Fly fishing pontoon boats allow a solo fly fisher to access areas in a river or lake that a bank fisher just cannot get to. Our guide will help you learn more about pontoon boats for fly fishing.Shop Our Essential Fly Boxes
What is a Fly Fishing Pontoon Boat?
Fly fishing pontoon boats first became available in the mid-1980s.
The one-man pontoon boat varies between 8 to 10 feet long and can be rowed similar to a rowboat or kicked with swim fins. This makes them very easy to maneuver.
Let’s look at why a pontoon boat is one of the more popular fly fishing boats used today.
Advantages of Fly Fishing Pontoon Boats
• They allow a solo fly fisher to access areas in a river or lake that a bank fisher just cannot get to.
• They are more affordable than other kinds of fly fishing boats and they come in many different configurations.
• They are very maneuverable.
• They are very stable. Some even have solid floors, which allow you to stand.
• They are lightweight and therefore very portable. You can get the inflatable boats in the trunk of your car.
• They are easy to assemble. Most do not need tools to put them together.
• Most come with added features like storage bags, drink holders and rod holders. The extra compartments can come in really handy.
• Even the lower cost pontoon boats are very durable.
• Some will even come with a motor mount for an electric motor.
What to Look For In a Fly Fishing Pontoon Boat
• First you need to think long and hard (even if that hurts) about the kind of waters you want to fish. If you are lake fishing or running a sedate river any fly fishing pontoon boat will work.
• If you are running a river with some whitewater make sure your boat is rated for it. Be careful here; most of the smaller boats are not designed for this.
• They come with either inflatable or solid pontoons. I would stay with the inflatable ones for now. You can’t get the solid ones in your trunk; a pickup truck will be needed for those. The inflatable pontoons are also lighter.
• Just a note here about hull shapes. If a fly fishing boat has a V bottom it will track better when you want to go in a straight line. A U-shape hull with “rocker” (the tubes are curved up a lot at both ends) will give you faster turns but you also will be “rocking” back and forth all the way across the lake. Ask any whitewater canoeist about “rocker.”
• What you weigh matters. All pontoon boats are rated for a certain weight. Going a little heavier allows you to bring more gear if you plan on an overnight trip.
Read more about what to look for in a fly fishing pontoon boat below.
• Durability is important. Almost all have a PVC outer shell. The inside air bladder comes either PVC vinyl or urethane, with urethane being more durable and expensive. The thickness of the material ranges from 600 to 1500 denier (1500 is the heaviest). Some companies give a ten-year warranty on urethane models. These would be good for whitewater but not really needed if you are going to spend most of your time on a lake.
• Frames come in either powder-coated steel or aluminum. Steel is stronger but it will be heavier. Most can be assembled without tools and other boats have no frame at all.
• Keep in mind that if the boat sits high on the water you will be affected by the wind. Something to think about.
• Your budget. If you are mainly a fair-weather angler who does not plan on spending any time in whitewater, buy a lower cost one. If you have the money, then go for a urethane air bladder.
• And last but not least, get a 12-volt electric pump. It is just nice to have.
Words of Caution
• Do not try the one-man pontoon boats in whitewater unless you have a lot of experience and know the river.
• Whatever you do, do not overload a pontoon boat. You can tip them over. It sounds hard to do, but it can be done.
• Do not leave your PVC pontoon boat on the roof of your car on a hot summer day. When you come back both you and your boat will be deflated. I talked to a gentleman at a fly fishing show who did this.
• Whatever you do always wear a life jacket. In most states it is the law. And it’s a good idea. How far can you swim in 60-degree water? In waders?