Floating on the river
When I go fishing I prefer to fish from a boat. I use a raft when the water is too shallow (winter) or too high (early spring) to navigate safely. A small raft is also the perfect match for the fast rocky character of the Eagle River. However, the “Cadillac” of boats is the dory, or more popularly known as a drift boat. Excellent for the Colorado and the Roaring Fork, hard-bottom boats are very fisherman friendly with level surfaces to stand on and elevating the angler for better vision.
Drift boats have come along way since the turn of the century. Some say the Banks Dories, used by Atlantic Cod fisherman made from cedar planks, were the earliest drift boat designs. The fisherman of Southern Oregon improved these boats to row the rocky whitewater of the McKenzie and Rogue Rivers. Today, drift boats are very advanced and come in a wide variety of styles from a range of manufactures.The most important part of the boat is material. Fiberglass, aluminum, wood or even plastic is now being used to build the modern drift boat. Aluminum is lighter, stronger and more durable than its rivals, yet it can be cold and unwelcoming inside. Aluminum is also very loud and can spook fish when going over a rock. Wood boats are beautiful to look at and smooth to row. However, they are delicate and require a lot of care. Annual refurbishing takes time and can be costly. Most local guides prefer fiberglass for drift-boat hulls. It’s the perfect combination of durability, comfort and performance.Hand-laid fiberglass is very strong and forgiving. I can row over a rock to keep an angler on a fish, yet the bottom will flex to allow me soft and quiet contact. I will not spook the fish and I have not done any damage to the boat. Fiberglass can also be repaired easily and cheaply, and will last almost forever.
Drift boats come in a variety of styles and configurations. There are high sides, big water boats and low profile, calmer-water boats. You can also choose different lengths, floor plans and accessories. My boat will allow me to change the interior configuration; for example from a bench seat to a pedestal, or from one seat to two depending on what I need. Decide what you will be using your boat for and custom design it for your specific wants. I prefer a high-sided boat for use during the spring high water, a storage compartment in back for extra gear and only one seat in front for lots of angler room.Take time to consider other components like rod storage, anchor systems and trailers. Make sure you have at least two additional rod holders, one for each angler. I have guided trips where both fishermen break their rods and without a spare, they would be out of luck for the rest of the day.
I like a foot anchor release (on the floor), so my hands can continuously be on the oars. The best trailers are galvanized dipped to prevent paint chipping and future rusting. They are also available with a stinger attachment, or the ability to hook up two boats up at once behind the same vehicle.Another important design feature is the chine. This is where the sidewall and floor come together. A hard chine is close to a 90-degree angle and will row differently than a soft or rounded chine. Guides have strong preferences on chines and one should row each type before making a new boat purchase.A drift boat can be an important advantage to fishing rivers. They provide the angler a comfortable casting platform to present the fly to fish, especially when fishing the banks. Cup holders, coolers, dry storage and padded seats all cater to the guest. I always float longer sections of river than I could possibly wade, thus placing my fly over many miles of mouths. Floating allows anglers the privilege of fishing private waters that cannot be accessed by wading. If you have not fished from a boat before, try a full day float in a drift boat with any of our experienced guides and experience the “Cadillac” of fly-fishing.
Pete Mott is a guide for Gorsuch Outfitters. He can be reached at 926-0900. Vail, Colorado
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