You haven’t seen Montana until you’ve seen it from the back of a horse or the bow of a drifting boat. Fishing from a drift boat offers great views and benefits. These high bow boats are perfect for what they are designed for. Dinghies can navigate choppy currents and rapids safely while allowing anglers to fish standing up.
Rowing a drift boat is an acquired skill that you need to learn to row backwards. In a regular lake rowboat, you don’t face where you are going. You row to where you plan to go. On a river, you face your destination, in a rushing current, full of rocks, rapids and obstacles, while rowing upstream to slow down and control your drift. If you don’t understand this skill, hire a rower to coach you. I had guide days in the afternoons where all I did was teach how to back up the boat trailer, launch the boat, row the boat, and load the boat. All of these skills are essential for drifting the rivers of Montana and the West. ￼
Kanting a drifting boat is also important. Anglers must be able to reach the shore or where they are casting. The boat should move slightly slower than the current. Tilt means that the boat is tilted slightly to the shore. As you move through the current to adjust the position of the boat or change shore, your path will also be angled or Kanted.
Clearing bridges is important. Most rods break by being stepped on or when the boat is in motion. The rule is that if the boat is moving, passengers are seated or have their legs well up in the stations. Life jackets are also a great idea. You can wear small, compact and discreet vests. Closed rod holders are a good idea. Having pre-rigged rods stored safely allows an angler to quickly change rods from a surface fly to a nymph rig using rod holders. ￼
Having a throw bag is important if someone goes overboard. A fisherman put the hook so hard, in the back station, that he came out the back of the boat. A quick hit from a throw bag gave him something to hold on to as the boat quickly beached. In this case, they also held the rod and landed the fish. Enter and exit the boat from the rower station in the middle of the boat.
Know the drift before you float it. Use maps and visit takeaways before making the trip. Hang a ribbon from a tree to indicate the location. Take a GPS map navigation reading. In some cases, islands or channels may obstruct the takeaway view. Going upstream is not an option.
When you stop your boat, announce the upcoming release from shore or anchor. NEVER stick to the mainstream. The drifting boat can easily sink through the stern and flood the boat and passengers. Anchor at the edge of moving water. Also wet when beached. Changing flows and wind can launch the stranded boat before you can catch it. Anchors of around 4o pounds work best. Light anchors tend to drag the bottom. Never attach the anchor line to the boat. In an emergency, let go of the anchor line, go. ￼
If you’re not careful, you’ll hurt yourself! Alcohol, drugs and distractions will increase the risk. Save the alcohol for the return trip to the campsite or lodge. Focus on fishing instead of being stupid!
Drift safe and smart!