An Outdoor View: Bonefishing

  • By Les Palmer
  • Thursday, November 2, 2017 7:06pm
  • Opinion

Author’s note: I recently came across a journal that I kept while on a trip to Christmas Island in 1987. This column, gleaned from the family-appropriate parts of that journal, is the first of a series about that once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip. — LP

Feb. 21 — It seems as if we’ve been planning and packing for years, and now we’re finally on our way.

Five, middle-aged Alaskans comprise our rowdy band. Joe Faulhaber and Howie Van Ness live in Fairbanks, Doug Green and Chip Derrick live in Anchorage, and I live in Sterling. All except Chip, who is still at work on the North Slope, got together at the Anchorage airport. Chip would catch up to us in Honolulu.

The Western Airlines flight to Honolulu was pleasantly smooth. I was awake to see the sun rise over the ocean horizon. The reds and oranges sandwiched between the indigo sky and water held me spellbound.

In Honolulu, we rented a small station wagon at the airport, and with great effort managed to stuff all of our gear into it. This was the first time Howie and I had been in Hawaii, so we were all eyes on the ride to the Reef Hotel in Waikiki. Doug and Joe are old hands, and they take it all in stride.

We arrived at the hotel too early to check in, so we went for a drive and ended up at Diamond Head. This famous landmark is the shell of an old volcano. You can drive through a tunnel, into the very guts of the thing. We took the trail to the top of the “head,” about a 1.7-mile hike that climbs about 750 feet. The most difficult part is near the top. Just when you think you’re there, you come to a steep set of stairs. Ninety-six of them. It was quite a hike in the mid-day heat, but people of all ages were doing it. The ocean view from the top is spectacular.

We finally got into our rooms: Howie and I in one, and Doug and Joe next door. While Doug and Joe went snorkeling, Howie tied flies, and I slept.

Howie, aka “Doc Fly,” is an interesting room-mate. He has brought a healthy portion of the inventory of his Fairbanks fly shop to the party, and he promptly set up shop in our room. Fur, feathers, hooks, lines and leaders occupy every flat surface. What with all his paraphernalia, we can barely move. For the remainder of our stay, the hotel maids are limited to straightening the beds and handing us clean towels.

Howie has brought enough fly lines that each of us can lose at least three. He’s also equipped and prepared to tie flies for all five of us, enough that each of us can lose at least six dozen. When he told me this, I was dumbfounded. What have I gotten myself into?

Howie has been a fly fisherman since he was 5. I, on the other hand, am an unapologetic meat fisherman who has never caught a fish on a fly. Now, on my way to an island halfway around the world from home to fish for one of the hardest-to-catch fish in the world, I’m a little skeptical that I can catch one, my practice fly-casting on the icy driveway of my home in Alaska notwithstanding.

When I went to sleep this first night, Howie was still tying loops in fly lines, an occupation that he expects will keep him entertained for the next week.

Les Palmer can be reached at

More in Opinion

Deven Mitchell greets his fellow members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees at the start of his interview to be the APFC’s new executive director on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource

As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter