Testing the solo skiff: Punta Rassa, West Florida, 03/16/2013
By Serge Thomas
When I first arrived in the US, I had very little money and could not afford a boat. I thus bought a used Wilderness Systems kayak called the ride. This kayak was one of the first fishing kayak with built in pontoons that allowed me to flyfish the flats the way one would fish from a skiff. Mockery was in the air and no one took me seriously. Heck, even on the flats, flatsboats would not show respect and cut my priority several times. I however have to say that I have been very successful catching fish and especially the big three on the flats of Miami and the Keys.
Mentalities seem to have evolved nowadays. With oil prices on the rise, an economic crisis and, with more conscientious fishermen, fishing kayaks sales are exploding. Kayaks really morphed into different machines with modifications including e.g. a more open cockpit allowing more flat room to stand, the addition of a lean bar, storage for rods, built in pontoons or sponsoons and a seat allowing standing higher above the water. Some of the newest kayaks also now include mounts for an electric or even a small combustion engine. All of these modifications led to additional weight and some kayak brands offer kayaks close to the 120lbs mark. That is a lot of plastic!
So, why not build a kayak on steroids that could be as heavy as these aforementioned new kayak fishing machines, yet, be more stable, seaworthy, built with infused fiberglass/epoxy materials and allow the addition of a 5HP outboard engine?
Such a nanoskiff would offer the paddler an option to better fish as well as extend his range and the boater, a way to be more ecological friendly by lowering its carbon footprint, save some money, yet be able to get to some of his usual fishing spots and to reach very shallow flats. This sounds like a sweet niche that is currently being filled since kayaks went a size up whilst skiffs went a size down.
Three major companies currently offer nanoskiffs and seem to have co-evolved in this area. This interestingly leads to different concepts that are drastically different (the pricing seems to not have adjusted yet too as companies seem to test the market to see what people are willing to pay). By alphabetical order, the ambush”, the Solokiff and the Xfishsup. The Xfishsup is built by a company called rigid boats while the ambush and the solo skiff are built by two reputable regular size skiff makers: Pelican Flats boats and Mitzlaff boat works.
On 03/16/13, Tom Mitzlaff, designer of the Mitzi Skiff line of boats, and the Inshore Power boat 16, made his way to Ft Myers to demo his new skiff, the “solo skiff” on a beach adjacent to the causeway leading to Sanibel.
That day, the weather was less than ideal since a stiff 15-20mph wind was blowing towards the demo beach, the tide was high and a slight wind driven swell was present. Tom has an unmistakable truck which carries the solo skiff on the back of his truck bed using a bed extension. A small trailer is also an option and topping that boat on a car should also be doable using one of these contraptions. I especially like the Rhino Rack T loader paired with a hitch.
The solo skiff could be called a “kayak on steroids” but, as shown by its specs, it really is not. The skiff weighs as much as a Hobie angler pro 14 because of the infused fiberglass/epoxy construction.
The solo skiff is however roomier, more stable, and can reach very decent speeds (at least for me) when coupled with a 3.5 HP short shaft Tohatsu engine or (better) a 5HP Lehr propane powered outboard (as pictured).
The most important point is that this boat is designed differently than a regular skiff. Unlike for the Pelican Ambush, the solo skiff has been modified during its downsizing to accommodate the weights of the angler and of the engine so that everything is kept in balance.
First, the engine is recessed in the hull and thus closer to the center of gravity. A notch in the hull allows the engine to pivot freely when tilted. I found that with this design, no tiller extension was needed and thus adds to the comfort of maneuvering the boat with an outboard motor. The skiff was very responsive and I was able to make relatively sharp turns. The boat feels VERY solid in the chop.
I say relatively because this boat is designed to track straight. The skiff is indeed like being on rails when it is gliding on the water surface. This property is linked to the split tail.
The solo skiff has two long beams that run parallel to the hull and add stiffness to it. The hull is also filled with foam to supply ample amount of floatation.
The ride on choppy sea is not comfortable with the current design since the central hatch/poling platform is also the (unpadded) seat. The boater riding the skiff is thus absorbing all of the wave energy which the skiff transmits directly to the body.
Tom can offer all kinds of cushioning on the hatch since this hatch is very thick and, as such, could accommodate removable a bass boat seat type. Seating on your PFD can also be a minimalist viable option.
When compared to a regular skiff, the solo skiff is logically wet. It is however very dry when compared to a kayak. With such a little free board, I actually thought it would give me a wetter drive. While riding the skiff, not too much water splashed into the cockpit thanks to the gunnels. Water however escapes the cockpit VERY efficiently so there is no need of a bilge pump (and also no plugs!).
