Coracle Comeback

In 2004 gas prices surged after the US led invasion of Iraq. And then came the great recession. With fuels costs at all-time highs many anglers found themselves without the extra money to gas up their power boats. Sport fishermen though will always find a way to get out and fish, and addicted anglers began taking to the waters in kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. The market for these small, individual sized vessels has evolved at high speed since, as sport anglers have continued to use paddle craft despite the economy improving and gas prices dropping.

Kayaks and canoes are lightweight, easy to transport and provide a healthy and quiet alternative to fishing out of larger gas powered boats. In many cases, anglers can reach waters in these smaller craft that fuel power and combustion engine propelled craft simply cannot. As the industry continues to evolve, many fishermen may not realize though that there are other small watercraft besides the typical kayaks and canoes out there which provide many of the same benefits. One historically proven boat type making a comeback is the Welsh coracle and the new, modern takes on this ancient and worldwide design.

A Coracle looks a little bit like a split walnut shell flipped upside down. They are oval shaped and traditionally were made out of latticed framework of willow rods with an animal hide stretched out over the frame and subsequently covered in tar, making for a lightweight, amazingly maneuverable, shallow drafting and fast boat for flowing rivers in Wales. Individually made and sized, minor design variations were highly variant depending on the types of water being fished.

Skilled paddlers loved using them for fishing because they hardly disturb the water or the fish, and they can easily be steered with one arm, allowing the free arm for catching fish. A big aspect of the coracle’s popularity was it was light enough to be carried by its owner of his or her back. An old Welsh saying, “Llwyth dyn ei gorwgl – ‘the load of a man is his coracle’,” makes reference to the ease of transport of this amazing watercraft.

An ancient design from the days of the Celts, coracles were seen and described in the writings of Julius Caesar from his campaigns in Gaul in the mid 1st century B.C.E. And this simple yet effective design can be seen around the world in similar craft in Tibet, India and Vietnam. Materials vary around the globe, but the design is basically the same. In India, the coracle are not only used for fishing, and they have become popular for transporting tourists and goods in some locations.

Many modern companies are making innovative new small craft inspired by the ancient design. Rotomolded plastics, fiberglass and other modern materials combined with the simplistic and effective old world design are providing sport anglers with exciting new options for getting out on the water and catching fish. With features like ample storage, stability, ease of transport and a small, agile craft that can be paddled or easily propelled with a small battery powered trolling motor all in one boat, coracles are the next evolution in sports angling.


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