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All about inflatable watercraft, with Mike Dolmage from NRS

Description: This week, we delve into the confusing world of inflatable watercraft. There are so many styles to choose from, including SUPs, kayaks, and rafts. Which are best for fly fishing? What are some tips on how to fish from one? How do you handle anchoring and paddling while being ready to make a cast? Regardless of which type you choose, they are lightweight and packable (except for the larger rafts) and they'll get you into places where drift boats and motorboats can't go. Mike Dolmage [34:22] is a fly fishing fanatic and is in charge of marketing fishing craft for NRS so his knowledge will help you make an informed decision and give you some tips on fishing from your inflatable.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And my guest this week is Mike Dolmage from NRS. We're gonna be talking about inflatables this week. Last week we talked about canoes and kayaks, hard-sided boats. This week we're gonna be talking to an expert about inflatables because there are lots and lots and lots of options if you're looking for a super portable, lightweight boat to get into some of those remote places or places that people can't put a drift boat or other types of craft.
And so, Mike's gonna go through the various types of inflatables that are available, and why you should choose one over the other. So I hope this is helpful. But first, we're gonna do the Fly Box. And the Fly Box is where you ask me questions or you pass along some tips to other listeners, and I either read your tips or I try to answer your questions. And don't forget, some of these might seem abbreviated, but I promised you last week that in the future I wouldn't read all the very nice compliments that people give me, on the podcast, just to save you having to hear all those compliments.
I love to hear them and I read them myself, but I'm not gonna read them on the air to save time and to maybe add a few more tips to each podcast if I get enough good ones every week. And you can send your questions to me at You can either just attach them to your email as text, or you can attach a voice file and maybe I'll read them on the air. I don't read all of them on the air and I don't answer all of them, but I do read them all. All right, let's start out with an email this week from Jacob.
"I use an 8-weight for fishing my local lake in upstate South Carolina for largemouth bass. I'm stuck between choosing a new line for it. Would you recommend using the Orvis Bank Shot or the Power Pro Taper for primarily fishing from the bank?" Well, Jacob, these are kind of two different lines. The Power Taper is more or less a regular tapered line, but it's about a half size heavier and it's a little bit more front-loaded.
So it's good for throwing bigger bugs and for loading the rod quicker for, you know, making a quick cast to the bank. The Bank Shot is a very heavily front-weighted taper, and it's good for throwing really big wind-resistant bugs. So based on the fact that you're fishing for largemouth bass, you're probably fishing bigger, more air-resistant flies, whether they're floating or sinking. So I think that a Bank Shot would probably be better for this. Particularly when you're fishing from the bank where you may not have a lot of backcast room, that Bank Shot will load the rod quickly with a short cast and then shoot the line. So I think I would go for that based on the conditions that you are encountering.
Mike: Hi, Tom. Mike from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And I have another tarpon-related question. So I have an 11-weight fly rod for tarpon, and I was debating on getting a new fly line for it. And I was debating between an 11-weight shorter head, about a 30-foot head fly line, it might be a little heavier, that would be like a quick shooter-style line to be able to load the rod quickly, make closer shots easier. Or overweighting the rod with a standard head, about a 50-foot head, 12-weight line. And also to make the rod load quicker, easier, close shots, things like that.
So in your opinion, which would be superior? The overweight option using a 12-weight standard taper tarpon line, or the quick shooter style line with a 30-foot head, but the same weight as the fly rod. I appreciate your thoughts and your opinions on it, Tom.
Tom: So, Mike, you need to choose which line will allow you to make say a 50-foot, 60-foot cast with a single false cast. And that's gonna depend on how that particular rod loads. So, you know, it would be best if you could try both lines somewhere at a fly shop. But I would say in general, if you're fishing mostly backcountry where you're fishing fish that are rolling and then going deep, I think a quick shooter is going to be important because you're gonna be making really quick casts to those fish while they're higher in the water column, and delicacy is not as important there.
But if you're fishing out on clear flats and shallower water, probably the regular line, and overlined I think is a good idea because it allows you to load that line. But depending on what rod it is and what action it has, but for a lot of rods, especially the faster rods, overlining them is gonna allow you to make that quick cast with a single false cast. But really, if you're fishing with a guide, it's really best, particularly for tarpon fishing, to ask your guide which one they prefer. Because tarpon guides are very, very opinionated about the tackle that you use. So you may wanna get advice from a guide if you're using a guide. If not, then you're gonna have to live with my advice.
All right, let's go back to an email. This one's from Seth from Walden, New York. "A question regarding striped bass. Several months ago you did a podcast on fishing for stripers in saltwater. Every spring, these fish run up the Hudson River near where I live to spawn. There are a lot of bait fishermen out on the river during the run, but I have not come across anyone who targets them using fly gear. I've always been interested in trying to go after them with a fly rod. Would you have any advice regarding areas where one might be able to catch them with fly gear? Also, what type of flies do you recommend?"
Well, Seth because you're, you know, with a fly rod, you're really limited in the zone you're gonna be able to fish, you're not gonna be able to cover as wide an area as the gear anglers, and you're probably not gonna be able to get as deep as the gear anglers. And these stripers in the Hudson River could be deep or they could be shallow, depending on whether they're actively feeding or not. But I would look for some kind of structure. I would look for, and of course, you wanna fish the tides, you wanna fish moving water.
And I would look for some kind of structure that's gonna break the current. Stripers like current. But they like to be a little bit out of the current. The current brings them food, but they wanna be in a protected area where they don't have to swim so hard to hold their position, just like trout in a stream. So I would look for someplace where there's some kind of structure, a point or a bay or, you know, a big boulder or an island in the river. And just know that you're not gonna be able to fish the same places that the gear anglers are fishing just because you can't get as deep and you can't cover as much water.