Poling this little skiff was an outstanding
experience (look at the grin). Like when powering it, this skiff is on rails when you pole it. I would even argue that the inexperienced “poler” could pole that skiff straight. The transition from the seated position on the central hatch to the standing position in choppy water was not a problem for me since I stand on the highest point of my kayak while poling. Leaning on the pole while transitioning can help “adding a third leg to the stool” also.
However, for the less experienced kayaker, this proved to be a bit perilous. The addition of a lean bar to facilitate this transition would be a welcome addition to this skiff.
Getting back onto the skiff was however not a problem and this asserts the great stability of this boat.
The centrally located hatch is the best place to pole and stand on this skiff because it is conveniently located in the center of gravity. Because of the central location, it was easy to push the boat from all directions, even from the bow. The hull slap was very low. This boat is all about stealth.
Maneuverability with a pole was easier than with a regular size flats boat but kayaks are better in this area. You indeed need to give a good push to make the boat turn. Again, this boat is on rails whilst on the water.
I asked Tom if one could pole from the bow or mount an electric there. This is not recommended as the deck is thin there. I suppose that, at the time of ordering, Tom could reinforce the deck and thus add weight to the boat.
Keep in mind that this is a SOLO skiff and that a second person is normally not an option although there is plenty of floatation to have two average size adults on board. I would argue though that a trolling motor such as an ipilot would be a wicked addition to this boat.
Finally, the solo skiff can go in very skinny water because of its lightness and large volume displacing enough water to allow it to float high. It can go to any places a kayak with a flat bottom could go.
I regret that I could not fish from this boat but I know that Sam Root (saltyshores.com) has done it and he was VERY successful (and quiet about it?). Another review of this boat written a week before this one and made by the very famous John Kumiski has been posted on “the spotted tail”. John asserts the outstanding fishability of the solo skiff in his very good article.
I liked the optional addition of a must have Wang stake out pole conveniently located to stop the boat whilst fishing. When anchored, at this location, the boat does not rotate very fast (as it would with a kayak) and this is enough to make few casts before the boat needs to be repositioned. The addition of rod holder holding the rod at waist level (or a rod holding belt) could be a neat addition to facilitate the transition from poling to casting/fishing.
Bottom line, I found a much better fishing platform than a kayak and still a very ecological option especially when this boat is paired with a propane powered Lehr outboard engine.
I have not paddled the solo skiff, but I assume that this can be done easily. The solo skiff is genuinely engineered is one of kind: there are no other boats like it. It securely occupies a unique niche and the price is right for a well rigged skiff without an engine (MSRP is $2,600 and the current delivery time is ~6-10 weeks).
Good job Tom!
Optics play an important role in the game of sight fishing. In this game, if you can’t see the fish, you are not catching them, whether you are searching for green or pink backed laid up poons in dark Everglades water or the slight blue off the fin of a pale white redfish in the sandy bottoms of the Islamorada flats. Picking up on these slight signs of life make the difference between getting your shot or blowing it. Having the best lens on the market has always been my top priority. Without bringing in names of other brands, I have tried every amber/copper based polarized lens on the market and I seem to settle for one until I find a better one on the next round.
During the Salty Fly in Tampa this year, I was able to pick up a pair of RCI Optics Monster Hole frames with the Copper based Sunrise Gold Mirror Lens shades. It became evident that they cut through the glare and repelled water very well. The lenses had just the right amount of contrast and did not over-contrast. While bonefishing, the first thing I noticed when comparing side by side with my old preferred lens was that the RCI lenses cut through that white glary stuff much better… I would say at least 30% better. This made all the difference in the world during one of my last bonefish missions where white clouds dusted the horizon. The frames I preferred was the “Monster Hole”, conveniently named after a popular surf spot. They fit my wider asian face very well and temples remained very comfortable around the tops of my ears during and after a day of fishing. Needless to say, I was very impressed and have now made the switch.
The Techy geeky stuff…
“Made in Italy” speaks for the great quality of the frames. The frames are extremely durable and light weight. The lenses are made of a material six times harder then poly lenses and pass the ANSI Z78 rating (I think this is where they shoot the lens at point blank with a low caliber round). Together, these components make for what I feel are the best fishing shades I have ever fished.
For more info visit http://rcioptics.com or give the guys at Shady Characters Sunglass Emporium a shout at 321-953-9875.
If you are a fisherman and a fan of using POV wearable cameras then you know putting a camera on top of head has a few draw backs.
You can’t wear your favorite hats, you have a weight on top of your head, and it looks pretty goofy.
Pivothead as came out with a camera in the form of sunglasses that you can wear. Considering it has a 8mp sensor, shooting 1080p video, and stills the sunglasses actually looks pretty cool. The camera comes with 3 interchangeable lens and most importantly it is polarized. It also comes with a micro usb cable that allows you charge it as well as transfer the data to your computer.
