By Jessica McGlothlin Explorebigsky.com contributor
HELENA – Drive along a Montana river, and look at the drift boats. Odds are high you’ll see several with a distinctive low, flat shape.
Odds are even higher you’ll see the name “Adipose” tattooed on the skiff’s bow.
Adipose Boatworks, based in Helena, is on a mission to perfect the fly fishing skiff. The Flow, their signature model, is the creation of avid steelhead angler and Adipose co-owner Tracy Allen, who started building drift boats in the early 90’s. Allen’s blend of design intelligence, simplicity and technology allows Adipose to provide arguably some of the best drift boats on the market.
Allen teamed with fellow angler Mike Ward to found Adipose Boatworks in 2009, with the goal of producing the best drift boats on the market. Less than a year later, the Flow skiff made its way onto the fly fishing scene.
For the many guides who spend their days rowing boats down the river, the Flow has made those long days easier. With low sides to minimize the impact of wind and a minimalistic layout, the Flow allows for ease of rowing, and therefore, fishing.
The model boasts a 15-foot-4-inch centerline, 58-inch bottom and a 74-inch beam at the oarlocks, making it one of the largest skiffs on the market today. This ensures the boat is stable and easy to row, even during inclement weather days on the water. Interior space is maximized, providing comfort for anglers and allowing them to bring along even more fishing gear.
A common question Adipose hears is whether the boat is a skiff or a drift boat. While the crafts are technically skiffs when judged by shape alone, with stability and safety features, they function as full-on drift boats.
They’re built from high-grade biaxial fiberglass cloth, both hand-laid and vacuum bagged. This process affords the boats both strength and stiffness while retaining a light, easy feel on the water. All Adipose boats are made in the Helena factory, which is open to the public.
The handcrafted approach allows the Adipose team to fit boats for each customer and, for anglers who don’t want to float under the radar, customized wraps allow for a splash of color and a one-of-a-kind look on the river. Adipose typically offers three stock boat colors, but anglers are encouraged to bring in a paint chip with a color they like, and the team can take it from there.
Custom oars, trailers, seating and logo work can be fitted to the boats, and the team takes pride in working with each customer to create the dory of their dreams. This spring, Adipose has customized their logo decals, which appear on each boat, in a variety of fish patterns – from a tarpon to a brown trout.
Adipose purchased South Fork Skiff – whose boats are known for their ability to carry three people in a mere three inches of water – in the summer of 2011 and plans to start reviving the boats this coming winter. The molds have been sitting in Bozeman, and the Adipose team is ready to bring these legendary boats back to life.
Montana has long been a state of ingenuity. And when creativity melds with the fly fishing lifestyle, new businesses – and boats – are born.