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Thread: What's the best inflatable river fishing platform?

  1. #1

    Default What's the best inflatable river fishing platform?

    Need some insight from those who have been around these boats. Let me provide some focus. I've owned an Aire Traveler and I currently own an Aire Leopard. I have floated a good amount of water in AK, have been here for a total of 14 years, know rafts fairly well, have fished all of my adult life, and have owned/operated five boats in addition to my inflatables. I begin guiding this year. I have hunted and fished here a good deal.

    The idea is to add variety to my fishing program and offerings. I am looking for a boat that I can take to the Kenai and float the upper, including through the canyon. In addition, many of the 'better' fisheries in the clear waters (less silty) of South Central will be targeted, with focus on the peninsula and Mat-Su regions.

    The intent is for comfortable, and stable, seated AND standing river fishing and casting for 1-3 people. The boat will be trailered 90% of the time. Once or twice per year, I will probably disassemble and fly or transport it somewhere, reassembling for the float. Also, I intend to do some solo trips, but will usually take one or two buddies and/or paying clients with me at a time - thus, comfort and capability is important. I plan to offer (primarily) day trips, with the occasional overnighter (for the really good quality buddies and/or client(s). Being out in the boat for more than one night and two days will be very rare. Class I and II will be typical, with Class III on occasion. I don't expect to get any more adventurous than that.

    I am (for the most part) comparing the Clearwater Drifter vs. the Aire Puma/Super Puma/Super Duper Puma (http://www.aire.com/aire/products/default.aspx?id=204), and/or the NRS Otter (http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.a...6&pdeptid=1129). Focus is in the 12'-14' range on the round boats. I am not locked in on one of these models, but they probably best represent options with regard to round boat fishing platforms in competition with the Clearwater Drifter.

    I floated in the NRS inflatable Clearwater Drifter (http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=16402) this past weekend. It's an impressive boat, handles and fishes well - as good as just about any drift boat I've been in. It is fairly lightweight (330# fully rigged) and manageable, quiet/stealthy, seats/carries 1-3 people comfortably, and is fair on price (about $6,000 msrp). It's kind of ideal, except.....from my perspective, the 5-year NRS warranty might be an issue - certainly expecting, and would probably get, much more than five years of life out of the boat. Also, it's a drifter. It will carry other stuff, but when it comes to camping supplies (sleeping bags, cooler, stove, tent, etc, etc., I am not assured on how everything would stow out of the way, keeping the boat comfortable for floating and fishing. I guess there is probably enough room for dry-bags and boxes behind the front seat and oarsman.

    Given the above information, consider the most important characteristics (to me):

    Weight/manageability (carrying for a portage, moving on and off the trailer, etc.
    Ease of maneuver on the water, while under a load of 1-3 persons
    Ability to carry people AND gear well (again, usually day trips, but some overnighters and/or extended trips)
    Stability - nobody goes in the water. In that way, the Drifter was a little shaky (we stood and casted, but had to be a little cautious - the thigh bars come in really handy).
    Cost - my price range is going to cap at about $6,000 for the boat alone.
    Survivability/longevity - built to last, i.e. punctures are not ever likely, repairs are easy, and warranty/customer service is top notch.

    Anything critical I'm missing? Anyone ever need to use NRS's customer service/warranty process before? With Aire's 10-year, no fault, transferrable warranty, they are impossible to beat. Please sound off with your experiences and let me know how you feel on this. I need to make the one right choice, the first time. I appreciate everyone's input. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default That Sir is a very good question

    Well from a guides point of view considering your question I would stick to the AIRE versus the NRS based on you will be trailing the boat 90% of the time. You may also consider the plus up in size versus the Super Duper Puma based on your requirement to meet the three fisher type people concept 14ft may not leave you enough room to meet your fishing obligations.

    Take a look at the AIRE 15'6 D just to have the room 'Just in case"

    That being said if that is to large I would still think about a plus up and go with the 14'3 D versus the Super Duper Puma.

    If in fact I was only taking two people fishing all the time then yes SDP is hard to beat.

    If I was flying in and not utilizing a trailer 90% I would look at the 15ft Otter but than again I am a little Bias!

    Regards

    RMM

  3. #3

    Default

    BlueMoose,

    Thanks for your comment. I will be guiding only two fishermen at a time, plus myself as the oarsman - grand total of three.

