Meditation on life and the art of fishing with Don Dubin

Meditation on life and the art of fishing with Don Dubin

Don Dubin is a born salesman.

This is due to him being one of the top salespeople at Order from Horder.

But he is a salesman with an artist’s heart.

Dobbin was a violinist and concert teacher, and he frequently attended college at Austin’s old high school.

“I can do anything I set my mind to,” he said in his suburban home, as we wandered through his sculptures, fish sculptures, paintings, tool kits, and folders of photos and stories.

He’s not kidding. He asked me to put my signature on a yellow pad, and then immediately copy it perfectly, right down to Bowman’s a and n.

Now Dupin is selling his life.

“I will be 86 years old, and I will not live forever,” he said. “When I die, everything goes to my wife. She doesn’t care about those things.”

So during his life he tries to sell some sculptures and make some money.

“If I sell my wood carvings, what can I do with the taxidermy, rods and bait?” question.

For years, I had hoped that his collection would anchor the Chicago Fishing Museum. In my dream, I see the Fishing Museum at the Northerly Island Visitor Center or the South Shore Cultural Center/Square.

Back to reality.

His fish sculptures range from the straightforward and artistically detailed to the serious, like human litter distorting the natural environment, to my favorite, an eccentric muskie that looks like a fat cat.

“Everyone’s looking at this guy, here’s a muskie fisherman, on a log with a big belly,” Dubin said. “He’s holding his catch with his tongue out. These are skeletons. It’s the good life, you know, the perks.”

One of Don Dubin's more unusual sculptures, centered around a muskie.  Credit: Dale Bowman

One of Don Dubin’s more unusual sculptures, centered around a muskie.

Dubin has been in discussions with Guyette and Deeter, a leading auction house, and some of his works are scheduled to be auctioned this year.

“Nobody does sculptures like this,” he said. “These are my own thoughts.”

Fish are an integral part of his psyche, ever since he grew up on the West Side, walking to fish at Garfield and Douglas Gardens with a cob and hook.

He said: “I saw fish in the water and tried to catch them, then one day I caught a minnow.”

Put it in the cup and take it home.

“I watched it for hours,” he said. “I was very fascinated by fish.”

When Dubin was sixteen, his grandfather bought him a car. The first places he went fishing were the Kankakee River and the old strip mines around Cole City.

Don Dubin, winner of numerous international awards, talks about his favorite sculpture, which did not even receive an honorable mention in any competition.  Credit: Dale Bowman

Don Dubin, winner of numerous international awards, talks about his favorite sculpture, which did not even receive an honorable mention in any competition.

When asked about his favorite piece of taxidermy, he said: “I love them all, some mean more than others.”

Dubin has too many ribbons and awards to count from carving competitions, including the World Fish Sculpting Championship.

“It was all self-taught,” Dubin said.

It started with mummification.

Mel Hansen ran a store in Williams Bay on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. When he caught a trout, he would cut off its head and pin it to a building. He astonished Dobbin, who took Hansen’s advice and went trout fishing on a “very windy, lousy, cloudy, rainy day,” and caught two.

He rushed home so quickly that Dupin was stopped by a policeman. He was released when the officer heard the story of Dobbin’s fish.

“I cut off the heads and left them to dry,” Dubin said.

That started his life in taxidermy, something he taught himself. At that time, taxidermists didn’t share much. Straw was often used for bulk compositions, but Dupin found a better material.

He hunted all over the world to catch specific species he wanted to catch, which led to his growing taxidermy skills.

When a friend showed him a wood carver, Dubin said, “I can do these things. Taxidermy to wood carving, that’s where I went.”

And in plural.

Dubin has rows of organized photo albums. When he showed one of the pictures, the images changed dramatically from black and white to color. He has kept detailed records of his catches on his boat, Don’s Pride, since the beginning of salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. He had a stat sheet from the early years: 1968, 16 salmon, 1969, 121 salmon and trout, 1970, 144 salmon and trout.

Don Dubin pages through one of the many well-organized photo albums (which make a dramatic change from black and white to color) in his museum-like collection containing art related to fishing, taxidermy, and hunting.  Credit: Dale Bowman

Don Dubin pages through one of the many well-organized photo albums (which make a dramatic change from black and white to color) in his museum-like collection containing art related to fishing, taxidermy, and hunting.

He has two books he has put together on the history of the Illinois muskie fishery, in which he has been active from the beginning, and on fishing on Lake Michigan.

Dobbin has a photo with Bob Feller, which I like better than photos of Dobbin with Dr. Howard Tanner, the mastermind behind stocking Lake Michigan salmon to balance the fry.

“This is history,” Dubin said. “If you have any idea what I can do with this, let me know.”

A long view of Don Dubin's museum-like collection containing art related to fishing, taxidermy and hunting.  Credit: Dale Bowman

A long view of Don Dubin’s museum-like collection of art related to fishing, taxidermy and hunting. A long view of Don Dubin’s museum-like collection of art related to fishing, taxidermy and hunting.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *