A BIG Fishy Balloon Tail

This past weekend we “hooked a big one,” and we loved every minute of reeling him in! I’m not exaggerating when I say the big one–for the fish we hooked was actually almost 13′ long–quite a size for a rainbow trout!

Thompson Trout (named by my crew) was the result of several months of working with a wonderfully creative client whose family is full of fly fishermen. For his son’s rehearsal dinner, our client desired a fly fishing theme with a giant jumping rainbow trout that would be caught on a super-sized rod as the focal point. Our client, a very talented builder, designed and constructed a 50′ fly fishing rod/reel, and we were responsible for making the fish and the fish fly centerpieces.

Graph of Trout

Creating Thompson’s Frame
Thompson was our first large scale sculpture using wire framing so we got advice from some balloon artist framing experts. Then we studied several photos of trout in books and on-line and also bought a model of a rainbow trout so we could get the right proportions. Rachel drew the scale drawing which we transferred to a full-sized graph on our design studio floor. Then we spent a few evenings bending metal to create his backbone, tail and ribs. Then we added his “flesh”–which was actually fencing. Next, we covered him with a layer of plastic cloth and finally, we got to add the balloons.

Thompson Trout Frame

Thompson’s “Skin”
Because we wanted as realistic of a look as possible with balloons, and also to increase the durability of our sculpture, we had to double stuff EVERY balloon on the sculpture. That means every balloon had another balloon stuffed inside it. We did this to create colors that looked more like a real fish than just a single balloon. For example, we put a mocha brown balloon inside a gold one to create the top half of Thompson and a lime green inside gold for the bottom half. Of course, that doubled the amount of balloons used and actually doubled tying time as well as making the tying very difficult–yep, we have very sore hands–off to get manicures for sure! Overall, Rachel and I spent about 30 hours tying balloons onto Thompson, plus our crew had spent time stuffing, inflating and tying balloons together in pairs (duplets).

Rachel putting on Final Tail Touches

Getting Thompson to Fly
Rigging of Thompson Trout actually began 6 weeks ago when my client and I did a trial run. Previously, we had placed a pull line over a strong tree limb that was about 40′ in the air. So the day of the event (and because we had our client on hand), everything went very smoothly. Once the giant fishing rod was in place (that took about an hour), we attached the pull line to Thompson and then pulled him up so he would fly high over the guest tables and then tied the line around the tree trunk. We actually put a fish fly in his mouth and attached fishing line to the fly so it appeared that the trout had been caught! Definitely a WOW effect! The best comment was when the best man saw Thompson. He exclaimed, “Shut the Front Door! This is amazing and so perfect for Ben! I love it!” Here is a link to a :30 video of how we rigged the trout. Rigging Thompson Trout on You Tube

I love being a balloon artist and really love it when we make people’s jaws drop! It’s just so much fun! I hope you enjoy the photos of our adventure with Thompson. To see the photos larger, click on the thumbnail. To see them super large, click again when the thumbnail enlarges.