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Au Sable river boat, next project

Au Sable river boat, next project
September 04, 2017 01:21PM
I'm a ways off from making this, but might start drawing it up this winter. Get the materials sourced and scarf the ply wood

These are AuSable river boats, loggers used these to transport tools , supplies, etc. Now they are the perfect fishing vessel for the upper AuSable.

22-24 feet long, 28"-30" wide at the floor. Low sided, fish sitting down in a comfortable chair. these are mostly flat bottomed until you get to the minimally rockered ends.

Peculiar looking at first because of how long and thin they are, but beautiful boats.

Guides use a pole to steer these, but will paddle when they want to scoot through areas that aren't any good for fishing

So! I want to do this in all plywood and cover it in some glass. At this long length, what thickness would be smart for the bottom and sides? Such a long boat creates alot of leverage I assume, how would you guys reinforce it if it needs it?.

Actually looks like a simple build since its do straight and flat.

Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
September 04, 2017 01:22PM
Another pic

Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
September 05, 2017 01:00PM
Should be a fun project. I don't see oars. Do you paddle those boats when not polling them? Ah ok. Yes.
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
September 05, 2017 06:49PM
Here's a Sami river boat from Finland Sweden or Norway. Somewhere up that way.

Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
September 11, 2017 07:01PM
I’ve built one. Guided out of it on the Manistee and Au Sable before I left Michigan. Much simpler build than a drift boat.

Sides and bottom are typically ¼” ply. The “normal” way to do it is a 24” wide bottom and 12” sides. This way you can build the entire hull from of 3 sheets of plywood. After scarfing and bending the overall length will be just under 23’. I believe the boat pictured has a 30” wide bottom, which obviously requires more plywood but, has some advantages, especially if a guide will be regularly fishing two clients.

Typically only the outside is glassed on plywood boats. The structure is the front seat/live well, the ribs (which on the boat pictured are notched to hold rods), a chine strip, and the gunnels. It’s rigid when assembled.

Every boat is a little different depending on the builder. The rake of the sides and profile of the sterns vary considerably. I never found the square stern all that useful. If I had it to do over I’d build pointed at both ends, which was the traditional way before outboards.

You may find this interesting.


Operation will sound strange to a Montana guy. The big fish are nocturnal. We mostly fish after dark, putting in a dusk and fishing until well after midnight. No lights so you go real slow because you can’t see too good. You drag a substantial chain or widow weights to slow the boat in the current. The paddle/pole is more steering than propulsion. All this would lead to disaster on the Yellowstone.

We will also sometimes pole the boats upstream a few miles instead of ferrying cars. The narrower 24” bottom boats are better for poling upstream. Motors are only used in the deeper lower sections of the rivers above dams.
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
September 12, 2017 06:52PM
RDF, thanks so much, good info!!
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
January 18, 2021 06:09PM
It sounds like you have some experience with these. I just saw one of these on a Sage youtube video and got thinking (usually a bad idea for a boat builder). I like the idea of a jet boat but hate the big motors. I've been thinking about the idea of a long skinny boat to get around and not needing 90hp hanging off the back.

You mentioned a motor, do guys ever use them for motoring upstream? What size of motor is common for them?
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
January 19, 2021 12:13AM
The smallest outboard you can find.

These days, most people use an electric trolling motor. The rivers these boats originated on are slow and shallow. A 50 lbs. thrust will push them upstream pretty good. Gas, where still allowed, needs to be no more than 2 hp. Those old "cruz and carry" air cooled things or the smallest Yamaha "bush plane" two stoke are perfect. Think of it as an oversized canoe. It doesn't want to get up on plane, and when it does, it is squirrely.

The upper Manistee and Au Sable are difficult to motor up without hitting submerged logs and shallow spots with the prop. Some sort of prop guard is a good idea. For the most part, I think the Natural Rivers Act has essentially outlawed motoring upstream with gas. It still can be done on the lower sections.

The traditional way, before outboards, was to push pole upstream, not unlike a flats skiff.

Hope this helps. RyanF is the same person as RDF. Lost my log in...
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
January 20, 2021 12:19AM
Thanks Ryan, appreciate the feedback.
I'm not near the Manistee or Au Sable but would love to fish em one day. Bow river Alberta is my haunt, slightly larger river I believe.
Good point about being a displacement hull, I should talk to someone who has ran an outboard canoe on the river and see what they are using for HP.
Love the look of these Au Sable boats though!
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
January 20, 2021 02:50AM
A local Bozeman lawyer paid a handsome some for a beautifully hand made Au Sable river boat 35 years ago. That boat got pinned on a rock and split in half on its maiden voyage in Big Hole Canyon, in early Summer high water. This was big news to a young drift boat builder who was me back then. I knew that lawyer and felt badly for him. I did pay attention to the story.

That unfortunate event may probably had a lot to do with inexperienced rowing too. But I think it's also important to keep in mind the Au Sable (and also what little I know about the Bow) are mostly flat gentle rivers.

Fast water rock gardens with sharp turns are not good places for long skinny boats For water like what they were designed for they are highly tuned not rods that zoom up and down quickly, with minimal effort. But the minute sharp turns (away from certain danger) are part of the equation they're best left at home.
Re: Au Sable river boat, next project
February 05, 2021 09:21PM
I guess I can see it hauling logs down river but of all the possible hulls for fishing, there has to got to be a better choice.
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