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Thread: First time float-tripper!

  1. #1

    Default First time float-tripper!

    Hi guys,

    I visited SC AK for the first time last year. I had a blast and fished until I smelled of salmon for a week after I got home. I had a great time in Alaska.

    I am planning on another 6-8 week trip to AK in 09 but I would 'like' to do a float trip with my brother and one of our friends.

    Here are my main problems/concerns and I hope you have suggestions for me.

    1) I have no clue which rivers I can float. My main goal would be to float a SAFE river, but if the fishing is good, the better it is.

    2)I have never floated a river before.

    What Im hoping to get is some info on any of the easier rivers whether in SC or SW or NW that I could float, and some 'basics' safety rules on what I need to know. Animals, currents, tools for emergencies etc.

    I will be reading up on it over the next few months, but I find the info on this website is so precise that I cant really replace it with a book or online articles.

    As I get answers, I will ask more and more questions. Thanks a million!
    I think Ill post this in the fishing sections too in a few days.

    Oh yeah, any book suggestions??
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  2. #2
    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Default good times

    grats on a successful trip, this place does get into the blood...

    I don't have much that wouldn't be better answered by more than a few people that frequent these pages but look for Jim Stutz's web site (well his articles at http://www.paddling.jimstrutz.com/), send a PM to Mike Strahan, and Blue Moose is always willing to help when it comes to talking rafting or fishing lies... oops sorry tall tales.

    you definetly picked the right place to get a lot of good info and want another authoritative book on rafting alaska you should look for a copy of Karen Jetmarr's book before it's out of print again, i have 1st and 2nd edition and they are my go to books (Mike Strahan's book rocks too though, sorry Mike). You can google either of them at Amazon or on this site to get the titles.

    B

  3. #3
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    Default

    I don't fish much, but I do know that most of the good fishing rivers in South Central AK, that also are easily accessed, are floated and fished quite a bit. Gulkana, and Kenai Rivers are classic examples of that. One exception that I am considering for early next summer is Moose/Kroto/Deshka. It often has low water, but the first half of June should be good, and perhaps after that too, depending on weather. Another is Happy River, but that is a fly in-out stream, and perhaps too splashy for what you're looking for.

    If you can afford it, and have the time for it, there are better options for a great fishing experience in SW and NW AK.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    I don't fish much, but I do know that most of the good fishing rivers in South Central AK, that also are easily accessed, are floated and fished quite a bit. Gulkana, and Kenai Rivers are classic examples of that. One exception that I am considering for early next summer is Moose/Kroto/Deshka. It often has low water, but the first half of June should be good, and perhaps after that too, depending on weather. Another is Happy River, but that is a fly in-out stream, and perhaps too splashy for what you're looking for.

    If you can afford it, and have the time for it, there are better options for a great fishing experience in SW and NW AK.
    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the replies. Jim, I was thinking of doing SW or NW actually. I would probably want to do a fly-in/out trip as well because the rest of the 6-8 weeks, I will be in SC fishing the peninsula.
    So if you've got any suggestions in SW or NW I would really appreciate them.
    Thanks for the book recommendations B. I will look them up on the almighty google search engine!
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  5. #5
    Member alaskachuck's Avatar
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    Default Soda man

    Try to get ahold of Mike Strahan here. Another of course is Brian. The logistics is gonna be your major headache, I have done the Deshka,moose.kroto and it is an easy float, good fishing and of course good bear viewing. Oh and I do expect a visit at camp this year. Im gonna make it a point to fish for red with your and Brian, Ill make sure to take some weekday time this summer. Tell Rose hello. Oh hey. You might want to drop this in the fishing thread too if the mods are ok with it. Since you do want to fish you might get a few more hits on the thread over there. Just my .02 worth

    chuck and june
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

  6. #6

    Default

    The best resource I have read for fishing/rafting guide is Flyfishers guide to ALASKA by Scott Haugen. It has many diff. rivers with good descriptions in both fishing and river classification. So many rivers to choose from and not enough time or money.

