Thursday, June 9, 2011

Das Boot

Not long ago, I had the good fortune to meet fellow bug-chucking blogger, Robin Hill. Robin is one of the duo of writers responsible for The Angler's Net, and he is intimately involved in an annual gathering of spey-heads known as Spey Nation. We spent an evening fishing one of our favorite pools on one of our favorite rivers, and waiting for a spinner fall that never materialized. So it goes.

My first impression of Robin is that he is a thoroughly competent angler; he ties a tight fly and throws a tight loop. He neither brags, nor pries for information as do so many other bug chuckers. He knows the game, and I respect him for that. What struck me most about Robin, however, was not his river-savvy, but that he's a genuine do-it-yourself-er. Consider his restoration of a 15' Boston Whaler. The boat was in ragged shape when he first brought it home, but hours of work and gallons of elbow grease had it looking like new.


I follow Robin's blog, and had read of the refinishing. Consequently, I wasn't the least bit surprised when, on the night we fished together, he introduced me to his canoe.

Like the Whaler, Robin's smaller boat is perfectly suited for the water on which it drifts. It has seen use along nearly every inch of the Battenkill, much of the Delaware system along the southern tier of New York State, and any number of other rivers and lakes. What's most remarkable about this poor man's drift boat, however, is not the water it has seen. What is most striking is the way Robin has fish-pimped his ride.

I think the photograph above demonstrates some of Robin's ingenuity. The trolling motor, seat backs, and pontoons aren't necessarily unique, but the oars are very well placed. Robin attaches the oars to the outermost pontoon posts, and he is able control the canoe without losing much range of motion. The anchor rope passes through a small hole that has been cut in the gunwale. With the pontoons out, the anchor can be dropped in relatively slow current, and Robin and his passenger can set up on fish as necessity demands. When set on a fish, the pontoons allow the angler to stand and better work his cast. Altogether, it really is quite a setup.

And it's the inspiration for my own PMDB (Poor Man's Drift Boat). I've recently sold some hackle for a thoroughly ridiculous price to seemingly nice people who intend to braid the stuff into women's hair. While I don't even pretend to understand this latest fashion trend (I'm forever a jeans, flannel, crew cut kind of guy), the money will be put to good use. It should be enough to fund a chassis (the canoe), and if I'm lucky perhaps an accessory or two for my new ride. Before summer's end, I'll be floating the river for trout, carp, bass, pike, and God knows what else.

What follows are images of the boats I'm considering. Please keep in mind that I'm a bug chucker first and a paddler second, and don't necessarily know what constitutes a good canoe given my particular needs.

Old Town Guide 158

Mad River Passage 16
Foremost, I require stability and balance. This means that width is a factor, as is hull design. Even though I plan to outfit with outriggers any canoe I purchase, there will be times when I have my family along for a ride. Between the hyperactive triplets and a wife who goes into convulsions whenever her babies approach too closely to a mudpuddle, I need to make sure that the boat won't be the least bit tippy. Given the reviews I've read, the Old Town has the advantage here.

Second, the price of the canoe is a factor. Chicken feathers are worth more than their weight in gold these days, but I cannot spend a fortune. There are - after all - other toys to buy, and some of them are actually for my children.  I didn't necessarily need the money I made on my recent hackle sales, but now that I have it I would like to make it go a long way. My new boat will need to be affordable. Both boats are relatively inexpensive, but the Mad River has a slight edge.

Third, I need to make sure that each boat has a relatively high capacity. Five or six hundred pounds is likely to be the minimum load my boat will carry. Any canoe I purchase must shoulder this burden, and still handle with relative speed and efficiency. Here, the Old Town and Mad River appear in a dead heat.

Finally, I need to consider durability. Once I invest in a boat, I need it to last as I won't be buying another for a long while.  Again, the two boats I've selected seem tied.

So there it is. Robin has been kind enough to offer his advice, and I would appreciate any input my readers might offer. I'll be documenting my progress in assembling the PMDB; it should be an interesting process. Fingers crossed that I don't sink.


Shaq said...

Look at the Wenonah Kingfisher, it's THE widest boat. Also the Old Town Osprey. Robin's boat is faster (slimmer) but those 2 boats are more stable. I can stand in my Osprey without the pontoons most of the time. For rivers, look for boats without keels, they'll slide away from danger easier. The keel helps the boat track straight in lakes.

Pontoons are the Key.

flypredator said...

Hey Rusty, shoot me an email and I will key you into a great boat that won't kill your wallet....

Anonymous said...

the best boat is one in which isnt yours brohiem :)