Steelheader II Pontoon or Glass Hyde/Clack boats?

If yall' had 3500.00 burning in your pocket, which of the 3 boats would you purchase? I mainly will be fishing for Steelhead 80% of the time, but wanted to know yall' opinions. What boat would survive class 4 and under rocks and rapids better if the navigator was an intermediate? Thanks for the help!

Peter ><>

"Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men" Matthew 4:19

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member

Actually, most of the time, it comes down to the person on the oars, not the boat. If you're talking class 4 water, you'll be much better served with the Steelheader. Much safer in long run, because if you submerge your boat, it's gonna come back up on you. I've had my boats buried under water up to the oarlocks, and luckily for me an inflatable came back to surface. Plus, most catarafts draft alot less water, so you can run rivers that get NO driftboat pressure during the summers, basically being the only guy floating it.

Here's the thing, do you plan to only flyfish out of it, or do you plan to do other fishing as well (pull plugs, side drift/boondogging)? If you plan to plug, you'll want a driftboat. You can pull plugs with a cataraft, don't get me wrong. But you'll work ALOT harder doing it. Catarafts are made to run water, not hold it. Hyde and Clackacraft make very nice boats, you're good to go with either. But the best thing to do is to actually take them on a demo ride. Not all boats track the same, and you won't know what driftboat fits your needs until you take it for a ride. Feel the way it responds to your oar strokes.

I actually am going to buy another Driftboat. By this summer, I'll have 2 catarafts (a 12 and 16' models) and hopefully another 16' driftboat. I want the driftboat for my plugging needs. But when I want to do mostly flyfishing/serious water running, I have my cats. Now, I have used my old driftboat on some hairy waters (Sol Duc, North Fork Toutle, and Calawah for examples) and have survived. But I've logged alot of DB hours running nasty rivers. Plus, all my years whitewatering have helped that as well.

So, my best advice is, if you (and this is MY advice, not the ONLY advice) is if you only plan to only fly fish, get the cataraft. But, if you're a proficient rower and/or plan to run plugs, get a driftboat. OR!!!! If you have the money, get one of each. LOL.

Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
Another option that Hyde has come out with for their aluminum boats is a bottom similar to a plastic bread board called UHMW. This slick, plastic surface allows an aluminum boat not to "stick" on rocks. It has the benefits of glass and the benefits of aluminum. You could give John Nolan a call (800) 444-4933 at Hyde and he could give you more info on that.

Glass vs. Aluminum becomes somewhat of a personal preference. Dennis Dickson has a good article on the differences.



Another Flyfisherman
I have paddled my fair share of driftboats, and own 2 pontoons. drifters a mobile dont get me wrong, but maneuvering a pontoon over a driftboat is like a tank and a jeep. if you hit too shallow of water in a driftboat you are out tugging it along. If you hit too shallow of water for a pontoon, you merely stand up and walk, and the boat floats along with you, when the coast is clear, you just sit back down and away you go. Pontoons are faster too. I find my self blasting by driftboats I guess its just because they are smaller and lighter - but not sure. Pontoons are Much cheaper than a driftboat

Oh did I mention the ease of putting in and taking out and transporting a pontoon over a driftboat?

All I can say there is NO TRAILERS, NO BOAT LAUNCHES, NO LINES........all you gotta do is find a place that you can walk to and you're in. Boat launches are convenient, yes, and you still dont have to wait in line - Its Great!! Pontoons can be dragged, carried, and thrown in the back of a pick up with ease! Only takes about 15 minutes to put together, maybe 10 when you are practiced on your boat.

I recently talked to a guy who has a steelheader and he really likes it. I have 2 different waterskeeters and they are an absolute BLAST!! Just my $0.02 Good Luck and Let us know what you decide on - I am always looking for someone to float with! J

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Yup, you pretty much hit it on the head. But like I said, he may want other uses for the boat then just to flyfish out of. Actually, you can launch a driftboat almost anywhere you can launch a cataraft. Just have to have the guts to do it. I launched my boat from some really nasty hills, just winched her down.

As I said, if you want to flyfish, go with the cataraft. If you want to pull plugs, or sidedrift/boondog, you'll want a driftboat. As Luv2flyfish said, you'll blow by the DB guys with a cataraft/pontoon boat. BUT, it's because of design of boat, not weight. A DB is meant to displace water, and to move slow (perfect for plugs and boondogging). A cataraft moves quicker because of the design. But one thing is, don't kid yourself, a driftboat will push faster and easier if you have to crank on the oars. Catarafts are meant to flow with the water, and maneuver. Their waterlines aren't meant to cut water, just go with flow.

Also, a good grade cataraft will run you roughly the same cost as a driftboat. A Steelheader is a different grade boat. There are only a couple other manufacturers out there who produce a 9' cataraft grade whitewater boat. Most are lower/mid grade boats. The key to a whitewater grade boat is to drop anchor and stand up in your boat. If you can't stand up safely and easily, then you have a "pontoon boat" per-se. Most boats over 10-12' normally have enough waterline to stand up. The key is in your smaller boats. Plus, weight capacity is a key as well. A "good" boat will have a 500-700 pound carrying capacity in an 8-9' boat. Most out there on the market are usually half that.

But I digress, this could go on and on and on. The key is what you plan to use boat for. Then reread what I wrote above. Unless you have the cash to buy more then one boat, then get all that you want. Just say it this way, I said I'm building a 12' 1-2man cataraft this summer, I have a 16' 3-4 man cataraft now, will be buying a 16' driftboat soon so I can pull plugs (won't need until this sept/oct), then will be buying my Northriver Sled once I get my settlement money. I do alot of different fishing, so I need different crafts (and no, I won't be running my sled up small rivers, I use it in the bigger rivers/tribs where it can get low).
You should also look into the Abel Travel Craft which run about $900. Much more portable than the Steelheader and pretty darn stable, but I don't know how these handle Class 4 water. You can purchase and get specs at the following link.
I am sure others will have strong opinions about how this compares to the other boats, but just thought I would throw it out there as an alternative.


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