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How to Fish out of a Drift Boat

….and Impress your guide from the get go.

Let’s face it, even after being a fishing guide for 20 years, when I go on a guided trip I get nervous.  You want to do everything right, you want to make a good impression, you want to catch fish, and you don’t want to f*&^ it up.  I’ve seen it in my clients as well, and even as a patient, understanding guide it can be hard to calm the nerves of an inexperienced angler.  So in this blog post I’m going to to do my best to, as my friend Andy says, “Tee you up for success” when fly fishing from a drift boat.

The number one thing is always “Listen to your guide” well not in this post.  Sometimes guides aren’t the best at telling you everything you need to know right away.  I’m guilty of it.  I’ve had clients make mistakes before and it was totally my fault for not telling the client.  Sometimes you just forget and let’s be honest a guide couldn’t possibly coach you on every scenario that might come up.  So here’s a few pointers right off the bat that your guide might not tell you and now you don’t have to ask.

  • String up your rod.  My clients always ask me when we get to the boat ramp “What can I do to help”  The best thing you can do is start getting your rod(s) strung up.  By the time your guide has the boat ready you’ll have your rods ready and your guide can start rigging them with new leaders, flies, etc.
  • Use the knee locks, yeah those funny looking things in the front and back of the boat.  Keep your legs in those so you don’t fall out.  Standing in the knee locks also keeps the boat centered so the guide can row.  Do not stand with one leg up on the side of the boat.
  • Face and fish downstream.  Yes if you are in the front of the boat the guide should not see your face until lunch, if you’re in the back you’ll be seeing the back of the guides head until lunch.  As a general rule the angler in the front of the boat fishes as far downstream ahead of the boat as possible and if his or her fly goes upstream past the oar, it’s time to re-cast.  Therefore, the angler in the back of the boat has all the water upstream of the front anglers fly through the back of the boat.  The exception to this is if you’re fishing out of the drift boat while it’s anchored, in which case the guide will tell you where to cast.
  • Teamwork!  A good day on the water means that all 3 people in the boat are working together.  The guide positions the boat.  The angler up front gets first shot at the prime water.  The angler in the back of the boat waits to cast until the angler in the front has made his or her cast.  If one angler hooks a fish the guide maneuvers the boat into the best position for landing the fish and the other angler might reel in his line if the fish heads toward his line.  If the guide is in swift water it might be appropriate for the other angler to net the other angler fish.  Just ask the guide “Can I help with the net”  I”ve had days on the river where there was a little too much competition between the anglers in my boat, this leads to frustration, tangled lines, and while you may land a few more fish it really isn’t worth it.  Work as a team!
  • Ask a bunch of questions.  I love it when my clients ask questions, we all end up learning something!  “Why do we cast downstream?” “Have you ever seen a fish eat a mouse?” “Do you ever fish out in the middle of the river?” “Why do you like to fish two flies?”  “What’s for lunch?”
  • Listen to your guide.  Ok finally I got to it.  It always amazes me that a few times each season I would end up with someone in my boat who didn’t want to listen.  Every guide has a story of a husband and wife in the boat that goes like this.  The husband being an “expert” angler doesn’t pay attention to the guides recommendations while the wife, being newer to the sport, listens to the guide, practices what the guide is telling her and I bet you can predict what happens…she slays!  It should go without saying that your guide will be on the water 100 days or more that season and probably has lots of seasons already under his or her belt.  Listen to their advice and you’ll always catch more fish.

If you follow the above pointers you will be miles ahead of most anglers when you do step foot in that drift boat for the first time.  For more tips and tricks keep an eye on this blog as we’ll be posting more tutorials this year.  If you’re interested in putting a foot in a drift boat with one of our professional guides you can book a trip here.