Thanks to my good friends Tony Torrence, Craig Coover, Cory Dixon, Keith Tymchuck, and others, I got great advice on what to look for in a reasonably priced, yet functional boat. I scanned Craigslist and watched our local area for used aluminum drift boats on the market. I almost jumped at a deal on a 14' Alumaweld, but thankfully, a quick call to Tony Torrence kept me from making the mistake of purchasing a boat I would quickly find to be too small. It seems all of my friends who are experienced with boat ownership were unanimous in recommending a 16' drift boat, probably 54" wide, though some, like Tony, still preferred 48s.
I found a listing for a 16' x 54" RB drift boat that had been on Craigslist for awhile. I called the seller and the boat was still available. I emailed the add to Tony to look over and he said "looks good". I went to look over the boat and it seemed to be in decent, well used condition. The trailer looked ok, two pairs of oars plus a spare, anchor, and many extras were included in the deal. The only real issue I noted were a couple dents in the chine, but the seller assured me the boat didn't leak. I made an offer which the seller accepted and arrangements were made to return with cash and to pick up the boat the following day.
Dents in Chine - adds character
Today was the day set for the maiden voyage with my new/used toy. My classic 74' Bronco had been sitting in my garage for the past few years (due to it's poor fuel economy) and now was it's time to be put back on insurance and enlisted for boat towing duty. My old friend started right up after getting the carburetor fuel bowl filled and pumping gas into the cylinders. It was great to hear the roar of dual Flowmasters behind the healthy 351Windsor, a sound I'm sure my neighbors hate.
I felt it only right to offer the first boat ride to my family. My 21 year old son, (also named Todd, TJ to mom and dad) and son-law Shaun decided to take up my offer. Towing the boat and launching went without a hitch. I think all the years of watching and helping friends with their boats sunk in and I was blessed that my father in law Jim Jones taught me to row in his 16' x 54' Willie in 1994 when we lived in Montana.
Today was a perfect overcast day and I was optimistic for steelhead and I figured TJ, who doesn't fish very often, would do well in fishing for trout. I had the guys fishing out of the boat between spots and we would spread out when stopping at runs. We were having a great time enjoying the new luxury of fishing out of a boat. I found this drifter to be smooth riding and easy to maneuver, so I was thrilled to realize that I got exactly what I needed in a used watercraft.
We fished in familiar spots that are known to hold fish in this stretch of the Middle Fork Willamette. Seeing this stretch of river by boat was all new to Shaun and TJ. I felt so abundantly blessed as we drifted the river and fished our way to the takeout. I don't get to spend a lot of time with TJ and I realized that acquiring this boat was an avenue for us to get out together more often. TJ had only been out fly fishing with me a couple times before and I was amazed that his fly casting came back to him quickly and with some brief tips from me, he was throwing some pretty loops. TJ was jazzed about continuing to do more fly fishing in the future and I was glad to hear that since TJ wasn't one who took to fishing as a child.
I'm hoping that today's memorable float is just the first of many to come. For some reason today's fishing was unremarkable even in what seemed to be perfect fall fishing weather. TJ got a small rainbow, Shaun got a small cutthroat and a tug that may have been steel. As for me, I just continue with skunkitis. I had a couple nice trout go after my skater but steelhead ignored me completely. Great company in my new boat more than made up for the slow fishing with TJ's renewed enthusiasm for fly fishing a great bonus.