For Kendall Osborne, the skinny waters and back bays of Virginia’s Atlantic seaside — home to one of the northernmost tarpon fisheries in the country — are a fly-fishing heaven. “I love the challenge of that fishery, and the scenery and solitude. It’s my kind of fishing,” Osborne says. “I try not to tally up the tolls I’ve paid running back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel with my boat.”
Osborne’s boat is an Emerger 16, one of the technical skiffs that Dragonfly Boatworks builds in Vero Beach, Florida. “I’ve put in years exploring behind the barrier islands, and the Emerger is a great boat to do it in,” says Osborne, a retired U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who hails from Norfolk, Virginia. “It draws only five inches, weighs just 500 pounds, and is a dream to pole. I also like the uncluttered decks, ease of maintenance and how well the boat responds to the bow-mounted trolling motor.”
Osborne, who is 65, has been fly-fishing since he was a youngster, cutting his teeth on bass and bluegill in a pond behind his family’s home. He’s taken all sorts of species with a fly rod, including cobia, red drum, billfish, stripers and peacock bass, as well as roosterfish in Baja, Mexico.
A tiller-steered, 25-hp Evinrude gives the Emerger 16 a top end of around 24 knots, and it runs comfortably in the high teens, Osborne says. “I’ve never burned more than three gallons in a day, and sometimes I cover 40 to 50 miles,” he says. “It’s a great-riding boat and so well built that I’ve never found a stress crack anywhere. Considering how many times I’ve dropped off some serious waves, that’s pretty remarkable.”
Mark Castlow founded Dragonfly Boatworks in 2007. A native Floridian, Castlow got his education in fiberglass by building surfboards. Today, his company builds skiffs and tenders from 15 to 23 feet, vacuum-bagged with the latest lightweight composites.
With spring on the horizon, Osborne sets his sights on the shad run in Virginia’s Nottoway River, then the red drum and speckled trout season that kicks off in April. And soon after, he’ll be back on the tarpon grounds.
“My wife thinks I’m joking when I tell her the Emerger is the last boat I will ever have to buy,” Osborne says. “But I’m completely serious.”