So I would move around a lot. I wouldn't stay in one place. I would just move around a lot and try to find some stripers that are in a little bit shallower water. Obviously, look for breaking fish if they're on bait fish. And you're most definitely gonna want a full sinking line or a depth charge type line. You're gonna want to get deep. It's rare that you're gonna find stripers in the Hudson in fairly shallow water. And as far as flies are for that water, you wanna have a fairly large, broad, white fly. Some of the big Menhaden or bunker imitations.
These fish are, in addition to spawning, they're chasing the herring run up the Hudson River. And these are fairly good-sized fish. And so you're gonna want a big fly, you're gonna want a big white fly that catches their attention and imitates those bait fish. But it's gonna be a lot of work. It's big water and it's not easy to fish with a fly rod, but it can be done. And I know people that have caught fish on fly gear on the Hudson, so I wish you the best of luck.
This one's from Bo from Idaho. "I watched your video on advanced streamer fly fishing, and you talk a lot on what lines to use, which was very helpful to understand the differences in lines. I primarily fish the rivers and streams in North Idaho in the greater Missoula region and the Missouri River in Montana. I'm wondering what weight rod is best to use. I have a 6-weight and an 8-weight, 6-weight seems not to be able to support larger streamers. In your opinion, is the 8-weight okay to use, or is a 7-weight the best option?"
Well, Bo, if I had my choice of all rods to use in that particular region, I would go with a 7-weight. I've found that the very, very large streamers that are used some places don't work as well in those rivers you're fishing. Kind of medium-sized streamers are better. So I think a 7-weight would be ideal. It's a little bit lighter than 8-weight. But I would say you're gonna be fine with an 8-weight as well. If you got a 6-weight and you got an 8- weight, I'm not so sure you'd need a 7-weight. But I think I would definitely take the 8-weight because it's gonna throw sinking lines better, which you're gonna have to use sometime.
It's gonna throw, you know, some of the bigger, heavier weighted flies a little bit better. And it'll throw the very large streamers if you decide to try those. But I think kind of the medium-size streamers are gonna be best. So 7-weight would be ideal, but I think you're gonna be fine with the 8-weight.
Bill: Hi, Tom, this is Bill, the bird in the bush, calling in from the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. This is the first year that I've done very much winter or now early spring trout fishing, and so far with mixed results. One thing I am learning to pay very close attention to is the temperature of the stream water. Yesterday on a cloudy, fairly wintry day in early March, and with Wisconsin still in its early catch-and-release-only season, and me looking for a few trout to eat, I drove across the border to Iowa where the trout season never closes or changes throughout the year.
I found a beautiful rocky stream with a water temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fairly balmy compared to some of the other waters I've been checking lately. So I gave it a go and I did fairly well. I caught a handful of browns and rainbows and brought a few home for my dinner. The catch stimulated a question to ask you. First, a couple of background notes. I caught both species of fish in the same small stretches of water. Yesterday, they were in fairly fast current runs coming off the bottoms of pools. Of course, I don't know how fast the current was down where they were, the water was a bit turbid and they may have been sheltering behind boulders or other obstructions I couldn't see.
Second, the trout across both species were about the same size. The largest were about 12 inches, 12.5 inches, 1 brown, 1 rainbow each, and a few smaller ones about 10 inches, 10.5 inches, again of both species. While cleaning them last night I made an interesting discovery. Well, interesting for me. I'm still on a steep learning curve for winter trout fishing. And also I don't have a lot of experience with rainbows given that I do most of my trout fishing in the Wisconsin Driftless Area where rainbows aren't so common in the streams here.
What I found was that the bellies of the rainbows were stuffed with caddis casings and the bellies of the brown trout didn't have much in them at all. Just some amorphous masses of what might have been partially digested midges, and one had a small partially digested fish in its belly. Very few caddis casings, unlike the rainbows whose bellies were stuffed with almost nothing else. So this is, you know, got me wondering, was this just random chance? I don't think so, given that the difference was so stark. So I'd really be interested to hear what you know and what your experience is around different feeding strategies employed in winter streams by rainbows and brown trout.
One other note is that Iowa does have a fairly vigorous stocking program, but they don't start stocking trout until April. So all of these fish would've been living and feeding a fairly wild style, at least since last fall. And it's quite likely that at least the brown trout were wild-bred. I'd also be interested to hear your take on what any difference in their feeding strategy, how it would influence what you would cast to these trout if, for example, an angler was interested in catching more brown trout than rainbow trout or vice versa.
Tom: So, Bill, that's a really interesting observation. And although browns and rainbows will feed in the same areas, the same type of water, they do sometimes exhibit different feeding preferences, but even individual fish, you know, two browns and two rainbows, might be picking up different things. And it's really interesting what you've observed because I would've expected to find the caddis cases in the brown trout. They tend to feed a little bit more on the bottom or close to the bottom, and the rainbows tend to feed in midwater, and rainbows love midges.
So I would expect the rainbows to have the midges in their stomach and the browns to have the caddisflies in their stomach. But you saw the opposite. So just goes to show you that you can never predict these things. And the fish do have different feeding strategies, but they're not that different. Rainbows are able to feed better in faster water than browns. They just are more efficient at conserving their energy than brown trout. So they tend to feed in a little faster water, but they'll eat the same stuff.
