Our Outdoors: Less Is More for Luremaking
By Nick Simonson
I’m not a huge fan of the saying “less is more.” I mean, MORE is more, right? Raised in the go-go-Reaganaut 1980s capitalism environment that I was, Gordon Gecko and just about every other big screen role model said greed was good, faster was better, biggest was best and certainly more is more. He who dies with the most toys, the biggest collection of fishing lures and the flashiest accessories wins. Sure. Whatever. Maybe I’ve mellowed out a bit in this stretch of middle age; but when it comes to spring fishing, sometimes less IS more, especially when finishing off some of my favorite offerings for the season.
A bulky fly or overdressed jig can be a turn off for fish that in the gin clear waters of a just opened lake, and crafting the last few dozen at the vise has been a reminder on all fronts – whether woolly buggers for trout, krystal flash jigs for crappies, or a few special bucktail offerings for smallmouth bass – having just the right amount of material can make the difference between bites and a bust. It comes down to a matter of experience and some trial-and-error, and that perfect ratio of material to dress up a lure can take a few seasons to figure out. Ultimately the fish tell you what they want, but much of the time it can be seen in the final product with a few quick observations.
If you’ve ever watched a minnow move in the water, a leech slowly undulate across the bottom of a bait bucket or had the chance to see damselfly larva pulse through the shallows, the movements happen so smoothly, so effortlessly and in such a streamlined fashion that imitating that sort of natural motion can almost seem daunting. In the end though, creating that illusion comes down to making those jigs, flies and other lures seem just as free swimming, and through the materials used in the right proportions just as edible. Keep that he idea of illusion in mind while tying them up and preparing for spring fishing, as too much tends to take away from that free-flowing profile.
Krystal flash doesn’t need to be tied in big clumps, rather a few loosely stacked strands on a hook shank with a dozen tight wraps will create a delta-shaped body that pulses with each twitch of the rod tip. The same goes for any bucktail pattern, like those early season bass jigs which work wonders on smallies and can pull double for largemouth as well; too much hair takes away the free-moving ability of each fiber and creates a clumpy mess. The same goes for stacking marabou on trout jigs or streamers, overdo it, pack it up and it looks like a big snotty glob at the end of the offering, put just a pinch in the right length and density and you’ve got a feather that puffs and pops under the water with the most lifelike presentation, sealing the deal when a fish approaches.
If you’re lucky, you’ve got a lake, river, or stream nearby that’s shedding its ice and opening up with those same gin-clear waters mentioned earlier. There, a few quick casts will tell if a lure has made the grade and provides the right shimmy and shake to turn fish on. If you’ve got a ways to go, simply wetting a fly or jig down will provide a profile and even dipping it into a clear plastic container filled with water will at least give you an idea as to how airy, lifelike and fish-triggering it is. No matter how you do it, a few test runs will provide some direction as to how thick (or alternatively, how thin) you can go to get the desired result and what alterations need to be made for the next pattern.
While there’s no surefire way of telling whether the prospective partner at the end of the line will catch fish until in the moment, the idea that less is more when it comes to creating jigs, lures and flies with those eye-catching materials will provide a good guide. Keep things light, keep them as sparse as a pattern allows, and plan on making “less is more” part of your lure making mantra…in our outdoors.