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!