I love fishing from a drift boat, it’s one of my favorite ways to fly fish. Most of the rivers that I’ve drifted run only a couple hundred feet wide, at the most, with flows in the low-to-mid hundreds. The sort of water like the Colorado River in western Colorado and the lower Gunnison River. Rivers that have discernible structural features you can cast to.
There’s something both frustrating and challenging with only getting a few seconds to cast at a good spot on the river, but I like it, I like that part of it. It adds an extra layer of challenge, where you get to practice a little bit of skill, and the pressure’s on to get that cast right the first time.
A good place to scope out rivers is the River Explorer, which will help you figure out the flows and if you can drift that section. They currently are only offering a subscription for Colorado, but I’m sure states will come soon.
Fly Rods on a Drift Boat
There’s nothing more hilarious at times than sharing a 16 foot boat with two other dudes, two who have 9 foot fly rods with line all over the place (think bad hook set, and double snagged lines), and one who is swinging 8 foot oars and a 5 foot net.
Most of the time it’s well organized, but if somebody hooks into one in a fast moving pool, or section above a straight run, all hell can break loose! I like to just sit down and observe the chaos when that happens, break out the camera, and usually cheer and laugh.
We bought a Drift Boat!
Full disclosure, my buddy bought a drift boat. But it’s like we all did. It was about 10 years ago, myself and another good friend drove with him to Idaho to go buy it and we fished on the way back. He’s certainly gotten out in it a lot more than I have, but even a couple times a year for 10 years makes a person feel like they know and feel at home on a ship, or a skiff, or a little drift boat. It’s “your” craft for the time you’re on it. It’s your home, transportation, storage, refrigerator, gear shed, and probably holds one or two of your best friends to boot!
When we went to buy the beautiful watercraft, a Clackacraft, we arrived late on a Friday night, from Denver. The three of us dudes, all 5’11” or taller, decided to literally wait in the parking lot, all night, for that boat. We wanted to watch it, make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. That, and who wants to pay for 5 hours of sleep! So we slept in the truck. Sort of. Friend Two snores.
A Drift Boat is a Still a Boat
I think one of the main reasons I like drift fishing is that I just plain LIKE boats. And navigating a drift boat on those lower speed flows where the water can be less than a foot deep, with boulders at times two or three feet high, is also a fun challenge! The oarsman needs to see the hazard, plan for the hazard, and avoid a hazard. The oarsman only does that about 8/10 of the time.
Another reason I love our drift fishing trips is because it’s a good reason to break out or pick up some specialty beer, and someone always seems bring a bottle that is new to me. I first learned about Saison on the boat trips (oh, you’ve never heard of that one? CraftBeer.com breaks it down well). Same with imperial stouts, sours, double IPAs, the list goes on.
“Must Have” gear on the boat
I always try to have a good dry bag with me, so I can bring the camera along and keep it handy without worrying about a splash over the side from time to time. I really like backpack style dry bags, so you can hop out and roam around, or swim across something and keep your gear dry. Some more gear you should consider:
- A good boat net. Try to aim for rubber netting these days, for safer catch and release.
- Selfie stick or pod. Try this one if you have a GoPro.
- Camping stove and soup/food for cold days. Seriously, bring a hot lunch if you can. It just makes a day on the river so rad.
- Headwear, sunglasses, and a rain jacket. Don’t forget the rain jacket.
- Some stronger tippet. Make sure you have some 1, 2, 3, and 4x with you. From streamers, to rebuilding a leader if you run out, you’ll be glad you brought a flight of sizes.
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