Driftboat Fishing: The Ins And Outs

Driftboat Fishing: The Ins And Outs

Plus, are guides allowed to yell?

  • By: Buzz Bryson

I've never fished from a drift boat before. Is there any special protocol I need to know?

First, never, ever hook the guide. It's also best not to bop him or her with a split-shot, especially in the back of the head or ear.

Beyond that, there are a few other things that will make the day go smoother. Start by washing off your boots before getting into the boat. Most guides try to keep their boat and equipment spotless, and that first simple gesture will start the relationship off right.

Next, tell the guide you're new at driftboat fishing, but eager to learn and would greatly appreciate any and all suggestions he or she might offer. In fact, I've fished out of drift boats for a long time, and still ask the guides for any tips. You'll find most have something to offer that's new to you, and worth considering.

Also, don't hesitate to ask for tips on casting, line mending, knot tying, fish fighting, the whole works. And it's OK to carry on some neighborly conversation. Getting to know your guide and the area and waters you're fishing can give you a greater appreciation for your trip, and you might just develop the beginnings of a lifelong friendship.

Normally, there will be two anglers and the guide in the boat. Whether you're fishing dries, nymphs or streamers, the guide will typically keep the boat moving parallel to the streambank, and you'll cast toward the bank. Unless the guide suggests otherwise, the angler in front should cast downstream, at roughly a 45-degree angle. The boat will quickly catch up with the cast, so you'll be getting a longer drift that way, and a better retrieve. Mostly, though, what you're doing by casting at an angle is allowing the (slightly disadvantaged) angler in the back some space to fish. If the back angler is cut off from casting in any direction other than straight out, there's little room for a good drift, and his fly will soon be dragging behind the boat. And since the normal protocol is for the anglers to switch places at midday (or perhaps every couple of hours; agree on which beforehand), you'll expect the same courtesy when you're in the back of the boat.

Think about learning to cast backhanded, to cast sidearm and to rollcast. If you're in the back of the boat and are able to cast backhanded, your guide and partner will enjoy the trip much more, as the "pucker factor" of anticipating your next wayward cast over their heads will virtually be eliminated. And when you're in the front of the boat and the wind is blowing upstream, that low sidearm cast ahead of the bow will also keep the guide happy.

Good line control is very important in driftboat fishing. The more efficient you are with your casting and line control, the more chances you'll have to catch fish. Minimize false casting, eliminating it altogether if possible. Pick up the fly, shoot some line on the backcast, and lay the fly back down. Control the slack with the rod tip and line hand, so you'll be ready to set the hook if a fish takes the fly when it hits the water. Learn to mend the line when needed to extend the length of the float. Sometimes, you'll be able to get a good drift for a considerable distance. Again, seek the guide's advice. -B.B.

When is it permissible for a guide to yell at a client?

Never. OK, I take that back; there are a couple of extenuating circumstances that come to mind. For instance, if the client is doing something that could endanger his own or someone else's safety, then the guide can be forgiven for yelling in order to get the bonehead's full attention. And I suppose a guide might also be excused for giving a holler if a client seems on the verge of causing massive destruction of valuable property-tripping over a pile of fly rods, backing a vehicle into a building; you get the picture.

But never should a guide scream at a client for fishing "wrong." For one thing, the client is paying for the guide's time, not the other way around. And for another, the client isn't under-performing on purpose; he just isn't as good an angler as he could be, and it's the guide's job to try to help him improve, at least a little.

A good guide will always do the best he can with the raw material-in this case, the angler-that he has at hand. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any guide who doesn't want to teach anything to his anglers probably would do better in another line of work. -P.G

Got questions about anything under the fly-fishing sun? Write to "Ask FR&R," PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843, or e-mail us at editors@flyrodreel.com.