All kinds of things go awry on fishing trips. It's a good thing those of us who fish don't dwell on all the pain and loss, or we'd have quit fishing years ago.
In the 1970s, when I was living and working in Anchorage, I fished the Kenai River at every opportunity. I went so often, I sometimes "used up" all of my fishing partners. I didn't like to go alone, so I'd end up calling casual acquaintances, people I barely knew. When the fishing jones had me in its grip, I'd become desperate enough to call people I didn't even like. That's how I ended up going fishing with my neighbor, "Jake."
I'd never been stuck with Jake long enough to know how much I disliked him, but the drive from Anchorage to the Kenai gave me more than enough time to find out. His inane chatter drove me right to the edge. When we stopped for lunch in Cooper Landing, I gave serious thought to leaving without him.
When we finally reached Soldotna and launched my boat, things took a turn for the worse. We were three miles downstream from the launch when the main bearing in my outboard's jet drive gave out, ending any possibility of doing any fishing. As if it weren't stressful enough to be tied up to a bush on the bank, wondering how to get back to the launch, I noticed that every boat that came by seemed to contain someone happily fighting a king salmon.
Most people in a similar situation would know better than to say anything, but Jake wasn't like most people.
"You have to grease those bearings, you know," he said.
I don't remember my reply, but this newspaper wouldn't print it. Nor do I remember how we made it back upstream to the boat launch, or how I made it back home without killing Jake. What I do remember is that I never again went fishing with someone I didn't like. Not on purpose, anyhow.
Things always seem to be getting lost or broken on fishing trips. It can be as easy as flipping a kayak and losing your almost-new, very expensive Nikon camera, as I once learned. Or as easy as stepping on and breaking the only rod you brought along, which I did on the upper Kenai, effectively turning a fishing trip into a float trip.
Someone is always dropping something over the side of a boat and watching it spiral into the depths. I recall an incident on Prince William Sound with two friends. While the boat drifted through a narrow pass, we were jigging for whatever would bite. The tide was moving us right along, so there was a high risk of one of us getting hung up on the bottom.
One of my friends was telling us all about the brand-new, very expensive, custom-made rod and brand-new, very expensive reel he was using. As he was showing us his rod's fancy windings, his jig hooked bottom, and the brand-new, very expensive outfit was yanked from his hands and disappeared over the rail. He said something that was apt for the occasion, but inappropriate here.
With Memorial Day upon us, it's healthy to recall disasters from the past. If nothing else, maybe these will motivate a few of you to enjoy a nice, safe weekend at home.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.