124 Points of Light

April 29, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson


Each turn of thread, each wrap of chenille, each tiny strand of flashabou and hackle fiber was as much an act of defiance at what was going on outside as it was an attempt to block it from my mind.  A foot of fresh snow, on top of ice, on top of rain prevented the Minnesota DNR from stocking the local stream and postponed all my youth fishing course classes for the week.  Resultantly, Saturday’s stream trout opener was effectively cancelled as well.  The season itself would start, but the snow and the cold would keep me and most others off the water.


A boxful of hope. The author cranked out several dozen trout jigs, along with others, which would provide enough ammunition

Once again, another April weekend was spent cooped up indoors, when last year – or any other year as far back as I can remember – I was out rejoicing in the open water and hooking into trout, walleyes or some other fish, wherever I was.  But the fact that I couldn’t flip my lure out into the tumbling stream, or work a jig slowly along a rock bottom didn’t get me down.  No, I vowed that this weekend would not go to waste, and I would continue to ready myself and show Mother Nature that I could make the most out of what I was given.

I tied jigs of all kinds – trout jigs, walleye jigs, panfish jigs and bass jigs.  The bright neon pink and orange were spring beacons, letting me know that someday, hopefully soon, their bright pastels would draw in smallmouth and crappies. They piled up on my desk, by tens and twenties, patterned and paired with matching flashabou in pearl, chartreuse and yellow.  By Saturday morning I had enough for all of my spring fishing trips and enough to last well into summer.
Then, I dove into tying up a mess of trout jigs, it seemed fitting to finish off the materials I had reserved for this minor holy day in the outdoors.  Figuring that the on-stream portion of my course would be pushed back to at least next weekend (and perhaps the following) by the resurgence of winter, I could use the remainder of the gold-headed jigs to crank out enough lures to cover every kid in attendance, and send them home with a few spares for the rest of their spring fishing trips.
With a body of chenille, a twist of hackle and a pinch of marabou, these buggy bite-sized baits began accumulating next to the tackle box labeled “Trout Day” at the side of my tying bench.  The pattern, which has been so productive over the past three seasons, has become my go-to for trout and for teaching kids how to make lures and learn what fish like.  A buggy black body or a flashy pink one, wrapped in leggy fibers and a pulsing tail meant to match the hatch or trigger a reaction strike.  But beyond that, they are a symbol to me of a spring rite, and a hope, whether I’m tying in February or in this extended period of white that warmer days will be upon us all soon.

As the chenille bits and feather fragments formed a pile under my vise, on my pantlegs and on the rug beneath my desk, the pile of trout jigs rose up alongside the others that I had tied.  In a blur I burned through what remained of the raw materials I had at my disposal and I polished off bags and boxes of the jigs which served as my vernal canvas.  By mid-day Sunday, my progress slowed and I paused to take a look outside after another dozen made their way into the tackle box.
I clipped the leash on my lab’s collar and took him around the block, with each yard still buried under a thick blanket of white.  A cold uncomfortable rain drizzled down, forming an icy layer on the sidewalks and a solid crust on top of the unmelted reminder that we were still in winter’s grasp, despite what the calendar said.  As we returned, we observed the dark-eyed juncos and robins picking at the muddy edges of my driveway, looking for bits of something my snow blower scraped up in the dirt.  The weather seemed to give the juncos a reason to continue their winter stay, while it made the robins seem plain out-of-place.  I sighed and patted my dog as we watched the birds peck away before coming too close and forcing them to the branches of the nearby apple tree.  Heading back downstairs, I began cleaning my desk and putting all of the jigs in their respective tackle boxes.  As I did, I kept count.  I came up with a grand total of 124.  124 points of light in a season darkened by drizzle and devilish snowstorms that defied logic.  124 reasons to keep the faith; keep calm and carry on.  124 signs of spring that would eventually bring me to open water…in our outdoors.



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