By Nick Simonson
While preparing for the upcoming salmon season, and tying a few extra spinners for summer walleye trolling, my fingers began to find the smoothest of patterns on the various rigs coming together at my desk. The turns and twists of line around the metal of the hook shank and gentle tug that snugged the loops of monofilament into a cylinder of solidarity against the hook eye became a seven-second symphony, replayed over and over and over. With hardly a missed beat, a couple dozen new flasher rigs and crawler harnesses mounted quickly on the nails at the side of my station, awaiting dressing and the action to come in the final weeks of the warm weather season.
It wasn’t always this easy though. Practice with dozens, if not hundreds of lesser quality wraps, clunky turns of line, and a mess of a knot, as opposed to the day’s perfect layout of loops against the metal shank, were at one time the norm, and having an ideal rig assembled was at best an every-other-attempt occurrence. There was even a point when tying some spinners where I reversed the line and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why the tag end was no longer the part that tightened the knot. Only after a step back and a pause, was I able to reset and realign my mind with the process. Through patience, persistence, and most importantly, practice, what was once step-by-step has become like riding a bike and a skill that can be picked up and reapplied at any point in the year, whether I need something now to fill a seasonal gap, or am just looking to fill the time in the dead of winter. And along that microcosmic learning curve is an analogy to all of the outdoors, and much of my experience within it.
Comparably, other areas of hunting and angling, I’ve invested the time to become as proficient as the snelling process. With pheasant hunting, I can look at a parcel from the road, identify areas of habitat ahead of the season, and return to find birds at the opener or later into the autumn as conditions change. It comes with experience, observation, and a little trial-and-error. The same can be said for my smallmouth bass fishing, as exploring waters, isolating structure, and identifying what fish are feeding on became second nature many years ago, and now, are like hopping back on a two-wheeler whenever I get the chance. These are areas where I’ve put in the time, made them a priority, and worked at them.
Elsewhere however, I’m seemingly always learning even two decades after starting, and the proverbial wraps are still coming together on the hook shank of life in the outdoors. I’m not the greatest walleye angler, but I know enough to get by and put a few fish on the line. When it comes to deer hunting, I put in the time and the effort, but often find myself walking out of the field the same way I entered, but with a bit more knowledge about the animals’ behavior or a greater appreciation for the experience. In those pursuits I enjoy more, but don’t have the time or travel opportunities for, such as sturgeon fishing, I keep updated on developments with the resources related to it and stay hopeful for the next chance to get back to those mythical fish. Some options in the outdoors I’ve tried, and quickly found they weren’t for me, due to investment of time, gear or simply parallel seasonal activities that I’m more devoted to and have no skill and only a cursory understanding of how a turkey behaves or what the best tactics are for furbearers, yet still revel in the stories of other sportsmen and their pursuits on those fronts and enjoyment of their time devoted to their passions.
The ability to choose what we practice in the outdoors, whether through a specific style of angling or hunting or via the pursuit of a certain species, determines how familiar we get and what level of expertise we obtain in those niches. The mere fact that those opportunities exist for at least one, or two, or maybe even ten of those options, no matter what the personal calendar might look like, is a blessing and the chance to raise one’s level of expertise in those most enjoyed pursuits is something worth preserving. Through the practice and the perseverance and the joys and challenges along the way up every learning curve from those fumbled early attempts to those days when everything comes together for success, those opportunities provide many ideal experiences and part of what we make of our lives all the fuller…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: Tight. Snelled hooks pile up on the author’s lure making desk, ready for completion with beads and blades for late summer walleye angling. Simonson Photo.