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This past summer, NRS sent me their brand-new Slipstream 129 Fishing Raft to put through the wringer in my home state of Montana. So I rowed, fished, and floated in the new boat with friends and colleagues to see what this inflatable could do. In late August, while floating the upper Clark Fork, I got a true sense for this do-it-all fishing raft.
It was an overcast morning, and my buddies and I suspected the trout would be looking up. We loaded up the Slipstream 129 with rods, coolers, plenty of hoppers, and other fishing gear before hitting the water. I started the day behind the oars, navigating the low and bony river between rocks and over shallow rifles. The bite was slow at first, and eventually, I switched positions with my buddy Mark and took to the bow of the raft with my rod. The first fish of the day took my dropper, and then the trout started looking up—crushing our hoppers for the rest of the afternoon.
It quickly became one of the best days of the season, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the NRS Slipstream 129. That trip perfectly encapsulated what made the Slipstream 129 one of my favorite boats to row and fish out all summer. It is ideal for one to three anglers fishing small to mid-size rivers. Here is everything else I learned from a full summer of fishing with the new NRS Slipstream 129.
A Brief History of the NRS Slipstream 129 Fishing Raft
For decades, NRS has been synonymous with whitewater rafting. The company, which is based in Moscow, Idaho, has made high-quality rafts and other equipment for years. Their rafts have long been used by anglers, though in the past, most of them were geared towards recreational rafting—and then outfitted with fishing frames.
NRS changed the game in 2022 when it released its first iteration of the Slipstream line—an integrated fishing system that paired NRS rubber rafts with purpose-built fishing frames, and other accessories. The line was angler-focused, and the boats were stable, reduced line management issues, and provided key features like an easy-release anchor system that made them ideal fishing boats. The original line of rafts came in 2- and 3-man configurations.
The 2023 lineup features three options: The two-man NRS Slipstream 96 Fishing Raft, the three-man NRS Slipstream 120, and the roomier, NRS Slipstream 139. For 2024, the company plans to bump up the sizes of each configuration. The 12.9-foot NRS Slipstream 129 (the raft I tested over the summer) is an all-around boat for 2 to 3 people and splits the difference between 2023’s 120 and 139. Besides the new size configuration, the boat has upgraded accessories, including a SpinLock PXR cam lock anchor system, molded thigh hooks, and a thicker drop-stitch floor for improved drafting.
Slipstream 129 Specs
- Length: 12 feet, 9 inches
- Width: 6 feet
- Tube: 18.5 – 17.5 inches
- Weight: 215 pounds
- MSRP: $5,495.00 or $6,370 for the deluxe package, which includes oars and other accessories
How to Assemble the NRS Slipstream 129
The raft is shipped in about five boxes of varying sizes and arrives entirely disassembled. I was hesitant to assemble it on my own, not being particularly handy. But the process was pretty intuitive and only required several hand tools, which I already had on hand (which means you probably do, too). The process was aided by a well-produced NRS YouTube video that details the entire assembly and lays out several common mistakes to avoid.
Importantly, the raft comes with the NRS Super 2 HP Pump. It’s a hand pump that works darn well. I could fill up the rubber in about 5 minutes, and later, when I needed to inflate it a little more at the boat ramp, I could do so in seconds.
All in all, I was able to put the raft and frame together in a little over two hours with the help of my girlfriend. If I’d done the project solo, it would have taken an hour or two more. There’s some wiggle room in where to set up the fishing seats in relation to the rower seat. I tweaked the ratio of distance between each seat over several weeks of fishing and rowing to try to get it as comfortable as possible.
How I Tested the NRS Slipstream 129 Fishing Raft
I put the NRS Slipstream 129 through the paces during a summer fishing season in Western Montana as both an angler and on the sticks. I fished different types of water during different parts of the season, from high flows on the Blackfoot for the June green drake hatch to throwing hoppers on the bony upper Clark Fork during late summer. I fished big water on the boat during windy conditions and took it down small stream-like braids as well.
During my time with the raft, I paid special attention to its fishability and durability. How did the raft hold up when I accidentally knocked into rocks? Was it stable enough for Class III rapids—and also comfortable when we drifted through dry fly water? Was I able to manage my line well while fishing from the raft? When I was rowing, was I able to maneuver the anglers into good positions? Here’s what I found.
The NRS Slipstream 129 is a fishing machine. The boat’s design, true to its name, purposefully sheds snag points, and the inflatable drop-stitch floor is smooth, meaning it’s difficult to tangle your line, even when you’re stripping in feet of it. Instead of fumbling with your line or trying to use a stripping basket, you can focus on the real task at hand: boating fish.
Lightweight and Easy to Maneuver
At 12.9 feet long and 6 feet wide, the Slipstream 129 is a particularly nimble boat. This is great for navigating small water. The drop-stitch floor allows for a shallow draft, meaning you can float through even the shallowest riffles without portaging. Additionally, the boat is light enough to hand launch with a buddy, allowing you to access water that anglers with a bigger raft or drift boat can’t.
For such a small, lightweight rig, the raft punches well above its weight in terms of stability. It’s a joy to stand and cast from, even when going over riffles and small rapids. The raft can hold its own in more serious whitewater, too. I took it through Class III rapids without any real concern for flipping the boat, which is something you can’t say for all inflatable fishing rigs.
Bomber Thigh Locks
To put it simply, the new and improved thigh hooks are great. They’re sturdy, look good, and firmly lock you into a standing position. Combined with the clever inflatable floor, they’ll make you forget you’re on a raft and not a drift boat.
What I Don’t Like About the NRS Slipstream 129
Not Ideal on Windy Days
The only times I wished I was on a different setup over the summer were on windy days. Inflatables are, by nature, not ideal for big water in heavy wind. The lightweight and compact nature of the Slipstream 129 made this issue especially glaring. For larger rivers and stillwater, I’d opt for a larger, heavier raft or drift boat.
This boat is best suited for two anglers (and perhaps a dog) on a day trip. With three anglers, it could feel somewhat claustrophobic, though still doable (So, what you lack in terms of comfort, you make up for in versatility). But if you’re fishing mostly with groups of three anglers, the 129 isn’t the best fit. And in terms of storage space, you wouldn’t want to take it on anything longer than one overnight trip. But it is an excellent raft for two people.
I wasn’t a fan of the fancy new anchor system. The line regularly got accidentally caught and was difficult to dislodge. I also worried about how it would hold up to years of use in wet conditions. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned rope jam anchor cleat.
Final Thoughts on the NRS Slipstream 129
If you’re looking for a versatile, do-it-all fishing raft for two or three people, it’s hard to go wrong with an NRS Slipstream 129. The rig is light, sturdy, and rugged. And most importantly, it’s easy and fun to fish out of. Which is, when it comes down to it, the most important factor in a good fishing inflatable. This new fishing raft will be available to the public in early 2024.