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Continuing subscribers may remember my report in the January 1996 issue (see pages 4-5) about Roger Denny’s Alaska Freshwater Safaris (*). At the time, Denny was just beginning to offer something called "Extreme Float Trips." Well, I recently had the opportunity to experience one of these trips for myself, and I give them an enthusiastic thumbs-up. One reason why is that these "Extreme Floats" take place on smaller, lesser known rivers that typically aren’t used by the major rafting outfits, usually because they generally are not large enough to access by river boat or float plane. Everything from the gear to the fishing was top-notch and the emphasis was on fishing, an emphasis I see less and less of late by many other outfitters who seem to put more time and energy into the creature comforts of their operations.

The trip on which I accompanied Denny is billed as his Alpine Jewel. The 40-mile, seven-day float began in the 4,000-foot peaks of the Aleutian Range. We floated through a beautiful blend of tundra, scenic canyons and, finally, lowland spruce forest. Along the way I saw thousands of spawning sockeye salmon as well as lots of wildlife, including two to three dozen brown bears at relatively close range every day.

As I said, the emphasis on Denny’s trips is fishing. We camped on fishable water every night, and thus were able to begin fishing as soon as it was light enough to see. Every day we spent considerable more time fishing than we did floating, which, believe me, is not the norm for many Alaska fishing outfits.

Denny actually offers Extreme Floats on several rivers, and the trip I was on had more char than rainbow trout. The char were beautiful, with dark green backs and bright reddish to orange bellies; they are the quintessential fish of the north. Many were over 20 inches in length and up to five pounds in weight, heavy from a diet of salmon eggs.

These char fought like pit bulls and this was no place for light tippets and fairy wand rods. The average size of the fish and their fighting ability combined with the seemingly always nearness of fast water called for at least a seven-weight outfit, and one wouldn’t be overgunned with an eight-weight outfit and 10 to 14-pound tippets.

There were also some rainbow trout on this trip, but one of Denny’s other trips – Bear Creek – affords anglers a greater opportunity to take big ‘bows. However, I did catch a good number of rainbows and even fooled around with a big mouse pattern for a couple of hours one afternoon. The five rainbows I caught on that skating mouse were longer than 20 inches. Denny and his guide provided the other clients on our trip with flies, but I recommend bringing your own flies. Stock up heavily on single egg fly patterns and flesh fly patterns, but don’t forget a couple of big Woolly Buggers, Sculpins and a mouse or two. I saw no reason to use anything other than a floating line, but it makes sense to pack an extra spool with a sinking tip line.

As regards accommodations, the evening camps were spartan but comfortable. This was a hands-on event, and the clients set up their own tents every night. Denny’s tents were designed in Alaska and are noted for their ruggedness. Each eight-by-eight-foot tent accommodates two people and is more than five feet high in the center. Denny also supplies clients with inflatable Thermarest sleeping pads, so clients only need to bring sleeping bags.

Meals consist of freeze dried dinners, hot and cold cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and along with coffee and hot chocolate, all the munchies you can eat. It’s not gourmet, and it’s not meant to be, but clients do not go hungry. While dinner is being prepared clients can fish, and then after dinner clients can fish until they are ready to slip into their tents. In other words, you can fish from sunup until sundown because there’s never a time when you’re not right on the water.

The cost of the trip is $2,950 per person, all-inclusive from King Salmon, except for the cost of the fishing license. Flying to King Salmon from Anchorage currently costs about $260 roundtrip on Alaska Airlines. The trips run between August and early October, and with only four clients maximum per trip, space is very limited. From what I have heard, clients often rebook trips for the following season as soon as they are done with a float. If you’re interested, inquiring early would be a wise move. Enjoy! – Anthony J. Route.

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