By Nick Simonson
“I bet you can’t eat just one” was the long-time slogan of Lay’s potato chips, and really with about half a century of food science and consumer studies behind the product at the time, the tagline for the easy-to-consume junk food was right on, and still probably is. The light and airy chip covered in just the right amount of laboratory-balanced salts and oils was impossible to resist, especially after the first one – or handful – was consumed. Whether it was a snack-sized bag at some summer picnic or a party-sized sack during the Superbowl, I was lucky if I could get by with just eating one package back in my heavier days, and even today, the temptation remains. Once I popped, the fun didn’t stop. Wait, that’s the Pringles tagline. Either way, I can see why I’ve been fighting the battle of the bulge for most of my adult life.
I have found some passions, however, that are less dangerous for my blood pressure, and once I get rolling this time of year, like destroying a sack of potato chips, I just can’t seem to stop. I caught myself halfway through a different type of bag this weekend, but instead of the shimmer of grease on my fingertips, it was the sparkle of krystal flash in the webbing of my hands, along my desk, and at one point, sprinkled on the bridge of my nose and eyebrows, with an errant touch of the face. Glancing over at the pile of nearly 80 jigs clustered in rainbow fashion as I mowed through each color in the grab bag of 1/16 ounce collarless heads, I had to stop and check myself.
I’d been tying up crappie jigs for nearly three hours, pausing only occasionally to locate another hank of flash amidst the mix of pheasant tails, dyed bucktail and other various dressing materials that were pulled from the unorganized bottom drawer of my desk and strewn about on the floor of my office. When I caught my breath, I stared at the prism of sparkling minnow imitators that had appeared, and I began to rewind through them until I reached the beginning and began to deploy them on the spring waters in my mind. First were the chartreuse tailed go-tos for the northern bay on the power plant lake which lights up with monster specks the first week in March, and their backups were all-orange models and gold-with-orange flash which seemed to do almost as well on the prespawn slabs, and sometimes even better when the sun was shining.
Next came the black-and-silver combination which in the river days of my youth slammed smallmouth bass on they Sheyenne River where my early fishing adventures began. When Northland discontinued the combination, I was without for many years until I began defying the fishing gods – who had obviously determined the pairing of jet black and twisted silver was far too powerful for mortal anglers – and created my own. Since then, it’s the first jig I throw, particularly in those up-and-down days when cold fronts provide a case of lockjaw for springtime smallies and the subtle shake is what it takes to turn their heads.
Following that, pink-and-pink and pink-with-moon were a perfect pairing for panfish and the occasional rogue walleye that wandered into a late-summer crappie frenzy at the cabin. I capped off the thread-wrapping bonanza with some all-white heads with pearl dressing for those nights I’m able to be out where my addiction all began on Lake Ashtabula, chasing the plentiful and powerful white bass that swarm on warm summer evenings. I tallied up five purple-headed patterns caped with silver, a sort of fathead minnow imitator, before I got to the end of my creations that had come from my vise in but one sitting. There were 77 in all. A scattering of the violet shaded jigheads remained amidst a couple of off-colors I’ve yet to decide what to do with. The deep green would make a good perch pattern and use up the last of the chartreuse, orange and moon flash, while an odd off-gold left the last challenge I determined would be best saved for an hour later in the week.
Perhaps it was the way that all flies or lures take us back to the places we love, the bites we remember and the waters we wish to reconnect with, but once I was started, I simply couldn’t stop. With each pattern, I found myself planning out the possibilities for fishing trips from the for-sure-stops on down to the hope-I-cans this spring and summer. The optimism of reliving similar successes with the same shades leading me to those fortunate places where the only decision to be made will be whether to make one more cast…in our outdoors.