Guide Tip: The “45 and 90 Degree” Rule (Repost)

Written by: Tim Linehan

Drift boat downstream

Casting downstream, rather than straight across or even upstream, from a moving
drift boat allows each angler to get the best shots at the most fish.

photo by Kevin Emery

I could feel the grips on the oars bite into my palms as I backrowed and tried to hold the boat in place.

“Okay. Big fish rising at 2 o’clock, five feet from the bank.,” I told the angler in the front of the boat.

“Just a minute, let me get a shot at the one back here,” he replied.

“No. Forget it. Look ahead! Look ahead!”

But it was too late. So we floated by the nicest fish I’d seen all day and never even got a shot at it. It’s easy to get focused on every rise when fishing from a drift boat, but anglers often spend too much time looking back and not taking advantage of the best opportunities to catch fish in front of them. By applying the “45 and 90 degrees” rule, you will increase your opportunities to catch more fish when drift boat fishing.

If you’re in the front of the boat, start by orienting yourself downstream in the leg locks and, generally speaking, face front. It’s important to keep in mind that the very minute you cast behind the boat, your flies are dragging. It’s as simple as that. Sure, once in a while you make a 50-foot cast behind the boat and manage to pull one out of your you-know-what, but that’s really just luck. To fish better from a drift boat, you should always be facing front if the boat is floating downstream. Nothing behind you matters.

The “45 and 90 degrees” rule is basic and easily explained. If the boat is moving the same speed as the current, you should make your cast downstream 45 degrees ahead of the boat. That way, the line, fly, and boat are moving at the same speed, allowing for a long, drag-free drift–provided you mend as neccessary. If the boat is being slowed by the oars, adjust your cast to 90 degrees, perpendicular to the side of the boat. This way, you’re effectively compensating for the slower speed of the boat relative to the speed of the current. Make a good, sweeping mend, and you’re in the game.

By applying the 45 and 90 degree rule you can fish more effeciently from a drift boat and spend less time with your fly dragging and more time hooking up.

Tim Linehan is the owner of Linehan Outfitting Co. on the Kootenai River in Troy, Montana.

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