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The Art of Fly Fishing

by Carola Lott
Mon Apr 25th, 2016

Power and Grace by Peter Corbin ©2001

“Line Dance – The Art of Fly Fishing” an exhibition of 15 paintings by Peter Corbin from 1978 to the present, can be seen until July at the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg. Virginia. 

Corbin, arguably one of the foremost sporting artists in America today, says the way to begin a painting is to “Go fishing. Experience the awe. See the fish, the land, and the seascape. Take notes with your mind, camera, or sketch book. Gather all the information you can in every way you can.” 

Corbin came by his love of painting and fishing as a small child. His father, Robert Corbin, was a keen angler who made his own slit-cane fly rods and raised blue dun chickens at home to use their hackles for tying his flies. Corbin himself caught his first fish in his grandfather’s pond when he was only two using a bent pin and a worm. 

His father taught him to cast a fly rod when he was seven and took him salmon fishing on the Miramachi in Canada when he was 10.

Corbin studied art at Pomfret and later at Wesleyan where he majored in art. When he married Lillian Pyne, she encouraged him to make a career of his painting. After selling a painting to Crossroads of Sport in New York Corbin’s career started to take off. LL Bean commissioned four covers for their catalogues; the White House under president Carter commissioned 150 sketches to present to guests at a dinner. Corbin has also won many awards over the years. 

In 1997 after 25 years of working in acrylics he went back painting in oil. He says his work falls into three distinct categories: “The first is a painting of anticipation such as an angler starting his cast and a guide positioning the boat,” he said. “The second kind of painting is a frozen moment when time seems to stop and the image is etched into your mind … for example, the first massive jump of a tarpon. The third is the painting of reflection. This is the quiet time of the day with the angler against the sunset or releasing a fish.”

Corbin considers himself primarily a landscape painter; the sport itself is simply part of the scene. He is a master at capturing the effects of light be it light coming through trees or light reflected off the water or sparkling in the splash of a jumping fish. The paintings in this exhibition capture the beauty and the atmosphere of the prime fishing waters of this continent from the salmon rivers of Canada to the trout streams of the American West to the tidal flats of the Florida Keys with especial emphasis on the sky and the water. 

Corbin is one of that fortunate few who has been able to combine his vocation with something he loves. And he is very good at both.  In 1994 he attained a “grand slam” of fishing catching a permit (that most elusive of game fish), a tarpon and a bone fish all in a single day in the Florida Keys