The fact that you caught both species on a Pink Squirrel, which imitates neither midges nor caddis larvae makes me think that it doesn't really matter because you were able to lure these fish into taking a Pink Squirrel even though they were either feeding on midges or caddis larvae. So you never know for sure what they're eating. And, you know, it's important to realize that unless you keep an occasional fish, you never know exactly what the fish are eating. I recommend at times the use of a throat pump, some people call it a stomach pump, where you squirt water in the fish and then you suck it back up.
And it shows you what they have in their gullet. It doesn't show you what they have in their stomach, actually shows you what they've been most recently feeding on. But the problem is that caddis cases in the stomach wouldn't come out using a throat pump. So you would never know those fish are eating cased caddis with the stones on them unless you actually cut a fish open and looked at its stomach. So, you know, we all like to limit the number of fish we kill, but killing an occasional fish does allow you to see and observe some of these things that you couldn't observe any other way.
So, Bill, thank you very much for your thoughtful phone call. Here's an email from Scott from North Carolina. "I was very intrigued by your podcast about blue lining. I travel all over the state of North Carolina for work and I'm interested in exploring new opportunities to fish. This might be a silly question, but is the idea of blue lining limited to national parks and public lands? I find myself eyeballing streams all over the state as I travel, but want to be respectful to landowners. Is there a tactic to finding waters to fish without potentially trespassing on private property? Thanks."
Yeah, Scott, there is, there is a good way to do it. Now, it's always safe and easy to fish public land and probably the best trout streams in your area are gonna be found on public land. They're higher up in the mountains. You've got vast amounts of national parks and national forest. But if you do want to try to fish private land, the best thing to do is either go on the state website for North Carolina and look at property maps. Most states have those property maps online and you can zoom in and they often have the address and the name of the landowner. So you can do that.
And you can also, there are a number of apps that you can get for your phone that have property map overlays. BaseMap is one, I think onX is another one, but there are a number of maps. So you can either go on the web or you can buy an app and use that to find out who the property owner is. You may be able to get their address from there and then you can write them or you can try to track them down and ask permission. So that's the best way to do it, depending on the state. Some states require posting on private land if they wanna keep people out. Other states don't require it, so it's always best to get landowner permission to fish private property.
Here's an email from Zachary. "I've been fishing my local river all winter, and in early January it was able to effectively target and net fish with purely nymphing tactics. I caught fish on a dry, a dry dropper, and on streamers, but never a pure nymph rig. And wanted to get a Euro rig to geek out on the technique further. I've had a good bit of success using my 9-foot-5-weight with 20 feet of mono and a Euro leader. The Euro leader made, the same way you and George Daniel talk about in a video. Again, many thanks. But notice the limitations of the 9-foot-5-weight, not great reach and kind of hard to discern my fly hitting a rock from a take.
My reticence with getting the classic 10-foot-3 weight recommended for Euro nymphing is that most trout I've been catching on nymphs are regularly 15 to 20 inches, and whitefish, usually 10 to 14 inches. Today, most notably, I landed a bull trout and cutthroat trout, both well over 20 inches that were at the outer limits of what it feels like my 5-weight is capable of bringing in. I've listened to your podcast for a few months now and regularly hear you recommend a 10-foot-3 weight will absolutely be fine. I'm sure this will be fine for white fish and small to medium-sized cuts and rainbows, but I don't want to literally play a fish to death on a 3-weight. Heck, I didn't even like how long I played some of those fish today on my 5-weight.
I use 3x for my point fly and 4x for my dropper. They were making big runs and when I went to net them, each time it took some time to bring them back. My questions are, are 10 foot 4 weight and 5 weight rods still good for Euro nymphing when you know the average trout or whichever targeted fish is likely to be quite large? How long do you think is too long to play a fish? I assume different size ranges will have different times required acceptable to play. That is, a 6-inch rainbow can be reasonably played for about 45 seconds, but a 25-inch steelhead could probably be played for a few minutes. Lastly, is a fish that's still fighting hard in fairly decent shape, or can they be dangerously exhausted even when they're making 20-foot to 30-foot runs with your line?"
All right, Zachary, a lot to unpack there. First of all, I wouldn't be terribly afraid of using the 10-foot 3-weight on those bigger trout. I've seen people like Jesse Haller, who I fish with frequently, place a very large trout on a 10-foot-3-weight. And the advantage of a 10-foot-3-weight is you can put a lot of pressure on those fish because the rod is flexible and bends and you're not gonna break them off. So you can really reef on a fish with a 10-foot-3-weight and put a lot of pressure on it. It may feel like you're bending the rod too much, but, you know, playing a fish properly on a 10-foot-3-weight, you should be able to land a large trout on that rod.
But if you're not convinced, yeah, 10-foot 4-weight and 5-weight rods are still good for Euro nymphing. You have the length, but you don't have as much of the sensitivity and you don't have the ability to throw those heavily weighted nymphs as well as you would with a 10-foot-3-weight because it has a really soft tip and it's able to flex and throw those heavy nymphs. So you're gonna sacrifice a little bit in your casting and sensitivity, but you will have the reach with those other rods. Now, how long to play a fish?
Well, that's gonna vary. And it really depends on water temperature. If you're catching fish at, you know, 45 degrees to 60 degrees, I don't know how long you should play a fish, you should always bring in a fish as quickly as you can. And you know, you're using 3x and 4x, which are pretty strong, and I don't know what it would be by the clock, but it wouldn't be very long. You know, 45 seconds I think for a 6-inch rainbow is a long time. I would think a 6-inch rainbow, you should be able to get that fish in, in about 30 seconds to a minute. And then you can scale up from there.
