USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 44.24 ° F
  • Flow: 7020 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.91 ft

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 9440 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.15 ft

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 49.82 ° F
  • Flow: 10100 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 6.46 ft

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 54.5 ° F
  • Flow: 143 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.40 ft
Ask About Fly Fishing

Flying Rafts

This blog was supposed to be so much different than it is, but (BLEEP) happens!

We were going to fish the Upper Kenai again this weekend. Only this time we were planning on staying in the lake above the bridge and the slow section of the river just below. Reports were that, although there were fish being caught down in the upper river, this section was producing well. Besides, after last Friday’s adventure of getting off the river at dark-thirty, we wanted to be within an easy row of the truck and trailer. Lance and I had decided to take our flippers and slow troll our flies back and forth across the outlet banks. We felt that even below the bridge, the current was slow enough that flippers would allow us to cover the water much like we do in lakes. And, if we needed to, we could just get our feet up on the pegs and row out of any faster current. My brother Dennis decided to take his electric motor and Hummingbird fish/depth finder. He had tried the fish finder a few years earlier while floating the main river and it didn’t work well. He was pretty sure that at least he would be able to find the ridge line that defined the shallower water just up from the bridge from the much deeper hole a bit up into the lake. Saturday worked for all three of us, so we planned for a 9:00AM “Get out of Dodge” departure. Surprisingly, we were loaded and away from the house about 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

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Turnagain Pass

We hit snow flurries as we headed up into Turnagain Pass making the road sloppy. Not too surprising given the weather forecast and this was the last weekend in March after all. Just the fact that it was above freezing and due to peak in the low forties was amazing to me. The flurries were supposed to subside by mid-day and we are trying to eke out as many early trips as possible with our abnormally warm winter. As it turned out, it wasn’t the snow that got to us, but loose straps.

We’re about fifteen miles from Cooper Landing when a sedan pulls alongside honking. Seems that about ten miles back two of the rafts had flipped (launched themselves) off the trailer. We pulled over and sure enough, Dennis’s raft was the only boat left on the trailer, and it was hanging on by the front strap only. It’s hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment. It’s like your stomach kind of implodes while your brain explodes. It’s not pleasant; however you’ll know it if you ever get the chance to feel it. But try not to.

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Standard stacking order

A couple of minutes later, the next car pulls up behind us and gives us the good news; a white truck towing an empty trailer had pulled over and was loading our rafts onto his trailer. Lance and I breathed a sigh of relief; at least they were being rescued, and we assumed, in one piece. We decide to turn around and head back to meet up with the white truck, but by the time we had re-strapped the remaining raft and turned around he caught up with us. As luck would have it, he was headed to Homer to pick up a 4-wheeler; hence the empty trailer and extra tie-down straps. He assumed (correctly) that we were unaware of the loss, and figured that he would probably catch up with us in Cooper Landing, as he figured that’s where we were headed. He was a heck of a nice guy. Being born and raised here, it’s a warm, comforting feeling to know that the Alaskan spirit of helping strangers is still alive and well. We thanked him profusely and he offered his condolences as he left.

Although Lance’s (brand new) raft had survived the 60 mph launch, mine did not fare as well. Because of the way we stack the rafts, mine had been on top, its tubes wedged into the uprights of Lance’s, whose was sitting on top of Dennis’s. It seems, according to reports, that the two rafts came off together, did a 180 and landed upside down, with mine now on the bottom. They hit hard enough to snap a 3/8 inch brass oarlock at its base and twist the motor mount at the back of the frame way off axis. On the other hand, it was probably those two things that saved the rest of the raft from more extensive damage. My right tube had major road rash on the very front tip and two small holes just back from the tip, both of which made holes in the inner vinyl tube. There was no option for a field patch this time; it was going to need major repair.

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Missing oar lock and motor mount

Lance and Dennis made a decision to head back to Anchorage. Even though they could have fished while I fished from the banks, they both thought it best to just head back and see how much damage we had really suffered. It’s a testament to fishing partners when they feel your pain and are willing to do without for your benefit.

So Saturday ended up being a 4 hour round trip on sloppy roads, and an afternoon of tearing down and repairing my raft. I had to cut off the motor mount bracket, but saved the mount itself in case I decide to get it re-welded on. I use the mount to hold the boom arm for my GoPro and I’m thinking I’m going to want something back there for a base in the near future. Fortunately, no major damage to the rest of the frame, just some scuff marks. The tubes have now been patched inside and out, and I’m checking with Alaska Raft for suggestion on the tip.

Being the eternal optimist, I’m talking to Lance about a re-try on Thursday. If the weather holds and his work schedule is light enough it just might happen. We will however have better straps this time, with safety clips on the hooks. And having a little more paranoia, we’ll will stop once or twice to check the rafts.

Lesson learned.


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