Keep it simple

An Outdoor View

There are two kinds of fishermen: those who fish, and those who fuss.


Take your fussers. Please. Fussers are people who spend much of their lives messing with bait, tackle and petty details instead of having their lines in the water, fishing.

At one time, I aspired to be a fisherman who did everything “just right.” I woke up one morning to discover that I’d become a fusser. I survived that unhealthy phase, and I’m now content to do just a few things right. As a happy result, I now spend more time fishing and less time fussing.

Fussers who troll for silver salmon in saltwater use only herring that have been immersed overnight in a secret brine/cure containing unchlorinated water, Mediterranean Sea salt, powdered milk, garlic oil and Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. On the water, they plug-cut these herring, first wetting their hands, the cutting board, the knife and the herring, so as to avoid disturbing the alignment of the delicate scales. With a thin-bladed, razor-sharp knife, they oh-so-carefully slice the angles necessary to obtain a proper spin of the bait, and cut a v-notch into the body cavity near the anal fin so as to allow water to flow through, thus relieving the dreaded water resistance. They insert brand-new hooks in precisely the proper position. They check the spin of the bait in the water, agonizing about it for a while, and adjust the hook placement, if necessary. Finally, they might start fishing.

I’ve found that the best way to prevent a relapse to obsessive fussiness is to hang around with unfussy people, like my friend Dillon Kimple. While fishing the Seward Silver Salmon Derby with him last week, I noted with approval that none of his rods or reels were alike. All of his reels are wound with different colors and kinds of line, which has been on them since time immemorial. The only thing his rods and reels have in common is a patina of salmon roe, acquired from years of use. One of his downriggers is electric, the other is manual. Some of the hooks and leaders caught silvers in the 2010 Silver Salmon Derby. No fusser would stab a pair of well-used hooks into a whole, half-frozen, right-out-of-the-box herring and flip it into the water, as Dillon does. As a result, our lines were in the water most of the time. Instead of fussing around, adjusting our trolling speed, leader length or hook color, we were fishing. And catching fish.

Dillon, who turned 85 on Tuesday, didn’t achieve unfussiness overnight. I like to think that he’s a good example of wisdom coming with age.

More and more, I appreciate Thoreau’s admonition to “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” I don’t know that we caught more fish in that derby than fussy fishermen would’ve, but we certainly had more fun. And isn’t that what sport fishing is all about?


Les Palmer can be reached at


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