But even, you know, a 20-inch trout, depending on the speed of the current and then everything else, I would say you should be able to get that fish in less than a couple of minutes. You wanna play these fish hard. Particularly if you're using those lighter rods, you're able to play them really quickly and put a lot of pressure on them. And, yes, a fish that's still fighting hard is gonna be able to take off and survive. It's when you get into the higher water temperatures above 65 degrees that you need to worry about exhausting the fish. So there's a lot of variables involved there. But again, just play the fish as quickly as your tackle allows. And with that 3-weight, you may even be able to get those fish in quicker because you can put more pressure on the fish.
How about another email? This one's from John. "Hi, Tom. I have a couple questions about Orvis Polyleaders. First of all, is there a line weight or range of line weights these leaders are designed to be used with? The Orvis website doesn't mention anything about the line weights these leaders will work well with. Secondly, are these leaders only designed to be used with floating fly lines? If I had an intermediate line and wanted to get a little deeper faster, could I put a fast sinking polyleader on my intermediate line?"
So there are two types of Polyleaders that you'll see in the Orvis website. The 7-foot Trout and the 10-foot Salmon Polyleader. I don't really worry about whether I'm fishing for trout or salmon. For instance, in my trout fishing, I carry both the 7-foot trout fast sinking and extra fast sinking leader. And I carry the 10-foot salmon one, and I use them on, you know, a 5-weight line because the 10-foot salmon leader just is a little bit bigger and gets you a little bit heavier. So if you're in relatively shallow water, you know, you can get away with that 7-foot trout leader. But if you're fishing really heavy fast water, don't be afraid to put that Salmon Polyleader on a trout line.
And they'll work with nearly every fly line that you're gonna find. I wouldn't fish a 10-foot Salmon Polyleader on a 3-weight rod. But, you know, if you're fishing a 5-weight or a 6-weight you can use either the Trout or the Salmon Polyleader. And regarding your second question, yeah, you could definitely put a sinking polyleader on an intermediate line if you wanted to just get a little bit deeper. In that case, I'd probably use the trout one, because you don't want an awful heavy polyleader on there.
But, yeah, you could do that. You'd get what is, in essence, a kind of a short depth charge line, because depth charge lines are a sinking tip with an intermediate running line. So, yeah, you could definitely do that. You'd have to do some experimenting, but I think that's a pretty good idea and you should try it. Here's an email from Isaac. "My question is about attractor flies. My most productive dry fly by far is the Renegade and double Renegade, and besides hoppers, it feels like the only dry fly I can catch fish on. Knowing it's just a general do-everything fly, it makes me wonder why I have so much trouble with other attractor flies. They just don't seem to fish for me.
So I guess I was wondering how you fish attractor flies. Just a blind cast kind of fly, or is it just that I need to be more hatch-specific and size-specific? Maybe one or two attractor fly suggestions would be awesome." So, Isaac, I don't really like the term attractor fly because, you know, when a fish eats your fly, it thinks it's food, particularly a dry fly. It thinks it's something. It's not attracted to the fly, really. It sees food and it eats it. So it's gotta look like something that it has eaten either recently or within the past few weeks.
You know, fish have a memory of probably two or three weeks. The fish is going to eat your fly because it looks like something that it has eaten recently. And so the fact that you're catching fish on Renegades and hoppers means that the fish in your area think they look like something they've eaten recently. Now, with so-called attractor flies, I think you do need to be aware of what hatches are around or what terrestrials are around. Even though the fly might not be hatching now, it probably hatched recently, or there are hoppers on the bank.
There may not be any hoppers in the water right now, but when the water warms up a little bit in the afternoon and the wind picks up and the hoppers get blown in, the fish remembered that from yesterday. So even if you're fishing a hopper in the morning, it could work, but it's gotta look kind of like what the fish have been feeding on recently. So, you know, if it's early in the season and all your hoppers are small, you probably don't wanna fish a great big hopper. You wanna fish a smaller hopper. If most of the mayflies that have been hatching are cream-colored in size 16, even if there are not any hatching now, a fly that is a 16 or maybe a size larger in kind of a creamy shade that's high floating as an attractor is probably gonna work better.
Throwing something out there that is way outsized or just a color that the fish aren't used to seeing is probably not gonna be as good as an attractor fly. So I think you need to pay a bit of attention to what's going on and what's been hatching and what's on the banks when you choose your attractor flies. So I hope that's helpful.
Matt: Hey, Tom. This is Matt from Waterloo, Ontario. I really appreciate your podcast and all that you do for the fly fishing community. One question that I have is I have a 9-foot-5-weight rod with a floating line that I use for pretty much everything. And I'm investigating getting another spool, and I'm debating whether or not to get it spooled with a streamer line or a nymphing line. And I'm wondering if there is a fly line that kind of tackles both, that is a sinking line that isn't just a regular floating line. So any thoughts that you may have, are greatly appreciated. Thanks for all you do.
Tom: Well, Matt, I think that any good sinking line that matches your rod that you can cast well is going to throw both streamers and nymphs. However, you should know that if you're fishing nymphs with a sinking line, it's gonna be very, very difficult to get a dead drift. And most nymphs are more effective when there are dead drift without drag. You just can't eliminate drag very easily with a sinking line. So if you're gonna fish nymphs with a sinking line, you're really gonna be limited to swinging those nymphs in the current, and that's not gonna be as effective as fishing a floating line with a high sticking technique or an indicator or a dry dropper. And so if I were you, I would just pick a sinking line for your streamers.
