My sailfish quickly comes to life as I spray a deep cobalt on the back and fins and edge them in an intense black, allowing the blue to pop. Under Kirkhart's guidance, I spray purple highlights and the requisite black spots on the dorsal fin, amber on the side, pink on the tongue, then the telltale baby blue bars. Then the whole thing gets clear coated, making it shiny and dramatic, like it's just been plucked from the depths.
Kirkhart's assessment? "It came out nicely," he says. But it's not entirely the work of my own hand. Like a father who doesn't want his son's science project to fail, he's stepped in and corrected some of my uneven grinding and unsteady airbrushing. "Painting wasn't your, uh, strong point," says Kirkhart.
But it looks good to me and I'm psyched. When people ask, I may tell them about an epic battle in the Stream off Palm Beach. Just me and the fish. Okay, I may not have caught it, but I did build it-and that's almost as good.
Contact New Wave Taxidermy 3101 SE Slater St., Stuart, FL 34997 772/283-7270, www.newwavetaxidermy.com
8 SIGNS OF A GOOD FAKE: A work of art or a piece of work?
 The eyes should seem alive and be on both sides of the fish.
 The internal parts of the mouth should be finely detailed all the way down to the throat. Look for a pink tongue and a gradation of colors that get darker deeper in.
 The pose should be natural and lifelike for that particular species. The fish should look as sinuous as it would in the water, not stiff.
 If the fins on the species are thin, and most are, they should also be thin and translucent on the mount. You should be able to see your hand behind it.
 Seams must not be visible.
 If the fish has teeth, they should be separate, not all in one piece.
 The fish's skin should not be smooth. You should almost be able to count the scales, and even see details in them.
 Gills should stand out, as if the fish were still breathing. Gills should also be thin and have coloring on their insides.