Best way to learn how to work a river?

Mark Kadoshima

Active Member
I'm expecting my Catchercraft bull searun in Sept....hopefully in time to do some great fall floats. I've used my Watermaster on the Yakima and on some VERY easy sections of the Hoh and Bogy.
I'm thinking of doing the course Red's gives but I'm wondering if it's just better to take a few guided trips and learn from the guides. Any thoughts are appreciated. I'm never planning on doing serious rapids if I can avoid it. I would like to eventually do some of the easier MT, ID, and OR rivers though. I'd like to do some two or even three day trips also. I could practice handling the boat with a load on easy water first.
Mark
 

NW_flyfisher

if it's not this, then what?
I'm expecting my Catchercraft bull searun in Sept....hopefully in time to do some great fall floats. I've used my Watermaster on the Yakima and on some VERY easy sections of the Hoh and Bogy.
I'm thinking of doing the course Red's gives but I'm wondering if it's just better to take a few guided trips and learn from the guides. Any thoughts are appreciated. I'm never planning on doing serious rapids if I can avoid it. I would like to eventually do some of the easier MT, ID, and OR rivers though. I'd like to do some two or even three day trips also. I could practice handling the boat with a load on easy water first.
Mark
Several years ago I took that course on floating the Yakima River and I advise it over learning from a guide. First there is an hour classroom course describing everything, then everyone goes down the river (class size is about 6 people) and rowing your watercraft,with on river instruction, gives a fly fisher first hand experience. Note: you get to float down with your fly-rod and gear to also fish.
 

gt

Active Member
an instructor is a good idea because you will be in charge, not observing. you are wise to start easy and if things good OK for you, move up a bit, or maybe not. i have drifted the OR Deschutes with one of the best. Eric worked for decades as the camp boat for various guides. he would pack everything up and head out by 0800 each morning. setting up camp where they had agreed, getting everything set and then he could go fish. i have drifted with many people at the oars, including myself, but Eric is the only person i know who could do the entire Deschutes without touching a single rock.
 

sroffe

Active Member
Will the Red's course let you use your own boat too? (Never mind I found my answer)

Been thinking about taking a course, didn't know Red's had one. Was thinking about taking one with Emerald Waters here in Seattle, but, I think I'd rather learn on the Yakima than the Snoqualmie. The canyon is much prettier. Potentially much warmer too.:)
 
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teerex

Member
Best way is to learn from a guide who knows the river, as some can change season to season. Even from the splash and giggle trips which run way cheaper. Avoid high volume rivers and higher flows to start. Stick to class 2. Class three hydraulics can flip skinny smaller craft like pumas or your SRB. Looks like your boat has decent sized tubes.

Red's course is a good start! A raft is more forgiving than a drift boat. Not much space in that 10.5 for an overnighter, even packing light. The weight would compromise maneuverability and the self-bailing, so consider renting a 13' to 15'. Time on the oars matter, as does letting someone else do the boating and watching the technical parts when you are not fishing!
 

Camo Clad Warrior

Active Member
I would recommend the Red's course as a good launch point.

The other thing I would recommend is after taking the class and you have an idea of the basics... get out there. Make sure you are safe, scout your float and just go do it. I have a drift boat and still talk myself out of using it sometimes because of my lack of experience on the oars.
 

Chic Worthing

WFF Supporter
Red's class is very good and it is free, at least it was a few years ago. Just checked and I think it is an error. Says $324 for 2 people.
 
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ianpadron

Active Member
Oh man, prepare yourself for all kinds of fun. Those SRBs are too cool!

I'm sure the courses from Red's are helpful, but it sounds like you probably understand the basics of rowing in moving water and reading a river's flow since you have a Watermaster. Fundamentals are fundamentals.

I got my first drift boat in February.

To me, it's been a prime example of learning by doing. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to learn about stroke cadence, maneuvers, etc. got some suggestions on what floats are good for a beginner, and then hit the water....frequently.