And that might be a sink tip line, it might be something like a depth charge line, which is my go-to line for fishing streamers, and then stick with a floating line for nymphs. You can really make it work best with a floating line. The other option is to just keep your floating line and get yourself some polyleaders in various sink rates. And then you'll have a sink-tip line, and you won't have to buy a new line. That'll also work for streamers. So give that a try first, and then if that doesn't get you deep enough, then go with something like a depth charge line. All right, that's the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Mike about choosing an inflatable craft and how to fish from one.
Well, my guest today is Mike Dolmage, and Mike is with NRS. NRS makes all kinds of inflatables and accessories and all kinds of boating stuff. NRS is a good partner with Orvis. We sell a number of their watercraft. And Mike is the fishing category manager and fly angler. So Mike is familiar with all kinds of inflatables, and we're gonna talk about how to choose one and how to fish from one, and how long it takes to blow them up, and whether you can put them on top of your car or not, and all kinds of questions that people might have. So, Mike, welcome to the podcast.
Mike: Hello, Tom. Thank you for having me on your podcast. Excited to be here.
Tom: Yeah, we'll have some fun. And let's talk about, well, the kind of three types of inflatables, right? There's a kayak, there's an SUP or stand-up paddleboard, and then there's a raft. Is that accurate in broad groups?
Mike: Yeah. And there's kind of a hybrid model in there that's a hybrid inflatable kayak and SUP. And so we kinda look at the category as having four types of boats.
Tom: Okay. All right. So why don't you talk about each one and what they're like, how they're handled, and what they're like to fish from?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. You know, and each one is a tool. And, you know, depending upon conditions or the waters that you're fishing, you know, each one is a different tool to allow you to get out on the water and focus on fishing. And so, kind of the first one being the stand-up paddleboard or the SUP, ours is the Heron 11.0, but the fishing SUPs are stand-up paddleboards, but they're designed to have kind of a wider profile to them. So that gives you more stability to be standing up and making casts.
And so, where the SUP shines is that it's really stealth when you are trying to sneak up on fish. You know, it's not the most efficient way to cover large distances, and that's where when you get to these other boats, you know, you're getting to further destinations. But just from the SUP level, you know, a very stealth watercraft when you're targeting fish. And primarily you're on still water.
Tom: And I know that I enjoyed taking one to The Bahamas one trip. You know, they're light enough, you can check them and, and they come in a backpack. And we kind of used them to cross channels and then waded and dragged them along behind us. We didn't fish an awful lot from them except for Barracuda, but they sure were nice when there were places that were too deep to wade across and maybe there were a lot of sharks in the channel and just hop on it, and paddle across the channel.
Mike: Yeah. And like you said, you know, highly transportable. You know, whether you wanna put it on a plane with you or you're gonna be towing it behind you, you know, for transportation across channels or any other kind of water obstruction. But very lightweight, very highly transportable. Definitely a benefit of the fishing SUP.
Tom: Yeah. You don't wanna cross a wide windy area with them, but...
Mike: No, not your ideal watercraft for windy conditions. And generally, you know, you certainly can be standing up on it all day, but if you're gonna be out fishing off of a SUP all day long, generally, like, I'll put a YETI cooler, like a Tundra 35 on it, and that way, you know, I have some food, I have some beverages, I have a place to sit when I'm tired. And so the SUP is also very highly adaptable for rigging it with your gear.
Tom: Now, Mike, you've got a long paddle and let's say you're paddling along and you see a fish and you want to get rid of the paddle and pick up your rod. How do you do it?
Mike: So on our boats, we have the YakAttack switch pad with their MightyMounts on it. And so there is a paddle holder from YakAttack that we use. And so when you're ready to discard your paddle, it goes securely right into this paddle holder off of their switch mounts. And so that gets it out of the way. Because one of the things as a fly angler, you know, you've got line. And so, line management is something that you have to be aware of on the deck of a SUP.
And so, you know, you're very aware and cognizant of where your line is. And when you rig your boat, you wanna make sure you leave a fairly good footprint underneath you that your line can be shed out onto and not get snagged on anything.
Tom: Okay. And how about the idea of, you know, the wind blows them around, I mean, you're not gonna be out in real windy weather, but you're gonna probably have a breeze, and they tend to move. How do you handle that?
Mike: Yeah. So if you're looking to anchor up there are two methods. One is using a stake pole to put it into more shallow conditions, in conditions with more of a muddy or a sandy bottom. Or you can carry, you know, a lightweight anchor like a 10-pound anchor and throw it overboard and tie it to a D-ring. You know, that will also keep you in place.
Tom: Okay. Do you ever pull a SUP? Like push-pull type?
Mike: Personally I have not, but definitely it's a watercraft that you could pull through, you know, shallow water flats in the Caribbean or, you know, chasing bonefish. So, yeah, absolutely.
Tom: I've never tried it but it'd be interesting to try.
Mike: Yeah.
Tom: Okay. So which one do you wanna cover next?
Mike: From there, why don't we go to the IK?
Tom: The IK? What's the IK?
Mike: Yeah, the inflatable kayak.
Tom: Oh, okay. I don't know the lingo.
Mike: I guess I'm kinda... Yeah. For those that aren't familiar with the lingo, IK is inflatable kayak. And so, generally, you see hard shell kayaks and the products that we deal with at NRS are inflatable kayaks. And so one of the advantages, again, of an inflatable kayak is that it breaks down and deflates, and can be put into a very compact package for transportability. You know, whether you're going to fly with it, whether you're gonna throw it in the backseat of a car. Very lightweight, highly transportable. But with the IK, it is a more efficient, you know, manual-powered vessel. And so it can cover longer distances and you're primarily sitting down and paddling.
