Am I looking for two different boats?

Great forum here folks, and some tremendous info!

I need your help, please:

I’m a 5’11" , 200 lb semi-novice canoe paddler ( I have taken the time to learn some proper techniques from those who know…but sometimes struggle with execution of proper strokes, etc…) ; that paddles a mixture of small lakes/ ponds/ and rivers. I love fishing for river smallies from my canoe, often with a flyrod.

I now have an OT Penobscot 16RX boat that serves many purposes, with an extra cane seat mounted just aft of the yoke for solo paddling. However, I’d like a lighter, more nimbly solo craft that still has enough initial stability to fish from, as well as be a good “play boat” in class I and II rapids. I have very, very little experience in the later, but I’d love to start playing on some recreational waters. I’m looking at the Mohawk Solo 14 and the Odyssey 14, and really like the higher bow and stern of the Odyssey, but am unsure of the hull design for initial stability.

I’ve already done the important ground work, such as getting my wife to suggest that I should Keep the Penobscott as a tandem rig, rather than sell it, and learning how to secretly use a double bladed paddle when nobody is looking…:slight_smile:


Haven’t paddled an Odyssey, but I’ve
seen the hull, inverted on a car, and while some tout it as good for easy whitewater, it appears to have too little rocker. If you can afford one, consider the Mad River Freedom Solo, a bit slower on the flats than the Odyssey, but quite stable and nimble too. Lightly loaded, the Freedom Solo may be more stable than your Penobscot 16, but I wouldn’t stand up to fish from either.

If you can tolerate an occasional repair, consider the Millbrook Coho or Souhegan. Designed for poling, quite stable, nimble despite relatively low rocker. Very, very light in S-glass over Kevlar.

My 2 cents

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 4:23 PM EST –

Pretty limited solo canoe experience here, but...

I have stood in the Penobscot to fish. No problem, but it helps that I am a poler. Have stood (briefly) in a MR Freedom Solo with a canoe pole - not nearly as easy, and I wouldn't try fishing that way. But fishing from seated or kneeling shouldn't be a problem.

The Coho (which I have) is very easy to stand in, and it's nimble - especially with some heeling of the boat. The Souhegan, as I understand it, doesn't need to be heeled like the Coho to spin it - and is more lively.

You may not be looking for two boats, but understand that you likely will have to choose between standing to fish and ease of paddling solo (seated). I can solo the Coho with a paddle, but not as well as a narrower boat (like the Freedom/Guide.

Of course, if you *like* to stand, that opens up other opportunities...

And with “playboat” in mind…

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 4:32 PM EST –

...that points more to the Souhegan than the Coho, although I do some surfing with the Coho.

Hey TommyC1! You ever fish from that thing?

2 boats

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 5:04 PM EST –

No whitewater here but if I was in your shoes I'd be looking for 2 separate boats, especially since you say you're looking for something you can play in. One with minimal rocker for flat water and another for whitewater. Since it's mostly flat water here a Bell Magic is my go to boat most of the time and I love it. But I still wanted something a bit more maneuverable for learning and traveling to some rivers with texture.

I've had a Wenonah Vagabond, Bell Yellowstone Solo, and currently a wood strip Osprey to fill that need. None of those boats have a lot of rocker and when reading comments and reviews of them people mention that they paddle well on flat water as well. While it's true that they can be paddled easily enough on flat water it's not nearly as efficient as paddling something like the Magic. I enjoy slowly paddling the Osprey along the shoreline of a lake or slow river but if I need to cover water and get from point A to point B it can get a little frustrating. With sit and switch you're switching sides every couple strokes and if you use something like a J stroke it kills your speed.

So for me it's the Magic when I might need/want to cover some real water (I paddle/fish on some fairly large lakes) and the Osprey if I need the ability to turn in tight quarters or quick maneuvering in moving water.


How “playful” a boat do you need?

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 6:41 PM EST –

I have an Odyssey 14 and like it a lot. It's my favorite all-around canoe. g2d says it doesn't have enough rocker for whitewater and that the Mad River Freedom Solo (it was called the "Guide" ages ago) should be better, and he may be right when it comes to bigger Class-II stuff. Bear in mind that true Class-II whitewater usually has you on the verge of getting swamped a good bit of the time, and maybe that puts things in different perspective, as far as what you really want or need. I can make any turn or hit any eddy I want with the Odyssey 14 in any of the water I've paddled so far, but I don't do the kind of whitewater that many others do. Still, in bigger whitewater my first concern would freeboard rather than maneuverability. I also paddle a Novacraft Supernova, which is more maneuverable in one sense (a fairly squirrely boat that's very eager to turn, much more so than a Freedom Solo), but less maneuverable in another sense (heavy with lots of momentum to overcome when pivoting, and noticeably poorer side-slipping than the Odyssey 14). For typical fast water where there's a need to maneuver a lot, and where maneuvering should be "fun" but the waves are not huge, I'll take the Odyssey 14 every time in preference to the Supernova (which handles big waves extremely well).

