Posts Tagged ‘pontoon boats


Fly Fishing: Pontoon Boat Tweaking

At the end of last year’s stillwater season my old (18 years? I think) Buck’s Bags, South Fork pontoon boat wore out (valves and fabric on the pontoons). I could have fixed this stuff, and I still may, but that old pontoon boat was heavy. When I was younger I could move it around with ease. Now, years later with shoulder/neck/hand surgeries, and a fully fused right wrist the old South Fork was too heavy.

 That was hard to admit. It suggests the obvious. I don’t like to dwell in the house of “Damn, I’m getting old” for more than a few seconds. So, I researched the new pontoons out there and sprung for the new version of the South Fork. It came in the mail, boxed and I put it together last Fall….then anticipated all Winter taking out the newer, lighter version.

The New South Fork loaded on the rig....anticipation high.

So, the lesson here is probably obvious, but in all my anticipation of fishing, I looked past some subtle differences that only come out in the actual use of the new toy. The pontoon boat is lighter and much easier for me to lift up onto and off the truck. If I went with the oars it came with rather than the heavier, longer ones I use, it would be even lighter.

But, a few things became apparent as I deployed the craft: I had attached the gear bags or cargo pouches on the pontoon that are not standard issue. I bought these years ago because the standard issue pouches were too small for all I like to carry out on the water: water bottle, too many fly boxes, extra clothing, food, whatever I feel the need to stash in my non-minimalist mode. Those cargo pouches when affixed toward the front of the pontoon were in the way of the oars. So, I moved them to the rear. And, in doing so, I moved them into a position that, after awhile, is annoyingly too far back causing one to twist, turn and reach in an uncomfortable position while the rod/reel are left in an always dangerous position on (or ideally behind) the apron. Very uncomfortable and not functional in rough waters and while trussed up in all the heavy clothing of a ‘shit, its freezing out here’ day. 

So, the prospect of using the lower profile cargo pouches presents itself and the limitations that go with that. I will have to weigh the awkwardness/large capacity  vs. the closer to the front, minimalist (little room for all the gear I carry) equation. The change needs to be made though.

More annoying and more problematic is the apron (the black mesh that stretches across ones lap). It is taut at the front, but at the rear it is sagging and too low. This is critical for me because when I set the rod down it must be anchored in some fashion. Do not set your rod down with the reel on top of the apron. It will go over the front, especially if you are actively fishing. I anchor the rod by setting the reel down in behind the apron. The rear edge of the apron fits up in between the bottom of the rod and the front of the reel. Now, there is no tension at the rear of the apron and the rod sets there too lose for my tastes. So, I need to figure out how to tighten up the rear of the apron given the configuration of the frame, cargo pouches and straps. Doable? I think so, I’m just not happy with the set up. I could resort to some tether I suppose.

The back, taut edge of the apron is wedged into that slot between the reel foot and the reel housing providing tension and less likelihood the rod/reel will fall off the front of the apron while you re-rig, perhaps kick/row and troll, or reach for something (something out of a cargo pouch or pull up the anchor at the rear).

So, I raise this as a reminder to not assume the newer will work like the older. Adjustments of the gear and the mind need to happen. I imagine it is like today with a new  computer or cell phone, initially it is like ‘what the hell?’ and a month later you have adapted and can’t quite remember how the old one worked. What was all the fuss about? Right? Yes. One just gets use to that fishing station out on the lakes and comes to feel quite efficient in it, even after long breaks in between it is comfortable and does not intrude in the experience. 

I will adapt and look forward to the next time on the lakes. In the meantime, I have some rearranging to do.


Stillwater fly fishing observations

My son, Tony, enjoying 'the moment' with an East Lake (Oregon) fish.

I came upon this old pic of one of my sons on East Lake. I have to say I am as partial to the puzzle of a lake as to dissecting a stream or river. A few observations about the above pic: Tony has two rods out on the lake. The one being used, carries a floating line and the second rod appears to have a clear Intermediate line. You will more often than not see him working the surface and just below with the floating line, where as I almost always stay with the Intermediate. 

The pontoon sports 7′ composite oars by Buck’s Bags (maker of the pontoon boat). The ‘toons come with 6’ silver oars that are adequate but for pulling across big lakes, the longer, heavier oars are hard to beat.

He also has an anchor rigged up. Not the commercial set ups that are available and probably fine, but instead a bucket in back carries a 5# pryamid anchor attached to a poly rope. When the wind really kicks up and one wants to stay in the zone without kicking, the anchor on 40′ of rope provides a secure contact point with the bottom. We have rolled and bobbed through many 1-2 foot rollers in fairly secure fashion and haven’t hung up yet.

