Salomone: Basic tips for fly fishing from a boat

Most importantly, enjoy the time on the water

Michael Salomone
With high-flowing rivers, float fishing is what's available. Before heading out, it's important to locate your Personal Flotation Device and brush up on a few key skills and rules.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The river is flowing high right now with the peak of runoff nowhere in sight. Sequestered to float fishing or stillwaters, anglers may not feel as adept in their angling proficiency. Don’t let that eliminate you from angling altogether. Whether it is a guided adventure, a bonding experience with a couple buddies or embracing the learning curve to improve your float-fishing skills, a quick touch on some dos and don’ts as we embark into what will be a stellar float season is a good idea.

There are three people in the boat — two anglers and one guide or rower seated in the middle of the boat — and each has their own jobs to do during the float. The jobs become easier when a few rules are followed.

The first and most important rule is to wear your Personal Floatation Device (PFD). There can be no leeway here. A PFD is required by the powers that control the permitting. The easiest way to put your business, permit and client in harm’s way is to give slack when it comes to wearing and fishing with a PFD. Zip it, buckle it and consider it a part of your float-fishing uniform.

Avoid being the “swimmer.” Inevitably, someone will fall out as conditions at some point expectedly become rough. This person is referred to as a “swimmer.” Swimming is a bad thing. Gear gets lost, anglers gain fear and the whole situation takes on an intensity not regularly felt, which can discourage people from attempting a float again. This tip re-emphasizes the importance of wearing the PFD. Stay in the boat.

The fisherman in the front seat should focus on one thing, and on thing only: fishing.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The front-seat angler has fewer jobs to attend to. For the front angler, just fish. Keep it away from the guide and the rear angler. Focus on fishing. Hit the most effective water as you go. It’s yours. The front angler gets the prime spots, so cast to them. Don’t save a thing. Take what you can, but stay in front of the oars. A float is designed to take advantage of the river by presenting flies in the best places.

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The rear angler needs to keep their eyes up and aware. From the oars back is yours. Aim for holding water missed by the front angler. The man in the front can’t cover it all; watch for what they miss, and take it. Success can be achieved in the rear seat if you watch and pay attention. Looking ahead is mandatory for the front angler and necessary for the rear angler to achieve success.

But, don’t cast over oars. Fly rods flex. The increase in travel your casting stroke delivers will make your rod bend farther than you realize. Such bending will flex over the oar and make contact that will break your rod.

Line management will increase success. Leaving excessive amounts of line floating on the water or scattered in the boat elevates the chances for drag. Drag is the fault of the angler. Line mismanagement results in drag. Unless we are fishing with caddis, keep the drag out of your drift. If drag is evident, make another cast. Keep moving with the water and the boat.

Limit your false casting to a minimum. We are floating in the river; casts need not be long but accurate. False casting keeps your flies out of the water and increases the chance of fouling and tangles. Picking up your fly and placing it back into the river with one stroke is the proper approach.

Success in the rear seat happens for those who are alert and cast in spots missed by the front-seat angler.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

You are going to overshoot …and lose flies … accept it. The guide can’t row back for every fly caught on the bank. Especially in high water, the ability to retrieve inadvertent casts is nonexistent. Switch sides. Be adept at casting in both directions. One side will feel more natural.

And, take turns in the front.

Take time to appreciate the little moments not associated with fish. Companions, scenery and the float itself are examples of the little stuff sometimes overlooked. Slowing down can burn memories into your soul that can’t be erased.

These are just a few basic tips to keep in mind when float fishing. The PFD is a no excuses type of tool. Use it the way it is intended. Keep your eyes up and looking for where to place your next cast. And above all, enjoy your time on the water in places some anglers only dream about.

Taking time to pause and savor the surroundings, the people and the fishing is one of the most important float-fishing rules.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

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