Northern Michigan Fishing Guide Builds Big Boats For Small Rivers
Phil Croff’s cedar and walnut drift boats provide a stable platform to fish from on the swift northern Michigan rivers where he guides anglers.
INDIAN RIVER, MI — While enjoying breakfast at a north woods restaurant just after dawn, Phil Croff noticed some men in the parking lot ogling his boat. They got out of their truck and made a bee-line to his wooden drift boat and trailer.
Minutes later, upon entering the eatery, they saw Croff in his waders and inquired if it was his. Ever-friendly and with a smile, Croff affirmed it was and accepted their praise. Returning to his potatoes and eggs, he looked up a moment later, smiled, and said, It happens everywhere I go.
For Croff, a 45-year-old drift boat builder and fishing guide from Alanson, it was a fine way to start the day, almost as good as what would follow, fishing one of his favorite tip-of-the-mitt streams, the shallow and swift waters his boats were designed to float. “I grew up fishing small streams. I am pretty fond of them,” explained Croff, owner of Croff-Craft Custom Driftboats. “One thing is they are easier to read than big rivers like the Manistee. But, I also like rowing on smaller, quick-turning streams. It’s more exciting than bigger rivers.”
First, an experiment
Croff began by searching online for an appropriate design. The boats he found werent stable enough, so he began to sketch his own design and told his wife he planned to build a boat.
Chapter 6 Drift Boats For Sale
To this day I still have not purchase a brand new drift boat and thats ok. The great thing about most drift boats on the market is that they actually retain their value because they last for years and years.
My aluminum boat has been sitting outside for years and havnet had a care in the world. Still good to go. Koffler was on here and noted this big bonus of the aluminum boat.
But, if you are in the market for a new boat I wanted to provide a few tips to help you in finding and choosing the right drift boat.
Top tips on finding drift boats for sale and selecting the best one
Hyde Drift Boat Great Condition
Hyde Drift Boat/ High Side. Great Condition 9.5 Sawyer Square Top Oars. 2001 Hyde Trailer Rhino Lined. This boat has every upgrade available by HYDE. Three bench seats with storage. Anchor System with Anchor and Anchor Nest. G4 bottom was replaced in 2017. Hyde boat cover. $8000. You will not find a …
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Chapter 5 How To Build A Drift Boat
The building process of the drift boat has evolved over the years as new materials came into play from wood to aluminum, fiberglass and plastics. Even for wood, there is the conventional style of wood boat building like Rays River dories.
I had the current owners of Rays on here and we talked about what is involved with boat building.
But, theres also stitch and glue type wood boat building that is a very beautiful and clean way to make a wood boat.
How to Build a wood boat
How to build a fiberglass boat
How to build an aluminum boat
Chapter 2 Drift Boat History
I had one of the greatest drift boat historians on the podcast recently and we able to dig into the entire history going back to before 1920 when guys first started taking wooden boats down the Oregon rivers to find fish with a fly.
Listen to the full podcast with Roger Fletcher below:
Heres a short summary of how the Drift Boat came to be
The first drift boat style boats came onto the McKenzie River and other Oregon Rivers in 1925 by a man named Milo Thomson.
A little bit later, Veltie Pruitt took that boat and made it much shorter and lighter. This was important because they were now able to portage easier and the boat was lighter and easier to maneuver through some of the fast river sections.
Around 1934, a gentleman name Woody Hindman would create the start of the modern drift boat and the first double ender.
From here the boats slowl transitioned into the traditional Rogue or Mckenzie style dorie and all dirft boats still have this connection .
Today, drift boats have expanded into the river skiff area as noted in my podcasts with Boulder Boats, and Adipose Boatworks, both who are leading with great river skiffs.
So, whats next?
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Poor Man`s Drift Boat
flyrodder46 said:I too have seen a couple of flat bottom prams/rowboats on the PM, but myself would not want to float it in the high/fast water of the spring. It is hard enough to do with a drift boat designed for the conditions if you are not experienced. JMO.D
I am a fisherman…therefore I lie.
Chapter 4 Drift Boat Accessories
Like anything great you own, you can bling it out as much as you like. Like the dude with the jacked up pickup that is a little annoying at times, your boat can balance on that edge.
So what are the important items you must have for your drift boat to make sure youre good to go.
Top Must have Drift Boat Accessories
2. Drift Boat Oars We did a full season on choosing drift boat oars with Kevin Young from Sawyer Paddles and Oars. He noted the differences in choosing oars and the difference between wood, composite and full synthetic.
The image above shows the square tip oars that our counter balanced. Also remember that you should always have a spare oar in the boat just in case you break an oar on a trip. Keep it easily accessible when floating down the river.
3. Drift Boat Oar Locks Another essential is the oar lock. You should also have an extra oar lock like an oar in case you break one. In all of my years of drift boating I have been in a boat and seen an oar lock broken once.
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Chapter 3 How To Row A Drift Boat
There is a lot to learn about rowing a drift boat but the best advice is to get on the river with someone who has experience first.
Many of the boat shops around likely have staff that can provide tips to get started and you can always pay a guide to take you down the river and get some fishing along the way.
