Fish are beautiful. Even if you’ve only caught a handful in your life, you know that no two specimens are alike. The scaling, colors, and spotting so unique, we anglers are just as anxious to snap a pic of our catch as get them to shore. I’ve always thought of each one a distinct work of art. I appreciate the hundreds of catches I see in my feeds each day online and while the photos do these fish plenty of justice, sometimes an artisan can bring out an even higher level of detail to catch your eye. Especially for a memorable fish from a memorable trip, you can take your photos and make much more out of them. Some catches can be transformed into a permanent keepsake to hang on your wall, decorate your man cave or complete your study mantle. Expressed in a new medium, your special catch can be seen in a whole new light. This happens to be the work of Scott Hirschi and it’s called pyrography.
pyrography: the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.
He takes some of the finest woods and turns them into gorgeous artworks that bring out the sometimes overlooked aspects of your catch. To learn more about how he does this, we reached out to Scott talk more about him and his artwork.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an artist and angler too?
I’ve been an artist and a fishermen as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, fishing was really my favorite activity. My family was heavily involved in stock car racing and that took up most of our summer weekends in Montana. But, on the rare weekend off, my dad would take us fishing and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember wanting to fish every body of water that we would drive by and wanting to live in the small towns with rivers running right through them. When I got old enough, my friends and I would walk 5 miles to a small creek to fish all day. We would carry our rods and tackle boxes with very little water or anything else in the hot summer just to fish. I discovered fly fishing as a young adult and taught myself through trial and error. I still love it every bit as much and I fish a couple times a week on average throughout the year.
As far as art goes, I was always drawing. My coloring books as a kid had a blank page inside the front and back covers and that was always filled with drawings, mostly of race cars. I thought I wanted to be an artist and my focus turned to wildlife in middle school. I got a really small art scholarship to a small Wyoming college and thought I’d be a fine arts major. I wasn’t college material and didn’t last. I dabbled in pencil drawing and some pen and ink stuff off and on for many years. Then, about 8 years ago, I discovered pyrography (wod burning) and found that I was better with a burner than I was with anything else. I put a piece in a charity auction and it sold for much more than I was getting for my drawings. I loved the fact that it is different and you rarely are next to other wood burners when art is displayed. I also like the fact that almost everyone has tried it as a kid and that I’ve taken it to a higher level. So, I set out to see how far I could get with an uncommon media in the art world. Now, I’m in a couple Montana galleries and I’m making it into good juried art shows. This past March, I was in a show in Great Falls, Montana for their prestigous Western Art Week. I’ve been interviewed by Woodworker’s Journal, a national publication. My art is hung alongside some fantastic artists that I look up to. It’s only been three years since I got really serious about it and I’m enjoying every step of it. I have some great artists as mentors and they are very excited about the progression of my art career. At age 51, I’m now ready to do everything it actually takes.
A favorite fishing story. Maybe one that provided(s) art inspiration?
Wow, so many. Most of my favorite fishing memories are of specific fish that are difficult to catch. There was a large rainbow trout on the Missouri River sipping tricos that ignored every cast and every pattern until I finally fooled it with a rusty spinner that was just different enough to catch her attention. There was a large brown in gin clear water. I, somehow, made a perfect cast on the first attempt. I watched that fish move up to take the fly and just couldn’t wait to set the hook. So, I set it slightly prematurely and pulled the fly just before it actually took it. There was another rainbow on the Missouri feeding in a tough spot. I cast at that fish for nearly an hour trying to get the right drift until it ate the fly. I should use these and other personal experiences to inspire art, but it seems that, when I’m fishing, I’m fishing and, when I’m creating art, that is the focus. I’m more inspired by just the beauty of the fish and animals that I encounter. I do a lot of different wildlife in my art, but the fish really get the most attention. Every time I create something with a fish, I am inundated with inquiries about buying it. My galleries want more fish!
What are the unique fishing opportunities near you, favorite kind of fishing to do, tackle tips or tricks?
I live in one of the best trout fishing areas in the country. I am near the headwaters of the Missouri River and it flows very near to Helena. The Missouri as a tailwater is one of the best trout streams in the world. Also, the chain of reservoirs that it flows through are fantastic for trout, walleye, perch and more. I’m a short drive to the Madison, Blackfoot, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Clark’s Fork and more. Helena is centrally located in Montana, so we really have it all for trout.
One of my favorite things to do is to fish the reservoirs for trout with my fly rod. I have a small pontoon and I can be on the water in twenty minutes. I love fishing chironomid patterns under and indicator for big rainbows. I also love to fish crayfish patterns by throwing them tight to the bank and stripping them. I’m also starting to figure out how to catch some perch and walleye on the fly rod. This smmer, I plan on targeting carp in the bays of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Add to that many small mountain creeks and I have lots of great options!
Living in Montana has plenty of advantages. For Scott, it’s not only a constant source of inspiration but also a good excuse to get outside fishing often! To learn more about his work check out this link to his page or his Facebook page!