Benefits of float fishing a stretch of Colorado river |

Benefits of float fishing a stretch of Colorado river

Ray Kyle
Special to the Daily
Fishing from a boat has many benefits, including space to haul your gear — or beer.
Scott Cramer | Special to the Weekly |

Two holes or 200 holes?

With float fishing, you are able to access areas that are otherwise private and tend to have fish that don’t see the amount of pressure fish see on public waters. From a boat, you are able to make casts toward the banks with hoppers, dry flies and streamers — trying pull fish that are tucked close to the shore.

The idea for this article was given to me by my wife and I hope to hand down some of the same helpful techniques and tips to hooking fish from a boat as I gave her.

Types of Boats

There are primarily two different types of boats that we take down the river in this area. A drift boat is a hard sided, fiberglass constructed boat designed to fly-fish from. There is a front seat, back seat, row station and usually built-in storage. These boats are extremely spacious and comfortable to fish from.

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They are lightweight, easy to maneuver and have high sides to prevent waves from entering the boat. The fiberglass, hard sides of a drift boat can be damaged or even broken by the sharp rocks that are found in the river, this being a major disadvantage to a drift boat.

The other option is a raft. We like smaller, 12- to 14-foot rafts with the addition of a row frame including a front and back seat and an anchor system.

Rafts can take much more of a beating than a drift boat, making it perfect for low water and rivers such as the Eagle. In rafts, you will lose out on space and built-in storage that you might find in a drift boat, however, you can get dry boxes that fit in the frames of most rafts.

A nice benefit to float fishing is that you get to bring as much gear as the boat fits. This means you can have multiple rods, rigged differently to attack the different types of water you’ll come across throughout your float.

I like having a rod setup for dry fly-fishing, nymphing and streamer fishing. This way I can quickly grab a different rod if I need to change up my approach.

Fishing from a Boat

Whether you’re fishing from a drift boat or raft, there are techniques that are different from wade fishing. The obvious difference is you’ll be moving down the river rather than standing in one spot. If you can cast your nymph rig or dry fly in the right spot, then a well mended drift can last a very long time from a boat with an experienced oarsman in control.

Streamer fishing is possibly the most exciting way to fish from a boat if the dry fly action isn’t on that day. Standing from the boat, you can make casts to the bank’s edges and target areas where fish are surely to be lurking. Many times you can see fish flash and chase your streamer aggressively as you are making strips. Streamers tend to bring out the biggest fish in the river, so if you are targeting trophies, then this can be the most effective.

A huge benefit to float fishing is that we can fish areas that are private and inaccessible to the wade angler.

The state of Colorado’s private water laws say that the property owner owns the bottom of the river but not the water itself. When floating through private water, the boat can fish the section, however, it can’t drop anchor or pin itself on a rock without trespassing.

One thing that is often forgotten when float fishing is that you are floating down a beautiful river in this amazing state. Take some time in between casts to take in the surroundings.

Bald eagles are a typical sight in the steep canyons along the Colorado River.

Boat Etiquette

One thing that can be difficult on a river is fishing around other boats. The river is a place that is open to all sorts of activities. Whether it’s other fishing boats, people enjoying their day off or wade anglers, you should always give space to the people that are around you.

No one wants to be crashed into or have their lines tangled when boats get too close.

As far as etiquette goes in the boat, there are a couple things to keep in mind. When there is an angler in the front and back, use the oars as a reference point for making casts and line control. It can be easy to cross lines, and to avoid this, the front angler should not let their line go past the oar and the back angler shouldn’t cast their line in front of the oars. Also try to not move around too much on the boat to prevent it from rocking.

Float fishing is extremely fun and can be a very productive way to fish. It’s a great way to cover a lot of water and gives you a large amount of opportunities.

Give your buddy that has a boat a call, offer to pay for the shuttle and enjoy an awesome day on the water. If you don’t have a friend with a boat, then give a local fly shop a call and hire a guide to show you the pleasure of fishing from a boat.

Ray Kyle is the shop supervisor and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 and

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