  7. #7
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sodabiscuit12345 View Post
    What Im hoping to get is some info on any of the easier rivers whether in SC or SW or NW that I could float
    ?
    A float trip? Heck yeah! That is something I am always willing to talk about. Ask anything you want. Shoot me a pm or email anytime. Not only will I answer your questions, I will enjoy it. I love talking float trips. Don't be intimidated, this is easier than you think. Seems like a tough nut to crack at first, but I can tell you all you need. I thought it was tough at first. Now I can plan one with a few emails and a little time with Google and Google Earth. With a few books and some topo maps, you will be set. One thing I should tell you, the first trip will be the most expensive. After you get the right gear, you will just be paying airline/bush fees on future trips. Each one gets cheaper luckily. But for me at least, the first trip cost the most as I had to buy some gear I did not already own. If you plan on doing more trips, maybe yearly trips, this is an easy expense to justify. And trust me, after your first float trip, you will be back. I got a good grip on all aspects of gear. Bags/pads, tents, cooking gear, pack canoe/raft, etc... Some things certainly work better than others when it comes to gear. Especially on the arctic trips. There is no better way to see the "real Alaska". Got my first taste in 2004 while working a six month travel assignment in Kotz. My wife and I are both travel nurses. I was in Kotz for 6 months and we were in Nome for a year. Had a good buddy in Kotz who was the fire chief. We flew to a lake 30 miles north of Kotz for an overnighter fishing for pike. While there, he talked about this river he floated once and all the dollies he caught. I picked his brain that night. That was when I was introduced to the concept of float trips. A month later (August) I flew my younger brother and best friend from NC (my home). We took our first float trip about 80 miles north of Kotz. We threw it together on a few weeks notice and made a go of it. In the link below, you will see a 6'6" 300 lb guy in a yellow rubber ducky. That is me and it was a long 40 mile float in that thing. But we took so much crap, the Ally canoe was overloaded with me (300 lbs) and my buddy Joe (250 lbs). The original plan was my smaller (and lighter) brother to take the ducky with me and Joe in the Ally pack canoe. The Ally flipped the minute we got in it. All our crap floating down river. What a nice way to start off your first float trip. Ha ha. We took cases of beer, cast iron grill, etc... The bush pilot was smiling when he dropped us off. At the time, I did not know why. I figured it out when we started carrying the pile of gear a 1/2 mile across the tundra to the river from the lake he dropped us off at. We have learned a lot since that first trip. What to do and what not to do. Especially as it pertains to gear. Learning curve you may say. But we got it figured out and honed our skills and gear list on each trip since. Even with our budget gear on the first trip, we had the time of our lives. As my brother stated one night with some liquor breath by the campfire, "The coolest thing about this trip is that we are seeing so many things for the first time, at the same time". Northern lights, satellites passing in the night sky, grizzly bears, sheep, caribou, world class fishing, expansive views, solitude, what more could one want. In ten foot deep holes you could see a nickel on the bottom of this gin clear river. Wathcing the fish in the holes was like looking in a big aquarium. I was hooked. We have floated a different river each year since. Mostly in the arctic NW. We did the Goodnews in SW (out of Dillingham) in 2007 and have floated three arctic rivers about 100 miles north of Kotz (Kelly, Kugururok, and Wulik). We are heading to ANWR (far NE) this coming June to float the Kongakut. Likely the Alatna (Gates of the Arctic) the following year. Looking forward to a 5 day side trip (hike) on the Arrigetch Peaks there. Huge granite spires some 6-7k feet tall. Google Arrigetch Peaks to see what I mean. Got the Kobuk, Alagnak, Kanektok, John, and a few others partially planned out for future trips. Not to mention repeat trips on the Wulik and Goodnews. Wulik is trophy dollies. The Goodnews in late August/early Sept is bows and silvers. The Goodnews around July fourth is king salmon. Always planning the next float trip. The expense limits us to one float trip a year, but I hope to take two a year in the future. Anyway, I am rambling, back to your trip. To help you best, I need to know some things. Below is a brief outline of perspective questions...


    How long of a trip can you take? I like 10 days, but it depends on the float. You pay the same to get in/out, so staying longer makes sense if you can swing it. My trips have been 5 days to 14 days. I prefer 8-10. This gives you time to take it all in and not feel rushed making river miles.

    What is top priority, fishing (fly or spin), scenery, solitude, photography, etc... Some trips are better for some things. A trade off often.

    What is your skill level? How experienced are you in the back country? Camping, canoe, raft, etc...

    What time of year would you want to go? Realistic range is July 1st to mid Sept. Fish species will dictate this largely?

    What is your budget? Bush fees are high of course, some more than others.

    Do you have a raft or would you be renting/buying... Raft/pack canoe/inflattable canoe/etc.. The river, your skill level, and your budget will dictate which boat is best.... Lots of options here and this is an important issue. That is why I have an Ally pack canoe and a Sotar raft. For a "once in a lifetime" trip, rent.


    Below is a link to some float trip pictures on Flickr. When the link opens, click "slideshow" in the upper right. It is a mix of images from all of our float trips. Food for thought perhaps.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/2114408...7603727567944/


    Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  8. #8

    Default

    Hey guys,

    thanks for the info. Always gotta ask the first few basic questions I guess.

