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Dave Weaver Interview -

Published by Dave Kile [davekile] on 06/07/2009 (10582 reads)
Dave Weaver Interview -
Dave Weaver is an artists that resides in south-central Pennsylvania. His artwork focuses on freshwater game fish, the saltwater flats, and the wildlife in and around Gettysburg. In addition to his wonderful paintings, Dave is an avid fly fisherman, civil war historian, and military veteran. His trout paintings truly standout and something I know many would enjoy learning more about.

1 - Dave: Tell me more about your background with your art.
I’m essentially self taught and would describe my art as best categorized as subject interest illustration. The word “illustration” tends to have somewhat low brow connotations in the elite fine art realm these days. That’s fine with me - my art isn’t a big deal. I think too many artists go to ridiculous lengths to explain how their work adds to the human condition or to demonstrate how sensitive they are. I don’t claim that my artwork has much real purpose other than to make fly fishermen happy.

Although I loved drawing animals as a kid, I didn’t start painting seriously until about 1992. It seems perfectly natural to me that my passion for sport fishing came to dominate my art topic matter. Any painter worth the stains on his or her palette has a passion for producing art – speaking for myself, however, I have a passion for fish and fishing and it’s really from this passion that my art got started. There’s something of a longstanding cliché among artists that it doesn’t matter what you paint, merely how you paint. While I agree with this in the abstract, for me subject matter – primarily trout – is a big part of what lured me back to drawing and putting paint to canvas. I started competing in trout stamp competitions about that time and eventually went on to win four competitions as well as placing in quite a few others. It wasn’t easy and a humbling experience.

While I’ve had the great good fortune to have had many mentors in other endeavors, with art I struggled to learn alone. I simply didn’t know anyone else who painted in the sport fishing genre whose shoulder I could watch over and to whom I could ask questions and seek constructive criticism on a regular basis. Fortunately there are many masters whose work I could study and I continue to scrutinize their work with an eye toward identifying the qualities that make it great. I did receive a lot of encouragement from fly fishermen and fly shops. In particular, I appreciate the encouragement from the late Dr Jack Beck of Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited and Enoch “Inky” Moore of the Pa Fish and Boat Commission. Special thanks for getting me started in fly fishing art also needs to go to Yellow Breeches Outfitters, the first gallery (fly shop really) to show any confidence in selling my trout art. They continue to display my work after 15 years - ditto with regards to Lord Nelson’s Gallery here in Gettysburg. I sincerely appreciate their support.

2- Dave: Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration for me flows primarily from fish and their environs. This is particularly true with trout. As your readers are well aware, wild trout are possessed of absolute beauty and I’m as fascinated with the physical traits of trout as anyone, especially brook and brown trout. As I like to say, I could paint brook trout for the rest of my life and never get bored. However, the form and coloration of brown trout, I find, are more mysterious, ephemeral, and difficult to portray than brook trout. I can’t explain why this is, but browns have always been tougher for me. Whatever the case, any honest Pennsylvania fly fisherman is inspired by wild trout. So am I.

Gazing at the work of great sporting and fish artists is also inspiring. Most of the great sport fish artists are contemporary. The fishing art genre, however, recently lost its patriarch, Stanley Meltzoff, at the age of 89. In my view, the current master of fish art is Mark Susinno, who, not surprisingly, lives and paints here in PA. Not only is Mark the best game fish artist in the world, he’s a hard core fly fisherman and a heckuva nice guy. I’m also stunned by the beauty and accuracy of artists like Mike Stidham and Joseph Tomelleri. Paintings by artists like these masters on top of their game are always an inspiration to me. 3 -Dave: Please tell me how and when you got started into fly-fishing.
Having grown up in a military family, I bounced around a lot as a kid but spent much of my youth in Texas and it was here that a love of the outdoors really took hold. Of course, trout fishing opportunities are very limited in Texas but I managed to catch my first trout in the Guadalupe River in the mid-70s. My interest in fishing, and fly fishing in particular, was largely kindled by outdoor magazine writers from that generation like Jim Bashline, Ted Trueblood, Lefty Kreh, Russell Tinsley, and Norm Strung. With a fiberglass fly rod and Martin reel I got to be pretty good at catching sunfish and bass from creeks in TX. We’d frequently visit my grandparents here in PA and I started fly fishing for trout during this time but it took me a long time to catch a trout on a fly even after I caught many on bait and spin tackle. Fly tying articles also struck my fancy and I remember using my mother’s sewing thread to try and tie a nymph I saw in a magazine. The article said to “glue” the head so I applied Elmer’s Glue – and soon came to discover Elmer’s isn’t waterproof. A trail and error childhood ain’t so bad.