And so it opens up more water. So that's one of the advantages of fishing with an IK. You know, the IK, like I said, you're generally in a seated position, so, you know, as a fly angler where I generally like to be in a standing position in casting and also have that higher visibility with a sight line, you know, kayaks are, are more suitable when I wanna cover long distances. But in general, I am sitting down and casting. There's not the kind of same stability standing up in an IK that you have on a SUP.
Tom: Okay. Or on a hard-sided wide kayak.
Mike: Or on a hard-sided one. Absolutely.
Tom: Okay. So sight fishing is gonna be a little bit more difficult unless you get out of it.
Mike: A little bit difficult.
Tom: Unless you get out of the kayak and tow it behind you.
Mike: Yeah. Yep. We kind of talked about that other category. It's a hybrid of the SUP and an inflatable kayak. And so that's where, you know, we've developed watercraft that kind of take the best features of the SUP and the IK. And so you're able to paddle and cover long distances from a seated position when you want to, or you can stand up, switch paddles, and paddle it like a SUP board and be really stealth and sneak up on fish. And also stand up and have the stability and confidence to be casting and have a nice sight line from a standing position. And so that's where I think our Kudas really shine. Because they really open up a lot of water in terms of being able to paddle long distances, but I like the benefit of being able to stand up and cast and sight fish if the conditions are there.
Tom: Yeah. It's called the Kuda?
Mike: Yes. K-U-D-A.
Tom: K-U-D-A. And how much does that one weigh? Is that packable as well?
Mike: Absolutely. Yeah. The Kudas come in two sizes. There's a 12-foot-6 size and a 10-foot-6. And so you're talking, you know, for the larger one, your weight is around 30 pounds. The other one, you're down around 25 pounds.
Tom: Oh, wow. That's light. That's super light.
Mike: Yeah. Very light watercraft.
Tom: How long do these things take to pump up? Everybody wants to know that, right?
Mike: You know, and that's dependent upon how much exertion you wanna put into it. Right? So with me personally, generally, I take a relaxing approach to it. And so with the IKs, the SUP and the hybrid, the Kuda, you're talking about roughly five minutes, or less than five minutes. Not a long inflation period whatsoever.
Tom: And it's one of those double...what do you call them where it pumps both directions?
Mike: Yes. Yep.
Tom: What do you call them?
Mike: So we use Leafield C7 valves. And so you're able to pump into it without air coming out. And then you can push down the valve and lock it in the open position when you're ready to dump the air and roll it back up. So, very convenient, very durable inflation and dump valve.
Tom: And there's no hard pieces to go other than the paddle?
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Generally, you've got a paddle on the inflatable kayak, and in the Kuda, the hybrid, you've got a folding kayaking seat. And then generally, like I said, on the hybrid or the SUP, I'll generally pack a cooler to sit on when I'd like to take a break. And then also there are bungee harnesses that allow you to stow a bag with your, with your gear.
Tom: And can you put a shallow water anchor, a pole stakeout anchor on those as well?
Mike: Yeah.Yep. Plenty of room on board for that.
Tom: Okay. And... Sorry, go ahead.
Mike: Oh, no, the key is just, you know, the way takes a bit of organization. You wanna be conscious about, you know, stuff around where your line is going to be shed, because you don't want any potential for line snags.
Tom: Right. Yeah. Especially when a big fish is running. Right?
Mike: Oh, yeah. Yep. That's what we're looking for.
Tom: Yeah. But the advantages are so great because, I mean, you roll them into a backpack, you can take them on a plane, you can throw them in your car. And you don't have to put anything on top or tow anything. And you can take them anywhere, right? Yes. You can literally take them anywhere you want. You don't need a boat launch or anything else. You just take them and go.
Mike: You said it so well. You know, it's right along the lines of NRS Fishing's mantra of Catch the Adventure. You know, we wanna get you to those remote areas that don't require a put-in or a take-out. And, you know, very highly transportable for different methods. You know, whether it's anything from hiking to taking a car, or even, you know, a flying trip. Whether it's a plane or a helicopter. We are really focused on having products that allow you to, you know, go as far as you want to.
Tom: Yeah. And, oh, I forgot what I was gonna ask you. All right. Keep going. I'll remember what it was.
Mike: And so I think we covered the smaller watercrafts with the Heron SUP. The Pike, the inflatable kayak. And we have the Kuda hybrid. Right. And so from there, we kind of step up into stuff or rafts, you know, in our heritage where NRS has been for over 50 years in a moving whitewater environment. And so we have a line of Slipstream fishing rafts, anything from a 9 foot 6 two-person vessel all the way up to a 13 foot 9 three-person boats. And so, what we did with the Slipstream model is kind of... The long-standing heritage of NRS has always been, you know, you buy a boat, and then you put a frame around it. And our fishing frames had these casting platforms that just added a lot of weight to it.
So our fishing packages historically had been kind of bulky and very heavy. Not highly transportable. And so one of the things we wanted to take a look at is, what are the features that anglers, fly fishers, really value on a watercraft? We didn't wanna put anything that wasn't necessary. We wanted to keep weight down. But we wanted to treat the boat as one integral package, not a raft, and then you put a frame on it. The frame was designed specifically for the raft. The raft was designed specifically for fishing on lakes, or specifically moving water, whitewater-capable fishing crafts.
And so we came up with the line of Slipstream fishing rafts. And so basically with all the features on their, you know, what we're really trying to target, it all comes down to keeping the angler focused on fishing. You know, that's what they're there for. They're not there to deal with stability issues when they're standing up and casting. They're not there to deal with line management issues. We are focusing on, you know, the rower. From the rower's position, can you easily deploy, you know, an anchor when necessary?
