An Outdoor View: Buying space

Author’s note: With tongue only partly in cheek, I wrote this column, which appeared in the Clarion on May 2, 2008. In the succeeding seven years, I haven’t noticed that fewer anglers are fishing Kenai Peninsula waters, so it might benefit readers to read it again. — LP

It has become difficult to cast on a Kenai Peninsula stream without knocking off someone’s cap, so here are some ways to expand and enhance your fishing space.

A warning: These methods for gaining fishing space are not for everyone. However, if you derive pleasure from pain, or if you’re simply tired of living, one of them may be right for you.

One sure-fire way to widen your space is to act as if you’re a few Pixees short of a full tackle box. At odd intervals, loudly yell at a nearby rock or tree, “Don’t push me too far! I can’t take it!”

In this same loony vein, erratic boat handling can be used to good effect. For example, while running at full speed toward another boat, look in some other direction and pretend you don’t see it.

Spend a few hours on the Kenai River during the mid-July peak of king salmon season, and you’ll learn some tricks. Some guys give the impression that they know nothing about regulations or “rules of the road.” Moreover, they act as if they don’t see anyone else around them or hear the threats yelled in their direction. By giving every indication of being blind, deaf and utterly ignorant, they gain space in a fishing hole.

It’s now almost impossible to find a place on the Kenai where you can squeeze in and fish for sockeye salmon. One way to create space where none exists is to take along a young partner, say, a 5-year-old. No one criticizes little kids, because it’s mean, it’s usually fruitless and it riles the kid’s parent. You’ll experience quick results by letting your child throw rocks in the water and sail driftwood “boats” downstream. For even more space, give the tyke a real fishing outfit. Either way, the masses will part for you.

If you happen to be a cranky geezer, or if you’re able to act the part, you’ll find that most other anglers will cut you some slack. Whether it’s out of pity or out of respect doesn’t matter. The main thing is that they give you more space.

At the Russian River, where combat fishing has evolved into an art form, gaining a few feet of space calls for radical measures. I like the idea of an artificial crowd consisting of vinyl blow-up dolls. Available from adult stores in at least two sexes, these dolls are inexpensive, compared to real fishing buddies. Light in weight, four or five will easily fit in a day pack. Also, they won’t steal your sandwich, drink your beer or whine when the fishing is slow.

At the river, simply inflate your plastic friends and spread them out along the shoreline on both sides of you. By dressing them up and arranging them in various positions, they’ll fool the average angler into thinking they’re real people. I can just see it, “Michelle” in a tight-fitting pair of Simms waders, sipping an iced mocha and studying the river through stylish sunglasses. Even if the rare, extra-perceptive angler figures out what you’re up to, he isn’t likely to mess with anyone as, ahem, interesting as you.

The only thing I can think of that might go wrong with the vinyl dolls idea is that someone might puncture one with a hook. Poor “Michelle” would go flying off over the river, a Coho Fly in the corner of her surprised-looking mouth, emitting a noise like a deflating balloon. Perhaps tying them to bushes would be a good idea.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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