4 - Dave: Tell me about your favorite fly and why.
I suppose my favorite fly for trout fishing is probably a foam beetle which I fish year round. It’s my go-to fly for summer searching and for throwing at rising trout when hatches aren’t obvious. Much of my own fly tying experimentation has focused more on bass and saltwater patterns. My favorite fly of my own creation (to the extent that anybody’s flies are really their own creation) is a rather complex madtom catfish imitation that I like for sight fishing to big smallies in clear water. I also fish a custom sculpin fly a lot on my home waters in the Cumberland Valley and it has accounted for many of the 20+ inch trout I’ve caught in these waters.

5 - Dave: Everyone will ask me why I didn’t ask this question if I don’t - so here goes – Is there a particular stream you like to fish and why?
If there is a stream that every PA fly fisherman should fish at least once, it’s Letort Spring Run. This historic creek will test the mettle of the best but the reason one ought to fish it is really, I think, more of an obligation to pilgrimage. So much of American fly fishing, and PA traditions in particular, have evolved or been innovated on Letort that we need to, in effect, connect with our heritage by sitting in Vince’s Meadow and watching for risers. At the risk of sounding a bit like a foolish sentimentalist, I think we PA fly fishers owe it to the Letort and our Pennsylvania fly fishing pioneers like Charlie Fox, Vince Marinaro, and Ed Shenk to do this. What better way to stay grounded and honor these pioneers than casting to a Letort fish (and getting refused). It really is a pilgrimage.

I’d also add that PA fly fishers shouldn’t overlook their local warm water creeks. Many fly fishers in our state live in large population areas around Pittsburgh and Philly where trout fishing opportunities are slim but where many warm water creeks abound. If you have never fished a small creek for red breast sunfish and smallmouth bass, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. If you have to drive a long way to trout fish, don’t cheat yourself out of fly fishing opportunities by overlooking warm water ponds and creeks (sometimes literally) in your own back yard. Fly fishing doesn’t have to be purely about trout.

6 - Dave: What keeps your interests outside of fly-fishing and painting.
Much of my adult life has been joined to the Gettysburg National Military Park where I’ve been a Licensed Battlefield Guide for 24 years. This is reflected in my art as I’ve been working on a series of paintings that depict wildlife on the battlefield. I spent this afternoon hiking eighth graders around Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, and across the field of Pickett’s Charge. I can’t imagine a life without fly fishing or a life without the chance to tell people about the Battle of Gettysburg.

7- Dave: What type images as it relates to fishing do you like to paint the most frequently?
The most common fishing paintings I attempt are basic portraits of trout. I’m not sure how many of these I knock out in a year but I’m sure I’ve produced hundreds of ‘em in my years as a painter. As mentioned, wild trout are an inspiration and every trout has some uniquely different quality and this keeps trout portraits fun and interesting for me. These portraits are also popular with my customers and have been consistently good sellers, especially brookies.

Landscape and fishing scenes keep me challenged too. I recently completed a scene of a fly fisherman fishing a section of the Potomac River with Harper’s Ferry in the background where I like to fish. Full background underwater scenes are typically the largest and most complex paintings I attempt. The underwater world can be tough to capture accurately on canvas. Just like any landscape, there is a horizon line underwater but light behaves differently underwater and perspective is exaggerated due to the particles and air bubbles in the water column. Sunlight underwater hits fish and objects with a shimmering effect of light streaks that is quite challenging to paint. Mark Susinno nails this sunlight effect every time. Let’s just say I have room for improvement. I spend a lot of time looking at underwater photos trying to get a grip on this. On visits to the Florida Keys I’ll usually take swim fins and a snorkel to get underwater photographs for reference.

8-Dave: Is the there any of your art that you are most proud of?
In 1996 I won the New Jersey Trout Stamp competition which allowed my artwork to be displayed the following year on that state’s fishing license. This was my first trout stamp and I’m still proud of it. During that time, the state of New Jersey was funding a new program to re-introduce sea run brown trout to the Manasquan River and I’m proud that my art helped raise money for this project.

