As you may have heard we had a death on the Lower Yuba last month when an older gentleman was knocked out of a drift boat rowed by his son and did not recover.
I discussed this with friends and have decided to post some articles about the art and safety regarding rowing a drift boat, raft or pontoon boat down a river. With more and more people floating our rivers in drift boats, rafts and pontoon boats it is important to emphasize the education and practice to row boats safely………
Let’s get started with the basic rowing technique. As kids we probably at one time or another found ourselves on a lake in a row bow. To get around you’d be facing the bow (front) and you’d reach forward with your hands as the oar blades went back, dip the oars, and then pull them backwards, which resulted in moving the boat backwards. This is the same technique that will be the basis of rowing either a drift boat, a raft with a rowing frame or a pontoon boat…….
Basic Maneuvering – “Ferrying” the Boat
In Part II we learned how to pivot the boat by using one oar as an anchor or to use both oars to pivot the boat. Here’s how pivoting comes into play when maneuvering the boat down a river and avoiding obstacles or just generally getting around.
All maneuvers of the boat involve ferrying or variations of ferrying the boat. To ferry the boat you point the stern (rear) of the boat right or left to an approximate 30 to 45 degree angle to the current and pull backwards on the oars.
The most important use of the ferrying maneuver is to avoid obstacles. When you ferry the boat you are maneuvering around an obstacle by pivoting and then pointing the bow of the boat at the obstacle and backrowing away from the obstacle…….
Lets put some of our techniques into use and talk about the first maneuver you’ll have to learn which is how to put in and shove off into the current.
Whether you’re putting your boat in a river at a busy launch ramp, a primitive launch or in a portion of the river during your day, you need to know how to launch the boat properly. Most put-ins or launch sites won’t present many problems, but there are instances where immediate control needs to be executed. An example of this is where the boat stops to scout a log jamb, a big rapid or large boulder garden prior to running it. This is by the way, always a good idea. There may be only one good route and rapids and obstacles show no mercy……..
Entering the main current from an eddy or side channel
A situation that a rower must look out for, and then plan for, is when you have to enter a swift flowing current from a slower current, such as an eddy or other soft water.
When you encounter a situation similar to this, here are a few things you should take into consideration……..
A very good rowing or oar manipulation skill is the crawl stroke. The crawl stroke is a combination of backrowing and sweeping. Sweeping is accomplished by turning the oar around facing upstream and pushing or pulling on the oar handle sideways rather that front to back as in standard backrowing. The reason learning the crawl stroke is so beneficial is that you can eliminate a high percentage of standard pivot turns, which make it much easier for the angler in the stern angler. The stern angler is the most affected by using pivot turns because the stern has to move laterally to execute the pivot.
The crawl stroke is a smooth oar stroke and minimizes the lateral movement for the stern angler, which enables the angler to keep fishing as normal while executing a turn……
When nymphing from a drift boat you are typically casting multiple flies with shot. On the Lower Yuba River which often has good water clarity you also need to add the element of stealth. This means that you often need to be able to cast your nymphing rigg at least 2 rod lengths and more from the boat. This may seem daunting to some. By using a water loading casting technique you will be able to improve your ability to achieve these distances with less tangling when casting shot and multiple flies. We were fishing one day and my son Zack looked at me with a huge smile and a tangled mess of tippet and flies and said, “Look dad, I’ve got a bigger rat’s nest then grandpa.” Using a water load cast can help this from happening…..
One of the most important things to master when you are nymphing from a drift boat is to be able to cast your rigg to the correct seam and them manage the indicator and flies to dead drift correctly.
1. When side drifting from a drift boat under indicator the idea is to set up a drag free drift.
2. Once the indicator lands, Stack mend the tip of your fly line directly behind the indicator………