Fish to the Future

Sean Visintainer - 06/10/19

Fly fishing the Big Hole River in Montana, an angler works presents the fly ahead of the raft for proper drift boat presentation.

Fish to the future, not the past

For many anglers around the region, and probably even the world, fly fishing from drift boats, or rafts, is not the norm. There are typically more wade anglers out there than there are fisherman drifting rivers. Each region certainly has its own demographic of angling type, but especially in our region there are more wade fisherman than boat fisherman. Probably due to how much great foot access we have.

If it's your first time in a drift boat, the first time out this season, or perhaps you are lucky to find yourself on a guided drift boat trip, there are a few pointers worth noting to improve your odds of getting better drifts and hooking more fish.

One of the single biggest things a fly angler can do to improve their odds is to lead the boat with their flies. Now there are certainly variables to this tactic, but I'm talking very basic concepts here and not going to go down the rabbit hole of other times when you may actually cast at a different angle, etc. This pertains mostly to dry fly presentation and indicator fishing from a move boat on a stream.

By leading the boat with your flies you accomplish four things:

  1. The fish see your fly before they see, or sense the boat.

  2. The drift is easier to manage. Mending your line when it's down stream at a great angler is easier, and with less resistance, when there is less line perpendicular to the current. There are also less odds of drastically moving your fly out of the zone. A simple lift and mend to adjust the amount of tension and slack is all it takes usually.

  3. The rower can gauge the drift faster. When the oarsmen can focus on what's ahead rather than what just happened, they can better position the boat in relation to your fly whether they need to speed up, slow down, move in, or move out. When the anglers and rower have their heads cranked back it makes it more challenging to prepare for the next spot.

  4. You get another shot. Let's say you blow a shot at hitting the target, or miss a nice fish. If you presented the properly ahead of you this typically affords one or two more shots at the zone as you float by. If the fly was presented perpendicular or behind the boat it's a one-and-done deal, no more extra shots.