Here's something that might help with perspective too. Once I did some goofing around with the Odyssey 14, catching the eddy behind a tree that was stuck in the river in front of our camp, and got a little video of that. The eddy was comfortably long, but was barely wider than the boat at the top end. It was easy to catch the eddy with the Odyssey 14, so easy I didn't even have to heel the hull, but I think that with my Bell Merlin II (which actually has more rocker, at least on paper) I would have struggled mightily to catch this eddy, making a MUCH slower spin (and I'm sure I'd have missed completely some of the time with that boat - I've had more than enough practice with both boats to know how much worse the Merlin II would have been). Anyway, for the sake of "perspective", have a look:

The Odyssey 14 has all the stability you need for fishing (I assume you are not standing up). It's "playfullness" will certainly be a huge step up from a Penobscot 16 paddled solo, but if you are really serious about tougher whitewater and "real" playing, g2d's recommendation for the Mad River Freedom Solo would be a bigger step up, and a real whitewater boat might be even better. For the kinds of really good smallie rivers I've seen so far, this would really be an excellent boat, but of course there are other good choices too.

Side note: J-stroke and speed-killing

– Last Updated: Jul-20-12 12:25 PM EST –

Granted, sit-and-switch is the fastest way to paddle with a single-blade, and it's the only method used by racers, but a J-stroke need not "kill" your speed. Anyone who doesn't paddle "fast enough" with a J-stroke can usually change that by greatly reducing the proportion of the time spent on correction (roughly one-tenth of a second for correction is all it really takes).

Or, just don’t J stroke. I J stroke
only perhaps one stroke in 20. J stroke is needed in tandem, stern, but not for solo boats trimmed level, if the paddler is close to the middle and strokes are starting along the bow, and finishing before the paddle blade passes the hip.

No Solo 14 for Any WW

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 7:43 PM EST –

Funny, I just passed that spot that Guideboatguy linked a little more than 24 hrs ago (LOL)! I've only a few minutes paddle time in an Odyssey, but would agree with Eric's opinion on the boat. I DID own a Mohawk Solo 14 for a few years. Since you mentioned that boat, here's my opinion.

The Solo 14 is a nice, well mannered boat that is easy to fish from, sitting or kneeling. But, for anything Class II, the stems are TOO LOW. I can remember a trip on the upper Buffalo where I filled the boat several times and was barely able to wallow to the bank and dump it out. Two friends, also in Solo 14's had 3-4 swims among the two boats on the same trip. I've had mine in high water on a little Class II stretch of a nearby stream and swamped & swam a few times.

The Solo 14's a nice little boat for class I streams. Nice, light, good initial stability, turns easily (but not as easily as the Odyssey) and easy to handle. But any big wave trains or heavier water and the Solo 14 is out of it it's element.

That said, I'd certainly take a look at the Millbrook boats (Coho and Souhegan). I've researched them before and can't find one bad thing said about their handling and construction. I darn near sprang for one when I lucked into my Bell Starfire.

Could stand improvement
I’m sure my J stroke could stand improvement, it’s gotten considerably better since I started paddling the Osprey. Lately I’ve been doing more correction with a mostly in the water recovery, which seems to help too.

I’ve never checked the speeds in my Magic when J stroking (5mph is a pretty relaxed speed for hit and switch) but with my Osprey, if I remember right, was about 1mph slower when J stroking for me (3.4-4.5).


Differences in boats?
I’ve seen you say this before and always found it curious. Not doubting you, you’re more experienced than I, but it’s so contrary to what I experience when I paddle. Even when I watch really good C1 paddlers (I’m talking marathon racers) they’re switching every 5 or 6 strokes.

Is there a difference between long, no rockered boats and short, highly rockered boats? Perhaps the short and highly rockered boats are more responsive to quick corrective strokes where the long no rockered boats take heavier correction to bring them back in line? Or maybe it does all just boil down to technique, the olympic C1 paddlers (the kneelers) seem to keep up a pretty good pace with their quick J strokes.


Nice eddy turn ambidexterity, gbg
A skill that is sorely ignored in almost all the canoe classes I have participated in. Part of Nolan Whitesell’s fearless superiority was his ability to paddle any rapid with any stroke, on-side or off-side, from either side.

