An Outdoor View

Can’t wait to anticipate

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2007

With the greening of grass and the chirping of mating birds, my anticipation of the coming fishing season knows no bounds.

The last time I went fishing was when the famous writer and bon vivant A.E. Poyner and I bothered some Kenai River cohos in late September. By the time I fish for the first time this year, I will have chalked up eight months of abstinence.

Don’t get the idea that I’m whining. If I wanted to fish year-round, I’d spend summers in Alaska and winters in Mexico, Florida or Costa Rica. I prefer to winter in Alaska. If I’m not fishing, I have more time to anticipate fishing.

I discovered many years ago that — forgive me, Robert Service — it isn’t the fishing that I’m wanting, so much as just thinking about the fishing.

When I was younger and crazier, I tried to make the winters as short as possible. I’d fish the upper Kenai River until the launch ramp at lower Skilak Lake was glazed with ice and it was time to find a Christmas tree.In April, I’d dig my 14-foot skiff out the snow and go fishing for halibut and king salmon in Cook Inlet.After several years of those four-month winters, I realized that I was going about it all wrong. By fishing in the “shoulder season,” as tourism boosters call early and late winter, I was depriving myself of some good anticipation time.

Anticipation is more than a Carly Simon song, or the kid in the back seat saying, “Are we there yet?”It’s a large part of the joy of fishing.

The four months of what passes for summer in Alaska is plenty of time for actual fishing.What’s left of the year — let’s be honest and call it what it is: winter — can more enjoyably be spent anticipating the next fishing season.

Over the years, I’ve turned anticipation into something of an art form.I wind down my fishing seasons slowly.Starting out in a state of denial that the season is over, I’ll graduate into thinking about putting away my fishing gear.A month or so after that, I’ll actually do it, storing it in a corner of the garage, just in case I might need it again. In mid-winter, I store the rods and reels in a corner of my den, where I can see them and be constantly reminded that something worth living for is just around the next bend of the winter road.

One of the best ways to heighten anticipation is to plan fishing trips.

Last month, I started planning a float trip down a remote river in the Bristol Bay drainage with my son and grandson.The details of arranging that trip kept me busy for days.The anticipation will grow until we leave, in late August, by which time I’ll be fairly hopping with excitement.

March and April are a good time to start browsing for tackle.This requires a careful inventory and several hours of browsing through catalogs and stores, which is about as close as a man can come to the feeling women get when they go “shopping.”

In early May, when leaves are popping out, I check over my rods and reels, and move them into the garage, closer to the action.

By late May, I’m thinking so much about fishing, I dream about it.I’m like a 16-year-old kid with his first car.

Pity the deprived sap who wastes his winters on the bonefish flats of Belize and Christmas Island. He’ll never know the pleasure of having eight months of exquisite anticipation.

Les Palmer lives year-round in Sterling.

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