I wont break down every step hear but give you a few resources to get started. This video from Reds breaks down the basics to help you understand a little about getting going.
Made In Michigan: Driftpro Anchor Winch
Made: In Michigan
Michigan Out-of-Doors Credentialing: Must-have for steelhead, salmon and trout fishing
Good ideas are rarely born from thin air most of the time they are an evolution of someone elses idea that can be made better, cheaper or more efficiently.
For Michiganders, part of our fishing pursuits often include rivers where fast current and changing topography can make fishing difficult. This is especially true when trout, salmon or steelhead fishing and boat placement/set up on a particular run is crucial.
Enter the anchor winch an often overlooked but crucial piece of equipment. Some companies like Minn Kota have tried to mass-produce these winches, but they are unable to hold up to the constant beating and heavy anchor poundages needed for big river systems like the Manistee, Muskegon, Pere Marquette and Au Sable.
Without a well-built, dependable winch, it would be near impossible to navigate and try to find the X on our swollen spring and fall streams when chasing Michigans anadromous offerings. Spring and fall fishing can provide some of the most exhilarating battles and shows , but without the proper equipment, it can be dangerous, unsafe and unproductive.
Michigan has several winch manufacturers who pioneered heavier duty winches, but it didnt take long for others interested in river fishing to take notice.
A DriftPro Anchor Winch in use. This winch includes the tower and full DriftPro assembly.
A DriftPro Anchor Winch is pictured without the tower.
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North River Drift Boat
2003 North River Wide 17′ drift boat in almost new condition, deluxe diamond plate aluminum trailer with 2 spares, Sawyer counter balanced oars, front and rear anchors 30lb, 8HP Mercury two stroke long shaft outboard with prop protector, rear seat for outboard operator, under seat storage lockable, …
Stealthcraft 2015 Atb Driftboat
For Sale 2015 StealthCraft ATB Drift Boat. This Boat is set up for River fishing for Steelhead and Salmon, This Boat handles lakes and river with no problems. This boat is loaded it come with 40 pound pyramid anchor, two counter balanced oars. It is 16 feet long and 60 inches wide on the bottom. It …
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Aboard Take A Seat Enjoy The Ride
At StealthCraft, we continually evolve our designs and production processes to take advantage of the latest technologies and newest materials. We ensure our boats arent just boats that float, but rather, high-performance watercraft that exceed customer expectations while conquering the challenges and obstacles they encounter each day on the water.
We build our StealthCraft boats by hand, giving us the ability to truly customize a boat specific to each customers needs. We can configure the interior with many options and features that will make your time on the water in a StealthCraft more productive, comfortable, and safe for you and your passengers.
Check out our full line of driftboats, skiffs, power drifters, jetsleds, rafts and flats boats.
We are a Yamaha and Mercury Dealer, and also carry Minn-Kota, Sawyer Oars, Action Seats, Pro-Loks Oars, Tempress hatches, NRS and Cobra oar horns, and many other hard-to-find driftboat and jetboat accessories.
Chapter 1 What Is A Drift Boat
When drift boats first came onto the scene in the early part of the 20th century, wood was the only game in town. As we moved into the 20th century new boat companies started utilizing new merials. Alumininum was one of the first big change and is still a leader today.
Now we have Wood, aluminum, fiberglass, and polymer boats like Boulder Boat Woks who were on the podcast here.
In its essence a drift boat is a specially designed boat that helps the rower get down through rivers and whitewater. Much of the time its to get to the next fishing location.
But as you can see here in places like the Grand Canyon, these boats were designed for highly functioning whitewater.
I interviewed the film maker behind Martins Boat which documents the late great Martin Litton who created the wooden dories that currently run the Colorado River.
Here is the definition of a drift boat and a photo showing a typical drift boat.
Boulder Boats breaks down the basic of drift boats in this 2 hour class:
Not only are there different types of materials drift boats are made out of but there are different styles. Skiffs are gaining popularity because of their easy to use bu they are no best for whitewater.
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Boats For Sale In Michigan
Boat Prices In Michigan
The price for boats in Michigan range from $4,500 up to $1,359,355, with an average boat value of $56,381. When researching what boat to buy, keep in mind the vessel’s condition, age and location, and be sure to research the top cities in your area as well as the top states in the country, such as Florida, Texas, Michigan, California and North Carolina.
- Explore BoatTrader.com
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What You Need To Bring On Your Fly Fishing Trip
Hyde Drift Boat W/ Motor Well W/ Motor
This is a FULLY RIGGED, ready to fish drift boat made special for anywhere around New York. This boat will include : Hyde drift boat trailer, Hyde carbon fiber oars w/ oar locks, anchor, anchor rope, navigation lights, 2008 Yamaha 15hp tiller 2 stroke (very hard to find, also the most effective moto …
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Guided Fly Fishing Trips In Northern Michigan
Full Day Trip
Enjoy a full day of fly fishing in Northern Michigan. Engage in non-ordinary experiences within nature that are unique and serene.
Float for one or two people. Included are fly rods, reels and flies.
Half Day Trip
Enjoy a half day of guided fly fishing in Northern Michigan. Float for one or two people. Included are fly rods, reels, andflies.