Friday November 21, 2014

Artisan lures combine art and function

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Welcome to Week of ‘Fishing Parkland Shorelines’. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I’ll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don’t have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

So I suppose I could offer you a rather standard fisherman’s tale this week and write about the five-pound northern pike I caught bare-handed as it went swimming through my laundry room as the basement took on water in the great flood of 2014.

But to be honest, no easy task for fisherfolk who are prone at least to exaggeration, if not out right tall tales to make Paul Bunyan himself blush, there were no pike in the basement, but there was lots of water, something I am sure most readers will themselves have dealt with.

While there were no pike in the streets in Yorkton, at least none I have had verified by a credible witness, which when talking fishing is someone who has an avadavat conforming they themselves are not currently, and never have been in possession of a fishing license. I have, after all, determined the fine print of a fishing license encourages gross exaggeration of any and all fish caught using said license.

That all said the dumping of inch after inch of water across most of East Central Saskatchewan and into Manitoba for some four days does mean water levels in fish carrying lakes and rivers was at above spring thaw levels in many cases.

The photographs that are making their way online on social media sites such as are dramatic to say the least.

Roads were not just flooded over, but entire sections were washed completely away.

Aerial shots of Melville make it look like it was a city on a river, which of course it is not.

North from Yorkton fields that should be growing crop are now temporary lakes. The same was the case in pictures I saw from the Esterhazy area.

It is a disaster covering thousands of acres and impacting homes throughout the region and it will takes months, if not years, to repair all the damage.

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In the process of repair though, we will all need to take an occasional break for our sanity. A time where we can get away from the reality of mildew smelling basements and loads of ruined property being removed to the local dump.

Now that time away might well be a time with the old fishing rod. And for the rest of the summer I suspect we will be able to catch a few pike and walleye and perch in places they have not been in years, perhaps ever.

I recall tales from my youth of farmers occasionally seeing ‘slough sharks’ from the tractor cab as the seeded fields were followed by wet springs with heavy run-offs. The so-called ‘sharks’ were our friend the northern pike which had gone for an unexpected swim with high water, then found themselves trapped in field sloughs as water flows subsided.

The life expectancy of such pike was not good. They probably had a fine summer because most field sloughs are home to lots of frogs, baby ducks, and bugs to keep a pike well-fed. But if the summer was hot the slough would shrink and the pike was slowly corralled in too little water to survive.

If the water stayed high, winter was likley to see the pike’s demise as most field sloughs will freeze deep enough to limit oxygen for fish.

While I am not an expert on such things, I have little doubt fish may have moved with the fast flowing waters of the storm and will have ended up in some strange locations for fish to be.

Caught in smaller bodies of water, the fish can often be hungry in the coming weeks and offer some fun fishing opportunities.

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I can only imagine someone in their 20s today telling their grandkids in about 50 years of the time he caught a five pound pike in the wheat field across the road. It would sound like just another fisherman weaving a decidedly unbelievable fishing story, yet it could well be the sterling silver truth given the high waters of 2014.

Certainly if anyone out there finds out they have fish in a pond in the cow pasture, or a roadside slough, I’d love a call. Might be a fun afternoon to see if I could entice one or two to take a lure. It would be a great take to write about.

Which is better than this week in the since the weather didn’t rally cooperate with getting out with a line. To be honest I am not sure how one might have even driven to a lot of my favourite spots given all the road cuts made after the rain.

Luckily I had a little something filed away for such an occasion.

This one goes back to the Parkland Outdoor Show & Expo held in Yorkton.

One of the booths had the crafted wooden lures of Harold Thiessen.

There a coupe of things in this world which I have always held admiration for. The first is anyone with skills with their hands, be it playing guitar, painting a picture, or in this case creating a lure.

My hand skills are far less skilled and therefore I appreciate those who can do such things.

And then there is anything made of wood. A fruit bowl, chess piece, candlestick, or lure, all seem somehow far more beautiful when made from wood than from some space age concoction of plastics.

In terms of lures Thiessen is a relative newcomer he explained when we began corresponding via email after the Expo.

“Sometime in January of 2013, I was reading through an older copy of a wood working magazine, which featured an article about a gentleman who had started a home lure making business,” he related. “I found the article very interesting and thought it would fit nicely with my plans for Pine Ridge Outdoors. My interest was in woodworking and this type of project looked like something that I could achieve with the wood shop I am working in. I had no previous experience in making lures so this was a ‘from scratch’ venture. I enjoy top water lure fishing at the lake where we have our cabin, so there was some added incentive to make this work.”

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Thiessen’s lures are made with similar patterns in mind, but individuality also exists with each one.

“Because I cut all my lures individually on a wood lathe without a duplicating jig, each lure is somewhat unique in terms of size and weight,” he said. “Sanding the lip on the diving lures to create a good action also makes the lures unique, as they will have their own characteristics in the water. These were definitely the most difficult aspects of making my top water lures.”

But fashioning the ‘plug’- style lure is only part of the creation process. Thiessen then has to paint them.

“Painting the lures is done using a combination of dipping, brushing, and spraying, depending on the color combinations,” he explained. “Because I had no previous experience with this process, I had to learn to a large extent, by trial and error.

“To briefly explain the process, each lure is sealed with a urethane coating after the lathe and sanding process. Then the lures are painted for the most part with oil based paints. Then two more coats of sealer are applied, before the hardware is mounted on the lures. This process takes about a week to complete.”

And then for and artisan crafter, Thiessen has to attract fishermen.

“Making the lures is one thing, selling them is another,” he said. “When I made the decision to make and sell the lures, I knew I was not going to compete with the larger lure making companies. I set out based on replicating some of the older vintage wooden top water lures from years gone by and added a few of my own designs as well.

“My products are simple, well-made (in western Canada), and I provide an option to customize a lure for my customers for special occasions.

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“I am currently working on adding a couple of lures to my collection, including a larger musky top water lure.”

 Thiessen’s artisan lures are finding fans, and no wonder, they are near works of art to hold in hand. They would look nice as small showpieces on a desk, as much as in the tackle box.

“I have had a positive response from fisherman in terms of the look and quality of the lures. However, like many new business ventures, I have probably gifted away more lures than I have sold. But the satisfaction of seeing a smile on someone’s face, makes it worth while,” he admitted.

And he also gets the fun of testing his own ideas and creations.

“Since starting to make wooden top water lures, I find myself testing them out now, every time I’m out fishing.” said Thiessen. “I have had a very good response to the wiggler style lure, which I have named the ‘Piker’. I have also added an option to the lures, a deer hair treble, which I tie to resemble more of a fly tail.

“One paint pattern that I am most proud of is the black and yellow pattern with red dots. I replicated this pattern from an old wooden lure which I had grown up with. The lure (which I still have) is quite tattered mostly from the teeth of the fish I have caught with it over the years.”

Check out the range at

There are currently four lure types and four colour patterns in each. Sizes range from, three, four, and five inchee depending on the lure type.



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