9- Dave: Tell me where you think more energy and efforts need to be focused to help improve fly-fishing in Pennsylvania going forward.
I think many of your readers would like to see an abatement of stocking, more emphasis on protecting wild trout, and more focus on landowner relations so as to maintain public access and slow the spread of elite, high cost fishing clubs. I share these goals and viewpoints and their prevalence is front and center on this website’s forum (as they ought to be).

However, I think there are two areas where we, as PA fly fishers, ought to put particular effort to improve our beloved sport: Continued reclamation of streams with acidity degradation and by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) in particular, as well as introducing more youth to fly fishing. Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited and Adams County Trout Unlimited have emphasized these goals with a partnering to lime dose an acidic local trout stream as well as with youth camps. I’ve played a small role in both of these projects and would like to really step up my efforts this year. If we can recover more streams from AMD we can significantly expand trout fishing in many areas of the state, including a lot of water on public land. CVTU’s Rivers Conservation and Youth Camp has set the standard in our state for introducing youth to fly fishing. I’m convinced that expanding suburbanization combined with more and more kids raised in single parent homes, means far fewer kids will get a chance to discover the great outdoors like I and many of your readers did when we were young. TU also has a program to partner with schools as do many local sportsman’s clubs.
As the saying goes, take a kid fishing.

10-Dave: What final advice or tips do you have for those just getting started into the sport?
Beginning fly fishermen can, I’ve learned, make their early forays into the sport much improved by learning a couple knots, taking a modest approach to tackle purchases, and “thinking outside the trout box.”

New fly fishermen often, to their frustration, spend a lot of time tangled up. I always emphasize to beginners that when you get tangled, you’ll almost always save time by cutting and re-tying your leader as opposed to trying to untangle it. If beginners manage to learn the blood knot (which you can practice at home), you can just cut tangles apart and re-tie your leader saving a lot of time and frustration. This knot is a bit difficult to learn but will make a beginner’s time on the water much more enjoyable and efficient.

We fly fishers tend to be “geardos” eager to try the latest and greatest new fly rod or gadget. I’ve seen a lot of fishermen who would like to try fly fishing frightened off by the avalanche of new products and the price of much of these. In the end, fly fishing satisfaction, of course, doesn’t require the latest expensive gear. I tell new fly fisherman that if they’re spending more than about $150 for their first trout rod/line/reel they’re spending too much. You don’t need the latest, machined, disc drag fly reels to catch trout in PA. Get started with what you have and don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I’ll wait till next year to take up fly fishing when I can afford breathable waders.” Heck, use your old hip boots you used for bait fishing.

Also, many new fly fishers diminish their experience and the fun they ought to have by associating fly fishing exclusively with trout. I suggested earlier in this interview that folks ought to check out their local warm water creek. New fly fishers often find bass and sunfish much easier to catch than trout. Especially during the summer when trout streams are low and clear and all the dumb trout have been creeled, bass and sunnies can save the day for the beginner. I see a lot of beginners struggling to catch fish on streams like Slate Run, Valley Creek, the Yough, or Falling Springs. I try to remind new fly fishermen that there is plenty of fun to be had without getting skunked on our state’s legacy waters. Beginners should learn to think outside the trout box and focus on other species too.

Finally, I’d add that should a beginner aspire to become a top notch fly fisherman they could do worse than to develop and nurture intellectual curiosity about fish and their environment. Fly fishing seems to me to ultimately be an intense exercise in the experience of nature. While one doesn’t need to take up fly tying, this is to me the highest form of that experience of nature – to try to replicate the natural prey of fishes. It’s just fascinating. While some folks might get a bit ruffled by this statement, I think all the truly great fly fishermen are invariably great fly tiers as it is through the physical experience of constructing and experimenting with flies, that we come to best understand the form and function of flies. I don’t think the non fly tier can ever really acquire that depth of knowledge of flies and their properties. As well as being great tiers, great fly fishermen tend to be convergent thinkers with a keen sense of observation and a downright predatory focus on catching fish. In the end, of course, it’s really just about having fun. It goes without saying that one doesn’t need to aspire to be a great fly fisherman to enjoy the sport.

11-Dave: Tell me where can people find you?
Folks can find me at or right here on – just click on “Fishidiot.”

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