Colin Broadway started a company in England distributing Savage V boats around Europe. His personal interest was the Skeeter and the Super Fly designed by Frankie Hubbard and produced by Savage V. When Savage V appeared to have money trouble, Broadway investigated buying into the company. The deal fell through. Meanwhile Frankie Hubbard was unemployed and wanted to build a new boat; by this time the Skeeter and Super Fly were no longer in production.

Frankie moved to England and teamed with Broadway to design the original Spanish Fly. When Frankie moved on to Germany, Broadway switched from glass moulds to aluminum and made some alterations to Frankie’s design; it was still called the Spanish Fly—but branded Savage. Then, Broadway made some life changes, retired and worked a deal with Pyranha, who now produces both the Spanish Fly and another Hubbard and Broadway open canoe the Prelude.

Outfitting the Fly

One of the downfalls of traditional whitewater solo canoes is that few manufacturers were in the business of providing outfitting. Some shops used to outfit boats for customers but most have now stopped bothering with the service. How nice it is for the Spanish Fly to come ready to paddle.

The Spanish Fly ships with bags, a foam seat and bulkhead system and the classic aluminum and plastic foot pegs. Pyranha also foams-out the side walls to help displace more of the water from the cockpit area. The system works. To make it better we’d glue in the foam walls because the supplied two-way tape doesn’t stick. We’d replace the vinyl bags with lighter nylon ones. The foam seat pillar is pretty narrow, so we’d add more foam to each side and shape it for more butt contact. Only minor changes when you consider we were used to staring into an empty hull.

More than a hull boat

Not sure if any canoeists noticed, but the Spanish Fly took the top three places at the 2001 World Freestyle Championshop in Spain. The funny part is few open canoeists actually go into holes and the reason could be either the chicken or the egg. Have we stayed away from holes because there hasn’t been a boat worth paddling, or has there not been a boat worth paddling because we don’t paddle the holes? Deep.

In a hole the Spanish Fly stabilizes in a smooth side surf, letting you get comfortable and look around. The trick is to fight your ingrained tilt-downstream instinct is to fight your ingrained tilt-downstream instinct and level off your tilt. The Spanish Fly is short, very rockered and hard chined and an absolute blast to front surf. The Fly is slow so needs a fast, steep wave. It also doesn’t pin the bow in the upstream green water so you can finally carve the face of a wave.

The Spanish Fly is more than just a hole wave and toy. It deeks in and out of the smallest eddies, holds a line and easily corrects with a quick offside tilt. The flat bottom provides a stable initial platform and the sharp chine and little flare on the sides allow the Fly to fall over to its rock solid secondary stability – stability that saved us on more than one occasion. With little glide, your stroke rate needs to increase and you need to be constantly driving the boat around the river. The covered bow and stern decks and raised gunwale line make for a fairly dry ride and the above mentioned stability allows for aggressive wave blocking. 

The bottom line

With Dagger’s Quake and Savage’s Skeeter and Super Fly out of production the choice of small plastic open canoes is dwindling. The Spanish Fly is not likely to suck traditionalists out of their real solo baots. But, if you are willing to try something new, run smaller rivers, paddle a little harder and drop into a hole once and a while, you should give the Spanish Fly a try.

Specs

  • Length: 8’9”
  • Width: 28”
  • Bow height: 12.5”
  • Centre height: 16”
  • Weight: 46 lbs
  • Suggested paddler weight: 132 to 220 lbs
  • MSRP CAD: $1975

This article first appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great boat reviews, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.

 

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