It’s common to find professionals in the outdoor industry at the forefront of design and performance, leading the use of new technologies and materials and adapting their tools to the job at hand. Sawyer is no different, and continuous feedback from professional guides, outfitters, and athletes drives our innovation. With a racing history (see Part 1 in the series) that influenced design, handcrafting wood oars out of raw materials like Ash, Cedar, and Douglas Fir, and composite oars and blades (fiberglass and carbon fiber) for fishing guides and anglers took a different approach to the centuries old task; controlling a boat on a body of water safely, and back home again. Today, an oarsman might make 1000 oar strokes per mile. After 10 years of guiding anglers myself, and with many sets of oars, today’s Sawyer lightweight and high-performance products are perfect for professionals and recreational users.
When we design oars and oar blades for anglers, the end result isn’t always a finished product that fits the traditional profile. As you read before, the Shoal Cut blade was designed with shallow-water applications in mind. I liken it to the differences between a spoon and a knife. Buttering a slice of warm sourdough right of the toaster? A knife with a long, thin blade for an even application. A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast along with it? A spoon, of course (yes, we’ll even talk about the beloved Spork in future posts!).
Brian Wheeler, a professional fly fishing guide in Montana, has two sets of Sawyer oars for different boats and purposes. At around 80 days a season guiding and another 40 or so floating with his wife and their dogs, they spend most of their time on the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Madison, and Smith rivers. Here’s his take.
“In my 13’ Aire Tributary I row the classic Smoker DyneLite in a 9’ length with the narrow blade and have abused these oars for the past 7 years. I am in love with them. The lightweight, smooth flexing construction with the bomb-proof blade are simply perfect. I personally love both the flex and pop you get from wood. In fast-paced pocket water, you have to be able to dip in behind and around rocks to make corrective and speed-stabilizing micro-strokes. It’s simply second nature with these oars. The “pop” of wood allows for maximum efficiency of your stroke in those tight spots where trout live, if your anglers can hit the spots!”
“In my Clackacraft Eddy, I upped the size of my oars to using 9’3” SquareTop Dyno X, also with the narrow blade. The Eddy is a wide boat. Adding 3” to each oar, though adding some weight, was definitely a benefit. My hands stay closer and my rowing stroke stays in the power zone, instead of reaching farther apart and putting stress on my already stressed out shoulders. Though 9.5 footers would be great as well, for me, the 9’3” is the perfect balance of extra length, swing-weight, and functionality. The Dyno X wrap stiffens up the wood oar to a noticeable degree, though it still beats the complete lack of feel in fully composite oars. The stiffer flex helps me get moving when the water gets pushy.”
Brian is clearly a toast-is-best-buttered kind of guide. Until next time, when we’ll hear from a member of our speciality shop team, on why they choose Sawyer for their customers. Eddy Out!