By Nick Simonson
I put the final turn of my whip finish on the black thread of the small jig, and closely trimmed the hackle wound behind the silver-plated lead of the lure destined for a small tacklebox on my desk. It would be a gift for a close family friend; a young angler who lamented that he had yet to catch a trout in all of his fishing adventures, despite having a water not 10 miles from his house that each spring is loaded with hungry browns that by the dozens had fallen for the same pattern at my fingertips. Had I still lived nearby or had the pandemic not happened, his troutless-thus-far existence likely would not have been the case and I lamented both time and timing for such a delay.
With a sigh, I pulled the jig from the vise for transfer to the rest of the lures and the desk lamp’s light caught the point of the silver hook just right so that the sparkle peaked at the tip, as if it was winking at me.
“That’ll be the one,” I thought with a hopeful smile as I turned it again under the light so the white spark slid up and down the sharp angle.
Placing the jig into the box, it was a function of that abiding angler’s hope within me that these jigs would do the trick with their flowing marabou tail and leggy, crunchy trimmed hackle over the sparkly chenille to end such a troutless streak and begin a seasonal adventure that could be repeated year-after-year by my fishing buddy. Knowing the water well, and the habits of stocked trout, I began thinking that more than hope was on the side of seeing a picture of a trout in that young angler’s hand. Afterall, a good mindset is at the start of all good fishing trips, even now in the cold weeks before the start of true spring and long before our waters open up with fish to catch.
That hope comes with every lure, whether made by hand, picked up in the tackle aisle or showing up in a brown box on the doorstep. Who doesn’t think that the purple pouch loaded with the scent of garlic and heavily salted bass tubes won’t catch the orange eye of a massive springtime smallmouth, or that favorite firetiger crankbait with the all-orange tail isn’t the one that might hook a personal best walleye this spring? In that fly of perfect proportion – whether a Clouser minnow for crappies, bushy bunny streamer for pike, or those tiny twists of feather and fur for trout – rests the idea that all fish will be biting, and that particular pattern will be the one to connect with our future memories. Even in the ones that don’t turn out, I often console myself with the idea they will be tossed to the insatiable splashes of a school of bluegills on a warm summer afternoon in the shallows and remind me that not all offerings need to catch anglers before they catch fish.
Whatever the wide and varied expectations of each angler might be for the upcoming season, they all start with the same premise: that a mix of skill, science, artistry, puppetry and a dash of luck will combine for something amazing. Be it that one big fish that warms a chilly day, or the blurred golden blessing of a dusk-hour feeding frenzy, or perhaps even a first trout, all successful outcomes begin with the hope that a lure provides. Whether in just a suggestion of what to use on a particular water, to packaging it and some other favorites up for a far off destination, that hope is handed down, paid forward or simply passed along. Now is the time to take stock of that source – be it made by hand, or gained by handing over a few dollars – and perhaps passing that favorite lure along with a little advice on how to use it to someone who wants to share in that hope, or may very well need to…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors with a penchant for tying waaaaay too many jigs. But he’s never been without, and neither have his fishing buddies.
Featured Photo: A Handful of Hope. Lures carry with them the idea that we will catch fish, and passing on that hope to others is a fun part of the time leading up to spring for the author. Simonson Photo.