An Outdoor View: What’s a fisherman to do?

It happened a couple of weeks ago on one of those foggy, fall days when the temperature likes to hover around the freezing mark. I was on my way to meet a buddy and do some bank-fishing for Kenai River silver salmon. Ten miles from home, nearing my destination, I realized that I’d forgotten to put on my shoes before leaving home. I was wearing slippers, and there was no other footwear in my car.

What’s a fisherman to do? Go back home to get my shoes?

No. I keep going. Got to get to the fishing hole before all the good spots are taken. Got to meet my buddy. Got to have my line in the water when the early bite starts.

My fishing buddy and I were standing on the bank, watching our rod tips for a bite, when I mentioned to him that I’d forgotten to put on shoes before leaving home. I expected a come-back about me “losing it,” but he surprised me.

“Heh, heh,” he chuckled. “I did that once, myself. I was on my way to meet some people, and thought about going back home, but I decided, what the hell. They all think I’m crazy, anyhow, so I went in my slippers.”

I don’t recommend wearing slippers while bank fishing in Alaska. They offer almost no protection from cold or moisture, and walking on rocks in them is risky. That said, they were better than bare feet. And I probably caught as many fish wearing slippers as I would’ve in shoes or boots.

Later on, I got to thinking about forgetting my shoes, and whether I actually was losing it. In the process, it dawned upon me that this had been just one more incident in a lifetime of forgetting, and that it was no big deal.

In the early 1950s, my parents and my two brothers and I journeyed by small boat to a remote island in Puget Sound where we planned to stay all weekend in isolated splendor. But soon after making camp, we discovered that we’d forgotten to bring any eating and cooking utensils.

Did we curse and rail at our fate?

No, we combed the beach for appropriate wood, then sat down and carved all the utensils we needed.

In the early 1970s, I went on a Kenai River silver-fishing adventure with a friend, Paul Moses. Only after running my boat downriver several miles did we realize that neither of us had brought a landing net.

Did we waste fishing time by going back to Paul’s house for a net?

No. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but we caught our limits by simply scooping the salmon into the boat with our bare hands.

I recall another Kenai River silver-fishing trip in the 1970s, with a friend, John Briski. After launching my boat, I threw the anchor into the tall grass on the bank to hold the boat there while I made it shipshape. When things were ready, I told John to get the anchor and get aboard. I wasn’t watching when he got in.

Several miles downriver, I pulled into my favorite silver hole and said, “Drop the hook!”

John had served in the Navy on a destroyer during the Korean War. I figured he would appreciate my use of naval lingo, and would hop to the task. Instead, he just sat there and gave me a blank stare.

“Drop the anchor, John,” I said. “We’re on the best spot in the hole.”

With a sheepish look, he said, “I thought you said to untie the anchor. I left it on the bank.”

I had forgotten that John’s time on a destroyer had made him hard of hearing.

Did we go back for the anchor?

No, we pulled the boat onto a nearby gravel bar, gathered some rocks and tied rope around them for an anchor. It held the boat in well enough that we caught our limits of silvers. When we returned to the boat launch, the real anchor was still there.

Come to I think about it, I can’t recall a time when forgetting something has spoiled a trip. I suppose I could be forgetting a few times when it did, but why remember those?

Les Palmer can be reached at

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