They come in 4 different frames style. I one I tried was the Moab(good for wide face). It’s comfortable to wear and easy to operate. With the built in 8gb of memory, they tell me it records up to 75minutes of video. I gave it try while I was kayak fishing and it worked quite well.
It is not a 170 degree wide angle like most POV cameras. It’s narrow scope and gives you a more realistic perspective.
Here is the youtube video I made so you can be the judge if it is for you.
• Brilliant 1080p HD Video & Audio Recording
• 8MP image Sensor
• Four Focus Options: Auto, Fixed, Continuous, Macro
• 8GB on-board Memory
• 2GB SDRAM
• Still Image Capture During Video
• Burst Still Image Capture
• Exposure & ISO Settings
• Time Lapse Settings
• Ultra Light Weight Impact – Resistant Frames
• Black & White Video/ Photo Settings
• Polarized, Revo, and Photochromic lenses
• Simple to use – Easy to Share
• Numerous Control Setting Options
• Control Setting Software for MAC, PC, IOS with optional Air Pivothead
• View and Transfer files wirelessly on all mobile devices with Air Pivothead WIFI Drive accessory
• 4 Models, 15 styles
Quick Sony Action Camera review:
This is a quick review of the Sony Action Camera WiFi model. I’ve read the reviews on Amazon and like the fact that the fisheye effect is minimal and that it can do 120fps in 720P mode. I like the fact that the WiFi is built in and I can use my smart phone to frame my shots, download clips, and quickly edit them and upload to youtube without the need for a computer.
I will not be doing a GoPro comparison since I do not own a GoPro. This camera has it’s own pros and cons and you can decide on your own if they are deal breakers. You can see the 1080p video in this review and decide for yourself if you like it better than the GoPro.
The camera itself is pretty tiny as you can see from the pictures. It comes with a USB cable but no charger. You can charge it with most Android device charger since the camera uses micro usb port or just use the usb cable with your Iphone charger. I was able to charge it using my Newtrent portable battery charger also. Unfortunately, you can’t use the camera while it is charging. Full charging from completely drain battery takes 3 hours.
It comes with one flat adhesive mount, one curved surface mount, and a waterproof case. Headband is an additional $25 and headband with waterproof is $30. This is just one of those afterthought that a product engineer did not account for.
The advantage to the non waterproof headband is that the audio captured is not muffled since the camera is not in it’s waterproof housing. You can hear the difference in the video when the camera is mounted in it’s waterproof housing.
I did not get a chance to test the 120fps since I was more interested in the everyday 1080p 30fps footage. This is my first POV camera and I wanted to see how shaky the footage is when I am fishing and not mindful of the camera. I also wanted to see how sharp the video is in bright daylight once blown up on my Samsung 55 inch LED.
The waterproof mount accepts standard screw in tripod mount or you can slide it on to one of the adhesive mount. The camera does however, get pretty hot in the sun inside the waterproof mount.
The headband needs a redesign. It has no horizontal adjustment and more importantly, no angle up or down adjustment. I find that in real life use, the camera is aiming too high and the horizon is not centered.
The unedited and edited 1080p footage using Sony Vegas is pretty sharp. It is no match for a Canon HFS 10 but it is probably on par with most high end smart phones. In 1080p mode, I was able to record about 90 minutes of non continuous video or 10 GB of video before the battery died. So for continuous shooting, it should last 2 hours as advertised. You will still needs to carry an extra battery since you can’t power it externally while shooting.
Overall I like the camera but I do hope they will redesign the headband. The WiFi feature works as advertised but you won’t be using it much during real shooting if you are out fishing. It does come in handy for watching your footage afterward without the need to wait and come home an unload the clips on your computer. This way you can see if you nailed that last recording or missed it entirely. Plus your buddy can download the same clip right there with you without having to wait.
The camera sells on Amazon.com at $270.00 for the kit.
I had a chance to attend ICAST 2012 this year and spend quite a bit of time with G Loomis and Shimano, going over the new products they are releasing. Being the fly fanatic I am, the one thing that caught my eye and most of my attention was finally being able to get my hands on the new G Loomis NRX Pro-1 fly rods.
The first thing I noticed about the rod is that it is incredible light weight. I did not have a scale to weight them side by side with the competitors but to the naked hand, the NRX Pro1 felt like they were the lightest 1 piece fly rods in their class. So I picked up a 10 weight NRX Pro1 and put my Nautilus NVG9 with Airflo line on it and went off to the casting pond. We spent hours casting both the 10wt and 12wt NRX at the casting pond in the convention center. We casted the NRX next to another brand’s 1 piece rod side by side, using different lines, mixing and matching between SA and Airflo lines with different tapers, between Abel and Nautilus reels for weight at the rear of the rod. We threw long shots, short shots, accuracy challenged shots into a hoola hoop set out 75ft away, and had multitudes of fly casters with different casting styles throwing the rods.
