My plan is to purchase a new drift boat/raft in 2014 and I have gone back and forth between a hard boat and a raft. I like features of both and if I could, I'd have one of each. However, I must be realistic and keep the other half happy and two boats wouldn't quite do it I'm afraid.
For me, the raft will be much more useful and it will get into some skinny water. Also, I won't have to worry about patching glass and I won't have to cringe every time I go over rocks or encounter a rough launch. My main areas of use will be Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Colorado. I will also use it in stillwaters.
I really like what I have seen from the StreamTech rafts. A bit pricey, perhaps, but I like them. Does anyone have any experience rowing, fishing from or dealing with StreamTech?
I don't have one but just visited their web site checking out the Salmon fly model................. They are nice for sure but for $7500.00 they would need to include all the boxes and coolers before I would bite. You are correct about the no worry effect of dragging bottom with a raft verses a drifter. I have a few questions for you.
1. Are you planning on extended floats, I mean 2 weeks or so at a time?
2. Are you going to be a host to other fishermen (friends) or a guide?
3. How many times each season do you anticipate using a raft?
4. Are you planning to do really heavy white water trips?
I'll explain each of those before you reply.
1. Unless you are going to really carrying a load of gear you may be satisfied with a lesser craft. I use an OutCast FishCat 13' for long floats and carry all the gear on my raft while others drift along in one man pontoon boats. I removed the front seat and installed more gear carrying decking. If needed I can reinstall the seat and carry 1 fisherman. The cost of this raft 6 years ago was $2000.00 and it has been a good raft, it is currently on a trailer in the drive.
2. Unless you are always going to be carrying other passengers a smaller pontoon boat may suit your needs. If you're going to guide then you need a pro quality like this and the purchase will be a deduction........... If it is for personal use, when you first get a boat others will go along but as time goes by you find you are alone more often than not, at least it was that way for me.
3. When we first get them we use them a lot but then reality sets in and they sit more than they float. again, this would perhaps point to a more affordable craft. Don't get me wrong they are nice and If I get permitted for the Kenai next year I may invest in a similar raft.
4. If so there are white water specific rafts out there.
These are really nice rigs but I would have to have one in the water at least 20 times per year with customers on board to make one worth the investment. Whenever drifting rivers logistics are a huge factor. I use shuttle services when available to move my truck and trailer so I don't need 2 vehicles on site. If you're going to fish alone often you might like one like I use. I picked up a FishCat Cougar to accompany the 13' raft and rent an extra if I need rafts for 2 other fishermen.
I can't help you on drift boat versus raft because I struggled with that question for months before I pulled the trigger on my StreamTech Salmon Fly. Really the best solution is a drift boat and a raft. Obviously this isn't practical for everyone but I think it's the truth. If I could only have one or the other I would take a raft, which I did. Mostly because I was scared to death of being the new guy in Montana that just sunk his hard boat on the Yellowstone. That and I think it opens more doors to low water situations, white water, overnight trips, etc.
I love my Salmon Fly and don't have buyers remorse but they are pricey rigs. I think they are worth the money but it's certainly an investment. Another option which I might have gone for was a cheap raft with an NRS frame and then a good used drift boat. Shopping around for both would probably get you in the price range of a fully decked out Salmon Fly. That being said your probably not going to like fishing from your raft nearly as much compared to a Stream Tech boat. Maravia rafts hold their value really well and I've talked to other owners that had their boats for 8+ years and then sold them for nearly what they paid.
I've had about 3 weeks with mine and quite a few miles of river on the Yellowstone and Madison. I've also been able to row a buddies drift boat for comparison a fair amount. My thoughts are that the Stream Tech rows remarkably well for a raft. With only one extra person it's extremely nimble and I think easier to row in some situations. Obviously the more people you add and the more weight the more sluggish it becomes. Thats the case with all boats though.
I think hard boats are definitely more comfortable to fish from, I like the storage options they offer better, and they afford less snag points for your fly line. However, I like the versatility of the Salmon Fly and the peace of mind as you can float through nearly anything sideways and your going to pop out fine. I find I have to pay more attention when rowing a drift boat but I'm also a relatively inexperienced rower. I've also found that even if you get stuck on the sticks all day rowing the Salmon Fly doesn't wear you out. In my opinion they are very easy to maneuver and require little effort.
Something else to consider is if you have fishing buddies that can row. The curse of owning a drift boat/raft is that if you don't have friends that can row....then your always rowing. I've had a bunch of visitors in town a couple weeks ago and I was able to stick them on the oars for a while and not worry about them sinking my boat while I got a chance to fish.
I would give Link Jackson a call and talk with him. He is proud of his product but isn't pushy. He will honestly answer all your questions but not try to force a sale on you. I really respected that. He is very helpful and he can probably turn you onto someone in your area that has a raft you can see in person. Thats what I did and getting to sit in one with a gracious owner from Bozeman was all I needed to make up my mind. So my 2 cents is if you have the coin go for it. They are great boats and extremely durable. A lot of owners have theirs for many years and never had an issue.
I'm going to shop around for a used hard boat this fall to add to the fleet but now that I have a Stream Tech boat I'll never get rid of it.
I will try to answer some of the proposed questions and may end up rambling, but that is what I do.
The raft will be used A LOT! Most of the time, there will be two or three people aboard and when there are only two people, there may be a dog or two. As for extended trips, I do not know about super long trips, but there will be one, two and three night trips for sure, may be longer. I am not sure if I plan on using the boat on really heavy water. It will be used on the Deschutes and other Oregon Steelhead rivers for sure. I will also use the boat on some stillwaters. I know a hard boat would be better here, but for this, I may look at an aluminum boat with an outboard, down the road. As for guiding, yes, eventually I would like to return to guiding and perhaps start my own deal.
Another thing I may use the boat for, believe it or not, waterfowl hunting. I may end up drifting down to a blind, back water area or special spot, hunt for the day and then drift to the take out.
If you're going to use one hard then this looks like a swell raft for sure. I live and operate 150 miles from the best drift fishery in South Central AK. and so haven't given serious consideration to a dedicated fishing platform like these offer. In my area the rivers and creeks are of medium size and the smaller boats work out. I use a Honda Powered jet boat for access on almost every large river I fish.
I would like to have one of these rafts but with all the expenses already associated with my operation I don't see one coming soon.
I do not own a Stream Tech but have fished from one more than a few times. I almost pulled the trigger this season, but backed out at the last moment. Yes they are pricey, but as mentioned, they hold their value and they are great boats. For the water I fish the most in S. Idaho, the stream tech is perfect. Like many, I would like to have both. I currently have a cataraft set up for fly fishing, (rowers seat with seat & lean bar in front and back) it is a little larger than I would like, but we catch fish with it. I am hoping maybe next year will be the year I pick up a streamtech raft. As mentioned Linc, is a great guy and easy to talk with. Good luck on your decision.