Success _ guide Gabe Levin and a happy hooked-up Elizabeth

THE LOOK that labrador gave me….

My first experience fly fishing from a boat in current was on the Beaverhead outside Dillon in Montana was a learning curve. A heavy fly, fast current, awesome scenery and tough fishing but I remember the look on Shaun’s boat dog’s face when I wrapped his muzzle in tippet.

I also remember the relief at not hooking him. Fishing from a boat, carries a certain intimidation factor. The platform on which you stand is moving, you have probably never fished this close to another person (unless you are a trout park graduate).

These days its standard practice, having cast from all manner of water craft, and spent countless hours coaching other debutante’s from the middle seat. There are a few things to make it easier.

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If you want to bemuse your guide, walk up to his boat with every piece of fly fishing gear you own in your arms. Here’s a list of what you need: sun glasses, hat, sunscreen, camera or phone (for pictures), wet weather gear, and clothing appropriate for the conditions.

Remember space, especially dry or secure storage in regard to rods, is limited. You may have a nice rod and reel case for your rods but do you really want it getting wet. And having clear space around you for flyline, avoiding tangles, is worth its weight on gold.


Casting over the centre of the boat is the most intimidating factor. Be confident and try not to change a thing, use your normal cast, over your natural shoulder. A standard cast on a 9′ rod will send those flies high over everyone in the line of fire. Only side arm casters need to adjust to a cast that is more vertical.

You might want to try to cast across your body, but generally its not a good option: lacking power and accurancy, leading to more wind knots. On bigger flies, like streamers etc, it is worth learning to cast backhand. Our guides will be more than happy to help.

Most guides will have angler’s casting to the same side of the boat, and always casting one at a time, will reduce headaches.


The biggest headache for boat fishers is handling the 90 degree change of direction when the tip of the line ends up downstream of their boat.

Picking up the whole length of line into a cast inevitable leads to trouble, particularly by the downstream angler, as the line arcs around upstream of the rod.  Even if you miss the upstream angler, the change in direction with a nymph rig, is a good way to end up in a hideous snarl.

The best approach is simplest, strip in a bunch of line to shorten up the initial cast. Once you get it heading out in the right direction you can false cast to reach out where you want the flies placed. Your fishing buddy won’t have that hook of fear on his face and  you will spend more time fishing not untangling.



Once you start getting up into bigger flows the standard deep nymph rigs involve much heavier weights and longer leaders. Just like streamer fishing there is a rule to stay safe.

Don’t start the power part of the cast until you can see the flies.  Trying to cast a 2 fly rig with a couple of BB split short 10′ down is a good way to wear those flies somewhere below your waist.

Once again get control of all the slack line stripping in line, then start a slow lift to bring the heavy shot close to the surface, then apply power.


If you are a dry fly addict, or used to hooking fish wading in fast water, the type of hook sets drifting from a boat will take some getting used to. Since you are floating at the same speed at the indicator, all the work getting tight to a fish has to be done by the fly fisher.

We see a lot of slow patient lifts “feeling for the trout”, or worse a lift and hesitate just as the flies clear the water, which ensure that the rig will sail back into the boat.

A nice positive rod lift, over your casting shoulder, plus a couple of good strips of the line hand should come tight on most fish. But be prepared for that trout to start heading in your direction meaning strip harder.