|Being a fishing guide is about as good as it gets, I think. Especially if you
enjoy meeting new people, looking after them, and making sure they get to have a great
holiday. It probably helps if you like fishing too, Im sure! And of course, boats
are a key element in many fishing guides services, but mainly for trolling, or for
gaining access to good beaches and stream mouths, etc.
As part of
expanding our guiding services, we felt it was important to be able to put all clients
into good portions of our rivers. Some guides use jet boats, noisy damned things that just
dont fit that well with the relaxed and soothing pace more in keeping with fly
fishing a remote stretch of river. As a research tool, the Internet is superb. We were
very interested in assessing the level of service, transportation, accommodation etc
provided by our fellow guides in the US. A by-product of that research was the discovery
of the drift boat, a fascinating concept!
|Weve always had boats. Years ago, we regularly ran
white-water rivers in a 10ft aluminium dinghy, hunting and packing out deer. The problem
is, all the boats available here in New Zealand are just not that well suited to fly
fishing our rivers. In general, New Zealand fishermen tend to be
of the "walk & wade" variety, boots and shorts the
normal attire. Well, the water is warmer, and waders are uncomfortable on long hot
. As for drift boats, not too many people have ever even heard of them! Well, we
did some homework, and acquired a couple of books and videos written and produced by US
guides. We quickly decided that this type of boating had a definite application here in
New Zealand, and just as quickly discovered that we could not buy one here! Ever heard the
term "Kiwi ingenuity?" Well, over here, if you cant buy it, or if its too
expensive, you either make it out of something else, or build it from scratch! The
Internet quickly provided several sources of plans, and we settled on one called the
"Drifter" from Glen-L Marine Designs, 9152
Rosecrans Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706-2138, USA. These guys have a comprehensive Web site,
with on-line ordering available, and delivery to NZ was very efficient.
My friend of 30 years, Ron Beardsley (age 73), had built several Hartley-plan
runabouts previously. The plans duly arrived in late December, and Rons well
equipped workshop provided the most appropriate construction venue. This was a fascinating
project for me, not having built a boat before. It was a while since the garage had been
used for a boat-building project, so Ron had to have a big clean-out. Well, more of a
re-shuffle, really, as he is not noted for disposing of anything even remotely useful.
The full size plans are excellent. We experienced some
difficulties understanding some of the US terminology, but once we sorted out the
confusion between forms and frames, sheer clamps and gunwales etc, it got easier. The
construction set-up was completely different to any previous construction we had been
involved in, the rigid form over which the boat was built was new concept to us.
Meticulous construction of the building form was time-consuming, but essential. This boat
design does not have internal frames, and the set-up geometry is interesting, to say the
least. The US dimensions are Imperial - feet and inches - no problem to us older blokes,
who are still trying to adjust to the change to metric, some decades on. However, we soon
discovered that two 8x4 foot sheets must be longer than two 1.2m x 2.4m sheets -
necessitating an unexpected extra join on the sides!
The plans and instructions were in the main good, but a couple of points stand
out now that we have finished. The design calls for a 4x1in keel, and 3 so-called
"floating" floor battens on either side of the keel.
The floor battens were to be fitted into notches on the forms
prior to placing the bottom planking on. Then, the instructions stated that the floor
battens were to be attached after the boat was completed. This still puzzles us! We
screwed and glued the planking to both the keel and floor battens at the same time.
Frankly these floor battens are a pain in the proverbial in hindsight, using
heavier ply on the bottom would have been a much better option. The main challenge is in
removing any water from between the battens, and they are not great to walk on either.
Fore and aft weve covered them with floorboards and non-skid matting. In the centre
they must be left exposed, to facilitate bailing.
Turning the boat over to fit the interior was a challenge, as
was turning it back to glass the bottom! We recommend to you our solution get help!
Rons friend is the local fire chief, we asked nicely and he dispatched a team of
lads in uniform to assist in rolling it over! Pretty good service, huh?
We have stuck closely to the plans in terms of
structure, but have added numerous functional embellishments to suit the use we will put
the boat to. We found a number of builders of beautiful drift boats on the Internet. Our
approach was to print off all the examples of the great western drift boats used, for
example in Montana, on all the good sites as we found them. Every day throughout the
building project wed read through the folder at coffee times. Numerous debates on
obvious good features saw modifications to the original plans. As an example, the plan
called for a top deck, we turned that into a casting tray as per Montana Boat Builders examples. Also added were
the front knee locks, and the nifty arch supporting the rear knee locks.
Posting a web site link to the Montana boat-builder
whose work we admired resulted in the boat-builder, Jason Cajune, finding our web site and
making contact via e-mail. This project has made us several new friends in this way, from
all around the world. Not only that, but we have learned a hell of a lot in the process.
We are already planning our next boat, and will use the "stitchn glue"
technique commended to us by Jason Cajune of Montana Boat Builders. A copy of his 15 foot
light-weight guide boat is our next project, we want to built it over the next few months
of winter. With luck, his plans to visit NZ and maybe go fishing with us will eventuate,
and we can pick his brains in person!
The most difficult aspect of the whole project was the
construction of the boat trailer! What a mission that was. No shortage of manufacturers
around, but all were reluctant to give a firm price on this odd-ball job. Finally, the
guys at Briford Trailers agreed to build it, based on a design they have for aluminium
dinghies. We gave them some photos of the excellent Clack Craft trailers, plus the
original boat plans with all the dimensions etc. Remember, these were full-size
.. Well, the guy rings up and says "Come and get it." When I arrived
to pick it up, I had that sinking feeling as soon as I saw it! Somehow, the bottom width
of 48 inches had got translated into "48 inches between the mudguards." The
bloody thing was 19 inches too narrow, what a disaster! So, they had to rebuild it,
re-galvanise it, etc. But now that its all finished, we are quite happy with it, and will
get them to build the next one maybe that one will show a profit for them! The boss
said, "When will I ever learn about one-off manufacturing jobs? If Id given you
$500 when you first came in, and told you to go away, Id have been better off."
The first voyage of the boat was a great day out. Choice of venue
was the Hurunui River, about an hour north of Christchurch. The trip down from the Hurunui
pub to the State Highway One bridge took most of the day, no mishaps and a couple of
trout. These were caught on spinning gear - as the only fly fisherman on board, this was a
little disappointing. Not due to any lack of skill on my part, I hasten to add, but I had
to row the boat! The boat performed flawlessly, and greatly exceeded our
With four big men on board, and one 10 year old daughter plus
gear, it was heavily loaded. Still, it only drew 4-5 inches of water, and we only touched
bottom a couple of times on some shallow fans. Maneuverability was impressive, aside from
the load weight factor, and we managed to miss all of the obstacles Mother Nature had
placed in our way.
The most enjoyable thing about ownership of this boat is the
degree of interest it arouses. It is so unusual, especially with the internal
configuration of knee locks etc, that people are really intrigued by it. The hull is
radical by NZ standards, and really stands out at the launching ramp! All in all, its been
great fun building and using it, and we look forward to years of enjoyment from it. Our
guiding development plans call for having drift boats based on both sides of the South
Island, ready to serve clients at a couple of hours notice. So, we can all look forward to
traces of two-pot glue on our trouser legs for a few months to come, I think.
Visit the Southern Guide services website: http://www.fishing-hunting-canoeing-new-zealand.com/