the option to have both ! A cast for the office and the skin mount at home in the study.
Our opinion is that there is a place for every technique and, with some species of fish, a cast may be the only option. This is particularly true of many salt water species. Some fresh water species lend themselves very well to be skin mounted: such as Pike, Zander, Perch, and others. Some require a combination of the two disciplines to achieve a good result. This is particularly true for the larger Salmon and Trout if a high quality, accurate and lasting mount is to be achieved. Catch and release these days means that the skin mount preference is purely academic, as the only option may be to have a reproduction made of the fish from photographs.
Presentation is the context into which the mounted fish is placed to show it off to its best advantage, and to suit your situation, whilst ensuring that it is protected from the rigours of its immediate environment. For a skin mount, this means placing the fish in a display case. Fish that are uncased will soon become dusty and get damaged, fins are delicate and easily broken, rendering it a waste of money. We strongly advise against uncased skin mounts. No case, have a cast.We can produce cases and presentations custom built to client specification.
Bow fronted case
This option is by far the most popular. Historically, fish taxidermists in this country mounted fish in bow fronted glass cases, which were decorated inside to replicate an underwater scene and to give the fish context. Gold lettering was put on the glass inside the case giving details of who caught the fish, where, when and what it weighed. This has, over the years, become the traditional way of presenting a fish in the U.K. Fish mounted in this manner can be seen on the walls of private houses, Fishing Lodges, Hotels etc throughout the British Isles. The format and basic specification has changed little over the years. It is probably for this reason that the bow fronted case is normally the first choice for clients wishing to have a fish set up. I build all my bow-fronted cases in my workshop to a very high specification. The design and construction of our cases is our own, developed over 20 years. Though they are now being copied.
Our bow front cases
Each case is constructed individually. The background of the case is painted in a montage of colours, sympathetic to the subtle colouring of the fish. The habitat is to mimic that of the water in which the fish was caught. Usually gravel river bed and very minimal weed. I do not generally over dress cases with dried grasses, moss and reeds etc as a well set up fish does not need unnecessary embellishments to detract from the fish. That and the fact that most game fish are caught in fast flowing rivers. Our cases are finished in gloss or satin laquer, the glass panels are held in with hardwood mouldings giving a far higher standard of finish. The Bowed Glass is 4mm thick clear float annealed with a gold and black border. Most other bow front cases are basically copies of Coopers and Wards cases from the 18 and 1900`s, finished in black paint, the bowed glass held in with black tape. Whilst this may be a cheap and quick method of finishing off a fish case, I believe that in the context of modern taxidermy, it looks cheap and quick.
Less costly than the bow front, these are a rectangular box construction, glazed both ends and front. Like the bow fronted cases, they can be decorated, and have gold lettering, or kept plain to reduce cost, by having just the fish and perhaps a simple engraved plate to denote the provenance of the fish.
Fish restoration and repair.
Badly mounted or damaged fish can be completely re-modelled and repainted. Every year we are presented with fish mounted elsewhere, sometimes to appallingly low standards. These mounts require a complete strip down and very considerable work to put right. Often the cases too are thrown together and are inferior in every respect. This is the false economy of cheap work. It will cost more to put a bad fish right than it would to have it done well in the first place. We are not interested in doing a cheap “bodge up jobs” of other peoples inferior work. We either put it 100% right or we will not touch it. Most badly mounted fish need to be totally stripped down and recased.
Antique fish taxidermy restoration.
By choice, we do undertake restoration/conservation of Antique fish by Cooper, Homer, Wards et al. There are a number of people out there who do, and we are happy they provide this vital service. Some modern fishermen too, require fish to be mounted in this antique style, again, though we can do it, we have moved on from these old methods and there are others who can fill the demand for this kind of work if it is your choice. Like all sought after items, there are some accurate copies on the market, some of which are very well done, meaning that some individuals have been sold worthless “antiques”. We have been asked to look at, and assess, old or supposedly old mounts however, we prefer to leave this to those who specialise in “antique fish taxidermy”.
Bespoke special project mounts.
For clients who want something very different form the norm in terms of fish taxidermy we can consult on any ideas and produce a truly unique piece. Please view our fish galleries and special projects pages to see examples of what we can do.