by Chris Ogborne. Originally posted by Hardy Fly Fishing at fly.hardyfishing.com.
I’ve always believed that there is very little that is truly ‘new’ in fishing. So many new flies or methods or items of tackle are little more than variations on an established theme, with a tweak or modification that supposedly gives them the right to be called ‘new’. But recently I’ve been completely bowled over by a Kayak that has just come onto the market with so many radical design features that it’s going to revolutionise how we think about this area of the sport.
Strong words, you might think. I too was a little sceptical when I first saw the pictures of the NuCanoe Frontier. On first impressions, after a very superficial look at their catalogue and website, I thought it looked pretty much like any other Kayak on the market. But after just a little time talking to James Wood, one of the enthusiastic owners of the newly formed UK business Crafty Paddle Ltd who import the Frontier, I realised that there was a whole lot more to it. Then when I actually saw the boat for the first time I began to understand what all the fuss was about: it IS new, and it CAN do things that other boats cannot and it DOES perform better than any Kayak I’ve yet seen or tried!
It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to listing the features but let’s kick off with size: at 12 feet the Frontier isn’t the biggest boat on the market, as many are in the 12 to 15 foot region. There are two key things you need to look at when you go kayaking – straight line speed and stability. When you take a stroke with the paddle the bows will invariably move off-line to the left or right – it’s a simple fact of life in the sport and it’s called tracking. Usually, the longer the boat the better the tracking and any extra width (which is good for stability) means some level of sacrifice in speed. It is, quite simply, a compromise.
With the Frontier, you get that elusive ‘best of both worlds’. At 12 feet the boat is just right for all fishing styles and is remarkably easy to bring up to speed, even with two people on board. This is largely due to the unique hull design which in laymans terms is a bit like a cathedral hull in miniature. There’s a pronounced bow and stern line and whilst the main hull area is conventionally flat there are four ‘cuts’ that run the length of the boat – hence the hint at cathedral design. The actual width is a full metre, which is at least six inches (in old money) wider than most Kayaks and this accounts for the amazing stability. I was quite literally gobsmacked when I first saw this demonstrated. James Woods was showing me the boat on the lower lake at Longleat and he didn’t need any help in getting aboard. I thought he’d need to do the usual things like wading into the water, holding onto each side, positioning himself above the boat before gingerly lowering in, but not a bit of it. He just stepped in, straight off the bank! It was the most incredible moment and completely sold me on the boat there and then.
On the stability front, there was more to come. You can sit on the side of the boat with your legs in the water with total confidence – you just know that there is not the slightest chance of a tip-up. You can stand up to cast, something you wouldn’t dream of doing in 90% of kayaks. You can kneel in the boat, or turn around to get something from the storage areas in the stern – actions that would normally result in a potential dunking. The stability is simply off the scale, to the extent that you fish from the boat with total, absolute confidence all the time and in almost any conditions.
And all this stability comes without any sacrifice in straight line speed or tracking. For my saltwater sport here in Cornwall this is crucial as the boat has to be able to stand up to a high degree of variation in conditions. We fish in waves off the beach, flat water in the salt marshes and a fair amount of flow in the estuary – all of this is handled with consummate ease.
Perhaps the most revolutionary feature of the Frontier is inside and it comes in the seating system. Unlike conventional boats where the seats are on the floor, here they are raised almost six inches above it. Two parallel tracks run the length of the middle boat area and these allow you position the seat (or seats) exactly where you want them. In single format you simply balance the boat to suit your style, whilst with two seats fitted you can share the fishing with a friend or teach a youngster with ease. There are several seat options but by far the best are the high back swivels, which are well padded and supremely comfortable, as well as allowing you 360 degrees of fishing. Fitting or detaching the seats takes less than a minute and even a DIY luddite like me can do it without fuss.
But by far the best thing about the seat system is that you stay DRY! All kayaks have drain holes for safety, and most will get a fair amount of water inside them during even a short trip. Normally this water gets into everything – it’s just an accepted fact of life. But not with the Frontier. Because your seat is so far above the deck level you stay warm and dry throughout. This marginal extra height means that you also have the benefit of extra visibility which can be vital when it comes to spotting fish or surface movement. So simple but so, so effective
The seat tracks also allow you to fit a multitude of options, meaning that you personalise the boat to your own taste. There is a tailor-made electrics bar for fish finder, compass, and VHF. Then there is a collapsible casting bar, a brilliant option that means you can fly fish whilst standing with total confidence. Storage is also very well catered for, with deep wells and plenty of bag space fore and aft. Attention to detail is a hallmark of the Frontier and you don’t just have rod holders, you have holders for EACH kind of fishing rod – a really thoughtful option. I especially like the port system – the detachable wheels that enable you to ‘port’ the boat along the bank or over sand bars and the like. All such systems I’ve seen in the past are expensive options that are fussy and complex, and don’t work particularly well. As a promotion running at the moment, the wheels with the Frontier are INCLUDED (for a limited time) in the price and work perfectly with a simple click-in feature that is idiot -proof
I could get very carried away by the extras and a little discipline will be needed when you buy! To get the best from the boat I’d certainly recommend a carbon paddle, plus the storage pack that is a real boon when carrying your fishing gear. As with any Kayak there is an options list that goes on forever but for me it’s the boat itself that is the star. I’ve tried literally dozens over the past couple of years and most are flawed in varying degree. Not so the Frontier. I’m not only looking forward to a great season of fishing in it but I’m also looking forward to staying dry! If the weather is like last year, that factor alone makes this the best boat on the market!
If you haven’t tried fishing from a kayak then I urge you to give it a go. It’s an amazing branch of our sport with a totally unique charm. It’s also very friendly on the environment as with no noise or pollution from an engine it makes almost zero intrusion.
The pictures here tell only half of the story – for a first-hand inspection visit the Crafty Paddle stand at the Longleat Fishing and Country show in June for a closer look. It is, quite simply, the definitive fishing kayak.