Unhinged Alaska: The pragmatic wife and the seasoned piscatorian

I can’t recall exactly how many times through the years I’ve been asked, “What the #*%^ is so addicting about fishing? You’re always up before dawn rumbling off with your pockets stuffed with bizarre lures and malodourous baits that would make a wolf eel power hurl. You fish when it rains, blows, snows and in freezing conditions that would make a polar bear hypothermic. Have you considered seeking therapy?”

I’ve never been able to come up with an amiable answer other than a simple gesture usually reserved for Neanderthals displaying the driving skills of an unhinged howler monkey.

I’m not the only one with an angling addiction so I did a little research and found some axioms from other buffs that I’ll share throughout this column.

Hopefully they’ll provide some insight into our compulsion and inspire understanding. If not, go back to reading your latest copy of “Gluten Free Lichen Farming for the Mind-Numbed.”

As for me, I still not sure why I love the pastime. Probably because it’s not only exciting but humbling. John Steinbeck once said, “It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.” I’m a prime example.

Yesterday, when I took the canine duo out for their early morning delicates, our exhales spawned faint, feathery wisps in the dawn’s chilly air as a light ground mist roiled in playful swirls around our legs.

Moments later a trio of sandhill cranes pirouetted over the cabin calling something significant with their musical rolling rattle to another small flight gliding above them.

I didn’t really think much about the events until they ignored the seed-imbued fields and peeled off to gracefully touch down on the beach in search of aquatic protein for their pending flight south.

Their altered behavioral pattern was one that I’ve always considered as a unique precursor of the imminent birth of fall.

Steelhead would soon be sneaking around my favorite river’s bend and I needed a new fly rod plus another batch of rockfish fillets.

My pragmatic wife had a different perspective and suggested that we might want to consider getting a jump on our winter preparations.

Her proposal gave me pause to ponder.

What’s manlier, cleaning the culverts and gutters or potentially sacrificing life and limb on the high seas in search of additional yellow-eye rockfish and lingcod? Just the notion of the latter generated a full facial beard.

I gently countered that we had plenteous time for mundane pre-winter projects.

Besides, the late silver run was also just days away and it was my solemn duty to provide us with emergency backup provisions along with Christmas gifts of smoked fillets for Lower 48 relatives who hang trophy bluegills on their walls.

She stared for a moment and then re-joined that I needed to come up with a better perspective of what’s a good balance between preparing and providing.

She reckoned splitting and stacking a few rounds plus clearing important drainage zones around the cabin would be a nice start.

I agreed and offered to slip a friend’s son some green to get it done while his Pop and I beat feet for the water.

The kid had a new girlfriend and was in desperate need of currency to feed his tetchy Dodge beater. From what I heard, she considered hitchin’ to movies and assorted events to be awesomely uncool. My wife mumbled that the damsel’s distress reminded her of riding double to a prom via a backfiring moped and the young man scored the job.

So as of now, when the weather conditions don’t require scuba gear to stand in the rain, I’m adhering to the old adage, “Since 3/4 of the earth’s surface is water and 1/4 land, it’s perfectly clear the good Lord intended that man spend three times as much time fishing as he does patching up things around the homestead especially if he knows an adept teenager that needs serious gas money.” Or something like that.

I’ve been fishing since I was old enough to hold a stick dangling a piece of twine with an open safety pin at its end sporting a highly cheesed off earthworm.

I’ve chased fins so long that my poles now creak and crackle while important odds and ends such as swiveling joints are starting to rust. If, for some reason, a part of my gear suffers a malfunction and I need a new part, I’d rather be standing on a river bank than in a ditch when it happens.

Leonardo Da Vinci opined that, “The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming; thus it is with time.”

Combine that insight with the maxim that, “We don’t stop fishing because we get old. We get old when we stop fishing,” and it’s time to gear up.

Catch you in a month…

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t, as Paul O’Neil wrote, “Standing somewhere, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.”

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