Grayling, Mich. Three summers ago I lent someone my belly boat. I can't remember who for the life of me, so I decided it's time to replace it.
For the uninitiated, a belly boat is an inner tube with a cloth seat in the middle where the angler sits with legs dangling in the water. Some have backrests, gear pockets and even an electric trolling motor mount (no fooling).
I was fishing for steelhead at Flat Rock (and catching suckers) when another angler said he bought an eight-foot catamaran with inflatable hulls and a seat mounted on a pipe frame between them.
The boat is called a cataraft. The angler sits with his legs above the water and rows with oars mounted on the frame. When he wants to wade, he simply steps down between the hulls. And the whole rig weighs only 45 pounds, easily portable by one person.
I'd always been intrigued by these little boats but balked at the $500-plus cost. Then the fisherman said he got his in a closeout sale at a tackle shop, and 30 minutes later I was $275 poorer and the owner of the last Creek Co. ODC-816 inflatable in the store.
It has proven to be one of the best bargains ever, even if I had paid the list price of $499.
The ODC-816 came in pieces but was assembled in 30 minutes without tools. The package includes a big, double-action pump that works on both the up and down strokes and inflates each eight-foot-long, 18-inch diameter hull in minutes.
The best thing is how it performs. It rows better than aluminum boats, and the rocker bows and sterns let it turn on a dime. It moves well even into strong winds and rides foot-high rapids so well that I'm eager to try bigger stuff.