Here is my initial assessment without having been able to use the NRX Pro-1 in the field yet:
I can’t speak for anybody else’s feedback but here is my feedback based on my casting style and need. Both NRX Pro1 rods I casted were easy to cast and was able to match an aggressive or progressive cast, making them very forgiving. These are definitely fast action tip flex rods, but have enough flex to load line quickly for short accurate casts as well as load the line into the blank for that long bomb. They seem to pack a lot of ass to punch into the wind but I can not comment on that characteristic until I have fished one in the field. The NRX Pro-1 rods seem to load and cast better with your heavier taper lines such as the Airflo Ridge or Scientific Anglers Tarpon Taper.
Light weight and strength
Because of NRX Pro1′s light weight, I was able to cast them over and over without feeling much fatigue. This is a great plus when having those days when you are casting at hoards of stubborn oceanside tarpon. Speaking of tarpon, one question in every tarpon fisherman’s mind is the rods breaking strength. For years, I have fished the Crosscurrent Pro-1 and fell in love with the way you can high stick a fish or pull on a fish with all you have without having broken a single rod. I asked G Loomis’ Steve Rajeff about the new NRX Pro-1′s breaking strength in comparison to the Crosscurrent Pro-1 and he mentioned that the breaking tolerances for the NRX Pro-1 are the same, if not stronger then that of the Crosscurrent Pro-1. Knowing this, could the NRX possibly be the next generation of tarpon stick for guides seeking a 1 piece fly rod?
The G Loomis NRX Pro-1 comes in either a choice of the original NRX matte blank and blue wrap or a much more discreet clear coated dark green blank with black wraps. Warranty for the NRX Pro-1 is the same as the NRX: There is a 1 time wildcard unconditional replacement but afterwards, regular warranty (as with the other G Loomis brand rods) applies. The NRX Pro-1 will come in sizes from 8wt to 12wt and retail is expected to be about $100 less then it’s 4 piece NRX counterpart. As an additional plus, all rods and blanks are made and inspected in America for the highest quality.
For more information from the manufacturer, check out the following link:
I should have these rods in the field this coming Fall. So stay tuned for the full low down.
This is a test for the Tempo Batteryless acoustic amplifier for Iphone 4/4s. I bought this baby online for $7.00 for those times when I want my iphone to be a little louder.
It’s basically a rubberize unit with iphone mount that amplifies the audio. It does have a charger holes so can charge while you use the unit as well. I’m thinking alarm close usage.
I used a sound meter to do the test via video bellow. The results is pretty good actually. 91.1 db just the iphone alone and with the unit we got 104 db over 10db gain in loudness.
The only draw back is that you can’t use when you have case on. It just does not fit properly.
Here’s the linke to get it for $7.00.
Dark skies and rain storms looming overhead has been the norm this year, making it a very challenging tarpon season. The few days of sun light have brought forth some good fishing, but those days are few. Yet, we stay persistant and make due with what we have; hiding under bridges in between storms, trying to establish our place in the lanes in a way too crowded town, and making use of all the new technology we have available to us today. We’ve spent this year shooting more videos then stills so stay tuned and we should have a teaser up shortly.
There is no telling what tarpon season will bring… high winds, nasty seas, rain, etc. There isn’t much you can do when there is no light but establish yourself on one of the few white spots or attempt to dredge a poon from the depths. When light is decent and winds kick up, seas get real rough and that is where sitting on an anchor is the only way to go. I used to dread having to run from spot to spot with the anchor banging up the inside of my hatches but this year, I found a cool product that protects the inside of my hatches from the anchor jumping around as well as helps conserve space. Similar to the concept of a fly reel with a reel pouch… www.anchorsuit.com
Until next time… we will still brave these storms and try to bring you more tarpon porn.
Been playing with new ways to present pictures to friends/clients and came across a pretty cool feature in the photo editor I use – Aperture 3. The software allows you to select a number of photos and then include them in “book” format. The intention is for you to arrange your photos to form a coffee table book or a book to share with family (I’m actually considering doing a coffee table book for the house with some fishing pics). Coffee table material aside, I think the “book” layout is pretty cool just for one single photo assortment. You can document a day’s worth of fishing on one big photo collage…just chose several photos and click “new book”. You can tweak the size of each photo and color the background however you want. You can also use the borders fx plugin to add text without going into photoshop. I used it to give a friend of mine some ideas on a new flyer for his charter business…they’ve got tons of letter fonts to chose from. You could potentially arrange flyers, business cards, or whatever with your photos and designs without having to fork out a bunch of cash. Anyway, hope this is useful for somebody out there. I’ve had fun messing around with it.
January Redfish Trip
Summer Grass Flat Fishing
Random Georgetown Pics