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My wife, our two adult sons and I took a very enjoyable unguided, "row it yourself" float fishing trip on southwest Alaska’s Kanektok River this past August. Chris Daughters at the Caddis Fly Shop (*) in Eugene, Oregon, who had drifted and fished the Kanektok before, volunteered to organize the trip for my family and eight other anglers. We all brought our own camping and fishing gear and shared the challenge of keeping the weight down.
We began our trip by flying into Dillingham, Alaska, from Anchorage with Alaska Airlines (*). Fresh Water Adventures (*), an outdoor travel outfitting company, met us in Dillingham. They rented us rafts, some cooking gear and flew us in and out of camp in Goose and Widgeon vintage propeller aircraft.
It took several loads to fly us and our gear to our first evening’s camp at Kagati Lake, where the Kanektok River begins its 100 mile path through the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge to Kuskokwim Bay at the native village of Quinhagak.
Almost all of the fishing was done by wading. We stopped at likely spots to fish, catching numerous dolly varden, rainbows, grayling and char with six weight rods, and silver salmon with seven or eight weight rods. We did not see anyone else on the river for the first several days, except for one father/son team in a raft and one other guided raft. We saw a few Inuit fishermen in boats on the lower half of the river, as well as some US Fish & Wildlife folks who checked our licenses. The river was not challenging to raft down, even though several of us had little or no prior rafting experience. There are no big rapids, and the only major rafting problem is the extensive braiding of the river; each of the boats dragged a little when its passengers chose the wrong braid.
Our group of four rafts floated the river in seven days, camping at a different site each evening. The weather was unusually good only two days of rain and several frosty mornings so the camping was not too tough. We selected camping spots that had good fishing possibilities nearby since it was light out until late at night. Insects such as mosquitos, flies and no see ums were a continual annoyance, so most of us wore repellant and some wore face nets. We had prepared and frozen a number of dinners in advance and ate fish every evening as well as for lunches. Lunch was generally peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Breakfast was oatmeal or pancakes. The worst camping was on the last night, when we decided to camp on the edge of the gravel runway at Quinhagak. It was windy and raining, but we knew that the planes would be arriving the next morning to take us back to Dillingham. Even though we were happy to be heading home, we were sorry we hadn’t taken a couple of extra days to drift down the river.
Overall, we had a superb time. The equipment and people from Fresh Water Adventures were excellent, the country we travelled through was scenic and the fishing was great. The total cost of the round trip from Dillingham was less than $1,000 per person, since our group of 12 shared the costs of food, flights to and from the river, raft rental, etc. This is a wonderful trip for someone who enjoys camping. I hope I have the chance to do it again! J.A. Waitz.