Fly Fishing From a Boat – How NOT to snag the rower!

Beautiful Scenery On Clark Fork River

Fly fishing casting from a boat is different than casting from shore. Mostly because in a 13-16 foot space, there are 2 casters with someone sitting between rowing. That’s a lot of people in a confined area. You might be seated when casting, which is also a challenge. Accuracy with both back cast and front cast, standing or sitting, is critical when floating.

While not exactly casting instruction, this is important information when float-fishing. Both anglers must cast from the same side of the boat. Fishing off opposite sides of the boat brings both fly lines into the same back cast fly zone. Also, the backseat angler doesn’t cast when the angler in front is casting. Both statements are designed to prevent the lines from tangling. The angler in the back can see the whole boat. They’re in charge of making sure their cast doesn’t tangle with the caster in front, because they have the line of sight.

The front seat caster also has responsibilities. The front of the boat always casts at a 45 degree angle downstream. This gives the back seat angler somewhere to fish. If the angler in the front is casting perpendicular to the boat, the back seat angler has nowhere to cast. When you’re in front, cast front! Onto how to fly cast in a boat.

There are significant changes you make when fly fishing from a boat. They’re not made at all times, but are critical when your back cast is going over the rower’s head. For a right-handed caster in the front seat, the cast goes over the rower’s head when casting off the right side of the boat. In the rear seat, casting off the left side of the boat puts a righty’s cast over the oars.

You don’t want to hook the rower. A list of reasons isn’t necessary. If you DO snag the rower, DON’T set the hook!! Sounds ridiculous, right? There are some anglers who foolishly start yanking and flailing every time their line gets snagged up. Don’t be one of those anglers!

When back casting over the rower, it’s easy to make sure you don’t snag them. Start your back cast with the rod tip almost touching the water. Make sure the slack is out of the line. Bring the tip of the rod up from the surface, stopping your back cast at 12:00. Correct, your casting stroke is going from 8:00 to 12:00.

The line follows the path the rod tip travels during the moment of acceleration. The diagram shows the line traveling almost straight up in the air- far away from the guide! This back cast, however, has a very specific disadvantage. It’s not very efficient for coming forward.

The reason you take a backswing in golf and tennis, or wind up in hockey, is to prepare the body to come forward with the same motion in the same path. Try it some time. Take a club, racquet or stick back in a different path than you plan to bring it forward. It takes a lot of concentration to go back one way, forward another.

It takes the same concentration when casting forward in a boat. If the front cast goes from 12:00 to 8:00, matching the back cast’s path, the line travels straight down. You need to adjust the front cast to make sure it goes forward, not down. You need to change the path the rod tip traveled during the back cast to a different path on the front cast. The change occurs near the end of the back cast, just as the line finishes unfurling. The tip of the rod needs to be dropped to 2:00 o’clock, so you can take the forward cast from 2:00 to 10:00. We know 2:00 to 10:00 is the correct path for the rod tip to travel to cast forward.

For the record, this is not a very efficient cast. Dropping the tip of the rod to start the front cast breaks the continuity of the loop. You’re taking a line traveling up, and throwing it forward. Much of the casting energy is used to change the fly line’s momentum from up to forward. The energy transfers over an angle- this is not the case in a standard cast. Wish we could fully explain this with a dazzling display of physics mastery, but we can’t. It gets complicated with momentum, paths of energy, and most dreaded of all- tangents! You’re going to have to trust us, changing the direction and angle of a cast isn’t easy or efficient.

We often won’t worry about maximum efficiency when fly casting from a boat. Put simply, if you can’t get a cast close to the target, the rower takes you closer to the target! Try THAT when you’re wading! The best fly fishing guides in Missoula will gage your casting, and then keep the boat in position to maximize your casting abilities. It’s the reason why you get in a boat. You maximize coverage of the water. You also see a lot more water in a boat than when wading. That’s the reason so many traveling anglers hire guides, and so many local anglers own boats. You cover more water, more efficiently, from a boat. If a friend invites you to float, and you hook them in the ear, you might not get another chance to float in that boat again! Be ready to change your cast when floating. Safety’s no accident!

Additional Beginner Fly Fishing Resources