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Thread: So Many Rafting Questions

  1. #1
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    Default So Many Rafting Questions

    So, I am new to the forum. In my former life I owned a whitewater rafting company and have worked on and off as a fly fishing guide in Montana for some time. I am pretty sure we are moving to AK. I am due for a new raft anyway- currently running a Sotar SS, the old model with diminishing tubes. I love it for guiding and fishing out of. I am thinking that maybe I should get something bigger, and since the boat is a little worn, I put it on Craigslist. I could get just about any boat I want that will fit the frame I have because I want to keep that. I guess I just don't know what other things, Alaska things I need to consider....

    1. What percentage of a raft owners floating is done fly in vs. driving to a put in? Do I have to consider the weight of my new raft? Will I want to also get a break down bare bones frame for those types of adventures? Will one piece oars go into said plane? Cataracts with blades removed? Is there a weight cutoff that you guys try to avoid when picking a raft?

    2. If we move to Anchorage, how far will we need to drive to go and float a river to fish for trout? I have no idea and nothing would surprise me on this one. Here, we can call a number of companies and arrange a shuttle, is it as easy there? Man, I have a lot to learn.

    I have about a million questions, on top of those, but that's a good start.

  2. #2
    Member mski's Avatar
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    awesome looking setup. is that the deerborn? there are plenty of roadside put in and takeouts just going on weekdays would make it more tranquill. if you end up in fairbanks let me know i can show you a few things. the one thing you have to look out in alaska is sweepers.

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Answers for the new guy...

    Benjy,

    I'm sure you will have many more questions, but here's a start for you:

    Quote Originally Posted by Benjy View Post
    What percentage of a raft owners floating is done fly in vs. driving to a put in?
    Hard to say. Our road system is somewhat limited. From Anchorage the rivers typically driven to for floats are the Kenai, Sixmile (whitewater), the Little Susitna (very mild Class I and some powerboat dodging), Willow Creek, and Little Willow Creek. Some drive from Anchorage or Fairbanks to float the Gulkana River in the Interior. There are a handful of rivers out of Fairbanks that folks drive to as well. So there are certainly many folks who never fly out. But in many cases people at least consider a fly-out trip once every couple of years. The single prohibiting factor is cost; in most cases you'll spend around $2000 or more per person for a fly-out trip just for the flying. Then you have air freight costs, food, land use permits in some cases, etc. You'll find yourself spending more money than you might expect on industrial-strength camping gear too. For example, your life may depend on a good quality tent. Because you're stuck there for several days on a river that has very limited access points (airplanes cannot land just anywhere), you need a shelter that will hold you in the worst weather. Plan on spending around $500 for a good tent.

    Do I have to consider the weight of my new raft?
    If you're flying, you certainly do. Most air charters will quote you a maximum weight you're allowed to bring with you. But we've never had a problem bringing self-bailers or catarafts with us, even in the smallest airplanes. My personal record was an 18' cataraft, frame and outboard in a Super Cub (no, not all in one airplane... there were multiple trips involved). But there are two things to consider with boat weight- ease of handling off the river (shipping as cargo, loading and unloading to the aircraft), and weight on the water. In the latter case, some of our rivers are very shallow at times, and you need to reduce the weight of everything- including your boat. Otherwise you'll be dragging your boat for miles. Generally lighter is better (but not always). Depends on the river. My mantra is to let the river choose the boat.

    Will I want to also get a break down bare bones frame for those types of adventures?
    If you're using a round boat, a standard NRS Longhorn frame will fit into most any Bush aircraft without the need to break the longer bars in half. You should consider an additional cross-bar up front for passenger seating (the vast majority of boats up here use swivel seats for the passengers- usually the Tempress "Fish-On" seats). Cataraft frames are complicated no matter what you go with, but in most cases you'll want to cut and sleeve the longer bars or they won't fit in the airplane. You don't need to cut the cross-bars as they will fit in anything including a Super Cub.

    Will one piece oars go into said plane? Cataracts with blades removed?
    Most of us use break-down oar shafts with removable blades. I am leery of the cataract shafts because of potential damage during shipping. But lots of guys use them (I don't). The one-piece shafts will fit into most aircraft, but the pilots don't like long items in most cases, because it limits their loading options (in many cases it's a battle to keep weight out of the tail of the aircraft so you can take off safely).

    Is there a weight cutoff that you guys try to avoid when picking a raft?
    There are always weight concerns on flyout trips. But I have never changed boats because of this issue. You just add more airplanes...

    If we move to Anchorage, how far will we need to drive to go and float a river to fish for trout?
    Approximately two hours north or south. There are closer places, but this is the most common situation. In fact, most of us that float off the road system haul our boats on a trailer and leave them assembled all season. You don't want to be the guy clogging up the boat ramp while you're inflating your raft, assembling your frame, rigging your boat... on a busy weekend. Many of the trailers you see being used for rafts are snowmachine trailers. The most common brand is Caravan. But these trailers often have a short tongue, and they do float when you back them into the water, something to consider if there is any current at the take-out (as there is at Jim's Landing- the place many folks take out on the Upper Kenai).

    Here, we can call a number of companies and arrange a shuttle, is it as easy there?
    There is a shuttle that operates on the Upper Kenai. But in most cases you'll hook up with other boaters or hitch-hike back to your rig.

    Hope it helps! Lots more to say on all of this, but this should get things started...

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  4. #4
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benjy View Post

    Do I have to consider the weight of my new raft? Will I want to also get a break down bare bones frame for those types of adventures? Will one piece oars go into said plane? Cataracts with blades removed?

    If you go this route, shoot me a PM. The wife and I float remote rivers each year. Usually in NW Alaska, but some in SW. Lots of other trips planned out and waiting for time to go. Tons of choices when it comes to float trips in Alaska. The more remote, the more the cost. Often this also means more solitude and better fishing. I would be happy to give you the skinny on taking remote float trips with an emphasis on flyfishing. There is no greater way to see Alaska in my opinion.

    We fly up our gear from NC so I had to work around the 100 lb max limit on commercial airlines. We got a 14'4" Sotar from Goo Vogt (Alaska Wildwater in Anchorage and AK Sotar rep). It is a bucket and weighs under 100 lbs in the bag. I had a custom frame built, "bare bones" as you put it. I had some three piece Sawyer Pole Cats made. Frame and oars go in a custom Sotar dry bag. Raft in one bag, frame/oars in the other. That is as easy as it gets for flying with rafting gear.

    If you live in Alaska, your options will be greater than mine of course. Even if flying, you could send the gear up to the bush town via Northern Air Cargo (NAC) and pick it up when you get to that town. It costs a little to do this, but it is something many do. Price in doing so from NC is prohibitive, so that guided my choices. Just depends on what your goals are of course.

    If you are interested in remote floats, pick up Mike Strahan's book, "Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers". Great book for anyone taking remote float trips. Makes no difference if you hunt or not, this book will answer lots of questions. Great resource with tons of info that would be hard to find elsewhere. Also, Karen Jettmar has the excellent "Alaska River Guide". I think you would enjoy both books.

    http://www.alaskafloathunting.net/

    Similar to my finished product, I omitted the side break..





    Below are some assorted pics from our float trips. 3 floats in arctic NW, one in SW, and a few shots from the Upper Kenai this past Sept. A river you will become very familiar with I suspect...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/2114408...27567944/show/


    -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.

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