Story last updated at 7/16/2014 - 4:12 pm
"JJ likes fire."
"What dude doesn't like fire?"
It's a simple back and forth, not a warning sign. In fact, it would be almost strange if my latest group of friends from California weren't excited about a little campfire after a dinner of halibut tacos.
It was the first real meal in over 24 hours, and the first evening clear and dry enough for a campfire since the night they arrived.
The weather hasn't been bad, just wet, but the fishing has been scalding hot. Earlier in the day we braved island road construction to get to the terminal run of silvers at Whale Pass.
It's at least two hours but it seems longer thanks to the lane-and-a-half detour road that twists in spots like a gravel luge track. I don't really mind, because while there are parts of California with stunning beauty and great fishing, nothing at all in California comes close to the madness of snagging at Whale Pass.
I took them fly fishing between trips to the coho killing grounds so they could appreciate the sustained high of fly fishing for trout in a beautiful place before again experiencing the peaks and valleys of fish hunting. That's what snagging is.
It's an exercise that can go from infuriating to euphoric in one cast. There are hundreds of fish right in front of you; how can you miss them? All you have to do is hit one with your barbed hook, and it doesn't even matter where.
Since that's apparently too tough, you'd doubt your place in the world if natural selection was still functioning. You don't even have the skills to ...
BOOM. Fish on.
It wasn't difficult to get our limit, and we posed for one last round of hero shots before cutting the fish, throwing them in the cooler and heading to the north end of the construction zone to wait for the pilot car.
These guys are younger than the last group that was up here, the maturity level sank at times, but that tends to happen when you get high-energy dudes from down south on a fishing trip in Alaska.
The pilot car wouldn't take us through the blast zone for a half hour, so we immediately started an impromptu 2 on 2 game of 'Hit the plastic bottle'. We fired rocks at the bottle hanging from a spruce tree until our rotator cuffs were frayed and a big truck pulled up behind us. The game ended 2-2. Tied. None of us were satisfied with the lack of closure but we accepted it and were shortly on our way back to my house.
By this point in the trip the guys always start missing their families, so we dropped off the fish at the shop, then went to Craig so they could get their wives and kids the obligatory trinket from the 49th state.
The trip was just about spent. Two hundred and fifty pounds of salmon were hard as hockey pucks in the freezer at the local processing joint, but that's not what it's all about.
If it was about fishing, you'd just fish. You wouldn't take a day to fly fish for 16-inch Dolly Varden when there are tons of salmon around. You wouldn't borrow a pair of canoes and float down part of a river.
So after four days of different types of fishing, the three of them are in front of my house, recapping the fly fishing, silver salmon snagging, construction and animal sightings while blotting out the setting sun with the smoke from large spruce branches.
Their other lives, reality, can wait. For now.