Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.
I got an outdoors catalog in the mail the other day. Right at the top of the front cover in bold letters were the words, “DO IT YOURSELF.”
That kind of took me aback for a little bit. You see, I don’t think many outdoorsmen make much of anything anymore. They much prefer to buy it.
When I looked a little closer, I saw the words “Rod Building 101.” Now I understood. It was from Mud Hole, a company which caters to amateur and professional fishing rod makers. I do a fair amount of business with them in my own rod making.
But here’s the thing. I know a heck of a lot of fishermen throughout the upper Midwest, and very few of them have ever made a fishing rod.
Even fewer have ever poured lead heads, and tied their own bass, walleye or panfish jigs. It seems nobody makes their own spinnerbaits anymore. A few walleye fishermen will build their own spinners to pull behind bottom bouncers, but hardly anybody makes their own bottom bouncers.
Flash back about 50 years. Every sporting goods store with a fishing department carried all the supplies you would need for building a rod, tying flies or jigs or making just about any kind of tackle. Today, its mostly mail order because there are not enough anglers making their own stuff.
I feel sorry for them. Why? Because catching a fish on tackle you have made yourself is something special. Because learning how make this stuff builds your fishing education. Because it makes you a better fisherman. Because it is a great way to spend those winter weekends. Because it is fun.
I suppose I started making my own stuff to save money. Early on, there wasn’t much of that around our house.
Notice, however, that I did not include saving money as one of the benefits of making your own stuff.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I have invested in just fly-tying materials. No, if you really get into this stuff, you won’t be saving any money.
I began tying flies about 1966. It’s a hobby that I continue today. I’ve tied more flies and classic jigs than I could ever fish with, even if I fished every day of the week. I’ve tied exhibition streamers and classic salmon flies just for fun. I’ll never be noted as a great fly tyer because I’m just not that good, and I have too many other interests. But, I love to do it.
I’ve built most of my own fishing rods since fiberglass and for the past 16 years my passion has been bamboo fly rods. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me and I have met a lot of really good people with the same interest.
There are all kinds of things you can build with stainless steel wire. Just get a pair of round-nosed pliers and get to work. Wire leaders for northerns, spinner baits, buzz baits, safety pin spinners, bottom bouncers and more.
When I started doing this work, there wasn’t much information on how to do it out there. There were a few books published on one thing or another but they weren’t always in print. Today it is much easier to learn, thanks to the Internet.
I just went on You Tube and did a search for “how to make wire leaders for northern pike fishing.” Wow. I counted two dozen videos and then quit. You can do the same thing with flies, jigs, crankbaits and just about anything else you can make yourself.
Watching someone else put something together is much easier to learn than to read about it.
It’s been said that if you can tie your own shoes, you will be able to tie flies. That’s true.
I’ve been told a lot of times that “I don’t have the patience. I could never do that.”
Well, what’s missing is the one thing you really need. Desire. You must want to learn these skills. And the more you practice, the better you will get. And the more fun you will have.
If you haven’t already, embrace the “do it yourself” phrase. It’s been a big part of my life, and a good part. I think you would enjoy it too.
More Outdoors information can be found at http://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/recreation/outdoors/