The modern European tradition of artistic trophies was started in the late 1800's. During that time, fishing for sport became popular, particularly in aristocratic circles. The affluent began to travel all over the world in pursuit of game fish - salmon, tarpon, brown, rainbow and sea trout. As interest in fishing grew, the practice of preserving large or important fish became fashionable. Plaster of Paris and taxidermy were never very reliable or widely accepted. Looking for something permanent and aesthetically pleasing, artists turned to wood and thus began the tradition of life-size models.
Historians of this craft currently believe that John B. Russell (1819/20-1893) of Scotland was the first professional model maker. Russell's daughter Dhuie painted many of his pieces and those of her husband John Tully (she married the apprentice). Russell's studio, the Fochabers Studio, made models for the prestigious C. Farlow & Co., which ran advertisements in its catalogue from 1891 into the 1930s for Fochabers fish models. Russell's main competition was a fellow Scotsman named P.D. Malloch who, unlike most, carved fish in two-thirds body form. Over the years, Malloch employed several artists and made quite a few carvings. Neighboring London firms, like Hardy Brothers, Holbrow & Co. and Rowland Ward also produced an impressive number of carvings. Today, good examples of these models are difficult to find and easily bring $5,000 to $15,000 through private sale or at auction. Some models of larger fish, a 50 pound Atlantic salmon for example, have been known to sell for in excess of $50,000.