drift boats

So far this year I have really enjoyed my pontoon boat - I have had some great days and some mediocre days, but the pontoon has been fun. Only thing is, unless you have friends with pontoons, it is pretty much a solo deal. I have been thinking that a drift boat would be cool, because you could regularly go fishing with two or three people. But here is my question. How difficult are they to use? Are you pretty much wasted after a day on the water, or are they (glass or aluminum-not wood)generally OK to to handle? I am forty-nine and in pretty decent shape, but I ain't twenty-two anymore either. The other question is is this: If you are the owner and rower of the boat, and you take others fishing, do you get to fish much yourself? I am thinking that I would use it on the Yakima and Skagit (Marblemount to Rockport) mostly, but would be ready to go lots of places. Anyway some general input as to the "energy" factor would be helpful. Thanks

Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
Because of their design, drift boats handle very easily in the water. I've never felt spent at the end of the day. It's amazing how slowly a big heavy boat will go down fairly fast current! Due to this design, you can create the exact same speed as the current and get those wonderful drag-free drifts.

Since you already know how to row by virtue of having been on the pontoon, the learning curve will be very short for you. The only noticeable difference is how much slower the drift boat meanders downriver. You do want to line up on obstacles a bit further in advance because the heaviness of the boat won't allow you to turn quite as quickly as you're used to with a pontoon.

As for taking other people fishing and having them row, like most things, it takes time on the oars to become proficient as a rower. Unless the people that you intend to share the rowing with have experience, or unless you're patient to give them experience, plan on doing most if not all of the rowing, especially if those same people have not had any experience with pontoons either.

Why not rent a dift boat a day or two and see if it is to your liking before dropping the dough? I think Red's rents boats, there may be others.

Best of luck and hope that helps.

Steve Buckner
The amount of energy you expend and the amount of time you actually get to fish depends on how you do it. When we go in my friend's boat we don't fish from it much, but use it more to bar-hop. We get to a nice run and fish from the beach so everyone gets fishing time.


Active Member
I started building wood drifters about 3 years ago, and I was tuckered out after my first couple of times at the helm. Muscles that just hadn't been used alot. But both my endurance increased and my ability to row more efficiently.

My boats draw about 7 inches of water with a 12 inch rocker so the drag is not much.

As to fishing time, I haven't figured out how to fly fish and row at the same time, so either we get out on the bars or take turns rowing. I must confess I also have rod holders for pluggin. Then the art of maneuvering the boat to present your plug in and around cover comes into play.

Rent one you'll be hooked.

PS I'm 51

Guy Gregory

Active Member
I'm 46. I got a glass hull from a guy who set it on his firewood pile for about 20 years, and redid the whole thing, wood seats, new rails, oars, anchor system, etc. It came out really good. Rowing is pretty easy to learn, there is a book out there called Rowing and fishing western rivers or something like that, I read that and went fishing. I broke in on the upper Spokane, the Clark Fork, the Kootenai and the Yakima.

At the end of the day I feel great. Rowing is much more about finesse and control than power. In fact, if you're tired from rowing, you're probably rowing too much, it is a drift boat, so drift, ok? My big problem is I have a converted trailer instead of an actual drift boat trailer, and it doesn't work as well on rough or shallow (or rough and shallow) launches.

I'm considering selling and going over to a raft/frame setup, simply because hitting a rock is not a big deal, but of course those are wet all the time.

You will find that you fish less, but I kinda enjoy guiding my friends anyway, rowing, seeing the wildlife, and drinking the various libations brought by my passengers. And with the availabilty of shuttles these days, it's pretty hassle free.

So go for it, I think you'll enjoy it a great deal. I do.

I am getting to be the same way, usually when fishing for steelhead we don't even fish from the boat and just hop from hole to hole (but that is not to say we haven't caught steelies dead drifting just not as often). When fishing rivers like the yak we have begun to implement the 45 minute rule, where we switch rowers every 45 minutes unless someone catches a fish then they immediatley have to row :).

All can say is that having a boat is a blast and I will always have one, I row a 16.8ft WF Clack which I love, but do your research, figure out what you want to use is for mostly and what rivers you will be fishing and then go test run some!

I bought my boat with 2 other friends so it split the cost to make it affordable and have had no problems in usage. I would recommend this to anyone who is scared off by the price tag etc...

Have a fun, row safe, and when in doubt scout :)


Thanks for you input all of you. This site is great, you guys addressed my concerns directly and gave me some things to think about - thanks
I ran into the same thing.
So I went out and got two more pontoon boats!
That way your not with them all the time (lakes).
In the rivers it fun watching them go down side channels etc. they have alot more fun that way.
I'm a sucker for all gear, not just fly fishing gear.


spent spinner
I hear ya' Brassie...

The kickboat thing was kind of a "phase" for me. After selling the driftboat and fishing almost exclusively from my kickboats since '91, I bought a 3-man raft in 2000. The pontoons get less and less use every year. They're great for one guy catching the most possible fish, but they are a solo affair, especially on rivers. I can't tell you how many times friends and I would put in at the launch, and then not really see eachother again until the takeout. I really missed the banter, pitching $#!t back and forth, etc.

I love my raft, but would also like a driftboat again. After all, a guy can NEVER have too many boats.

One thing great about the raft: no chines to destroy on rocks!
I've been using a Clackacraft driftboat for ten years. It's 16 ft. and I purchased it used. It originally came from the Dean River as a guideboat on the Dean. When the person that owned it in Kitimat left town I bought it. I don't find any problems using it as far as the energy factor is concerned. I usually take between one and three passengers and we pull plugs a lot. We sometimes stop and fish from shore. It depends on the boat owner if he fishes or not. I like to pull plugs since the person on the oars is the one doing most of the fishing although he may not land the fish unless he has a sharing system agreed upon. Our river (Kitimat) has a number of places to start and finish so you can choose how much or how little time you put in fishing. You can fish the shortest stretch and still not cover it completely in a twelve hour shift. At 57 my energy level is running on empty any day I go for twelve hours whether I'm fishing from the drift boat or not. It was running low at age twenty also. I don't find the boat particularly draining. The bottom has a lifetime warranty for the original owner. (100 yrs.) I frequently go by myself and fish from the boat or from shore. I can put in for the shortest drift after or before work, (the days are long up here in the summer) and fish for anywhere from two hours to six hours.:thumb
I bought a used aluminum 16 foot boat last December and have used it maybe a dozen times and find it much easier to row than a one man pontoon boat. It's definitely heavier feeling, but it fights the current with much less effort. After a 12 hour day on the river, I'm much less tired than either fishing from the bank or in the pontoon. My friends and I use a 60 minute rower trade-off period, so each of us gets our time in. I still find I do more rowing if the river gets rough (I usually take over at that time), but my friends are getting better. In fact I landed 2 steely's on Sat. even though I rowed the whole day (stopped once on a gravel bar and lucked out in 15 minutes). After that I didn't mind rowing the rest of the day.

If you are planning on drifting any shallow rivers with boulders exposed, you'd probably be better off with a raft/rowing rack, again, no chines to hit the rocks if you are sideways in the river. I'm still looking for a good deal on one, can't have too many boat options :)