I'd owned an inflatable boat for 4 years after randomly bumping into to a guy called Sebastian who was about to take his son out fishing from where myself and partner Susie happened to be spending a summers day soaking up the sun.
While observing him setting up this boat ready to take his son out fishing and wishing I had a boat too I made conversation and asked him how much it would cost to buy something similar. To my surprise he suggested I make him an offer. So, after a quick deliberation with Susie and a dash to the nearest cash point I negotiated a price and ended up taking it home in my van that day for £300. I like to buy things on impulse. I was now in possession of a 2.9m Kolibri inflatable with a wooden/aluminium deck with some basic extras including a life jacket and foot pump. All I needed was an outboard engine.
For me it was all about upping my fishing game.
Within a year or so I'd gone from shoreline fishing with only a fair amount of success to inshore boat fishing with lots of success. I'm not a top angler by any stretch of the imagination but what I lack in knowledge I make up for in ardent love.
After a couple of summers enjoying the boat having just the best days out fishing and catching numerous Bass including my personal best at 10.5lb I created a Facebook group intending to invite anglers from local fishing groups who might own an inflatable boat or be interested in buying one at least, to meet up, share locations and generally to have fun, all the time being safe in numbers while out at sea.
I wasn't expecting much really, a few dozen perhaps, maybe out of them a handful might actually own a boat and want to meet up.
After sharing my group in other local angling groups people started joining one by one. My phone notifications were going crazy. For the next few weeks I'd wake up with 30-40 requests to join. There were days when 60+ requests were a common theme.
It was apparent that this style of fishing was attracting a lot of interest and it wasn't even summer yet. Myself and Susie couldn't believe how quickly the group was growing in such a short space of time.
The group attracted boat suppliers eager to promote their products. Very soon there were magazine journalists wanting photo shoots for articles in their mags. Saltwater Boat Angling did a three page spread. The legendary Sam Harris from CVFM called me out of the blue. He somehow managed to get my number and wanted me to go on his angling radio show 'Gone Fishing'.
Nearly 2000 members within six weeks. I planned the groups first meet up and called it 'Inky Blighters hunt for Squid'. A modest ten boats were out that day albeit a quite windy affair and with not much catching going on. It was all about getting the guys together. We all met up at the slipway in Newhaven harbour at 7.30 am. With bait collected and evenly dished out and with smiles on everyone's faces from ear to ear, off we went one after the other leaving the harbour. It must have been a great site to watch us from the harbour wall.
The group kept on growing as the days began to get warmer and warmer with lots more trips arranged to various parts of the coast. Photos and videos now being posted of people up and down the country taking their SIBs out. Absolutely stunning scenic views coming in especially from anglers in Scotland. By now members were beginning to see the attraction and started to buy their own boats to join in the fun.
The group is now becoming the go to place for advice and tips on just about anything related to inflatable boats, outboard engines and fishing in general. What are the best transom wheels to use? The best VHF radio sets to buy? All sorts of things were being discussed and friendships were forming. Safety while out at sea is important to everyone and advising new comers on what to set up with and do is something everyone in the group discusses on a regular basis.
Competitions are the talk of the group with great prizes being offered by the groups 'Trusted Suppliers'. £160 electric pumps, £100 worth of SIB maintenance and repairs, a great prize. A 4K action camera was won recently. The most recent competition was to win a boat that you get to design yourself with your own unique feature added. The winner was announced on Christmas Day. A fabulous prize.
So, with over 5000 members this is where I now stand with the success of the group inspiring me to push forward and encourage the sport of inflatable boat fishing all over the UK with this newly created website where I can supply Inflatable boats as well as other things to do with inflatable boat fishing from reputable companies across the UK.
Watch this space as I add things to the site. I hope you find it useful and if there is anything else you'd like to see added then don't hesitate to contact me.
Carlo from the 'Inflatable Boat Advice' Facebook Group
Inflatable Boat Advice.
Fun, Fishing & friendships
Happy floating and tight lines.
We're all in the same boat.
Update: So Seago, one of our partners have allowed me to have my own designed boat made up. Hydrus, the boat that suits anglers both inshore as well as river fishing.
Incorporating the groups colours and logo, it looks fantastic, better than I had ever imagined. It comes in various lengths, all of which have an air deck although aluminium decks are available to order.
They come with anchor rope runners installed as well and brandishing three of the group logo's on the tubes. I've kitted mine out with Railblaza accessories. You can buy the boat with or without the accessories.
To order yours today just drop me a fishing line or use the Chat Dashboard to your right if you have any questions.
Another top Angling magazine wanted to do a feature on the Hydrus and the sport in general so I met up with Dave Lewis from Sea Angler magazine at Lymington Harbour back in June 2019 where I told Dave all about the boat and it's features while I set it up ready for a photo shoot.
A great opportunity to share the IBF story with thousands of Sea Angler magazine readers including Bob Whicher who came down to the Littlehampton Waterfront Festival to see us and the boat at our stall and place an order.
Bob is now the proud owner of a Hydrus along with a 6hp Suzuki and all the accessories to go with it.
Thanks to Dave Lewis for the feature.
The first batch of Hydrus boats had all sold out throughout the year.
It was time to think about The Hydrus II.
I wanted to be more hands on with the design of the boat so I needed to go direct to the sourse.
With the help of a very good contact from my business bank, I formed a relationship with an overseas company where I've been able to go direct to the manufacturers and take the design of the Hydrus a few steps further.
A few tweaks to the design of the Hydrus later and I was ordering the Hydrus II direct from China.
They were due in the summer of 2020.
During 2019 I kept busy promoting the IBF concept attending various networking events. My enthusiasm for the sport and to build something from it was evident.
I was invited to attend 'The Tigers Pen'
Yes, just like Dragons Den I found myself pitching to 4 local, wealthy business men and women for £500 and mentoring to help boost the Inflatable boat fishing journey.
I managed to get funding and mentoring from three of the Tigers which blew me away, I absolutely smashed my pitch.
Fast forward to 2020 I had to make a decision on how many Hydrus II boats to order.
With Covid arriving and a lockdown imminent I was reluctant to order too many in case we were locked down for the entire summer.
Luckily things turned out OK and the whole batch of Hydrus II had sold out before they even arrived in the UK.
By now the Facebook group is up to 6000+ members and the summer was a blast with regular SIB meetups, lots of great fishing, PB's caught and plenty of happy Hydrus owners out on their SIBs.
OK, now let's go for the Hydrus III....