Following a buddy in his boat who knows a river is for sure the safest bet, and best way to learn a hairy stretch. Memorize the right lines, and put together a mental schema of the strokes/moves required for the tricky parts.

After a couple trips, you'll know the water like the back of your hand, and be blown away by how your strokes become second nature. Like anything, the more you do it, the faster you will improve.

First time on the Sauk with my boat, I got to that nasty chute along 530 and thought...well shit, this oughtta be interesting...heart rate probably close to 200 bpm dropping in....well by a couple trips later that same chute was the best part of the entire day and I dropped into it with a smile on my face.

If you don't take a class first, here are the 3 things I found most helpful to have in mind early on:

1) be mindful of the depth of your stroke. Even as a rookie, I noticed A TON of more experienced guys who were digging a solid foot above their blade into the water on each stroke. SUUUPER inefficient and zaps your power and adds a ton of lag between power strokes. Dip the blade AT MOST up to the shaft, and pull with your legs/back....building that movement pattern will serve as an awesome foundation and help you maneuver way quicker.

2) plan your line as you approach a section of rapids or exposed rocks. Challenge yourself to put together and then execute a game-plan of strokes. Helps keep you aware by thinking a few moves ahead, and reinforces the importance of strong transitions from one stroke pattern to the next. Take a look at a few guides tackling some Class 3 or 4 in a hard boat and look how precise they are on their lines...THAT is what you're working towards.

3) be mindful of distractions. Probably less room for them to come up on a 2 man raft, but if you talk to enough river vets, they'll all tell you that guys get into trouble when they are not paying attention. Buddy up front gets his gear snagged and you're trying to get him off, anchor gets dumped in a bad spot, someone stands up and you don't see that rock in front of the boat...the list is endless, and every uh-oh moment is a disaster waiting to happen with moving water in the equation. You'll feel yourself start to break focus, panic, etc...be mindful of that and gather yourself the second it comes up.

Sorry for the long winded post but I was literally just through the same exact process, so I can relate to the things you're thinking about for sure!
 

Slimbeaux

Member
I'm expecting my Catchercraft bull searun in Sept....hopefully in time to do some great fall floats. I've used my Watermaster on the Yakima and on some VERY easy sections of the Hoh and Bogy.
I'm thinking of doing the course Red's gives but I'm wondering if it's just better to take a few guided trips and learn from the guides. Any thoughts are appreciated. I'm never planning on doing serious rapids if I can avoid it. I would like to eventually do some of the easier MT, ID, and OR rivers though. I'd like to do some two or even three day trips also. I could practice handling the boat with a load on easy water first.
Mark
 

Slimbeaux

Member
I am in the same boat: new boat and want to learn to do rivers. If Chic is right and it’s $324 for two people I would be more then happy to split it with someone and take the class. Two birds with one stone; on the river and learning whitewater.
 

jangles

Member
I was looking at Reds also but it says one would be in a drift boat , I want to learn how to run rapids in my Watermaster . I do little ones but I'm talking 2 -4 s . Any ideas .
 

Mark Kadoshima

Active Member
I thought they had a 'fish along' where you had your own craft, but the guide would help with negotiating the river and sizing up the best locations to fish.
 

Cruik

WFF Supporter
+1 for a course. This is a totally uninformed opinion about rafts as I don't have one, but I'm not sure learning from a guide is the best way to do it.

Maybe if I wanted to learn a river like the Sol Duc, which everyone knows is dangerous, has blind corners, huge boulders, and disappearing channels, but doesn't change a ton year-to-year. Watching a guide on the 'duc is probably a great idea because navigating that river can be a question of memorization.

Watching a guide is probably not a good way to figure out when caution is needed on a new river. People that float a river frequently know when to trust the main flow and when not to because they know the river and aren't approaching it the same way someone should approach a new river. Instead, I think a more instructive approach would be better if you plan to take what you learn to new rivers. I think I would want a "this is what I would do if I didn't know there wasn't a sweeper around the corner" sort of a lesson.
 

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