How to Fish from a Boat

As a Guide in the vail valley for nearly 30 years I have spent nearly ¾ of that time guiding from either a raft or a drift boat.  Fly fishing from a boat on a river can be an exciting and productive way to catch fish. Now as a shop owner who administrates guided Fly-fishing, one question I get asked a lot is: Can I fly fishing from a boat if I have never done it? The Answer is, yes.  There is definitely more to it than just standing in the stream and fishing. Here are some steps to help you get started: 

  • “The Fish is in You Future”  I use this mantra with every client.  When fishing from the boat you should always be casting and presenting flies downstream of yourself and the oars/boat.  This will present the flies in a much longer “Natural” drift that the fish will like.  Casting your flies upstream will cause drag on the flies and that’s not what the Trout wants to see.  
  • I equate Fly-fishing from the boat as a team activity.  The guide is working with the anglers to get the boat in the best possible position for the anglers to present the flies. The anglers work together to maintain an alternating casting rhythm, that keeps flies from getting tangled in the air and to help coach each other. 
  • The Angler in the back of the boat is essentially the Quarterback. Since we are “fishing to the future”, everyone should be focused on what’s happening downstream of the boat. The person in the back of the boat is the only one who can see everyone else, especially their fishing partner in the front.  Therefor it is the responsibility of the angler in the back to wait to cast until the angler in the front has made their cast.  This alternating rhythm will make the day a lot more enjoyable for everyone, especially the guide. casting at a 45 degree angle to the front of the boat. 
  • MEND!!!!  You can be the world’s greatest Fly caster, but if you don’t mend your line, you might as well not even cast.  A simple flip of the rod tip to put the fly line upstream of the flies (The Mend) is crucial to getting that long natural drift that trout are looking for. Mend your line: As your fly drifts downstream, use mending techniques to control the drag and maintain a natural drift. Mending involves making subtle adjustments to the line by lifting, flipping, or rolling it on the water’s surface. 
  • Use appropriate casting techniques: When casting from a boat, adapt your casting technique to accommodate the limited space and obstructions. Make shorter, more controlled casts to prevent tangling your line with the boat or nearby objects. A straight overhead cast with a stop at “High Noon” will keep flies on a plane that eliminates chances of hooking your guide or fishing partner. 

Click here to see a good video about fishing from the boat 

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