The vessel has larger than factory issue side pouches for storing gear. This better facilitates storing larger gear like clothing and too many fly boxes, water bottles, floatation device. The factory standard cargo pouches are not too bad but I prefer the larger ones for all day outings far from camp or the rig.

There are some reflective tape dots on the back of the seat for all the good it might do to assist speed boats moving across a lake at last light back to the ramp.

Lastly, while playing a fish, a large fish, be careful with that tip dipping down and back under the boat. Make sure, in advance that the drag is loose, not tight and be prepared as it runs to play stripped in line up through the guides in a gentle but yielding way to get the fish onto the reel. If the reel’s drag stays too tight and the fish surges as in the pic, you could suddenly have a broken rod tip.

Now none of that had anything to do with the usual what, where and how considerations of presentation. But, I noticed the pic and decided to note those things we all do to our gear, boat, pontoon, float tube that add that little extra degree of hoped for efficiency. 


Fly Fishing: Sing A Different ‘Toon

My Buck’s Bag South Fork Pontoon is at least 15 years old. It has with stood the rigors of lakes and rivers and never failed me, until recently. I will probably send in the leaking pontoon to get it fixed and keep it as a backup. It has become too heavy for me to lift by myself, up onto my rig.  

So, I decided to spring for a new ‘toon, a new South Fork, with a slightly lighter frame. I transferred my spare rod holder over to the new rig along with my ginormous, side storage packs. I still have to transfer the oar holders and I will be good to go.

Can you see where the darn boulder hit the RRQ of my rig?

I will finish off with my pyramid anchor. I use the over size bags, less for the typical fly fishing stuff and more for clothing, camera gear and food. There is a ton of room for fly boxes. I am trying to pare down my quantity of fly boxes that I take out onto a lake. Rather than trying to cover all the bases, I try to think more and refine my fly boxes down a bit. If I really need it that bad, it will be back in the truck. 

Less fumbling about re-rigging one rod with multiple lines. I have two rods out on the water. Yes, it looks like an antenna, and every once in awhile I catch it while casting, but rare. I can switch out rods quickly and present the dry/emerger/suspended patterns with the floating line.

Oar Holders (SwittersB)

Bucks Bags out of Idaho have a great reputation. I researched other suppliers and several have good reputations. I stayed with Bucks because 15 years of abuse on my other pontoon boat speaks well of the product’s reliability.


Fly Fishing: Know Your Valves

If you go buy a float tube or pontoon boat, be certain you buy a pump that matches the valve on your particular vessel. The are two common types of valves. The pump you may already own, may need an adaptor to fit the valve type of your new tube/’toon.

I have owned a K-Pump for several years and love the product. I always used it for the Buck’s Bags South Fork pontoon boat (Halkey Roberts Valve) I have owned, it seems forever. Recently, I picked up a Cumberland float tube, for an addition to my tube fleet. I was in the outdoors and went to inflate the tube and low and behold, the K-Pump did not fit the tube (Boston Valve). I rigged something up, because I had a hodge podge of adaptors and duct tape, and was able to inflate the tube, but it was a chore. When I got home, I reached the K-Pump staff and they explained they did in deed have an adaptor for my K-Pump so that I could easily inflate Halkey Roberts or Boston Valves. Great company!!! Do a little checking before your purchase/and or assume your K-Pump (or any pump) automatically  fits all valves.

Now a leaking valve is an entirely different subject all together.


Fly Fishing: ‘tooned up for a bit longer

Old But Trustworthy (SwittersB)

I cannot recall when I first acquired the Southfork pontoon ‘boat’…maybe 15 years ago or more. It has the old steel frame. I replaced the shorter oars with bigger oars for possible river use and more frequently rowing across big lakes. I also carry so much stuff that I replaced the side gear bags with bottomless, ill fitting bags that the oars brush over as I row. I have those pads because frankly if given the chance I will fish the whole damn day, or until my ass goes to sleep from the pressures across the back of my thighs from the seat edge.  I love the damn thing, BUT….it can be like a giant sail boat in big winds. I have been blown so hard that I have come to a complete stalemate with the wind, rowing and neither gaining nor losing ‘ground’. Well hell that can’t last long. I have had to finally head to shore and cut my losses to stop from getting  blown to the far side.

I use to easily lift the craft plus gear over head and walk up hill and throw it atop a van. Now, for assorted reasons that seems a long time ago. I do have an Outcast Fish Cat that also keeps one up out of the water. I may be evolving toward that as it gets harder to go alone and muscle all that gear around. It has been one successful fishing machine over the years. What the hell happened?


