Out of all the peculiar personality traits I have....and believe me there are many, the one that has probably caused me to exhibit more obsessive behavior over the years, is my fascination with how the tools of whatever activity I happen to be involved in are designed and constructed. For example, when I was a teenager and became infatuated with the electric guitar, it wasn't long before I became interested in luthiery, and taught myself how to build guitars. And although I am light years away from being anything remotely close to a competent luthier, those few guitars I built with my dad back in the mid-1980s set me on a path of borderline obsession with design and construction.
In addition to building guitars, over the past three decades I have found myself involved in many other hands-on aspects of my passions including fly tying, lure making, knife making, gunsmithing, golf club building, and of course all aspects of fishing rod design and construction. More recently I have become fascinated with the art and science of boat building. Much like fishing rod design, boat design and construction is firmly based in equal parts physics, chemistry, mathematics, art and intuition. However, because of the sophisticated nature of the art of boatbuilding along with the expense of tooling and materials, building one's own boat would seem pretty far out of the realm of possibility for most of us, but is that really the case?
Many of you saltwater flyrodders should be familiar with the name Harry Spear. Harry along with a few other captains in the Florida Keys built the archetype in the early 1970s for what would become the modern saltwater fly fishing guide as we know it. After a storied 30 year career as a full-time guide and tournament angler, Harry has more recently has turned his attention to skiff design and construction. Having built many one-off skiffs during his tenure as a guide, the hull designs Harry is now offering under the Spear Boatworks brand are the pinnacle of the evolution of over 40 years of refinement in hull architecture and construction. Additionally, they are recognized by the hardcore, shallow water enthusiast as some of the most effective and efficient technical poling skiffs to ever glide across a flat.
This however is not an article about Harry's boats. What this essay is about are the numerous conversations I have had with Harry over the last two years, and how helpful he has been with all my questions about materials, design, and construction. Often times finding someone that is willing to share hard-earned knowledge of a craft can be as frustrating as learning the craft itself. I know this first hand, as I ran into this mentality several times early on in my rod building career. Fortunately, from the few conversations I have had with Harry, it is apparent that this is clearly not the case with him.
I knew Harry and I would become fast friends when he described a boat as nothing more than a "tool" to accomplish a specific task. I say this, because for 25 years this is EXACTLY how I have approached the design and construction of fishing rods...and flies, and guitars, and guns and knives. Yes, they can be sophisticated, yes they can be beautiful, but at their core, they are a tool designed to perform a specific task and should be designed and built with pure performance above everything else.
Harry is not the first boat builder I have ever dialogued with, but he has been by far the most enthusiastic and forthcoming about all aspects of his craft. So much so that he has recently launched a new youtube channel appropriately called "The Art of Skiff Building" that is designed to help budding boat builders navigate the learning curve of building their own skiff.
Whether I actually take the plunge into the world of boat building remains to be seen, but I can say without a doubt, Harry's generosity with his knowledge and experience has put the process within much closer reach than I ever previously thought possible.
To visit Harry's website click here:
To visit Harry's new youtube channel click here:
To visit a recent podcast with Harry on the Captain's Collective channel click here:
Hope you all have a great week,