Inflatable Boat – Is it any good for fishing?

The 2.7m inflatable boat was very light and portable.
The 2.7m inflatable boat was very light and portable.

Inflatable Boat – Is it any good for fishing?

The author Allan Burgess at the helm and guide Brent Beadle in the bow at Lake Brunner.
The author Allan Burgess at the helm and guide Brent Beadle in the bow at Lake Brunner.

To the best of our knowledge the firm Better Boats mentioned in this article is no longer operating. However, as many anglers will have considered the usefulness of this type of small inflatable boat for fishing we feel the piece is interesting all the same. A boat that can be folded up and carried in your car boot is very easy to transport!

I must confess to a little apprehension at the thought of going fishing in a boat that folds up into a package smaller than some suitcases! The roll­away or fold-up concept means that this whole 2.7m inflatable boat can easily fit in the boot of your small car. No trailer needed for this beauty!

We had decided to test the 2.7m Better Boats inflatable on the usually calm water of the Arnold River over on the West Coast, of New Zealand’s South Island. The Arnold carries water from Lake Brunner down to its confluence with the Grey River at Stillwater. This is a picturesque area of native bush down to the water line. However, this same dense native bush renders fishing from the banks of the Arnold impossible in most parts without a boat. This was sure to be a good test of what was quite a small craft at just 2.7m. Plus there was a better than average chance of some exciting fishing.

The Better Boats inflatable proved not only easy to transport, it was also a very simple job to assemble and inflate. From unloading, to ready to launch, took only ten minutes or so. With practice I’m sure it could be set up in much less time.

The pontoons, transom, and bottom are made from special ultra-violet light resistant PVC imported from Europe . The PVC section is simply unrolled on the ground and the plywood floor is set into it.

The 2.7m inflatable boat was very light and portable.
The 2.7m inflatable boat was very light and portable.

Installation of the floor is made much easier by its being hinged into three sections. The rear section of the plywood floor is pushed into position, as is the forward section. This done the centre section is pushed down and snaps into place. Each pontoon has its own air valve and is inflated separately. We used a high volume, hand operated air pump to inflate the pontoons. They took about 70 pumps each to inflate. This job could be made easier on the old back with the aid of an electrically assisted air pump run from your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket. The idea of two separate chambers is to provide extra safety. In the highly unlikely event that you holed one side the boat would still float. The P V.C. is extremely tough and is designed for this use. The boat comes with a six year warrantee on workmanship and seals.

The boat’s pontoons are inflated until almost board hard. The inflatable boat is supplied with two oars and rollicks, and with the supplied seat pushed in place, we were soon ready go.

We were met by Brent Beadle who was willing to accompany me for the test. Brent is an expert local angler and fishing guide. I was certainly looking forward to hearing Brent’s opinion on the little inflatable.

Brent had decided to meet with us a short time later, when we would go for a drift fish down the Arnold . In the mean time I decided to carry the boat the few yards down to the water and give it a test on my own with the oars only. The boat seemed small along side our Stabi-Craft and yet once on the water it was surprisingly stable. No doubt the reason for which was the very large volume of the pontoons.

The boat before assembly folds down into a very small package that can easily fit in the boot of a small car. Infact the 6 h.p. Johnson takes up more space!
The boat before assembly folds down into a very small package that can easily fit in the boot of a small car. Infact the 6 h.p. Johnson takes up more space!

On the water it was quite possible to stand up in the boat and cast the fly rod. At no time did it feel as if it would tip over!

My rusty rowing skills on the other hand left something to be desired. Although I mastered it again soon enough, my poor old arms where feeling the pinch after ten minutes or so rowing against the current at the mouth of the Arnold River.

Pulling the boat back into shore it was time to attach the motor. The craft is designed for outboards from 2 to 6 horse­power, so we attached my 6 hp auxiliary from the Stabicraft and were soon in business.

The outboard made getting about much easier, not to mention less tiring on the arms.

Later as I picked up Brent I remember thinking, this boat at 2.7m could have been a bit bigger. However it handled the extra weight no problem.

The real test soon came as we switched off the motor and Brent stood up in the bow to commence casting one of his woolly bugger variants on the fly rod. The boat handled this no trouble at all and still felt stable. I immediately made a fool of myself by casting my Cobra around one of the stabilizing wires supporting the swing bridge – which I didn’t see. In the ensuing melee we decided to start the motor and head over to the offending lure which Brent was soon able to free and we returned on our way.

The current was quite swift as the level of Lake Brunner was about six feet above normal. We drifted with the outboard silent. The trip down river was very pleasant indeed.

I soon hooked into a very spirited brownie – but not for long as it leapt from the water and threw the Cobra back at me just a couple of metres from the boat. We continued to drift and cast down­stream – our little craft making a very stable casting platform.

The further downstream we drifted the faster the river flow became. We hooked no more fish, probably as a result of the high flow!

The return trip was much more exciting; as it soon became apparent that the combination of flat-bottomed hull and extra river flow greatly reduced directional stability. Under power back up­stream from the 6 horse Johnson, Brent had to sit still in the bow or the boat would try to make sharp “U” turns. Herein lies the inherent disadvantage of a flat bottom hull – give it too much throttle and it loses its way through the water.

Under power the craft remained stable so long as we kept the speed down, and didn’t make sudden shifts of our body weight. While under power, pushing upstream against the strong current, sudden movement by the crew could easily result in capsizing! This is an important factor to keep in mind with a flat bottomed boat.

On still water, such as a small lake like: Lyndon, Selfe or Georgina, the little 2.7m Inflatable would perform with ease. As a ship-to-shore tender it would perform admirably being easily lifted aboard a yacht. Used within the limits of its designed purpose it should be quite safe.

The fold-away capability is a huge bonus with this craft. Not to mention it would provide endless fun for the kids in the family – young and old.

Is it any good for fishing? It all depends. Everyone’s situation is different. One of the great advantages of even a small trailer boat is that you can back your 4×4 vehicle up to the lake and pull your boat on to the trailer and be driving home in a matter of a few minutes. With an inflatable boat you have to take all your gear out of it. Fold it down. Then pack the folded boat, motor, and all your fishing gear into your vehicle. This takes a lot longer – especially in the dark. Many will find this operation a real pain to deal with.

On the other hand if you are spending several days at a small lake, or bay, being able to access spots that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to is a huge bonus. On a longer trip setting up and folding the boat down seems less of a hassle. If you really don’t want to tow a trailer behind your camper a folding Porta Bote or an inflatable are your other options, unless you tie a kayak on the roof. A rigid hull inflatable with a keel offers greatly improved directional stability but can’t be folded down to quite so small a package!

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