The fly fishing drift boat is one of the most versatile crafts built for moving waters. Our guide explains the basic features and techniques of rowing a drift boat.

Shop Our Essential Fly Boxes

Basics of the Fly Fishing Drift Boat

Originally built for the larger rivers of the west they can also be used on flat water with a motor.

The history goes back as far as the early 1900s. They originated on the McKenzie and Rogue rivers in Oregon and are still used on the larger rivers of the west.

Many changes have been made to the design over the years and the current design has proven a very versatile craft.

Drift boats are expensive and require a trailer. Most new drift boats will cost $4000 or more plus the cost of the trailer.

Features of a Fly Fishing Drift Boat

Features of the drift boat include a flat bottom, making it easy to stand up in and cast from. The flat bottom also allows it to slide over shallow areas and rocks.

The fly fishing drift boat has more freeboard than a row boat and the flared sides allow it to handle moderate whitewater better.

The bottom also has an accentuated rocker from bow to stern. This rocker makes it more maneuverable. The maneuverability of the fly fishing drift boat is important because when rowing in a river you may need to move laterally across the river to avoid rapids or downed trees.
Canoeists use this same feature in their whitewater canoes.

A small transom has been added to the drift boat so you can add a motor for flat or slow water.

Drift boats are usually made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass. Wood is quieter, but requires yearly maintenance. Aluminum requires less maintenance but is noisy, and fiberglass is more durable and quiet, but heavy.

This extra weight can be a plus when it comes to the waves and wind, but not so much when it comes to moving it on the launch site.

You may also find launch sites out west that would prove difficult for other fly fishing boats. Bringing extra rope is sometimes a good idea.

Explore Fly Fishing Boats

A drift boat can be great for fly fishing, but there are other kinds of boats that can work for whatever situation you fish the most in. Read our guides covering inflatable drift boats, fly fishing pontoons, and float tubes.

Rowing a Drift Boat

You row against the current, slowing your descent downstream.

Be careful when crossing currents of different speeds, as in eddies; these areas can cause the boat to turn suddenly or flip.

When rowing for other fly fishers, try to slow the drift boat so it is traveling at the same speed as the current. This allows your partner to present a natural drift

Whatever you do, do not run a river unless you have researched it first. Check in with the people who may know the river. Fly shops and guides are good sources of information.

Booking a trip with a guide on the same river is a very good idea. Rivers change from year to year and even day to day, so do your research.

Always, always wear a PFD!