An Outdoor View: Thrift stores and fishing lures

Editor’s note: Longtime Clarion outdoors columnist Les Palmer is scaling back on his writing. His column will appear every other week in the Clarion. On alternating weeks, Clarion staff will share their thoughts on getting outdoors on the Kenai Peninsula.

My mother is a thrifter and my father is a fisherman. She visits the local flea market every Sunday morning, bringing back boxes of tackle and reels for my father to look through while muttering “junk” under his breath.

She picks through the big piles looking for gear for him and he saves anything worthwhile, turning our back shed into Frankenstein’s lab — a quiver made of rods and reels that, under normal circumstances, would never have met.

I remember dropping a handful of them into the Atlantic Ocean because I couldn’t keep my hands on them. I remember admiring a PENN Tuna Stick and wanting to bring it bottom fishing, because it only came up to my 7-year-old shoulders. I remember being amazed at how quickly a bird’s nest of line would grow when I let the reel run wild. I was not my father’s daughter.

I remember shouting my mother’s name at the flea market, looking for her up and down aisles, as she darted between the “good spots.” I remember my heart racing while she haggled on prices, scared that we’d be walking away empty-handed, even though we never did. I remember paying $40 for a record player that didn’t work, and never would, just like she warned me. I was not my mother’s daughter.

One warm New Jersey afternoon, my father and I washed the winter off of his boat. I had just moved back into my childhood home, into a bedroom that had been taken over by my mother’s flea market finds and back to driving a car that had a perpetual fishy smell, but there was nothing suspicious about it.

I asked him why I didn’t have my own rod — he got my brother one for his birthday and my mom one for hers, hand-wrapped Bogan rods with their names emblazoned on the side. I didn’t want my February birthday to limit me to a lifetime of gifted warm weather gear, I wanted a brand-new rod of my own, no Frankenstein’s monster.

“If you’re here for your next birthday, I’ll get you one,” he said.

On my 25th birthday, I opened a small package with four pairs of wool socks and a one-way ticket to Kenai, Alaska.

In my first weeks on the Kenai Peninsula, everything was new. I spent my morning drive to work admiring mountain ranges and slowing down to see a moose. I couldn’t make the length of Bridge Access Road without stepping out of my comfort zone and seeing something for the first time. It was exhausting.

I found comfort in the thrift stores, found my calm in the used. I pilfered through each shelf of chipped china, searching for the familiar feel of secondhand dust on my hands as I scanned a plate or a bowl for an identifying label, just like my mother taught me.

Floating down the aisles, I found myself gravitating to the inevitable bucket of used poles, dilapidated reels and the occasional dipnet. I imagined all the fish the equipment had caught before landing in this bucket, species for which I had never thrown a cast. I untangled their lines, breaking through strong knots, just like the ones my father had practiced with me.

As the days warm, I grow antsier and antsier at the thought of my first Alaska fishing experience. I bought my license, I learned the rules. I’ve gone back to the thrift stores.

I don’t have my parents’ knowledge to walk me through the thrift store aisles or the tide book but my expertise is brackish. My mother is the river, my father is the sea and I am the estuary between them, feeling the influences of each daily as I make Alaska my home.

So, I’ve spent this spring filling my quiver the way they taught me, with secondhand gear that has seen what the peninsula has to offer.

Each reel knows what my first summer fishing Alaska’s waters has in store and I can’t wait to add another fish to its story.

Reach Kat Sorensen at

More in Life

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: This purge won’t be a movie sequel

What’s forthcoming is a very rare occurrence and, in my case, uncommon as bifocals on a Shih Tzu puppy

Being content with what you don’t know

How’s your negative capability doing?

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Local Tlingit beader Jill Kaasteen Meserve is making waves as her work becomes more widely known, both in Juneau and the Lower 48.
Old styles in new ways: Beader talks art and octopus bags

She’s been selected for both a local collection and a major Indigenous art market

A copy of “The Fragile Earth” rests on a typewriter on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Seeking transformation in the face of catastrophe

Potent words on climate change resonate across decades

Gochujang dressing spices up tofu, lettuce, veggies and sprouts. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Healthy life starts with healthy food

Gochujang salad dressing turns veggies and tofu into an exciting meal

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Spring Fever

“OK, Boomer” is supposed to be the current put down by the “woke generation”

A headstone for J.E. Hill is photographhed in Anchorage, Alaska. (
Night falls on the Daylight Kid — Part 2

“Bob,” he said, “that crazy fool is shooting at us.”

Minister’s Message: Has spring sprung in your life?

Christ also offers us an eternal springtime of love, hope and life

Eggs Benedict are served with hollandaise on a bed of arugula and prosciutto. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Honoring motherhood, in joy and in sorrow

Many who have suffered this loss believe they must bear it in silence for the sake of propriety

Most Read