    Regards,
    Phil

  4. #4
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Default Aire Puma

    I can chime in on the Aire Puma. We bought ours at a slight discount in the middle 90's from the rafting outfit in Anchorage that has since switched hands and name. Its a great boat. folded Aire puma.JPGloaded Aire Puma.jpgIt weighs about 40 lbs rolled up. The frame pieces are a bit less than that if I recall correctly. It will fish 2 while I row but at (10.5 ft?) its not a huge boat. It handles fantastic. You can spin it on a dime with one stroke. Mines done the Gulkana numerous times and has Zero problems handling the canyon run loaded. The 2 of us have done 13 day floats there.Keeping in mind one must first row across Paxson lake fully loaded to hit the river.
    We also flew it to the Situk once on Ak Airlines with no problems.
    We used to float the upper Kenai alot. Perfect boat for that. Put it in the water anywhere u want. We often launched below Princess Lodge in the pullout or at Bridge 2. No fees. I laid a sheet of plywood across a 275 lb Coleman trailer I had and trailered it that way inflated. I used to strap it to the top of my truck topper.(p/u shell). I could actually load it myself but usually the wife helped me. Sometimes we went to the river and blew it up there. We bought a little 12 v vacuum style blower to hook to the battery. Although you still have to pump with the pump some to get it fully hard. If you have to pump the whole thing it takes about 20-25 minutes.
    We have never had it leak and never have had to patch it. In fact, after several low water runs on a few rivers I quit taking repair gear for it (even on the Gulkana). I figure I'll duct tape it and make it home.
    Once we had Mahays bring our boat and a full aluminum drift boat way up above Clear Crk on the Talkeetna. Our boat did everything their boat did and was way less hassle.
    Its a great boat for 2 for any lengthy (7-14 day) float. Let me know if you have any other questions. I'll see if I can get around to weighing all the parts and pieces including boat. Cheers............cod
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  5. #5

    Default

    Cod,

    Thanks a ton! Glad to hear of all your great experiences with your Puma. I had a guy tell me he owns eight of the Super Dupers, doing commercial floats for 7-10 days over the last 12 years....and never put a hole in one. Now, I'd say that's a testament. I know there are many good boat manufacturers, and some will excel in situations that others do not, and vice versa. That said, I've never heard anything bad about an Aire boat or their company customer service/processes. Hard to argue with boats that rarely if ever get holes in them, and if they do, for any reason, up to 10(+) years later, they are repaired or replaced without question.

    Thanks, buddy. Have a great season. Almost there....

    AKPhil

  6. #6
    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Default

    I'll agree with cod 110% on the Puma. I have the Outcast which is essentially the same boat, and it's been in and out of floatplanes and down rivers from Katmai to Goodnews, Togiak, Kenai, Kroto, etc. etc. and has never caused me any problems. Anywhere from a day float to back-to-back 7-10 day trips.

    Solid platform indeed.





    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

  7. #7
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Default Puma

    Thats a real nice looking boat, Hippie.
    I looked up the specs for the Puma. Says its 11 ft 6 inches and 89 lbs. (i assume thats with rowing rack?).
    I weighed my rolled up boat w anchor plate at 63 pounds. The rowing rack was 38 pounds. The two paddles were 9 pounds each. (18 lbs more). For a total of just under 120 pounds. Didnt weigh the seats but guess they would be about 5 pounds each. The rowing rack (hopefully pictured below) is set up for just the 2 of us. The additional seat plate is a cinch to put on and the seats are that simple kind that just snap on or off with ease. rowing rack and oars of puma.JPG
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  8. #8
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Default Another look....

    edited puma trailer pic.jpgAnother look for those who are interested in this style boat and what it offers..... This is how I travelled with it to the Kenai usually. I could easily load and/or unload it on this Costco trailer myself. We would take the oars apart, anchor/line, wet waders, foot pump, and misc gear and toss it in the trailer under the boat. Very easy in and out of the water as you dont need to back the trailer down into the water. Either one guy can drag it or 2 can pick and carry. I would drop the wife off with the boat and all gear and by the time I ferried my vehicle to Jims Landing and got back she had it ready to go and was usually already bank fishing. This was a repaired (rental?) boat that the former Wild Alaska Rafting Co. in Anch sold us long ago. It had a pretty substantial tear in it that since repaired has never been a concern. I dont know how this one was damaged but I do know of a buddy of mine that had one (thats how I got turned on to this one) damaged his. While in transport on his lousy trailer it bounced enough to land on an unfendered trailer tire as he tooled down the hiway. Eventually it burned thru the 2 layers flattening that tube. They easily repaired that mistake, too.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  9. #9
    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    Default

    IMGP1740.jpg

    Cod I have the very same trailer and I built a light weight box to slide in that holds gear and boats and nice place on top for the rafts when transporting. Works very well. Got some better photos but couldn't put my hands on them.

