Three rafts, four tents, and (mostly) fly rods make a perfect family weekend. A Fourth of July weekend float down the Gulkana River is a family tradition going waaaay back – six glorious years. While my wife and I have floated and fished the Gulkana River since 1991 (Holy Shmokes that’s 24 years), we’ve only rafted the Gulkana as a family since 2009.
For our six years of rafting the river as a family, we’ve listened to our munchkins evolve from excitedly explaining about catching (and keeping) Wood Frogs, to teenagers protesting “there is no cell service”. Regardless, whether weather is sunny or rainy, whether moods are cheerful or constipated, or whether hung over or working on one, all of us remember the fun times revolving around family camping and fishing.
Family and fishing are the constants which keep us returning. We decided as parents that our girls will experience this one expedition every year for their memories. They can skip some outings, such as moose hunting and adult fishing trips. But someday when they are rafting with their kids, our daughters will remember the old days and say, “We caught many Rainbow Trout and Grayling when we rafted this river. Not only that, we kept and ate a few”. Our daughters’ eyes will glaze over, and our grandkids’ eyes will rollback – some traditions will never change.
A first only our raft and family floated & fished the river. Then my brother and sister-in-law joined the fun, and for a couple years there were a couple rafts on our float. With my brother’s family and ours using every inch of freeboard on those rafts. Now we have three rafts to distribute folks – and dogs.
Our nephew rafted the river while still living with his parents, and now he brings a raft, tent and girlfriend (future wife??). He appears headed on the path to bringing his (future) kids on the float. Our nephew is a heck of a fly fisherman now thanks to the tutelage of Grampa and Dad. So he’ll likely pass fly fishing on to his future kids.
We’ve also watched the fishing on the Gulkana River evolve to the point that we want our girls to have memories of catching wild trout. We caught many King Salmon in the Gulkana in the 90’s. Unfortunately the previous three trips have held an emergency no King Salmon fishing rule. We support the no King fishing rule, because there are still plentiful trout to stalk. But our daughters will not catch King Salmon out of a river the way most runs are advancing. This was a good fishing year for Kings for a change, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew each caught one King. While we caught plenty Grayling this year, the Rainbow and Grayling fishing (actually catching) along the stretch of river we float has wilted in both size and quantity. Using simple math, more people in the world = less wild trout n salmon. Additionally, more people in the world = less quiet rafting and camping.
We will continue to enjoy rafting and camping with family, and hope to pass that four days of fun along to future family.