Rowing For Fishermen: Three Tips

Rowing a boat isn’t some mystical thing that takes ages to get right. Yes, it does take practice. Yes, it can be tricky to figure out at first, especially in faster water. However once you get the basics down it’s reasonably easy to not crash into things and sink. Just look ahead, be proactive, and keep the bow pointed downstream. Rowing for a fisherman is a different matter.

Not only are you watching ahead and navigating the river but you are trying to position your fishermen for the good water. You’ve got to know where the good holding water is ahead of you and keep an eye out for rising fish and other targets of opportunity. If the fishermen in your boat are novice you’re probably also changing flies, untangling leaders, and generally dispensing fishing knowledge and trash talk.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when rowing for fishermen.


Your anglers are going to be focused on their flies. Whether it’s a bobber or dry fly, that’s where their attention is going to be. They won’t be looking around, they won’t be planning ahead, it’s game time. (That’s one reason why we recommend putting the rod down and soaking in the scenery from time to time – don’t want to miss out on the float!) As the oarsman you are the only one that is really watching the river ahead.

It’s your job to be scanning banks for pockets, eddy lines, foam, and rising fish. You should always be planning a couple hundred yards ahead and planning your movements. Knowing what your fishermen are using helps plan. For instance, you might have the front angler fishing a dry fly that is best a foot off the bank, and the guy in back has a double nymph rig set for 5-7’ and he needs a deeper current seam to fish that well. You have to be watching for optimal water for both fishermen.

While rowing for fishermen does take a lot of attention, it’s also a lot of fun. You get to relax a bit, trash talk your buddies, share in a great day with friends and family and enjoy the scenery. The very best day I’ve ever had on a river was a 14-hour float and I rowed for all but 45 minutes of it. Enjoy it.


One of the challenges in rowing for fishermen is keeping the boat at a good distance for both your anglers to reach the water that’s best for them. It’s a constant game of maneuvering and adjusting to keep them at the right distance. River banks are rarely ever straight. They move and bend and dip and you have to move the boat along with it to maintain that position.

Knowing how far your fishermen can cast comfortably and accurately is important. You don’t want to post up 50’ away from the good water and make them reach and stretch for it. They won’t catch any fish and everyone will end up getting frustrated with each other. Check in with them now and then and make sure you’re putting them where they need and want to be.

Photo: Evan Makuvek


Back rowing is your friend. This can slow the boat down, which helps in two ways. It gives you much more control of the boat. If you’re floating at the same speed as the river you don’t have the ability to make moves and gain momentum as easily. This matters a lot in rough or technical water.

Slowing the boat down also gives your fishermen more time to fish the prime water. This could give them two drifts through a good pocket instead of a rushed one. Allowing flies to move at a natural pace is key to an effective presentation with a fly rod. If the boat is going too fast and pulling flies along it looks unnatural to the fish.

If you really need to slow way down and fish some awesome looking water, drop anchor and have at it. Read our recent blog post about how to use an anchor here.

Montana is world renowned for its rivers and fly fishing. It’s right out our backdoor! Use these tips when you’re rowing for fishermen and everyone will be happier and catch more fish.

Our fishing raft rentals are the perfect fishing platforms for all our local rivers. The NRS frames have lots of fishing specific features, and they handle really well. As a fishing boat for chasing down monster trout, they’re perfect. We take advanced reservations, so rent one today!


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