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Fish have fascinated me since I can remember, but trout are still the one species that elicits the spirit of fly-fishing. It’s those encounters with nature, in crisp chilled air standing knee high in crystal clear mountain stream water or casting to rising fish in still water lakes where it feels like you and your partner could be the only human around for miles. The one thing that connects all fly fishermen to rejuvenate our souls, are trout. I think it’s due to the fact that finding those exquisite looking rainbows and brown trout generally means getting in your 4x4 and heading for some secluded mountain destination.
I have painted many trout paintings, both Rainbow and Brown trout over the years. They are truly one of the most spectacular looking fish - especially the wilder fish. I have spent large amounts of time studying these beautiful creatures, sketching and drawing every detail. I get to understand their exactness: scales, colour, fins, movement etc. which helps when I conceptualise for a painting.
My aim when doing a painting is to capture a story and I often incorporate a large amount of detail, giving an indication of habitat, time of day and gender of the particular fish. The painting must portray the subject as accurately as possible, and in most cases, this is quite a difficult task as fish that are viewed out of water are very different underwater.
Brown Trout on the Witte
Catching the Light
"River Keeper " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Acrylic on Board (80cm X 52cm)
Some fish have such a magical appeal. Appart from it's obvious stiking appearance and magnificent colouration,, brown trout are one of the most treasured catches. They can be very elusive creatures. The larger older and wiser fish are almost imposible to catch.
In this painting I have featured the ultimate uncatchable hunter. I have indicated a male cock fish with it's pronounced kype. The brown trout scrutinises the imitation dragonfly nymph in a clear rocky river.
"Opportune Moment " - Rainbow and Brown Trout
Oil on Canvas (120cm X 91cm)
In the Painting “Opportune Moment” which was commissioned by a client, a Rainbow hen fish was painted rising up from the bottom of a rocky river bed to a Whooly Bugger fly. This was a challenging yet hugely rewarding painting - I spent many days researching. Although the rainbow trout formed the main “character” of this event, it is really a painting of three totally different fish species – Brown trout, the small-scale Yellow Fish and the Rainbow trout. This was required a large amount of imagination and experience. I really enjoyed creating the lighting reflections on the surface of the rainbow trout. I was very particular and careful with the small-scale Yellow Fish as there are very subtle differences between the different variations of Yellow Fish that inhabit the South African rivers. “Opportune Moment” for me sums up the very purpose of my work – telling a story using oil paint on canvas.
"Rainbow Trout " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
This painting - “Rainbow Trout” - was the result of a request from an angler who had caught and mounted a trophy trout. He wanted me to paint the event as he remembered. Photographs of his trophy fish were emailed to me for reference. This enabled me to replicate, in colour and form, the perfectly conditioned large Rainbow Trout being brought to life in the painting rising to an emmerger pattern fly. As the fish prepared to sip up the small fly I was careful to show the fins steering and balancing as it came closer. This picture leaves the viewer at a moment of suspense – does the fish take the fly or is it refused? I also enjoyed creating depth in the background, showing gravel and rocks fading off into the hazy depths giving the piece an authentic feel. I have imagined this image so many times myself.
"Speckled Opportunist " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Board (75cm X 45cm)
Being quite territorial – brown trout usually have holding areas, lying behind large rocky outcrops and boulders hugging the bottom where the current is not too strong and their energy expenditure not too high. They wait for insects and small fish to drift past them. In this painting “Speckled Opportunist” the brown trout spots a “dragonfly nymph” and swerves out to engulf it, what it doesn’t realize is that this is a wonderfully disguised hook – a dragon fly imitation.
I enjoy showing their habitat as this helps to complete the story (note the dark depths behind the subject – what could be lying there!)
“Speckled Opportunist” was painted on a 75cm x 45cm board using oil paint and framed. It now hangs proudly in the owner’s study.
"High Noon Pursuit " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Board (48cm X 28cm)
A painting that I completed quite a while back - “High Noon Pursuit” - was one of my earlier successes. The painting depicts a Rainbow Cock fish chasing a few minnows. This concept came from a very successful fishing trip that I took to the Mpumalanga. It was early September and the rainbow trout were hungry and were stocking up the fat reserves before spawning later that month. Their colours were so intense and one of the fish I caught early one morning was a Rainbow cock fish, it was such an attractive fish, in perfect condition with it’s colours so saturated - deep crimson running down the sides into the gill covers. After a few frantic seconds photographing, I before released it. I spent many inspired filled days painting every detail. This piece was painted using oil paint on a 48cm x 28cm board.
"Hunting Rainbow Trout " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
“Hunting Rainbow Trout” was painted on a 91cm x 61cm stretched canvas using oil paint. It shows the typical habitat of the Rainbow Trout hen chasing a few small minnow along the river bed. I indicated movement showing dust being “kicked” up which enhanced the effect of the frantic moment. Careful detail was put into illustrating the fine pebbles, scattered rocks and branches of the river bed. I created depth by fading the background structure and rocks into the misty depths. In a shallow river like this, the rays of light would filter through to the river bottom where interesting patterns would be cast. Creating this feel relies on subtle blending of colours to give a glowing effect as though the fish really existed.
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All artwork and text is copyright 2009 Craig Bertram Smith. All rights reserved.