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  • Writer's pictureNorth Dakota Wildlife Federation

A Loaded Question



While teaching my first fly-tying and lure making course in some time, I was asked by a

student as we entered the free-tying phase at the end of the second night, “what’s your

favorite way to fish: spinning, baitcaster or fly rod?” I paused hard and thought about it, and knowing it’s a loaded question, I responded with “whatever way is catching fish!”


Then I went into the virtues of all the things we were doing – nymphs, dries and

streamers this week, and the jigs, spinners and crawlers harnesses to come next,

knowing that the skills learned in each step and style of lure making, just like the styles

of angling, build on one another for a more complete experience. And while I admitted

that I lean toward using the long rod whenever I can to see if I can trick one species or

another with a fly of my creation, I know there are days where the wind is going to blow,

the fish are going to be down deep, or the species that I am after that day might not lend themselves easily to a hookup, no matter how sharp my back cast is or how precisely I place my fly on the water.


In the end it’s the excitement of the hookset that gets me. Whether it’s the upward snap

of a spinning rod to punch a jig home on a walleye or light biting crappie; the pull-and-lift combo on the fly rod as a trout takes a dry fly; or that dreamy feeling of a bowling ball weight at the far end of an arched baitcaster as I baseball swing my way into the next battle with a bucket-mouth. Any way that hooks fish and catches them is the way I’ll take on a given day, and if I had the time, and was playing that desert island game where I had to pick one style of fishing for the rest of my life (and perhaps to hang on to my very life in such a survival situation) I’d be hard pressed to come up with a definitive answer. Because, as with rods, there are many ways to fish. Jigging, trolling, casting, bottom fishing with bait, and a variety of lures to help accomplish each in so many varied forms for any given situation depending on species, conditions, and seasons. Spurning any of them in favor of others limits opportunities and restricts learning the basics, and ultimately the finer points of each presentation that help build a person into a more complete angler.


While I’ve certainly never been a species snob, taking on all comers based on the

calendar, the day, and sometimes even the hour, each opportunity that presents itself

(or multiple opportunities all at once depending on the trip and the destination) can be

capitalized upon to not only find and catch fish, but to maximize time on the water.

The moral hidden in the unintentional trick question asked to me by the 12-year-old on

the far side of the vise was one it’s taken me a couple decades to figure out, and maybe

even now, I still haven’t done so completely. That fact too is just a smaller part of the

greater mystery of angling in any of its forms: all of the above is often the right answer,

especially when any of them will connect me with a fast bite, memorable outings, and


maybe even a fillet or two sizzling in a cast-iron pan at home. It’s important too, that

even I be reminded of that from time-to-time as I get lost in the excitement or the draw

of one particular fish or focused on a single way to connect with them.


By: Nick Simonson

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