Covering water from a raft or a drift boat is one of my favorite ways to fly fish. If you have ever heard the expression “you don’t row, you don’t go” odds are you desperately want to learn to row as your buddies are not inviting you on their float trips. The best way to get onto these trips is to bring something to the table and be able to do your fair share of rowing (which should be 1/3rd of the time.) The problem is it can be tough to learn. I don’t really enjoy fishing from the bow when someone is on the sticks for their first time and know other experienced fisherman would agree. So then how do you learn to safely row a boat and set up your buddies to catch fish? Here are some tips on how to get comfortable rowing a boat so that you can join in on the next float adventure!
- Got to a spot where they rent drift boats. If a shop is comfortable renting you a drift boat, the river you will be floating on will not be dangerous and a perfect spot to learn. (Not like the photo above.)
- Do this with some other buddies who want to learn to row as well. It is very difficult to fish effectively when someone is rowing for their first time. This should be a trip dedicated to learning to row, not to fishing.
- Remember that rowing a boat to get down a river is very different from rowing and setting up a fisherman. When you are rowing, imagine you are fishing on the front of the boat, how would you like the oarsmen to step you up? Which bank? Should you be slowing the boat down or speeding it up? Imagine you are fishing yourself and set up the boat accordingly.
- Start off practicing your backstroke. Get into a calm stretch of water (this can be a lake or a slow moving river) and learn to back row. This will be your most commonly used oar stroke and one that you want to build some muscle memory with.
- See what happens when you just drop one oar into the water while you are drifting in some current. You will see how much simply putting an oar in the water affects the direction you are facing and your speed.
- Following up with the previous point, less is more. You don’t want to over muscle anything or you will shoot past where you want to go. Learn how much impact you can have on the boats orientation by simply putting an oar in the water or slowly back rowing.
- If you want to avoid something, point the bow of the boat towards it and back row away. NEVER row forward and try to turn. If you see an obstacle you want to avoid, back row!
- A great way to learn is to sit in the back of the boat and watch how an expert rower goes about. This first thing you will notice is how little movement he does. Everything is smooth and calculated, never jerky. Smooth and steady is much more important than strength out there.
- Most importantly, safety is always the priority. Never put yourself in a situation you are not comfortable with. And always be prepared for the worst. You need to ALWAYS have life vests, a back up oar, repair kit, and a throw rope.
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