Big Fish Oregon: Two Days, Countless Casts and 1 fish

Took a few days away to regroup and fish a public Central Oregon lake. We had heard of the possibilities of hooking some nice fish early in the year. weleft with a strong front pushing in off the Pacific and heavy snow as we (Tony & I) moved up over Mt. Hood. This all conspired for a strong West wind and rolling waves on the lake. The intell was of possible success on the far side of the lake from the launch point, about a mile. We bit and in short order the rollers and wind had us in the ‘zone’. We attempted to work the transition of the drop, up onto the shoal. The wind was ever stronger and the pontoon boats were like sailboats. We anchored and flung one concoction after another. Woolly Buggers, Dragons, Streamers were offered up without success. There was not a hint of insect activity. We were using Intermediate Lines and skimming the top of the old & new bottom growth. Suddenly, Tony’s rod was bent and for the next several minutes he enjoyed numerous runs and dives. As the fish sounded, I saw the depth and thickness of the fish…big, and as I saw the length I uttered the jinx phrase..’God, Tony, don’t lose that fish’. Like he needed to hear that.

The Moment

The Moment

The fish finally gave in and came to the net, which previously managed to contain fish up to 24″ The net was ill prepared as was Tony for the fish, which measured on the apron just shy of 28+” (actually the apron has a 24″ scale and the trout overlapped it ‘a lot’, so we are guesstimating here). My visual assessment from a few feet away was the fish easily overlapped the scale on either end by several inches. Why is that important? Only in that it was Tony’s biggest trout, so a measurement for exaggerated fish stories is in order. 

Take That!

Take That!

         In the obsession that makes us net, hold, pose and smile, I kick against the wind trying to get an angle for a shot…always seeming to be backwards and bobbing. But, I snapped away and got what I got…The adage of biting off more than you can chew came to mind as the fish was way bigger and stronger than first realized…She was amazing. Prior to the pictures, Tony was wearing a balaclava and stocking cap. For the pic he donned the Woodland Fire & Rescue cap.  Believe me, as soon as the fish was released, the cold weather gear was back on and the fingers were frozen. The Moment, of course, helped alleviate some of the pain.  




Tony Muncy & Central Oregon 'Bow

Tony Muncy & Central Oregon 'Bow

   The pictures taken with the hopes one turned out…the beauty was released back to the ice water safe and sound. After the release there is that unique euphoria that is intoxicating.

Repectfully Released

Respectfully Released

Yes, the fish was where the winds theoretically blow the feed. That did play out as theorized. But, what we did not plan on was increasing winds, and the actual inability to row or kick against the wind for the mile back across the lake to where were were parked. We tried but ended up blown into shore.


The luck of the day continued…kind of….we lashed the pontoons together with a safety rope I have carried for years but never used…then we walked the shoreline and shallows in thin soled booties. The luck was the surface was relatively rock free and firm as we slogged against the wind along the contours of this bay and that indent of the shoreline…finally we had tugged the boats back to our put in point…  Had the conditions been more difficult it would have been an interesting predicament to solve…something I must give thought to.

So, not a frigging chub, small planter, not a bullhead. I was skunked and I thought I had fished well.  No, I failed to figure out the puzzle in two days. I should have fished much deeper and slower with a heavier line. But, Tony’s success eased any frustrations I would have normally endured. I had a great time because of the natural beauty and one fish.  


Central Oregon Lake~Bleak, Beautiful & Private..The Weather Helped

Tony’s successful pattern was a two tone green, size 10 Woolly Bugger… a Mini Bugger. He was using an Intermediate Line on his 6 wt. GLX. He was anchored and casting toward shore. 

Mini Bugger w/ UV Ice Dub

Mini Bugger w/ UV Ice Dub~SwittersB

The production tied Mini Bugger was on a size 10 Dai Riki, standard length hook. The tail is comprised of two layers of marabou (black on top and medium olive on the bottom) a few strands of  olive Krystal flash are tied in on each side of the marabou tail. The body is dubbed UV Olive Ice Dub, which is ribbed with a thin wire of copper or gold. The wing is from a standard sized Guinea feather, green in color (isn’t that barring cool?). The Bead Head (put on first, of course) is gold and balanced to the size hook used. There are so many varieties of Woolly Buggers, only limited by your knowledge of tying materials. This is different in that there is no palmered hackle up the length of the body..only the wound hackle behind the bead head. I also took a pic of the darker Mini Bugger beside the olive Mini…

Two Versions of Mini Bugger~SwittersB

Two Versions of Mini Bugger~SwittersB

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