The Odyssey 14 is a very nice combo solo canoe, but I have no idea if you can stand up in it to fish.

Difference between Odyssey and Solo 14

Odyssey 14 is much more of a WW boat than the Solo 14 (or the Odyssey 15).


if the only thing driving the question of one boat or two is the ability to stand up and flyfish, an add on stabilizer kit is a cheaper alternative. buy the solo boat you want, and bring along the pontoons when you want to do some fishing.

I don’t have any experience with tehm, just see the adds and some videos (there is one a video on the SpringCreek site) that show people standing in boats. I see some kayaks wiht built in stabilizers for the same purpose. Should work an any canoe.

The need to stand up is not definite

– Last Updated: Jul-20-12 10:23 AM EST –

The original poster did not clarify whether he wants to be able to stand up. As a kid fishing on small northern lakes years ago, all the people I saw fly fishing were in small rowboats or canoes and were sitting down. It always appeared to work just fine that way. Almost all the people seen fishing by ANY method in those days did so while sitting down, before the comparatively huge fishing boats like today's were common. I can't tell if the original poster will be standing or sitting, but since he is already happy with the stability of the Penobscot and is keeping that boat, the two-boat idea makes the most sense, with the new one being the playful one.

And to answer an earlier side-comment, no, you can't stand up and fish from an Odyssey 14. You can stand up, but not easily enough to fish that way. I fish out of mine quite often from a kneeling position, which suits me fine.

Not really planning on standing…
Steve, thanks for the input! I, too, have stood a few times in the Penobscot. That said, standing in the boat has never been part of my fishing SOP, and won’t be in the new boat as far as I can tell. I do all my canoe fishing with my butt planted firmly in the seat, or occasionally while kneeling.

( So far, the fish haven’t been to offended by this. :slight_smile: )

I do hear people talk about not being “high enough” out of the water to fish; but it boggles me somewhat. Sure, you can get a better view the higher off the water you are, but in a canoe your entire upper torso plus up to a foot are above the water line…about the same height off the water as wading mid thigh.

me standing = ME falling: the Prequel
Thanks for the input, guys!

And no, you don’t have to stand up to fly fish.

I don’t, unless in a drift boat or on a raft, or wading. Even wading, often standing isn’t the best option on certain stream conditions. It may not look pretty for the cameras, but I’ve made good casts sitting in a canoe, kneeling in the boat, on my knees peaking over rock ledges, and even ( just once) laying on my stomach looking down into a pool. Okay, so the last one wasn’t a “good” cast, but if you don’t tell the fish, I won’t either :slight_smile:

That one got solved quickly, THANKS!

– Last Updated: Jul-21-12 2:34 AM EST –

Thanks Guideboat, Matt, and others for the great info (vids), and first hand experiences!

I called the Mohawk factory about 4pm, to get their input as well as find out about any blem or demo boats available, and as it turns out one of their guys was not too far from me at the USNWWC in Charlotte, demoing boats. The factory couldn't get in touch with him, but they thought he had both an Odyssey 14 and a Solo 14 with him....and their might be a demo boat deal to be had.

3 hours later I had learned a few things: The Whitewater Center in Charlotte is a phenomenal facility with folks that really know their stuff; and many paddling people seem very willing to long as you're willing to do your part and listen.

I ended up picking up a "demo" odyssey 14 that's a beautiful boat and was a tremendous deal, and I've decided to use that as my "play" boat, as well as for solo fishing in waters that may have Class I's and a few Class II's. Most of that WW paddling will be done sporadically, as an example when there are scattered sections along predominantly placid waters that run into Class II's when the water conditions are sub- optimal.

Later, if I decide to get more seriously into "true" whitewater paddling, I'll look at a WW boat for that purpose.
I'm pretty excited about this boat, and can't wait to get her on the water!

Standing makes you easily seen.

– Last Updated: Jul-21-12 1:36 PM EST –

...and it sounds like you're a little new to daring planet Earth's physics in a canoe....but "everyone's been there". Believe me, you want solid initial stability...and the more you weigh, the heavier/bigger boat with softer edges you'll want. I've tried a few evenings in a 12' solo with little to no stability(initial & final) at all. It's the kind of excitement one DOESN'T want when flyfishing! If you limit your torso fore/aft movement it'll help a LOT!, so efficient casting, as you know, can always be tweaked for the circumstance.
I don't know what you're fishing for, but imho any amount of stealth other than the watercraft helps one's success rate.
Think if you try dropping you seat a bit and using one of the superlight rods out.. I know, they're expensive as hell, but they're far more efficient than the bulky rods of the past.