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Bill Babler

Holitna River Float Trip with Bill and Phil

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It has been 9 years since our last big Alaskan adventure , "Kelly River Float Trip" other than either Kodiak or the Naknek River, so Phil and I determined before I get to old that we need to do something that neither of us had done.  

I had a plan.  For years I have heard and read about a great white fish that prowls the circumpolar regions of North America, Asia and Russia.  This fish is the Sheefish or Inconnu  Though somewhat widely spread it inhabits regions that for the most part, you just can't get there from here.

Alaska's Kobuk River and Selawik River house the largest breeding populations (about 60,000 fish) and that was to be our first destination.  Trouble was we can't get there from here this year.  The flights are out of Bettles Ak. and there is none available in 2019 as they are already booked for the season.  It was going to be a huge undertaking transporting rafts and gear for the trip but we have done it before.

Several years ago Phil had a guest come and speak on a river off the Kuskokwim called the Holitna.  This is a large class 1 and 2 grade river that starts in the Kuskokwim mountains and flows 110 miles to the main river at the small settlement of Sleetmute, It has a very good population of Sheefish, along with pike, char, grayling and all 5 pacific salmon species.



When we first found out about the river the owner of a small lodge, the only one on the entire 110 mile river was the gentleman that spoke at Phil's.  The lodge was the Holitna River Lodge and the owner was Rocky McElwain, I believe.  It has since sold to Dan Paull and he has renamed his business Alaskan Adventures, still with the Lodge on the Holitna River.

Phil and I will get this blog going to show you what we are up to with preparation, gear, flight information and you will be able to join us on the journey down the Holitna in search of char, salmon and the mighty, Tarpon of the North, the Sheefish.

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Hope you guys have a GREAT time. I'm sure it will be a wonderful getaway for you both! We expect lots of pictures, especially the sheefish! I took my bride on our honeymoon to Alaska last July. It only took me 9 years to get her there. I had to make sure that she was a keeper! We spent 2 weeks in Denali, Homer, and Juneau. We were not disappointed at all! I did get a few opportunities to fish. We caught Salmon, Halibut, Cod,  Rockfish, and Double Uglies. Safe travels to you and Phil!

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Here is an update of my clothing list and how I'm traveling with it.  My entire clothing for this trip will fit in my carry on bag.  We are traveling on Alaska Air out of MCI and their carry on size in a total of 45 inches.  I purchased the new Fish Pod totally water proof carry on which when loaded is 45 linear inches.

Clothing list is as follows and this for a 9 day trip with 7 days of camping and raft floating the Holitna.

Orvis Wader Socks 3 heavy 3 lite/medium. 2 Gage, silk long handles, 6 underware, 1 Hodgeman under wader suit.1 Orvis vest 1 Orvis Rain Sweater, 1 Orvis rain jacket, 1 Orvis hoodie,

 3 Gage micro fiber shirts, 2 pairs gloves Columbia and Orvis, 3 Orvis trout bum shirts, 3 micro fiber UA shirts 1 short sleeve shirt . 1 shorts, 1 1/2 socks 2 hats, 1 Mizzou PJ's. and one jean and belt.


I;ll try and get all our other gear posted today for this type of a float adventure.



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Yes but we don't entirely know the level of his gear.  He claims everything is new including the entire camp and raft.  I'll try and post the updated gear we are taking as soon as possible  He also supplies the food for the entire trip, but he said it is Mountain House so we are supplementing,

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Completely self-guided trip as we always take.  We are dropped by wheel plane on a gravel bar and we float out.


Pelican Vault Gear List.  Water Proof TSA approved transportation Case.  We are flying Alaska Airlines and they have very liberal  regulations on sporting good transit.  Including guns and fishing equipment.


Wader Repair Kit, leaders, tippet, filet knifes and steel, fire starter , cap light, pliers,saw, pencil wt. spoons, spinners and hardware, 1 Orvis med. 7' travel rod.  1 4000 series shimano sustain spinning reel 2 spools 8# and 12# Orvis Fly rods 8-7-7-6 wt. Fast tip 10' 4 piece.


4 Orvis reels 6-7-8-8 Wt.  One with a predator leader, one with a mirage carbon 16# leader 1 with a 8# Hy-Flote for dry flys and one with a shooting line for beads

Also in the case of course is a Remmington 870 synthetic pump with Brenneke 3" magnum slugs.  This is for mosquitoes. We also have some 6 shot as ptarmigan season is open and they are a tasty treat if we see some.

Fishing Tackle:

We have lots of Salmon flies and I have been tying some big patterns for Sheefish and Pike.  We are also taking beads and drys for the char and grayling


Some food and camping items we are taking include:

Utensils, lite set of pots and pans, coffee, sugar, condiments, salt, pepper and spices, alum. foil and baggies cleaning supplies nails, rope, gorilla tape and glue, biscuit and pancake mix flour, fish fry, PB, syrup, dehydrated onions, and potatoes, package mixes of sauce and gravy, butter, oil, and milk, sweetner soy sauce, wasabi and ginger, rice and bouillon a few sweets .IMG_2775.jpg

Notice the table cloth and water purification bottles.  We are also taking trailmix in our carry on bags.

Frozen food in an Engel Cooler.  I have tested this Cooler putting it in the freezer and cooling it down for 24 hrs.  I put 4 frozen bottles of water in it and set it in the garage.  it will keep the water frozen for 48 hrs. it is fantastic.


Breakfast sausage Maple, Bacon, Deer Sausage, 2, Eight oz. Prime Ribeye Steaks, Smoked Ham, cheese, butter, lunch meat and i will put 18 eggs on the top in their carton.  perfect fit.

Fishing and bedding gear;

REI sleeping pad, Eddie Bauer Sleeping blanket pillow and blanket, 2 camp lanterns a first aid kit , wader boots belt suspenders, boots hats staff, and an extra set of hip waders


We are flying 1st. Class and not only do you get the extra room but you can bring a carry on plus one personal item and 2 check in bags of 50 lbs. each for no charge.  We are going to have 1 extra bag at $100.00 but Phil says he has it covered with his millage credit card


Pictured are 2 Fish Pond Dry Bags, 1 Weather Sport Dry Bag, 1 Orvis Gale Force Dry Satchel and one Pelican TSA Dry Container.  Phil will have 2 dry bags plus his carry on and a personal item mostly with lots of electronics.  We are using an InReach and it will be interesting.  We have both played with it some and of course cameras and GoPro's.

From Anchorage will be flying to Alaska Adventure Lodge on the Holitna River.  The flight is in a 6 passenger prop plane flown by Sound Aviation out of Anchorage.  It is about 200 air miles from Anchorage to the Lodge at Sleetmute Ak.  We will spend the first nite at the lodge and then be flown up the river for our float for Salmon, Char, Grayling, Pike, and Sheefish.

More to Come



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Nice load out.  InReach works great; have used in the CO mountains and N Ontario with no problems - nice to be able to check in at home and still enjoy wilderness.  Looks like fun!


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