Les Palmer: Blown off again

My wife and I and another couple were all cranked up and ready to go king salmon fishing out of Homer Monday morning, but an ill wind blew, and our trip was cancelled. So, this won’t be about fishing or eating fish, but I’ll try to make it interesting and educational.

Saltwater fishing for kings in March in Alaska isn’t easy, even if you charter. If you live in the Kenai-Soldotna area, you’re looking at a two-hour journey in the dark on a road that has a good possibility of having ice and a moose or two on its surface. Unless you’re tough enough to drive to Homer, spend all day in a rocking boat and then drive home again, you’ll want to spend at least one night in Homer. After adding up the costs of hotel, food, adult beverages, charter fee and tips, you’ve invested a lot of time and money for the possibility of catching what will likely be a small king salmon.

By “small,” I mean it likely will be a “feeder” king of Canadian hatchery origin, not a king bound for an Alaskan spawning stream. Small by “spawner” king standards, most feeders weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. But what the hey, you say. It’s been a long winter. There’s no other game in town, and this year looks grim for catching any spawner kings. Let’s go fishing.

Due to wind, saltwater fishing is always an iffy proposition, especially in early March. Last year, my wife and I went fishing in early March, and we were lucky: The weather was decent, the water was calm and we caught fish. This year, we “paid some dues.”

The drive from Sterling to Homer was fairly uneventful. The fun began when we arrived at the hotel on the end of the Homer Spit.

We were surprised to find the parking lot nearly full. We were told that Homer was hosting a hockey tournament. Having stayed at that hotel before, I knew how noisy it could be when people were in the hall, but I reminded myself that we were there to fish, not to sleep, and we soldiered on.

The young man at the front desk said my wife and I would be in Room 211. I tried to open the door with one of the key cards he gave us, but no luck. I took the cards back, the desk clerk swiped them through a machine, handed them back, and said, “Sorry about that.” This time, the door opened.

It’s not often that I get an adrenaline rush by simply opening a door. There was a woman in our bed. I didn’t stick around to ask if she was Goldilocks. I quietly backed out and closed the door. Fortunately, she slept through the intrusion. At least I think she did.

At the front desk again, I said to the young man who had checked us in, “I think you gave us the wrong room. There’s a woman in Room 211. Lucky for you, she was asleep.”

I’ll give him credit for keeping his cool. “Oh, someone had you in the wrong room,” he said. “Sorry.” We were supposed to be in Room 111, not 211.

With some trepidation, we carried our bags down the hall to Room 111 and opened the door. It was just as I remembered from when we stayed there last year.

The double bed was still jammed against the wall so the “inside” person couldn’t get up without waking the “outside” person. The bed was still six inches too short for me. Making a local phone call was still beyond my ability.

The night seemed interminable. Sleep, when it came at all, was fitful. From the noise, the hockey players used the hallway as a practice rink. Then, in those wee hours when things can seem most bleak, I heard the wind come up.

I groaned myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m.. The wind was still blowing, and it had started snowing.

At that point, things no longer seemed bleak. Things were bleak. I was fairly certain we weren’t going fishing, but we had to go through the motions of getting ready. It was 6:00 a.m., and the hotel didn’t serve breakfast until 8:00 a.m., so we loaded our gear into the car and trolled through dark, downtown Homer, looking for a place to eat.

We found one, of sorts, had breakfast and called our guide. He said the wind was blowing too hard to go out. We gave very brief consideration to staying another day on the off-chance that the weather would improve, then we drove home.

Home never felt so good. More and more, I’m convinced that’s why people travel.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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