  10. #10
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Default

    Yeah, Costco trailers pretty handy and common. I used to transport the boat on a super lite weight Coleman trailer w a sheet of plywood I rigged that acted like a lid, (similar to how you have your costco trailer) but just got too many miles on it. The Costco one didn't have any sharp edges and the boat set on it nicely so no platform was needed. My trailer is multi use for me. It appears yours is a bit more dedicated.
    By the way, what boat are you floating?
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  11. #11
    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    I pull 4 bolts in the fall and use the trailer behind an old Subaru for dump runs and what ever. Store boat gear frames etc in the box for the winter. Summer I have a couple other larger trailers and truck when needed So I do leave the box in for the summer camping and floating. I'm floating a 11 ft Power Drifter by outcast and a 13 ft SB NRS otter. Have the Power Drifter rigged to run a Honda 2 hp. Kicks it right along on the slow spots.
    002.jpg008.jpg

  12. #12

    Default Outcast

    Hippie,

    Nice looking rig. Thanks for all the pics and input. I like the thigh bars for stability while casting. I think the remote anchoring system is super convenient too. Looks like a lot of fun.

  13. #13

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    Cod,

    Yeah, I like that frame. The quick release seats are the only way to go, eh? Very convenient. You've got straps (which I can understand) for securing the frame to the boat. I also see some string/rope. What is the purpose of that stuff?

  14. #14

    Default

    This thread finally started to 'get some love.' Thanks for joining in and sharing info. Great info so far.

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    Member Ryan J's Avatar
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    Default

    Get back to work Phil.

  16. #16
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AKPhil View Post
    Cod,

    Yeah, I like that frame. The quick release seats are the only way to go, eh? Very convenient. You've got straps (which I can understand) for securing the frame to the boat. I also see some string/rope. What is the purpose of that stuff?
    yeah very simple frame. I carry a 4 inch ratchet w (nine sixteenth?) socket on it if taking apart/adjustment is required. As for the frame tie downs to the boat, it just has the 4 maroon quick attach straps (seen in pic) thru the D rings on boat. The other ropes u see on it are just ropes/straps that were on it to hang from my garage rafters for storage.
    I do have a small black Gerber tool strapped at all times to the frame. Without question each owner finds little tricks, helpers, and special places for ease of operation. Everything has its place and purpose. Sometimes one finds a little temp fix for something that turns into something much bigger. (For instance the looped rope thru the forward D ring on the boat was one day quickly attached to that spot to allow it to be tied on that end to the trailer. We found it helpful as heck for a handhold on that end of the boat to drag ashore/move a bout. Also in the loaded boat pic you may notice it holding down the load in that end of the boat-never having to untie/retie it. )
    The loaded boat pic has 2 full coolers (we eat well) in it. One is entirely filled w frozen steaks, chops, a gallon of milk and block of ice. The other cooler holds dry goods and items one can get at handily while rowing as the coolers sit right at my feet.
    Another item we feel is invaluable is the green colored double rod tube holders seen strapped to the near side of the boat in the loaded view. I always carry my 5 and 8 wt with me. There is no "safe" place to keep rods in these style boats.
    Hope this is not 'to much info'.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  17. #17
    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    There is no "safe" place to keep rods in these style boats.
    I had the same issue, then I went to Home Depot and got an 10' length of 4"(I think) PVC, capped one end, cut out a good sized notch on the other to accomodate the reels, and then capped that, with the cap on that end having a lanyard attached so it won't get lost when I pop it off to access the rod(s). The PVC is attached to the frame with raft straps....

    **Edit**

    After the first trip, I drilled a number of holes along the bottom of the tube for drainage.....An engineer I am NOT!
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

  18. #18
    Member cod's Avatar
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    One other note... Our buddy had a casters leaning post on it for a while when we used his. While it is helpful while actively rowing/casting, we found it to be in the way more often than helpful for most of our floats (on the Kenai). We spent more time fishing from shore than float fishing and it usually wasn't necessary to be out of your seat to make your cast on the upper kenai.
    I'ld be curious to hear Hippies view on casting bars.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  19. #19
    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    One other note... Our buddy had a casters leaning post on it for a while when we used his. While it is helpful while actively rowing/casting, we found it to be in the way more often than helpful for most of our floats (on the Kenai). We spent more time fishing from shore than float fishing and it usually wasn't necessary to be out of your seat to make your cast on the upper kenai.
    I'ld be curious to hear Hippies view on casting bars.

    Lean bars can be great, and the can be a complete PITA. If it's going to be a trip where long, accurate casts are needed, and little gear is being packed in the raft, they're FANTASTIC. If it is more of a casual (salmon as opposed to trout) float, involving multi-days and more gear, I pull em out of the boat. However, if my daughter (she's 9) is on any trip, I leave the front lean bar on as it gives her something to hold onto/another point of contact with the frame for white water or general safety.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

  20. #20
    Member cod's Avatar
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    Thank Hip. That's what I thought too.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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