Fear of pain

An Outdoor View

Fishing is one of several things that I don’t do as often now as I did when I was younger. What’s more, I’ve become increasingly finicky about the who, when and where part of my fishing.


It’s not without reason that I’ve become reluctant to go fishing. As we age, we learn by experience the many and various causes of pain. As the years go by and the painful events accumulate, we find ourselves avoiding anything that might cause mental stress, physical discomfort or a trip to the hospital emergency room.

Avoiding pain isn’t always easy. For example, when a friend invites you to go fishing, and even offers to pay for the charter and hotel room for you and your wife, it’s difficult to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. It’s cold and windy, so I think I’ll stay home and be warm and comfortable.”

When Dillon Kimple invited me to go king salmon fishing with him last week, I desperately tried to come up with an excuse for not going, but my mind went blank. The best I could do was to try to discourage him.

“You’ll get over this urge,” I said. “It’s just cabin fever.”

“I want to go fishing!” he said.

I checked with a couple of charter outfits in Homer. They said fishing had slowed down from what it had been in the fall. I told Dillon this, and that boats were bringing in only one or two small kings. I told him that the weather forecast was all doom and gloom, everything from small-craft advisories to freezing spray and gale warnings. I may have mentioned 7-foot waves. He wasn’t to be dissuaded.

“The weather is clear and sunny, and the highway to Homer is in good shape,” he said. “At least we’ll have a nice drive down there and back.”

“You really have cabin fever bad,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “We’re going!”

Resigning myself to going, I employed my favorite method for making the best of things: Set your expectations low. With the forecast predicting winds of 20 miles per hour, odds were good that we’d be “blown off,” the trip cancelled. As cold as it was, the Homer Small Boat Harbor might well freeze solid, sound reason for the skipper to cancel the trip. I also braced myself for a closet-sized hotel room, a bed that would be either too soft or too hard, and a muskox clog dancing half the night in the room above.

With the exception of the muskox clog dancing, which lasted only a couple of hours, none of my dire expectations about the hotel were realized. On the drive to Homer, the sun shone brightly, the highway was clear of snow and ice, and the snow-covered mountains were spectacular.

The next morning, despite a brisk north wind and air temperature in the low teens, skipper Richard Maltzer was ready and eager to go. His boat, a 30-foot Chris-Craft, the “Obsession,” was warm, comfortable and well equipped. Again, my expectations were unmet.

The captain soon had us trolling off Bluff Point, where he had fished with some success in the previous few days. Having failed to reach my low expectations thus far, I now braced myself for spending six or seven hours in a rocking boat on a rolling sea, feeling queasy while waiting in vain for a fish to bite. Once again we failed to reach my bleak expectations. In the lee of Bluff Point, the water was as calm as Cook Inlet gets, and the boat barely rocked. The final blow to my negative predictions was that we caught three nice kings, the largest a 20-pounder.

Moral: If fear of pain prevents you from going fishing, you won’t have much fun, eat much fish or know the sound of a muskox clog dancing.


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