Richard “Dick” Stallman, the inventor of the outboard jet which revolutionized Northwest sportfishing, allowing anglers to boat upstream and down in the thinnest of waters and some of the gnarliest of rivers, passed away last week.
“His invention was a major contribution to shallow-water boating world-wide and it greatly enhanced access to premium waters and hunter and angler success,” noted Glen Wooldridge of Wooldridge Boats of Seattle in a Facebook post announcing the death this afternoon.
Stallman, then a 34-year-old California tinkerer, famously ran up the Rogue in 1962 with Wooldridge’s grandfather, Glen Wooldridge, a local river-running pioneer from the Grants Pass area, with his new-fangled motor. It was the toughest place he could think of to test it out.
“The experience was something like riding a high-pressure fire hose up a waterfall,” wrote Bert Goldrath in a 1962 piece for Sports Illustrated.
Before that day, boat engines only used propellers for power, and Wooldridge had run some of the fiercest with a prop. But after boning up on earlier British research, Stallman came up with a “an intake scoop that sucks water into a snail-shaped housing where it is spun around and finally shot out into the air at the stern at the rate of 1,000 gallons a minute,” Goldrath wrote.
Launching at Gold Beach, at the mouth of the Oregon Coast river, the men ran 16- and 18-foot Wooldridge-made boats powered by a a trio of Stallman-modified 25- and 35-horse Johnsons and Evinrude.
It was a learning experience — “We were grossly underpowered” Wooldridge said later for the book The Rogue, A River To Run— but they made the 1,000-foot, 120-mile climb to Grants Pass in four days, in low water, running some stretches as shallow as 3 inches deep — impossible with a prop — and in doing so, forever altering the face of how rivers were run.
Over the years, Stallman’s invention led to success and widespread usage for he and his company, Outboard Jets of San Leandro, Calif.
The Stallmans are known as a private family, and a representative of the company declined to comment for this story.
The Wooldridge family is also remembering Mr. Stallman for who he was away from the river.
“He was a gentleman from the old school. His word was his bond,” Glen posted on Facebook.”He was a great mentor and a friend. I will truly miss him.”