2014 – How the Ship Hit The Fan – Of Friends and Skiffs

| January 8, 2015

fly fishing texas #flyfishing Chittum skiff east cape skiff ankona skiff fly fishing for carp #skiffs

ON THE PUSH POLE
FLY FISHING CULTURE ON THE SKIDS

We can all catch fevers from time-to-time. I’m no different than anyone else, and even if I eat a great big orange from the Rio Grande Valley, tree ripened mind you, I can still get that hot forehead.

Last year the fever was on for a new flats skiff. It is an idea that has been around for awhile: Take a saltwater technical poling skiff, prepare it accordingly, and launch it against our main fly fishing challenge here in North Texas – common carp on the fly. Needing a skiff, but lacking the instant funds, it lead to striking a bad deal with one 

“friend,” lead me all the way to Miami, Florida, actually, and also lead me down the garden path with another friend who helped me waste valuable time, but the latter (a two skiff owner) does remain a fine friend. It became painfully obvious I was going to have to write my own ticket no matter how much I had to contribute to a “partnership” skiff.

Enter the BOGO. In an interesting version of what I thought to be a “Kickstarter” type of financing of a flats skiff, I launched the BOGO campaign. It helped me accomplish two things; 1) not get financially mired, and, 2) gauge the interest in what is FOR A FACT a better way to fly fish for carp. Well I had two takers of the BOGO, and they get my love for life. However that didn’t quite add up to an overwhelming interest in the skiff idea. The BOGO didn’t exactly kickstart. For those of you friends who bought in – HANG TIGHT.

FUTURE OF A FLATS SKIFF

Be it an East Cape Skiff, Ankona or a jon boat; the strange and twisting pursuit of a skiff capable of handling the flats of North Texas, Texas freshwater lakes, private ponds or even a little salt sometimes. Remember, way back? We always consider the “journey the destination” here at TFC, and the finding of a skiff is a journey still unfolding. Heck, imagine the comedown after such a long pursuit!

From here, it becomes a “go it alone” pursuit. No partners, and no real interest from the local fly fishing community … it’s actually a newfound freedom, and realization that my skiff will be primarily for me, myself and I. I have found ways, since the journey began, to do a flats boat on the cheap – an aluminum jon boat, and ways to do it used – a recommendation from the guys at ECS, and found even more dead ends. Those include a Texas boatmaker’s zero interest in building a skiff, and the seeming black hole of communication at Ankona. I did spend some time on the front and back of an East Cape Fury last year, and I did get my eyes on an Ankona at the Lake Fork Fly Fishing World Championships. I thought the Ankona was pretty tiny and tippy (a Shadowcast as I recall?), while the Fury poles, turns and fishes very well. I am still surprised at how “front light” these skiffs are – going nose up when starting off from a dead stop. Even the photography and videos show this characteristic which looks like a real weakness.

The real problem with glass boats is we have a lot more stumps than they have in the Florida Everglades. Translation: These boats may be too soft for what we’re doing on Texas lakes.

Another enlightening moment came when a friend in Houston, Texas, came across the most expensive Florida skiff builder on the map – Hal Chittum – in Houston a month ago. Chittum said that (a lot of) Florida skiff makers are lying inaccurately reporting their boat’s weight (draft), and other things. Apparently things are going big-guns in the Florida skiff building business, and no one’s home to actually fact check the manufacturers. That’s all I have ever heard from Texas flats style boat owners: “Florida skiff makers don’t know what shallow is!”

I’ve been on a lot of aluminum Jon style boats by now, and I have had a lot of time to gather my ideas on how to beat down their obvious weaknesses. They’re noisy as hell on the stalk, and not what anyone calls sexy. I think I can handle the first problem, however you can put lipstick on a pig, but …

And although the kayak life is extremely affordable, and there are a lot of former boat owners (I know) who have switched to kayaks; I still say the kayak life is finite if you want to really pursue ALL the opportunities that fly fishing in Texas has to offer. There is so much we CAN’T do from a kayak, and it doesn’t take forever to get to the point where we’ve done everything we CAN do in a kayak on Texas waters.

That said, there is going to be some interesting news coming from another Florida source – Solo Skiff. There are more than a handful of Solo Skiffs in Texas now, and if you are interested in owning one, you will want to stay tuned for that news.

WE HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES

We have to ask if any of this boat talk really matters? We are headed straight into a fourth year of drought here in North Texas. Lake Ray Roberts is infested with zebra mussels, and lake level is dropping like a rock again this winter. We are finally fifteen years past the wettest century in recorded human history. A century that lead to assuming the rain would go on forever, and the party would never end.

How long do we wait to see if the arid conditions gripping this part of Texas are the “new normal?” As lake levels drop, carp habitat is unpredictable as are the locations of thousands of stumps that suddenly appear to destroy perfectly good boats. (Remember my story on witnessing a sinking boat (pierced by a tree) on Ray Roberts?)

Nevertheless, I will keep you posted on what’s happening in the skiff journey, and what I find out that can save you some serious time and money if you are thinking about buying a skiff. First advice: Go it alone. Don’t try the partner route no matter how much boat two people can afford. Go     it      alone.

LAKE RAY ROBERTS CURRENT LAKE LEVEL – -8.01

+Shannon Drawe
+Texas Fly Caster

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Category: Adventure, Backcasting, Culture on the Skids, Flats Boats

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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