Why Build a GRP Fly Bridge.
If you can afford to buy a
boat with all the features then this probably isn’t a job you need to do as
its messy, smelly and bloody hard work. This is for the person whose budget
is on the smaller side and where you have the time or can make the time, or
just want to see if you can do it yourself. In my experience building a Fly
Bridge was very time consuming and a real pain but hugely satisfying. I am
pleased with the outcome.
I will try to explain why I
needed a Fly Bridge, basically experience told us all we should have one.
Now the new Merryfishers and Parker have cabins, but you cant see round
easily and there's more windage. I will start at the beginning. Maybe it is just me but
I like to ‘pigeon-hole’ most things to give me reference points and
I believe many boat anglers I know or have met over the years fall into one
of three categories. The thing we all have in common is we want to catch
fish and enjoy the outdoor life. These are the three categories that I hope
you will recognise.
There are those that want to try Boat Fishing to catch more fish, but
can’t afford a boat. This group will initially start on the beach or
join a club or a group of mates that will book a charter boat. Charter boats
are STILL the CHEAPEST way to fish from a boat trust me!
Then there are those like me that want to have their own boat but had a restricted budget and still
go on the occasional charter boat or beach
Then there are those that have done group 1, done Group 2 and are now
in group 3 like me, taking out anglers in a 10 meter catamaran.
I wonder how many will go
through the progression in the above order? I used to be in the first group
starting down on the local beach (1 mile away) and then joined a works club.
Within the club I wanted to do the lot and in the end I had, having been
Secretary and ‘Boat Commodore’. I fished from the local beach’s and did well
holding the Wessex Starry Smoothound Record for about 10 years and could
include a double figure Cod on my beach PB list too. However I always wanted
to get out further and catch bigger and better fish. As Boat Commodore I
used to organise 2 charter boats a month to stage competitions for the
British Telecom Club (Southampton Telephones Area Angling Club). We had our
own freshwater section (we rented a 4 acre lake) and a beach and boat
section. I was secretary for a while too but the Boat Commodore job became
hard work and at times I was not far off ‘press-ganging’ anglers to come
along when the weather looked iffy. I did have a small boat during this
time, a Mayland 13, but I mainly did the Charter Boat trips.
I then moved into the
second group, fishing more often from my own boat but still going on the
occasional charter trip. My first ‘big’ boat was an old traditional
‘Aquastar 20’ built in Guernsey and bought locally
for £1750, it was about 30 years old and had osmosis in the hull, but still
sound. It was very slow and rolled like a pig, but it looked like a small
charter boat. I loved it. To look at mainly and to sit on the mooring having
a cup of tea; you could even steer by tiller while sat on the stern,
occasionally that was the best thing since sliced bread only sometimes you
felt like getting out and swimming to speed up the trip! I needed some
My first ‘fast boat’ was a
2 year old 17’ Wilson Flyer with a 60HP Evinrude which incidentally
literally fell to bits on its 10th anniversary. I bought it for
£2225. I had her for 11 years, replacing the Evinrude with a 50hp 4
stroke Yamaha. In my opinion the Wilson is an excellent starter boat. I sold
her for £3350. Not bad when she gave me 11 years of good fishing. I
can remember the sale very well as it was an emotional moment when she left Ashlett Creek with her new owner steering her down the channel. It got to me
with a lump in the throat, now don’t ask me why ‘cos I did not expect it or
really understand it. I discovered during that time that the benefit of a
fast boat is that you can get out and back, fast, so your options are
massively improved. However in a 17’ ‘Dory’ you need good weather to feel
really comfortable if you go any distance offshore and even then the
‘freeboard’ (gunnel height) is not that great for tall anglers like myself.
By the way the main reason I sold her was because it was time and a failed
attempt at pinching my boat from the moorings was I guess, a bit like
having your house burgled.
After that I listened to
other more experienced ‘dinghy’ owners and discovered one way to obtain a
‘good’ competitive angling boat, which is sturdier, more comfortable and can
easily take on worse weather and sea conditions, was to buy ‘old’.
Surprisingly I could still keep within my £2500 to £3400 budget. Basically
you need to opt for a 25 year old ‘family cruiser’ type boat and throw out
all the fancy bits. You then add all the necessary items to make it
comfortable and practical for angling.
In my neck of the woods one
of those typical boats used to be the 18’ Teal, as once owned by John Skeggs
(Skipper Last Laugh) and Ray Barron (best boat angler in the world?
probably). More recently it is the Shetland 570, a choice made some time
ago, by Malcolm (Dink) Lemoignan, (Top Solent Dinghy Angler) seems to be the
value angling boat. Dink has stayed with his Shetland 570 ‘Maestro’ for more
than 5 years and since then many followed. I had mine
for 7 years and Tommo for more. Now getting back to the
point, I would have been completely satisfied but used to get cold and wet
due to the lack of protection that would be offered by a ‘Fly Bridge’. I
certainly used to get very cold in the winter. Out of interest Dink Lemoignan fitted a Wilson Flyer ‘Fly Bridge’ to his 570 and Tommo built his
own from scratch, which gave me the impetus to ‘copy’.
These types of boats seldom
and rarely come with a ‘Fly Bridge’. I don’t actually know why we call it a
‘Fly Bridge’ as it is not really the same thing as found on a ‘Gin Palace’
where the boat can be driven from a second helm position. What we term a Fly
Bridge is a protective screen with a top which will take most of the wind,
rain and wash keeping the skipper and crew warmer and dryer but still
enables an unrestricted view of what is in front of you if you look around
the ‘Fly Bridge’, so it has similarities.
Therefore a Fly Bridge is a
‘nice to have’ addition fitted to a family cruiser type boat. During the
summer it is not really necessary but it definitely is very nice to have in
the winter when some argue the fishing is better. You can also benefit with
a Fly Bridge when compared to steering from within a ‘Wheelhouse’ by being
able to look around the screen so that you get perfect vision when
navigating in the dark or rain. Sitting and steering from within a
wheelhouse can be tricky in the dark, even with wipers fitted. Now we have
the real problem as an ‘off-the-shelf’ product does not exist. So the next
step is to consider building a customised mould for a GRP Fly Bridge as it
must fit your chosen boat. Here I explain
how I built mine, with all
costs, labour hours, details and photographs included. You never know it may
help someone you know one day.
to Small Boats Index