Extend the season of fly fishing on the coast or add a new dimension to your fishing in lakes. Fishing from a belly boat can truly be amazing. Here is a guide on how you get started and a review of two top of the market belly boats if you want to start taking belly boat fishing seriously. I have got the opportunity to try the Fish Cat Commander and Outcast Scout for 6 months.They are light and easy to store. For me, a belly boat is used for two completely different reasons when used in fresh and when used in the sea. Here I will cover why.
It is obvious when and where a belly boat will help you in a lake. No matter if the lake is big or small the real benefit is that you can reach the middle of the lake, get rid of the trees behind you and to fish a sinking line in a better way. Depending on the size of the lake it might not be necessary to have a boat of this size even though it is sure will help you cover the water more convenient. You can fish more like you do from a normal boat when a move of one or two hundred meters is not an effort at all. You approach the fish silently and with a low profile so don't be surprised if the fish appear very close to you.
With a belly boat of this size, you can reach new waters from what you have been fishing before. Normally there is no problem catching the sea trout from the shore because they go so ridiculously shallow sometimes. With a belly boat you can, of course, catch sea trout on the coast deeper outside edges which have been perfect along the lime rock structures of Gotland when they sometimes are found further out. What I have really found them useful for is the shoulder seasons, meaning in early spring in difficult places for wading and in late season when the fish goes further out. You can also do much more with dealing with wind. You can both fish much bigger waves and much calmer conditions than from shore. When I am wade fishing there is often just small places and pockets I’m interested in fishing and then there is a distance to travel to the next one, but with a belly boat, you may be able to fish even if the surface is dead flat or if the wind is really pounding on a spot, it can still hold fish. I have found it way more comfortable sitting in a belly boat like this outside where the waves are breaking than standing in the shallows and see the waves splashing on your face. On a day at the coast, this is a compliment for me where I might fish one or two spots from the belly boat and one place from the shore where the conditions are really good. This has led to that I don’t have to drive as much as I'm used to when only searching for good areas for wade fishing.
I have a little bit longer rod when fishing like this because you are sitting down. This is of course not required but rods I can recommend is Vision XO 10' #7 and Vision ONKI 10' #7 Due to you are fishing deeper you can here use other lines than the floating or slow intermediate line I usually recommend when fishing from the shore.
This fishing is fun until something happens unless you are prepared for it. Some people find it strange that there is no longer any kind of seat belt on the belly boats like there use to be in very old versions. If a belly boat flips around you do not want to be stuck underneath. I make sure always to have lifejacket of some sort and to have someone in a company that can help you is an extra aid in terms of safety. There is a huge room behind you to store things in these boats which is well above the surface. It is perfect to store a waterproof bag of extra clothes, cellphone, camera, snacks and water. After that you are set to go. Both models have separate air compartments for the seat and the outer ring so if one starts leaking you are still afloat. It happened a couple of times during the test period that I hit the fly into the belly boat when casting and even though it collided with great speed, nothing happened. I have never experienced any problems with current in these boats. I have been pike fishing in the Vindel river where I have been rowing upstream in slow-moving stream facing a wind of 10 meters per second and had no problem doing so. Of course, there is a risk that something can happen out there and when I am out on the sea I make sure that I have plenty of water with me and a waterproof bag with some essentials such as extra clothes and some snacks. Then I can survive out on the sea for days if I get lost or get hooked up with the very big fish.
Compared to other belly boats
As you can see in the picture above there is quite a big size difference compared to a normal belly boat. When you are rowing in circles around its smaller competitors you realize the difference in speed. Me and Jerome have of course been racing the commander against the scout and they are pretty much the same when it comes to speed, it is hard to get away from the other person. Both these belly boats row so effortless and have very little friction to the water. The oars are the same for both models and we have moved up to three kilometers at one time to reach a fishing spot. I have found it most effective with short oar-pulls that are very frequent but with very little effort. If you start to really reach for long oar strokes like you do with a normal boat you will increase the friction of the water and with more power application just dig it down in the water, you will still move forward in about the same speed but use unnecessary energy.
The commander is a longer model with a closed circle you are sitting inside. This makes it very good in windy conditions and to keep an angle in the wind while fishing. You sit on an adjustable stool that sits very stable on a large floating compartment, so you sit quite high above the water. You have plenty of room behind you for storage and this area stays above the surface too. This is the best of the two if you are very tall. I would recommend this model if you are 185 cm or longer. You can adjust the seat and the foot supports on this model. It comes with a line basket that I prefer taking it away when moving a long distance.
Shorter but wider model. The main air compartment has a U shape with a metal stick in front of you where you sit for foot support and to keep the air compartments at the right distance from each other. You sit on an adjustable stool that sits very stable on a large floating compartment, so you sit very high above the water. You have enough space behind you for storage and this area stays above the surface too. This is the best if you want to have everything within reach. I am 183 cm long and this belly boat works perfectly for me. For a longer person, this model might feel tight if you want to have your legs resting on the metal stick in front when rowing. It comes with a line basket that I prefer taking it away when moving a long distance.
+ Sits higher above the water
+ Great storage pocket on the side
+ Easy to add a small anchor
The next thing would be to add a sonar to be able to see the fish. I know that a Hummingbird Helix 5 works perfectly on a belly boat like this one.
Hope you found this blog post inspiring. Here is a link to Jerome Saunders text in the Swedish magazine Fly Only about coastal belly boat fishing that also was inspired by this testing period.
Thank you to Fly Dressing for supporting me to take my fly fishing on the coast and in lakes to the next level by borrowing these boats for such a long time!
I caught a farmed fish the other day that I took home for dinner. In my fishing, I'm very selective about what fish I keep and mostly do catch and release. This fish has made a longer trip on open water because there is only a natural population of sea trout on Gotland that we need to be careful with! Read More...