    Like my first post on this forum:

    Where should I fish??

    HAHA!

    I have that book you suggested AKpegleg. It was actually suggested to me by DANATTHEROCK a few months ago. Dont think I could have had as good a trip this year without all that info in there...or this forum .
    Also, I got your email Dan. thanks a million, you'll be getting a lot of questions!
    Thanks also Chuck. Wasnt sure if Brian knew about floating trips or not. I'll send him an email tomorrow.
    Did you end up going to Victoria??

    Thanks again guys.
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  9. #9
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Experience counts...

    Here maybe more than most places.

    What rafting experience have you had? I noticed you said, "I have never floated a river before".

    No doubt many dive in without ill-effect, but I've been more comfortable with a progressive approach. Still noobie myself, but started with guided trips (Blue Moose Rafting!) in 2006 where we shared the camp work, then 2007 trips with friends (using their gear), then 2008, using some of our own gear. In 2009, looking forward to first DIY flyout.

    Preparation for us (family) has included a safety class with Knik Canoers & Kayakers (www.kck.org) then their Still Waters paddling course. KCK also offers a Running Water class - drysuits and rescue practices, etc, and looks like offered a Rafting class in 2008. I don't think preparation needs to take years, or need formal classes necessarily, but the learning curve seems steep to me: gear topics (selection, repair), oaring topics (ferrying technique, hazard of an unattended downstream oar), safety topics (avoiding hazards, safe entry/exit, rescue situations including "highsiding", using rescue gear), maps, navigation, communication, and logistics. KCK has structured the learning process lasting weeks for noobies - and their summer courses emphasize rehearsal with paddling veterans, which affords plenty of time for all kinds of questions.

    The opposite picture of idyllic float conditions (high, brown water, no available landing sights and unexpected hazards) seems rare, but happens and happens to locals. Why risk it? The Gulkana suggestion above (Lower or Upper) would offer the advantage of lower cost, opportunity for less remote but still very good "beginner" experience before raising the stakes (and prizes!). Or, maybe you could find good experiences in your home state that would serve the same purpose. You probably have a longer rowing season!

  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Some Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by sodabiscuit12345 View Post
    Hi guys,

    I visited SC AK for the first time last year. I had a blast and fished until I smelled of salmon for a week after I got home. I had a great time in Alaska.

    I am planning on another 6-8 week trip to AK in 09 but I would 'like' to do a float trip with my brother and one of our friends.

    Here are my main problems/concerns and I hope you have suggestions for me.

    1) I have no clue which rivers I can float. My main goal would be to float a SAFE river, but if the fishing is good, the better it is.

    2)I have never floated a river before.

    What Im hoping to get is some info on any of the easier rivers whether in SC or SW or NW that I could float, and some 'basics' safety rules on what I need to know. Animals, currents, tools for emergencies etc.

    I will be reading up on it over the next few months, but I find the info on this website is so precise that I cant really replace it with a book or online articles.

    As I get answers, I will ask more and more questions. Thanks a million!
    I think Ill post this in the fishing sections too in a few days.

    Oh yeah, any book suggestions??
    Soda,

    You might check out the Goodnews River out of Dillingham. It's an easy Class I river with no real hazards other than overhanging brush in a few places. The fishing is fantastic.

    There are of course many, many other places. What are your dates?

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  11. #11

    Default

    Thats true. Experience does count and I have none. Im happy you suggested some courses to me 6XLEECH. What is KCK?? Is it only in AK?
    I will be in Seattle/Oregon/California from February on so Im sure a quick google search and a few days off can teach me a whole lot.

    To Micheals question: I think the goodnews is a good idea and has been suggested to me at least 4-5 times already. I think that is the river I will begin to study/learn about.
    My timing is flexible. Nothing is set in stone and I do not need to ask for time off so that means: anytime between June and October. However, I was told by Danattherock that maybe the last weeks in august, first week of September is when the water is at its lowest, or safest. He mentioned there silvers should be in by then as well. I would have preferred to chase kings, but safety comes first.
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  12. #12
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sodabiscuit12345 View Post
    I would have preferred to chase kings, but safety comes first.
    Soda,

    I am researching that angle a bit. For you and myself. Found some ADFG data from a weir on the Middle Fork Goodnews on kings. They started entering the river by June 18. Average peak and the 50% mean was around July 8-15. With this in mind, it would be easy to determine when to float the Goodnews for kings This should be great fishing for bows as well. So dollies in the upper 1/3, bows in the middle 1/3, and kings in the lower river if you go in the first two weeks of July. Being an odd year, no pinks to contend with either. Now we just need to get an idea on water conditions. Lots of factors here. I suspect by July, the levels will be dropping a good bit. Since I have only seen the river in late August, I contacted the pilot that took me and one other that does work in the area for more info. I contacted the Goodnews Lodge as well. I will be sure to pass on what I find out. This may very well be a safe float that affords you the chance at kings. An excellent chance I would say.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  13. #13
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default On the other hand...

