I thought I was ready to pull the trigger on a Willies Drift boat until I checked out the Streamtech Inflatable boats. I'd like to hear your opinions on these very different types of craft. Thanks for the input.
I've rowed a clackacraft (low & highside), a hyde low profile (with g4 bottom), a tributary 13ft raft, an adipose drift boat, as well as a green drake raft. The adipose is the easiest boat to maneuver and is perfect for a tame river like the yakima. If I was fishing the yakima only then I'd get the adipose because nothing beats its casting platform and ease of rowing.
However, the streamtech green drake is only marginally harder to row and it can go anywhere. That raft pivots amazingly well and feels like a porsche out on the water. Sometimes I feel like the damn thing is more responsive than my watermaster that I'm usually on. There was a huge difference between rowing the green drake and an aire tributary. The tributary (basically same design as an aire puma) sits like a bag in the water. It'll get you around, but is much less responsive than the green drake's rockered hull.
Top that off with the fact that the streamtech is the best boat to cast out of. (less hardware to hang on) Their fishing frame and gear box packages put most of the other raft set-ups to shame. There are a lot of nice aire's out on the river, but most of them look like a floating hardware shop. I'm buying a streamtech when a nice used one hits the market.
PM Derek Young if you want to test one out. He hosts demo days on his boat once in a while and will let you take it for a spin.
When people ask me what kind of boat to buy i always say a "drift boat" one of the reasons why is that you can put gas motors on them and still drift rivers , but you can also do big water like the columbia or cowlitz , north fork lewis . or any big lakes . this advantage i have always liked . I know many guides who buy both a raft and a drifter because the raft can do a lot bigger white water . but for an all around boat "FOR ME" the drift boat wins hands down - I posted in the stillwater thread two drift boats - one a 14 foot lavro we got for $1500 and a alumadrifter for 3500 with a 15 horse motor , you might want to look at them . for the price of a used drift boat with motor or not , or even new you can do a heck of a lot of things with them . I would also like a raft for hard whitewater to get away from the crowds .
I fish half the year out of a raft, and the other half in a hard boat. When I'm rowing the raft there are things I miss about my driftboat. And when I'm in my driftboat, there are things I miss about the raft. Although, I have never rowed a streamtech, there is no comparing the two. If I was to do a multi day fish and float I'd rather be in a hard boat due to the larger storage. A raft requires constant maintenance such as frame tighting,tunning, and cleaning (that alluminum oxide gets everywhere). Also you'll have to watch you air pressure close. Ecpecially on hot days. Most raft floors have an air regulater, but usually not on the side's or front/back. And lastly with a raft you risk the occational puncture, which is not fun to deal with mid trip. And again Streamtechs may be different. I'm not saying a hard boat doesn't puncture, but usually not because of people hooking the bottum of the boat. Which is how I've experienced a puncture. However, if you are rowing a hard boat on say a Deschutes trip and your friends who have a raft decide to do a section from Wapinita to Sandy beach, you may have to sit that one out and wait for them back at camp.
I've fished out of and rowed a Streamtech Green Drake and Salmonfly a few times, and am hoping for the day when I can get one. Yes, I like the interior room of a hard boat, but the visibility from the high perch of the Streamtech rower's seat and it's incredible maneuverability, and the ability to float just about any water (well beyond my abilities as a rower) make them a real nice setup. As Jesse mentioned, get a hold of Derek Young if you want a test run.
Pay attention to the above statement. The differences are so far apart between an aluminum drift boat and an inflatable raft it does not do justice to either one of them to compare side by side. You are better off determining what you want your boat to do, then determine the material and type, then compare brands. If I wanted an aluminum drift boat, Willies would be near the top. If I had over $6000 for a raft, you can bet I'd be looking hard at a Maravia with an aluminum frame, like the Streamtech. It would be hard to go wrong with either as far as quality but but again, you really need to determine what you want your boat to do for you first.
You don't see a lot of fiberglass boats on the coast just like you don't see a lot of aluminum boats on the east side. But you see inflatables on both sides because of their versatility. But you sacrifice a little comfort compared to a hard boat.
Great advice and good things to consider. I mainly will be using the craft to float from run to run and then get out and swing. Not much bead drifting here! : ), I don't like to anchor up and sit, just want to be able to access prime swingin water. As far as a heater it would be cozy, but not a necessity. I think the inflatables sound like a more versatile option for me, even though the diamond plate sides on those willies look SWEET! Thanks everyone for your help and hopefully I can decide cuz mama ain't gonna go for both. Ha ha