Last winter a longtime friend, Ted Pettet, started to put together a fishing trip to Kodiak, Alaska.
He invited me to go along for five days of halibut and salmon fishing, accompanied by his sons Teddy and Jeff, as well as Brad Smith, Ed Eckhardt and Tom Meck.
It sounded exciting, fishing with some old friends from years that were instrumental in the formative years of Payson Longhorn athletics.
Ted Pettet and Tom Meck were integral in establishing the tradition of a winning athletic program for Payson High School more than 30 years ago. When they weren't involved in education, they found time to fish many of the local waters, with Roosevelt Lake being their favorite.
At the same time, the community support was established through an active booster club that was led for many years by Ed Eckhardt, who had two sons that were outstanding athletes for the Longhorns.
Brad Smith could be found every Friday during football season along the sidelines running the chains when he wasn't working for the Town of Payson street department. Of course, Teddy Jr. and Jeff were three-sport athletes who were all-state many times for the Longhorns.
This was quite a crew to reunite on a trip to Alaska after many years away from the athletic field.
We all have a lot in common when it comes to Longhorn sports, but the common denominator on this trip was Alaskan fishing.
The stay at Zachar Bay Lodge was a new fly-in trip each day and plenty of fish stories told in the evening at the dinner table.
When a group of fishermen got together there was always some good-natured joking of how the big one may have gotten away.
Each day was a new adventure flying in a bush plane to very remote rivers that were teeming with salmon and watching hundreds of fish swimming by to the spawning grounds. almon fishing was absolutely spectacular for sockeyes, pinks, and silvers.
The fishing was made even better when Jeff Pettet offered the use of a fly rod he had brought from home.
I might add, that Tim Daugherty, a local Paysonite, had loaned him the right size rod and the correct flies that made all the difference. With a little instruction, even a fly rod novice like myself had plenty of action on 4- to 12-pound fish.
These fish would make a run down the river, catapulting two or three times in midair, then much to my surprise would reverse direction and come right back at me doing the same thing.
This fishing action lasted most of the day, which made my shoulders and arms ache from fighting so many of these fish in the swift Alaskan rivers.
The most memorable float plane adventure took us to the Frazier River where we had company fishing for salmon.
The Kodiak Brown Bear, which is a well-fed grizzly, had established homestead rights to the best pools and riffles, so we gave them lots of elbow room.
Our guides, who were veterans of the bush and yet only in their mid-20s, carried high-powered rifles as a basic precaution. While we were fishing, we looked to the banks of the river, as the resident bears would scan the water for their next salmon.
Fishing was nothing short of spectacular and bear viewing up close was an added bonus.
After four days of fishing and excellent accommodations at the Zachar Bay Lodge, we returned by float plane to the town of Kodiak.
The flight of 40 minutes gave us a birdseye view of the "fantasy island"-like scenery with a river in every canyon.
The last leg of our journey home had a 12-hour layover in Kodiak, which gave us one final fling at fishing. At the end of the runway, another major stream called the Buskin River headed toward the harbor.
By asking the locals, we found out the peak of the sockeye run was going on at that time. We had another day on our Alaskan license and we couldn't resist.
The fly rods were unpacked and an inexpensive spinning outfit was borrowed from the hotel and off we went for the final hours of fishing in Alaska. Ed Eckhardt, Jeff and Teddy Pettet, and yours truly, wore the water out, flinging flies at hungry salmon until 10 p.m.
The next day it was back to reality and the plane ride home. The Alaskan getaway was a fishing adventure we shall never forget, shared by good friends in the land of the midnight sun.
If you haven't experienced Alaska, make it a trip for the future, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy the outdoors, God's creation.