On the lower Kenai River, where Dillon Kimple and I fished for silver salmon Tuesday morning, only two other boats were within shouting distance, and nobody was shouting.


For two hours, no one caught anything but an occasional hapless pink salmon. It was apparent that few silvers were in the river, but we fished on. And on. And on.

“We’re paying our dues,” I told Dillon. “It’ll get better.”

We weren’t the only ones who have been paying dues. According to a recent Alaska Department of Fish and Game fishing report, overall fishing success for Kenai River silvers has been “below average.” While those of us who wear rose-colored glasses might agree that the silver fishing hasn’t been spectacular, we prefer statements about fishing success to end on a high note. “The run is just late,” we would add. Alternatively, we might say, “We’re just in a between-runs lull, but fishing will pick up soon.”

We optimists can offer up all sorts of reasons why the fishing is in the doldrums, but they all end on an upbeat. On Tuesday, Dillon dragged out a typical one: “The fish aren’t biting right now, but the river could be full of fish.”

We optimists will say anything to keep a spark of hope glowing on a slow fishing day. If a friend says he was halibut fishing on Cook Inlet the other day and saw a salmon jump, we’ll interpret that to mean something far more interesting and beneficial than a single salmon jumping. After all, salmon travel in schools, don’t they? We’ll say, “I hear they’re seeing big schools of silvers in the inlet.”

Optimism deserves much of the credit for motivating us to fish the Kenai in the fall. While being on the Kenai this time of year can be wonderful, it also can be a painful experience. To get in on the early bite, which is sometimes the only bite, you set your alarm clock for 4 a.m. or earlier. On your way to the river, you have to share the highway with drunk drivers. You have to launch your boat in the dark. You have to run the river in the dark while trying to avoid the shallows and other boats. It might be windy or raining, and it will probably be cold. Odds are good that the spot where you wanted to anchor will already be occupied, so you’ll have to find another. If you’re not an optimist, you’ll stay in your nice, warm bed and forget that fall trip on the Kenai.

Fall silver fishing isn’t for impatient people, or seekers of instant gratification. It’s for people who harbor a seed of hope for better times. It’s for optimists.

You probably expect me to tell you that persistence, borne of optimism, paid off for Dillon Kimple and me. Well, it didn’t. We were skunked. But it was an enjoyable day on the river, and the fishing can only get better.

The late R.L. Parker, one of the early Kenai River fishing guides, once said something that stuck with me. “It helps if you expect to catch a fish,” he said.

I’ve been expecting to catch a fish ever since.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.


An Outdoor View: Getting along with bears

Author’s note: The Clarion first published this column on Aug. 11, 2006. It has been edited it for brevity. — LP

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