Can you adjust your frame to balance the load on the boat, you know, with a bow and a stern angler and adjust your rowing position with regards to the oar mounts? And so, just looking at it from a fishing standpoint and a performance standpoint. And that's where we came up with the Slipstream line of fishing rafts.
Tom: And you have a lot of different kinds of rafts, right? But is that the one you recommend the most for fishing?
Mike: Yeah. Yep. The Slipstream. So we have the largest one, which is kind of design when anglers, you know, you want maximum amount of room on board, or you want multi-day expeditions. That's our Slipstream 139, and that is 13 feet 9 inches in length. And then we have a very versatile middle-sized one that's 12 foot 9 inches, which, again, can be rigged for a multi-day trip or still has plenty of space on board for a bow angler and a stern angler. And then the smallest one is our 9 foot 6 Slipstream, and that one is a 2-person watercraft, and highly transportable. It can be put up on the roof of a truck, in the bed of a pickup. And so all of these rafts are highly transportable, but also whitewater capable.
Tom: You said that the smaller one you can just car top. How about the other two? Do you need to assemble those at streamside or?
Mike: So we've done it multiple ways. You know, anything from putting it car top, you know, the 12 foot 9, the Slipstream 120. Definitely with two people could go on top of a vehicle. The 13-foot-9 version. That one's generally trailered. But the Slipstream 120, you know, that can go on the top of a vehicle or a truck. This past summer, you know, we had packed that one up and put it on helicopters and went into the backcountry up in Eastern BC, on a three-day adventure. And so we wanted the extra room on our boats for that three-day adventure. But they were still, you know, highly transportable and compact where, you know, it was all deflated, the frame was broken down. We got to Riverside and did set it all up. We had 2 Slipstreams set up and ready to go, you know, right around 30 minutes.
Tom: Thirty minutes. Okay.
Mike: Yeah.
Tom: How much do these weigh?
Mike: And that was including hand-pumping the tubes up.
Tom: How much did these weigh, Mike? The three models?
Mike: Yeah. So each of the models come with a Deluxe and a Standard package. And so like the Slipstream 139, its Deluxe package is 250 pounds. Its Standard package is 235 pounds. Then you get to the Slipstream 120. And the Slipstream 120, the Deluxe package is right around 225 pounds, and the Standard package is about 200 pounds. And then you get down to the Slipstream 96, and that one is a Deluxe package at 145 pounds, and Standard package at 130 pounds.
Tom: Okay. So you're not gonna be backpacking with these.
Mike: You're not backpacking with them. But where they do stand out is, you know, one, the stability. We've got larger whitewater-capable tubes. And so your performance on moving water and your stability, you know, it really gives you a lot of confidence as an angler that, you know, I can stand up and be focused on fishing, not stability concerns.
Tom: Okay. And do they come with anchors? Do they come with, you know, like the anchor release and all that stuff?
Mike: So it comes with everything 2 to 1 Assist Pulley anchor with the Deluxe package. It doesn't come with an actual anchor. But for 2024, the Deluxe package will include tornado anchors.
Tom: So people just have to buy a separate anchor.
Mike: Absolutely. Yep.
Tom: And Mike, I've never rode a raft. I've rode drift boats and... How do they row as compared to a drift boat?
Mike: Compared to a drift boat, you aren't sacrificing really performance. But what you are gaining is, you know, especially if you're a novice on the oars, or you're going down, you know, a river that has a lot of obstacles like rocks, it's a lot more forgiving than a hard shell drift boat. And if something were to happen, it can be repaired right there in the field with Tear-Aid or a patch kit. But I always tell people, you know, the boats that we have designed for our fishing watercraft, these are the same boats and the same construction that people are going down the Grand Canyon in. So highly durable. But I think where the rafts really shine are you don't sacrifice maneuverability, but there's a lot more forgiveness when you're on the sticks, especially when you're new to rowing.
Tom: So they're easier to maneuver than a drift boat because they're lighter?
Mike: They're about the same to maneuver. But, you know, if you're gonna kiss a rock, you know, every now and then, you know, that's where, you know, the raft will absorb that. It's a little more different consequences when you're in a hard shell boat.
Tom: And you can stand up and fish from these, very stable.
Mike: Very stable. Yeah. We have a drop stitch floor, which is a floor that has a foundation that's solid, it's like a concrete floor. But it's an inflatable floor. And then we have an EVA foam on top that gives you a really secure footing. And then for your anglers, we have thigh hooks that really lock you into the boat. In case there is a sudden change in direction in the boat, you are confident you're not going over into the water.
Tom: Okay. So let's say you are gonna shuttle with one of these. At the end of the float, you just deflate it and take it apart, and put it in the car?
Mike: Yeah. You can deflate it or depending upon the size, you can put it back up on top of the car. You know, the boats, they don't need a large trailer. They can be trailered on a smaller trailer. And so, you know, all kinds of means for transporting it or shuttling it at the end of the day. For me, it kind of depends if I'm gonna be back out on the water the next day, even that week, I don't tear anything down. It's either up on the top of the car or on the back of a trailer or the back of a pickup.
Tom: Okay.
Mike: Yeah. But then those seasons, you know, the other thing is those seasons that you don't need it inflated, it's easily deflated, rolled, and stored away in a compact manner. And, you know, that's where my wife especially appreciates inflatable rafts because she gets some of the garage back during some of the winter.
Tom: You can push them off into the corner. Right?
