An Outdoor View: Fishing for memories

Fall caught me by surprise this week. One day, it was summer. The next day held that chilly dampness that says summer has gone south for the winter.


Fall feels somehow different this year. Instead of gold, this year’s fall colors are shades of brown. I’m seeing strange plants and insects. If this be global warming, I hope it ends soon.

For me, this year was yet another of no fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River, and of no digging razor clams at Ninilchik. As if the loss of those two activities weren’t enough, I somehow ended up with only five sockeyes in the freezer.

In the past, I’ve always counted on catching enough silvers to last through the winter, but this year has me worried. Having spent several hours fishing for silvers, I have yet to catch one. To make matters worse, I usually fish for silvers from a neighbor’s dock, but this week he stored it for the winter.

Fishing-wise, it’s becoming difficult to keep my rose-colored glasses in place. At such times, when the only light in the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train, I find solace in the remembering better times, when the fishing was good. “Memory fishing,” I call it.

Memory fishing, like most other kinds, is most enjoyable when done with a good partner. By “good,” I mean someone who not only shows interest in what you’re saying, but someone who appears to be believing what you’re saying.

My wife, Sue, is a good example. We’ve been married only four years, so she hasn’t heard all my stories yet, and seems to enjoy them. At least her eyes haven’t started glazing over, yet.

Recently while waiting for a bite that never came, I told her about my first fishing trip to the Kenai, in the early 1970s. I’d recently moved to Anchorage from Fairbanks, and the only gear I had was for grayling fishing. I soon learned that my 6-pound-test line and ultra-light spinning outfit were somewhat inadequate. In less time than it takes to tell the sad story, a vicious gang of silvers stole every lure in my tackle box.

I also told her about a year when the silver fishing was so good, you could count on catching them. It was the fall of 1974, and I was living in Anchorage. One weekend, with the help of a friend, I was building a cabin near the Kenai River in Sterling. Late in the afternoon, we were getting hungry. I hadn’t brought much food along, because I had counted on having a salmon for dinner.

I told my friend, “I’m going to catch our dinner. You go ahead and finish what you’re doing. I’ll be right back.”

He’d never fished the Kenai and knew nothing about it. I could see that he was doubtful, so I said, “No, really. I’ll be back with a salmon in a few minutes.”

A few minutes later, I was back with a silver that I cooked for our dinner. That’s how good the silver fishing was in the Kenai River of the 1970s.

Such memory fishing is what keeps me fishing in the fall, even when icicles start hanging from my nose.

Les Palmer can be reached at