    Sodabiscuit,

    One of my most skilled rafting buddies started by just going years ago. His buddy needed help guiding a float trip, told him a couple of basics and he, green as heck, went. Not to make too light of the risks, but at some point, somewhere between learning about the risks and about the rewards, we all "just do it".

    Up to that time, we do what we can to accumulate enough luck, knowledge, skills...to improve our odds of success. We never know for sure whether we were ready until afterwards. Gradually, with time and experience, the answer is more often yes. I selected the Goodnews River for our first family flyout in 2009, for all the reasons the forum mentors have suggested it to you.

    Anyway, I'm spending the winter reading and planning. Here are notes from the book, River Otter: Handbook for Trip Planning, by Maria Eschen.

    1. Scouting: Scout even familiar rivers for changes in conditions, which in Alaska could mean water levels, or obstructions in the river such as trees.

    2. River basics (eddys, submerged rocks, hydraulic hazards): Watching my experienced rafting friends on-stream, they seem to read the water instinctively. Experience is the best teacher, but reading and discussing rafting with others can help.

    3. Self rescue: Several techniques whose appropriateness depends on the situation.
    a. Defensive swimming: on your back with feet downstream for protection from rocks while working your way to shore.
    b. Exceptions:
    --If in deep water and can reach safety (shore or eddy), then crawl stroke.
    --If danger is imminent, then speed more important. Swim using an upstream ferry to carry you around the hazard.
    --If you must enter a strainer, do it head first and face down.
    c. Remember: If you are able to help yourself, then others won't be called upon to endanger themselves.

    4. Assisted rescue - can depend on the situation, but having the right gear and practicing its use is advised.

    Some places that offer education and training in the Northwest:
    California Canoe & Kayak (CCK), Oakland, CA, www.calkayak.com
    Mtn & River Adventures, Kernville, CA, www.mtnriver.com
    Otter Bar, Forks of Salmon, CA, www.otterbar.com
    Sierra South Mtn Sports, Kernville, CA, www.sierrasouth.com
    Sundance River Center, Merlin, OR, wwwsundanceriver.com

    The people at National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) might have suggestions for your locale - or just call up your local outdoors shops when you're in the Northwest. A paddling shop anywhere will likely have instructional DVDs worth watching. Bottom line, some experienced outdoors folk have recommended the Goodnews River specifically. When all is said and done, the logistics might be the hardest part and you'll want to be reserving an air charter service in a couple of months.

    "Wars are not won by evacuations" --Winston Churchill

  14. #14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    somewhere between learning about the risks and about the rewards, we all "just do it".
    Thanks for that man, Im happy you wrote this.
    2 weeks ago I was actually thinking of only doing the trip in 2010 because I felt I would not be ready in time. For certain things, Im safe to a fault because I know that in other situations, Im reckless to a fault.

    I understand that there is only so much a book, practice and advice will prepare me. I intend to use these resources as much as possible in the next 7-8 months including professional courses. However, setting a date to do this trip is essential for someone like me, to really give 100% in my preparation.

    Ive made up my mind to go, now I know I have a timeline on how much studying/practicing I can do!
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  15. #15
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Drama queen You will be fine man. No worries. The most important thing for you is to pick the right river. The most important thing for you is to pick the right river. It was worth repeating. And for that matter, the bush flight out to the river is by far the most dangerous part of any float trip. That should make you feel better. Hmm? NO. Me neither. You can more easily practice up on rafting and wilderness skills than plane crashing skills.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  16. #16
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Life is short...

    I have 3 buddies, guys I met through work who I think could raft anywhere. What I'd give to have half their experience. But, what can we do but prepare the best we can then go. Who knows, maybe we'll see you out there. We're planning on 10 days approx during Aug 1-14.

    River Otter, the book, is quite good for the basics/planning BTW. Amazon has some used starting at $15. Mike Strahan's book (Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers) includes many suggestions I like for dealing with rescues, logjams...etc situations, not the least of which is "mental preparation". Likely we won't need the tips, but it's winter and like you said, fortune favors the prepared, or words to that effect.

    If you consider a trip with Blue Moose, I thought one of their guides, Tom Shulz, was a skillful oarsman. I believe he also rows whitewater trips on
    the Nenana River.

    Best of luck with your trip.

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