Drift Boat Fly-Fishing Primer

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Dave Brown’s much better half – Lisa Filigenzi on the sticks

The words “Drift Boat” will cause most Fly-Fishers to immediately go into day dream mode,fantasizing about trout filled , big Western Rivers.A float trip is usually an all day event where your Fly-Fishing trio covers some river miles all the while changing up your techniques to adjust to what the trout want to eat.Fly-Fishing from a Drift Boat is a great way to fish and if you are a Gear Head, the room for equipment and rod storage allows you to bring a bunch of unnecessary Fly-Fishing tackle along for the ride which raises the excitement.The high hopes are that you have every possible Fly-Fishing situation covered and you will crush it.

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Drift Boat set up -Clients front and back Guide is the middle.Lots of Smiles !

For Anglers new to the game fishing from a Drift Boat can be somewhat intimidating.Here are a few points to help out so that your first day in a Drift Boat is off to a good start.

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A Clackacraft Drift Boat ready to roll

Stand up or Sit down while Fly-fishing from a Drift Boat

Wether you stand up or sit down while fishing from a Drift Boat will depend on a few things.For some it’s easier to cast while standing because Drift Boats have front and back knee braces which makes it easy to stand and fish.It’s safe provided that you are locked into the knee brace and your weight is centered in the Boat.Staying locked in the knee braces will prevent you from getting launched out of the boat if hits a rock or there is a sudden shift in rowing that could knock you off balance.Anglers should also be aware of where the Life jackets are and if you are fishing in High Water perhaps wear it.Most Anglers find casting is easier while standing than casting while sitting down. Fly-Fishers seem to always prefer standing while Streamer Fishing because you can see fish chasing and flashing at your fly and better have line and casting control.

Floating Alberta’s Bow River

Streamer fishing on the Missouri River in Montana
Streamer Fishing on The Missouri River

On flat Tailwaters such as The Missouri River or Alberta’s Oldman River Guides often will get their clients sit down while fishing Dry Flies or Nymphing.Both these rivers have strong and gusting Winds at times, therefore sitting while fishing makes it easier to row the Drift Boat compared to having clients stand and act like sails.These rivers are slow moving so sitting down lowers the overall profile, giving wary fish less opportunity to see you and the Boat.Fishing seated allows the boat to get closer to the holding water and rising fish.Another reason to sit down is for safety, if you are going thru fast rapids or a tight channel there is less risk of you unexpectedly exiting the boat, also by sitting it keeps the weight of the boat centered making it easier for the Rower to control while handling the boat thru tricky channels.

Montana Fly-Fishing for Brown Trout
MT Outfitter Lindsey Channel gets bent on a hopper eating Missouri Brown Trout while seated

Fly-Casting from a Drift Boat

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Floating BC’s Elk River

In order to avoid tangles normally the front of the boat casts first followed by the rear of the boat.So it’s important the whomever is in the back watches the person in the front and times their cast on the front of the boat Angler’s lead. Communication and cordintaion is key to avoiding tangles etc.Some Anglers will tell the other when he or she is casting simply by saying “casting”.As far as where to cast is concerned that depends on where in the river you are fishing.Generally speaking you want to be looking downstream at the holding water or targets so you can be prepared to cast into or to whatever the target might be. If you are being guided no doubt the Guide will be telling you where he or she want’s your fly.Take your time (to some extent ) as rushed casts generally end up as a mess.The key is to be looking ahead and planning your presentation to the target or holding water.If you tend to cast side arm chances are you are going to hook your fishing partner or the Guide.Anglers need to be aware and in control of their casting.

Fighting Fish from a Drift Boat

A Fly-Fisher landing a Brown Trout on Montana's Missouri River
Streamer fishing The Missouri River

The Rule of thumb for fighting is that who ever is not hooked up pulls their rig in and grabs a seat.This avoids tangles and other potential screw ups.If you are being guided your Guide might continue to float and net the fish (Like in the above pic ) or depending on current speed of the River or size of the fish row to the Bank and anchor so you can fight the fish in slower water.

Hook -up protocol The angler who is not hooked up has stopped fishing

We hope these points help out on your next or potential float trip,and that you have an enjoyable day on the water.



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Missouri River Brown Trout