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Humblest among us find fishing glory

Posted: May 24, 2012 - 9:59am

There's nothing more frustrating than watching a walleye fisherman from North Dakota fail to catch a silver salmon in Pony Cove under the mid-July sun.

As a charter boat deckhand with two seasons under my belt I had to make sure I wore extra thick sunglasses purchased from the Seward Harbor gas station to hide my rolling eyes.

They'd tell me, the guy who relies on their fishing success to afford my nightly pizza and ice cream sandwich, how to catch a fish. They insisted on their jigging action. I swore they'd even try a worm from a red can of Hills Bros. Coffee if I turned my back long enough.

Old stubborn fishermen didn't like to take fishing advice from a kid younger than their own offspring. And, why would they? I get it.

But, three hours in and four coho in the box, I'd have to forcibly grab the rod and show them again how to work the water column and mooch properly. Seven out of 10 times I'd have a hookup in five minutes.

Some listened and caught fish, some rolled their eyes insisting I just got lucky. Day after day, week after week of seeing silvers caught, I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I think I knew what I was talking about.

"Believe what you want old man," I'd think as I shuffled to the bait station.

So there I was, an 18-year-old kid just slightly removed from my native Colorado, a life-long bottom fishermen with but a few fish to my name and I was the world's best salmon fisherman. Right?

After my first Alaska winter, I'm heading into my fourth Peninsula summer and I've come to realize I know little to nothing about catching these creatures. Sure, I'm great at swiping my credit card for new gear, and I'm decent at boat conversation and pretending like I know what I'm doing.

Consider the Peninsula's hundreds of lakes, plethora of streams and seemingly endless saltwater. Think about the three different salmon each with a uniquely timed run on each of the dozen main rivers. Take that to the power of whatever lure, fly or device you're trying to catch them with. Toss in fly fishing for trout and steelhead. Multiply all that by conditions, weather, regulations and water temperature changing daily.

Catching silvers in Pony Cove? Candy from a baby. Fish in a barrel.

It's enough to humble a guy -- the more I learn, the less I know. Of this I am now certain.

However, you should learn from the mistake I made. There is no room for ego in fishing, especially on the Kenai Peninsula.

Much like the born-again North Dakota walleye fishermen in Alaska, find comfort in wiping your slate clean. This summer, be open to advice, seek new methods and have the courage to learn what doesn't work. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master, as Hunter S. Thompson said.

What a fool I was.

Brian Smith is a reporter and city editor at the Peninsula Clarion and avid fisherman.

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