Mike: Yeah.
Tom: I imagine you have a few rafts in your garage.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. I've got a fleet, as my wife would say.
Tom: Yeah, I can see where someone would want a SUP and the hybrid and a raft, you know. Because different conditions, if you fish lakes and rivers, you might wanna have a whole fleet.
Mike: Absolutely. And like I said, they're a tool for certain conditions. And if you make an analogy to golfing, you know, in a golf bag, you have numerous clubs for each shot, you know, and I kind of justify having as many inflatables as I do by, you know, it's my different tool for fishing different waters.
Tom: Mike, we don't do golf on this podcast. Nobody knows anything about golf on this podcast.
Mike: You know, I gave that up years ago. It's all in for fly fishing for me too. So I hear what you're saying.
Tom: So do you have any tips for people for fly fishing from inflatables that might be different from either wading or fishing from a drift boat? Things that you might do differently or you might have to pay attention to?
Mike: Yeah. You know, I think the one thing you want to be aware of is safety. And so that's where, you know, be aware of what the regulations are in terms of what you have to carry to be on a body of water. It always includes a PFD. And so the PFD becomes a very important tool with these watercrafts. And you do. You wanna be prepared for worst-case scenarios. And that's if you're in a hard shell boat or an inflatable. And so, you know, safety is something that, you know, I always preach. And be safe and be cognizant of your surroundings and your conditions on inflatables.
You know, also when you're floating rivers, it's helpful to understand the rivers. And know, you know, am I going down a river where there's a potential sweeper down in the water? You know, is there a downed tree that I'm gonna have to portage around? And that's another reason, you know, it's very easy to portage on the river with an inflatable versus, you know, a hard shell boat. But it's understanding your conditions so that at the end of the day you arrive where you want to.
Tom: Yeah. And hopefully dry.
Mike: And dry. Yeah.
Tom: How about casting from inflatables? Anything different casting from inflatables?
Mike: So casting from inflatables can be advantageous because you're casting from a higher perspective. And so, you know, anything that requires longer casts, you've got more room for a double haul backcast to get out further. You know, I'm thinking in my head right now, if you go to Hebgen Lake outside of West Yellowstone in the summertime, and you're gonna fish for the gulpers, you've got elevation, you know, on your side where you can make, you know, bigger 60 feet plus cast to gulping fish. So there are some advantages to casting from an inflatable.
When you're on moving water, you know, kind of take some getting used to on how you want to present your fly. And so I've always been taught and preached that, you know, when you're on an inflatable fish in the future, don't let your line get behind you. You wanna keep your line forward when fishing in the future from a raft on a river.
Tom: And keep your eye on what's ahead too.
Mike: Yep. Keep your eye on what's ahead.
Tom: So you don't hit anything, and so you don't miss the real hotspots that are coming up.
Mike: Yeah. Yep. Yeah.
Tom: I'm guilty of that.
Mike: Always read the water.
Tom: Yeah. I'm guilty of not paying attention to what's coming up and missing some good pieces of structure at times. So, need to always keep glancing ahead. And then, of course, line management since you're in a boat and you need to be careful, right? As you said before, you need to set things up so that your line isn't going to detangle or get stuck in something.
Mike: And that's where, you know, we've done a good job of keeping all the snag points out of the way, but the one snag point that is always there is your foot. So anytime, you know, you shuffle your feet, there's always the potential to stand on your line. You know, I use, on the SUPs or the hybrids where I'm standing in casting, I use, you know, casting line management mats, like the line layer, and that really helps manage my line and keeps me from stepping on it.
Tom: What is that called? I'm not familiar.
Mike: The line layer. So it's like a mat that goes down beneath you and it looks like a medieval thing. It has these soft spikes that come up. And those spikes just kind of manage your line and keeps your line from tangling up, or, you know, it keeps you from stepping on the line, so you just keep shutting your line down onto these mats.
Tom: Oh, okay. It's like the bottom of a stripping basket so that...
Mike: Yeah. Exactly.
Tom: And then it doesn't blow overboard too if it's windy or something.
Mike: Exactly.
Tom: And you can put those easily in any aircraft.
Mike: Yeah. Yep.
Tom: Okay. Well, anything else that we missed that people might need to know about inflatables if they're thinking of getting a new craft and how to choose one?
Mike: Yeah. I think something to keep in mind is anglers, we're all looking for an experience on the water. And what inflatables allow you to do is really push the boundaries of what those adventures can be. You know, it can be anything from, you know, floating through an urban section of a river flowing through your hometown, or something off the grid. The options are endless.
Tom: And you don't need a put-in. You don't need an official put-in.
Mike: You don't need a put-in.
Tom: Yeah. Or takeout. That's a great advantage, and it allows you to get to places where other people may not be floating or paddling. Yeah.
Mike: Yep. Opens up a lot of water.
Tom: Yeah. You got me thinking. I can think of a few places I want to try it. Well, Mike, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. This has been really helpful, and I'm sure it's gonna be helpful to my listeners. I get a lot of questions about what kind of craft to choose, you know, and it's good to have an expert on here that can talk about all the different options somebody can consider. So appreciate it.
Mike: Well, I truly appreciate you having me on. And I hope I was able to help with your audience in looking at the advantages to fishing from an inflatable. So thank you again.
Tom: Okay, Mike. Again, we've been talking to Mike Dolmage of NRS. And Mike is the fishing category manager and knows a little bit about Inflatable crafts. So, Mike, really appreciate you taking the time today.
Mike: Hey, thanks again.
Tom: All righty. Bye-Bye.
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