Sunday, March 24, 2013

Old school, A 30 year history on flats boats


Hooked up in the Octagon
In the early 1980's the Florida keys were on fire with big bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Flats fly fishing was all the rage in select groups. Guides that we now consider legends were polling Dolphin Superskiffs, Hewes, Maverick, and Actioncraft across turtle grass covered flats prospecting for fly fishing gold. Early flats skiffs had evolved from wooden hulls to the more popular fiberglass. The stage was set for the next new technological advance in flats boat design and construction.
A man by the name of Chris Morejohn started a new boat company he called Back bay. Morjohn decided to construct his skiffs from a lighter and stronger core material. Charles Causey and Bert Sherb commissioned Chris to build the concept skiff. He took the basic hull from a Mako 17 and began modifications including bottom strakes a transom change and sharpening out the chines. Hal Chittum helped determine the freeboard height at the bow. The first core constructed skiff was now ready for production. The mold was cast and a piece of flats boat history began to take shape. Even Bob Hewes was stopping by Chris's shop and later admitted this boat changed his way of thinking. Back Bay built 7 boats before Morejohn sold the fledgling shop to start building skiffs for the newly founded Hells Bay Boatworks.

My morning view
Fast forward about 10 years. Number 1 of the 7 Back bay boats sits on a consignment lot for sale in Marathon key Florida. It is purchased for $8500. Her life is now that of waiting only used once or twice a year. The rest of the time she sits in a barn in West Monroe Louisiana wasting away like an aged beauty queen. I discovered the boat and purchased her in 2000 for the same $8500. I was not guiding back then but the boat was getting quite the workout from my recreational fishing.

The BP oil spill was actually the boats saving grace. A lump sum payment gave me the means to restore her. I striped off all unnecessary weight and gadgets. The old 1984 Yamaha 115 hp was replaced with a 2008 90 hp 2 stroke I found still in the create. A Lowrance depth finder/GPS is all that I needed for electronics. An Octagon brand casting cage graces the bow. Other than a few coats of gel coat and some Seadek she is basically all original down to the trim tabs and hydraulic steering. I pull her all over the Mississippi river estuary with a restored 1994 Ford Bronco.
I am really privileged to own such a great riding and historic boat. She is doing well at her job and seems very happy to be back on the water so often. This boat has seen more saltwater fly fishing than most people can envision in fairy tale dreams. Here are some quotes from Chris Morjohn and Harry Spear both of whom are great skiff builders.
                                                                                                                                                                                                Chris Morjohn "You have the skiff that started the rethinking of poling,lighter weight,and no wood construction in the industry. Thanks for keeping my past alive."

Harry Spear "You have a very cool piece of history and you should be proud of it as it represents the beginning of the Hells Bay legacy and the contribution that Chris Morejohn has brought to our industry..." 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring swing early March

As usual the weather in  the spring can be tough. Windy cloudy days seem to be the norm. Giant bull redfish are still out there but the numbers have decreased with wind creating dirty water. I have been running up in the Biloxi marsh to gin clear honey holes. We are seeing good numbers of summer sized 4-8 pound fish. The occasional 10-12 pounder also gets thrown in the mix.
Even deep in the marsh the bigger redfish seem to be on the bottom in 2-3 feet of water. I am running across active fish on the lee banks. Most of the time up in a broken piece of marsh. When there is no sun for sight fishing blind casting sinking flies 10-20 feet from the bank can be effective. My customers are happy with the amount of shots and the powerful fighters. The fish may be smaller but the fun factor sky rocketed.