Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Outdoor Profile: Phil Croff of Croff Craft

I've known Phil most of my life, but up until two years ago I never knew he fly fished.  Since then I've spent more time in a boat with Phil than I think I have on dry land.  We've become fast friends and usually fish together at least a couple of times a week.  Phil has created what I believe is the start of a legend- his boat, the CC Drifter and his custom wood drift boat company Croff Craft.
leaning into some winter steel

Phil and I both grew up here in Trout Country.  We grew up in self-sufficient families, in a community of tradesmen working in construction.  It turns out that if you apply yourself at carpentry you can build more than just kitchen cabinets.

Before I go there, let me hand out the credits.  My grandfather taught me the rudimentary elements of fly fishing.  My friend Tim got me to start branching out, learning more, and buying better gear.  I'd have to say it was Phil who got me in this far.  Why do I tie flies?  Phil's fault.  Why did I start chasing steelhead and salmon on the fly?  Phil's fault.  Streamer mania? Blame Phil.  Whole rack of rods and pile of reels?  Thanks Phil.  Teaching me to row?  I hate you Phil.
Phil giving chase to an angry king
this was an epic trip
 I don't know how I seem to gather these types of friends, but with Phil it's always some sort of arduous adventure.  Long days in the snow, all-nighters in which we pull up to the take-out during sunrise, shooting miles of rapids in the dark because we misjudged the length of the float, last minute phone calls to go anywhere all day or all night, badgering me into blowing off work to spend days on some fly fishing grail quest. For a one week camping trip he built a cart for his boat and we wheeled it down some forest paths, then roped it down this ridiculous hill, almost killing ourselves or losing the boat several times in the process, all to camp in the one spot Phil thought was perfect- and it was.  We did this every day for a week.
Phil is what I'd call a stand-up guy.  He was cut from some mold that got thrown out awhile ago.  He's a skilled tradesman, hard working, honest to a fault, a great angler and boat builder.  He lives by a code of honor that most people have written off as impractical.  He and his wife Trude have fed me more chow (who knew that bread and salad could be an event? I may have to dedicate a post to Trude's cooking) over the last two years than I should probably admit.  The last couple of years have been personally tumultuous for me, and in large part it has been Phil and Trude's hospitality and friendship that have gotten me by.  That, and lots of time spent on the water.  By the way, Trude is a great angler, and a local artist whose paintings are much sought after.  There's a link on the sidebar.

So what do you do if you fish small streams, want a drift boat to navigate them by, and don't like any of the boats being offered by the major manufacturers?  If you're Phil you build your own.  I want to stress a couple of things here.  Phil had never built a boat before.  He had never designed a boat before.  He designed the first one in his head, did a rough sketch on his garage wall, which I hope he'll cut out and frame, and then he built the perfect boat.  Perfect- balanced, lightweight, strong, shallow draft.  In the first take.  Are you kidding me?  I'm sharing some pictures here so that you can see the lines, the attention to detail.  I've been in love with his boats since I first stepped in one, and having rowed several other manufacturers boats since, can tell you that his are still my favorite.
the CC Drifter

Here's a piece of news so exciting I have to pinch myself to be sure it's real.  Phil has agreed to let me- and you, follow along as he builds his latest boat.  I'm going to do a brief weekly post highlighting progress on this boat, and you the faithful readers will be able to watch it unfold.  If you have questions and want to contact Phil you can click here or on the link to his site to the right.  We fish his boats HARD and Phil is always coming up with design improvements, so it will be very interesting to see the next evolution.  The existing boats are very well thought out, with built in rod tubes, lots of dry storage, comfortable seats and casting stanchions.  His anchor stanchions are a piece of engineering to marvel at all on their own.  Oh yeah, and Phil builds his own oars too.

So I'm hoping that you wood boat enthusiasts will tune in each week to see the progress of this latest boat.  I'll post it every Tuesday, unless there's nothing to post, but knowing Phil, he'll keep it interesting for us.  This will give you a unique inside look into the making of a piece of working art.

One last shot, I can't resist:
the CC Drifter in action


  1. Id have to say that friend is a keeper and tought kind to find... dont see to many boats that smooth either!...
    looking forward to the build.

  2. sweet post-
    Can't wait to float with either of you guys in the CC Drifter
    Spectacular water,
    I am haunted by those waters~
    Tight Lines,

  3. Gotta love that float!! Don't see too many nice wood drift boats around.

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  5. Great looking boat and great friend.

  6. Good Lord that is a beautiful boat. Great read!

  7. It truly is a great boat. Best 2 man/drfiter on the market. It is the perfect combination of beam and draw, or stabililty and floatability.

  8. That is a sweet looking boat. Nice blog by the way.