Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
"He just walked in one day and said, 'I think I'm going to go carve a fish,' and he did," Jan Nystrom said of how her husband Dave Crossley decided to begin carving fish. Crossley began fishing with his dad when he was young and has a tradition of taking his own sons fishing every year at the Bear Tooth Wilderness outside of Cook City. "That's what memories are made of," Crossley said. Despite his life-long interest and "love" of fishing and trout, Crossley only began carving fish about two years ago. His dad was probably the reason for the beginning of his hobby and was "the first handy man I knew," he said. Since Crossley started, he's carved fish to complete 11 sculptures. Ten of those creations have been of trout because of his love for fly fishing. He created his only commissioned piece with four trout one of each species found in Montana complete with water and a lily pad in bloom. "I like to work from inspiration," Crossley said. A painting of two walleye by Terry Doughty inspired his latest sculpture he named "Dangerous Duo." "I've never fished for walleye before," Crossley said, "but I picked the brains of lots of experts," before he began the work. He created two walleye out of pine that he glued together using wood glue and clamps. Next he carved the fish out of the blocks using a Dremel tool and then painted Them with acrylic paint through an air brush. Then he added taxidermy eyes. To finish, he screwed the fish into a piece of pitch pine root found on his father-in-law's ranch. Rocks, mainly from Beaver Creek, surrounded the base of the root. The entire piece rests on an oak stand also made by Crossley. In general, it takes him two months to finish his creations due to the time he clocks at the orthopedic center at Northern Montana Hospital where he works as a physician's assistant. He moved to Havre 10 years ago for the job and enjoys living in the city. "It's like no other place that I've been," Crossley said. Once he begins a project, "he could stay up all hours ... he gets so excited," Nystrom said. "Sometimes I get excited and time doesn't matter," Crossley said. When working on one of his earliest fish carving projects, he forgot about his wife's birthday in his excitement to get home and finish painting the fish. "I've always just blamed it on the fish," Crossley said. His creativity comes in spells though. "Sometimes he won't do it for a while. ... He has to hit the refresh button," Nystrom said. The process has been the same for Crossley's other creations that have all been of trout. He finished the walleye sculpture Thursday night for the Fresno Chapter Walleyes Unlimited of Montana benefit auction coming up March 28. "I hope somebody really likes this. I think they will," he said. Crossley also created a trout sculpture for a wine and cheese benefit for the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center in 2008. "This community's been good to me. I enjoy doing these for (sculptures) for these benefits. It's kind of a neat way to give back," he said. While he doesn't know exactly what he'll work on next, "I think I'm going do some more trout," Crossley said. He is considering completing individual carvings of each of the four trout species in Montana that can then either be bought separately or as a series, he said. The series will be in Boise, Idaho where his three sons currently live "so it'll be easy to give the fish to my sons and let them take them to the fly fishing shop." "I'm going to keep doing this as long as it's fun," Crossley added.