Daily Drakegyfour

The Japanese word gyotaku—say it with me kids, gee-­oh-­tah-koo—translated literally means “fish rubbing,” which is basically what it is.

Gyotaku dates back to the early 1800s, when a Japanese shogun allegedly caught an exceptionally large snapper. Wanting to record the catch and also consume the delicious fish, the shogun ordered one of his minions to make a print with ink and paper. I’ve also heard the story told with a samurai and a carp. The oldest gyotaku still in existence is dated 1862.

gyfourFor nearly a hundred years Japanese fishermen used gyotaku to record their catches, similar to our hero shots and grip and grins—only the Japanese left their ugly mugs out and printed the fish only. In the 1950s, a Japanese professor of ichthyology named Yoshio Hiyama traveled to the U.S. to demonstrate the process to scientists, researchers, and PhD types.

The method quickly gained acceptance as a means to capture true-to-life fish images for use in academic literature. By the ’70s and ’80s gyotaku also caught on as an art form.

gytwoContemporary practitioners produce incredibly lifelike prints. If you’re interested in trying it, there are plenty of online resources available. Or just do like I did and doggedly pursue the idea at any expense until you get it right. As of now, I’m still in dogged pursuit.

[Scott Wells used to guide and now dabbles in carpentry, fish rubbing, and a few other things. Check out more of his gyotaku work at reelfishink.com.]
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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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