A new skiff line for the northern rockies

Round Up: Boulder Boat Works

While tinkering around in his shop, Andy Toohey, a master carpenter and an avid Colorado-based angler, started pondering the history of wood boat building and designs, experimenting with different materials and styles. He found that building a hull out of polymer could provide the look and feel of a wood boat and provide durability, but without the required maintenance. After working with this idea and building a boat from this new innovative design, Boulder Boat Works was formed.

The company changed hands in 2017 and relocated from Longmont to Carbondale, Colorado, where the new owners, Shaun Hargrave and Trevor Hanson, have used the opportunity to build on the rich history and solid craftsmanship that was originally instilled by Toohey. This is displayed in the launch of a new skiff profile featured on a lineup of boats that are designed specifically for rivers in the Northern Rockies. Here, Hargrave explains why they are so well suited.

BSJ: What makes your boats unique?

Hargrave: Ours are the only boats on the market that use an innovative polymer hull. As per Joe Sowerby, of Montana Fly Fishing Connection [MFFC] in Missoula, there is no other material on the market that’s better suited to run Montana rivers. Because it’s buoyant yet slippery on rocks, this enables it to move easily over rock and gravel bars as you fish your way down the river. MFFC outfits on rivers all over the state, including the Smith River, which can be notoriously boney. Boulder Boats bridge the gap between innovative technology in the hull performance and a throwback aesthetic with clean lines and wood accents as a tip of the cap to the roots of river boats. Also, the durability of the polymer hull equates to minimal downstream maintenance costs and a boat that will last significantly longer than your standard fiberglass one. This means that the total cost of ownership is significantly less than that of another boat.

BSJ: What’s your underlying mission?

Hargrave: We are committed to building boats that offer more durability, more beauty, and more innovation.

BSJ: Is there a common thread among all of your boat designs?

Hargrave: Our common thread is the polymer, which is not used anywhere else in the industry. It’s as durable and lightweight as they come, and it also allows us to put our own spin on our products by meshing it with wood that gives the boats a beautiful touch.

BSJ: What are some of your other signature touches?

Hargrave: We produce all our own parts here in the shop, which allows our customers to have a boat built that is directly in line with their specific wants and needs. And with in-house production, customers can be sure that all parts are crafted with the same level of detail and care that would be expected in a custom boat.

BSJ: What boats are best suited for rivers in the Northern Rockies?

Hargrave: We just launched a skiff profile that’s perfect for many of the rivers in Montana and the rest of the Northern Rockies. It’s a 16-foot boat with a long, lean wetline. It only drafts about 4 inches of water and is made out of the classic Boulder Boat polymer hull, which allows access to the skinniest lines in the river, quietly slipping over any rocks. Lower sidewalls and a mellow rocker profile help to mitigate strong winds. We also have a low-profile boat with more of the traditional dory look that has been a stalwart of our lineup and has historically been our best-seller across Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It has a narrower profile and more rocker that really excels anywhere you might be dodging boulders and weaving through tight spaces.

BSJ: How can someone customize a boat?

Hargrave: The best way for someone to purchase one of our boats is to give us a call here at the shop. There are many factors that go into which boat will be right for each person, and it’s important to us that we get to know who is going to be in one of our boats. This allows us to really dive into the different features and configurations for the first-time drift boat owner and the professional guide alike. We also have local representation in Missoula, Ennis, and Bozeman.

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