Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: The conundrum

My fishing buds religiously turn on the guy who gets a bite and misses it or, dare I say, loses it.

  • By NICK VARNEY For the Peninsula Clarion
  • Saturday, June 15, 2019 10:10pm
  • Life

It’s been an interesting week. My bride is back east visiting her 11 brothers and sisters along with other sundry relatives, who make up what must be around 70% of the population of Ohio.

The main reason for her sojourn is to attend a brother’s 50th wedding anniversary while also dropping in on the rest of the clan for social calls and an occasional home-cooked meal.

From what I gather, Jane’s having great time — even though she’s convinced that the local temperatures would melt her tattoos, if she had any. She was also amazed that she had to wear a coat to a movie because the air conditioning was set on “arctic” but then had to shed it before stepping outside to avoid spontaneous heat stroke.

I’m sure she’ll make it through just fine, although I do have a medevac service on speed dial.

As for me, I’m cabin cloistered in paradise enjoying a drop-dead gorgeous morning while trigger-finger pecking on a keyboard.

As I gaze out the windows, a cerulean sky glows like a rain-washed glacier and nary a breeze disturbs the white puffs of mature dandelions awaiting their turn to blanket what’s left of a recognizable lawn.

Hey, I realize that I should be a more responsible mower of growing things, especially since transient fauna are now starting to get lost in our backyard.

If I procrastinate much longer, I’ll need a hedgerow-crushing Sherman tank to level the invading pushki (cow-parsnip) slowly encroaching along the drainage ditch.

The invasive flora is stealthily strangling the wild raspberry bushes and is now under suspicion for the disappearance of a meandering neighborhood pet. That’s a grave situation of course, but I have an even more dramatic problem. It’s fishing season and I’m encountering some significant issues.

This year I’ve faced a bit of a setback while trying to procure a perfect package of herring bait. There seems to be a decided dearth of properly parceled and sized frozen baitfish that meet my high standards.

This appalling circumstance is especially abominable for those of us who disdain the untidiness of cured salmon eggs. We purists also abhor the thought of traumatizing our karma by making repetitive physical movements such as hurling spinners into the water that ripple the serenity of a lagoon. Plus, it comes close to being work.

There’s nothing like chillin’ back in a double cup-holder camp chair while gazing at an exceptionally cool-looking bobber drifting an impeccably plug-cut herring beneath it. The only thing that even comes close to that category of total relaxation is being pronounced dead.

Don’t misunderstand. Herring connoisseurs can become aggressive. If a fish slams the bait, we will react if someone is kind enough to notify us that our bobber has submerged and politely yowls that we should secure our beverage and hit back.

I prefer that the salmon partially digests the bait before I consider it a valid takedown. Only then will I stand to double check that it wasn’t someone else’s strike-indicator that just shot out of sight like it was snagged by an underwater drone.

If the float doesn’t resurface after a slow count to five, I officially deem the fish has thrown down the gauntlet and is spoiling for a fight, so I whack back.

Why the deliberation and methodical response? Because my fishing buds religiously turn on the guy who gets a bite and misses it or, dare I say, loses it.

Not cool. Vlad the Impaler was held in higher esteem than a dude who lets one get away in our pack of aging piscatorians.

My bros will not only subject the humbled loser to unfettered ridicule and critical performance critiques for the rest of the day, but for months on end. I still have regulars commenting on a few of my rather inept chinook hunting outings back in the early ’80s.

So, here I sit mulling over an acute conundrum, to fish or not to fish.

Do I fire up my tackle-laden Tundra and smoke out to the spit when the tide rolls in or stay put, slip into my Jolly Green Giant superhero persona, and thrash the back-forty into submission?

Come to think of it, the answer is simple. I can either hit the water with the boys and chance their withering derision should a king snooker me again or try to guess how my loving lady might react when she comes home and has to fire up the Weedwacker to find her car.

It’s an easy call, don’t you think?

Nick can be reached at if he isn’t in a life or death battle with a large patch of nettles trying to take over a stack of firewood.

• By NICK VARNEY, For the Peninsula Clarion

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