Friday, August 14, 2015

Zen and the Art of Fly Fishing

David Tibbetts, Fly Fisherman, Watercolorist

By Wayne D. King
Paintings by David Tibbetts 

If you’ve spent an early morning casting into the waters around Pontook Dam on the Androscoggin River in Milan or paddling around the shores of Lake Armington in Piermont looking for that perfect spot, you know that fly fishing is more than just fishing . . . it’s a spiritual experience . . . a Zen moment. Some people capture those moments only in their minds, placing them in a spot where they can be recalled in a moment of stress or leisure as needed. Dave Tibbetts captures them on watercolor paper and shares them with the world. 

If you ask him, depending upon the day and his mood, he is either a watercolorist who loves fishing or a fisherman who loves to paint watercolors. That’s why Dave chooses to live, with his wife Julie, in a small town in NH.  Nearby are the woods and trout streams that fill his pallet.

His inspiration usually comes while standing in a river with a fly rod in hand. He says that the river pressing around him seems to say, “Don't let this moment escape.  Get out your brushes and have some fun!”  Tough to do sometimes when the trout or salmon are rising, so he gets out his camera and shoots a roll or two.  Rivers, rocks, boats and constant change; It’s all exciting stuff to him. 

Back in his studio he paints and goes back to that magic moment.  Dave says, “I want people to enjoy that moment, too.  Not as I enjoyed it, but with whatever they bring to the painting.  Fortunately I live in a part of the world where, with very little effort, I can be on some of the best fishing and painting water in the country. I paint because I love to paint...I paint what I want to paint and I really enjoy knowing the folks that own my watercolors.”

His work is shown at a few select galleries in New Hampshire and Maine and part of his summer and fall are spent showing at outdoor art festivals.  Although he’s won numerous awards at these shows according to Dave the most rewarding part of the shows is all the nice folks he meets. But we have it on good authority that the greatest reward is the hushed conversation where another angler shares his ”secret trout holes“.

Dave fishes a lot of water from the Upper Connecticut River to the Androscoggin and the Pemigewasset and Baker Rivers, with a lot of ponds and lakes thrown into the mix.

Whether you fish or not, everyone knows that fisherman are prone to exaggeration when it comes to the size of their catch and the conditions under which they were caught. Dave loves a good fishing story and he has a lot of his own to tell.

“There's a little beaver pond in Orange, NH that I used to fish (its gone now), but when the hatch was on those trout would be just about jumping into your canoe.  Fact is, the fishing was so good, you had to go into the woods and hide behind a tree to change your fly!”

Sometimes moments don’t require exaggeration to make them interesting and exciting. In Late September of last year, Dave was fishing from his canoe at the far end of Hall Pond in Campton where it narrows down and flows out.  According to Dave, “the trout were pretty active in the shallows and I was having a great time tossing out a hornberg right high and dry.  Suddenly out of nowhere came a shout ‘Hey look out!’  I turned around, and there was a moose about ten feet away and he didn't look too happy to have me in his spot.  I half pushed and half paddled
 to the other bank and watched.  That moose then decided he wanted me clear out of there, and started for the canoe.  I baled out into the woods thinking that that was the end of my canoe.  He stopped at the edge of the canoe, threw some water, spun around a couple of times, went back to where we both started and then he went off into the woods not to be seen again.  They sure get big up close in person!  Yes, I kept on fishing...”


Review of Anglers and Arts Exhibit
“Outstanding and on view are the watercolors of David B. Tibbetts, a lifelong fly fisherman who paints the rivers and ponds of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  In his lake and stream scenes, Tibbetts masterfully explores the nuances of shadow, the dark hollows of the riverbed, the mist melting into the pines”.
                                      D.Quincy Whitney, Arts and People
                                      The Boston Globe

Dave paints for himself mostly, but after seeing his work many folks have commissioned Dave to paint watercolors of their favorite fishing hole, summer camp, or just a spot that they hold dear.  “It’s a one-of-a-kind gift to themselves or to someone who is special to them.” says Dave. He takes these works as seriously as his own, often spending hours on the telephone and traveling to meet the person to better understand not just the spot but its meaning. Now and then he has arranged a commission over the phone even though he has never met the patrons.  They give him directions to their camp or subject, where he does some sketches, takes some photos before heading back to his studio.  Usually after wetting a line or two!  He, then, completes the painting and ships it off.  

Recently Dave has begun producing signed limited edition prints of some of his work, making it more affordable to folks who just plain love it but could not otherwise afford an original. His limited edition prints are limited to no more than fifty copies, and most to only twenty five or ten.  As Dave says, to his way of thinking,  “any more than that, isn’t really a “limited” edition,

If you’re ever out on a river or pond and see a friendly fellow with a full beard, wearing a grey Greek fisherman's cap, a streamer stuck in the side of it, say hello and swap some fishing stories.  He says he can lie with the best of 'em!

And as Dave says, ”Tight Lines“.

About the Artist

David B. Tibbetts
Dave studied Fine Arts and Graphic Design at Vesper George School of Art in Boston during the late 1950’s, where he had an opportunity to experiment extensively with oils, woodcuts and space constructions using figurative as well as abstract expressionist techniques. It was during this time that he discovered the world of Alexander Calder, Paul Klee and Winslow Homer.

His work is shown in select galleries and hangs in both private and corporate collections throughout the country. 

Most recently his work has been featured at the Trout Unlimited National Convention, the Fly Fishing Association, the L.L. Bean Fall Art Festival and the Maine Guides Day show.

His paintings have appeared in national publications and books, such as FlyFishing Magazine, Maine Fish and Wildlife and are featured in The Hatch Guide For New England Streams by Thomas Ames, Jr.

Children’s toys and educational constructs are another of his passions that have received recognition through the years.  He was a founding partner of Stave Puzzles, and owner of Centre Chimney Crafts where he designed and produced pre-school wood puzzles and toys, some of which were juried and selected by the Carnegie Institute for a national arts and crafts exhibition tour and represented at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Dave was also the founder of the Tibbetts & Tibbetts graphic design studio which specialized in catalog design for over 40 years.  His son now carries on the business.

He welcomes commissions from individuals and corporations, and sporting camps to do paintings of fishing spots, camps and all places held dear.

You can reach Dave at by e-mail at  Leave your phone and best time to call and he will get back to you.

You can also visit his site at

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