[Editor’s Note: Here’s another useful how-to piece from the archive. Many readers may have booked a float trip for this season, and it’s a good idea to brush up on your boat etiquette and technique.]
Fishing from a drift-boat or a raft with another angler is one of the rare instances in fly-fishing where your actions directly affect someone else’s fishing. Therefore, you’ve got to be constantly aware of what your partner is doing and show good manners at all times. The biggest problem is when one angler cuts off another’s access to good water. Usually the problem is caused by the bow angler casting too far upstream, thus leaving the stern angler with nowhere to cast. However, the stern angler can make things difficult for his bow counterpart by casting too far downstream, as well.
The root of both of these problems is that casting from a boat is different from casting while wading. Because the boat is moving downstream with the current, although often at a different rate, the anglers’ relationship to that current is constantly changing. If you’re fishing with a guide, he will usually tell both anglers what their correct casting angles should be—usually quartering downstream—depending on the relative speeds of the boat and the current, as well as the angle of the boat. (Rule number 1: Listen to your guide!) If both anglers maintain the correct angles, both can achieve long dead-drifts, which is often the key to success when fishing from a boat.
Fly fishermen are accustomed to casting directly toward the bank, but if the bow angler does this, he forces the stern angler to do the same, often making it impossible for the stern angler to get a good drift. This is why most people agree that the bow is the best place to be. You get first crack at the water, and there’s no one in front of you to throw a line in your way.
On the other hand, the bow angler is most open to razzing and ridicule, since both the rower and the stern angler can see everything he does. The stern angler can often screw up in secret.
Listen to Tom Rosenbauer’s podcast on this subject, below: