How to row a drift boat.


Active Member
Not a silly question as I have a friend whose on his second (first a 'woodie) and has NO CLUE. Person is dangerous to the point where 'person' ran us under two 'sweeper trees' yesterday and had zero idea how to line up the boat and stay out of danger (as in potentially) killing us both. bawling:

Is there a web site I can direct 'person' to for a real
how to?

(I rowed the boat for the best of the rest of the day.:rolleyes:)



Well-Known Member

I don't think he's gonna' learn to row a boat on a web site, altho you may find some information. If he's that dangerous, he needs one-on-one expert instruction. Actually, if he's that bad, he may be one of those odd birds who can never learn to row a boat safely, let alone efficiently. I'm convinced a small percentage of people just aren't cut out for anything involving coordination and manual dexterity.


I don't believe their are any websites that can teach drift boat handling, rowing. If you are a good hand at the oars show him why to postition the boat in a given postion for each riffle and run. A few days of instruction is the best way for him to learn. If your not a good hand at the oars their are lots a guys in Brookings that are and could teach him. Also teach him to read the water and why you go where you do.


Jeremy Floyd

fly fishing my way through life
I would honestly put the guy in a raft for a day or two so the rig he is learning on would be pretty much bulletproof. Even just a 9 foot pontoon boat would teach him a lot of the basics like pointing the nose where you don't want to go, and leaning into the oars to soften the ride and splash less in fast water, and going just inside the seam beside the hydraulic waves instead of down the glass tongue and into them.

I always make guys park the boat and get out and walk the water, too get a good look at anything marginal before they go through it, when they are learning.


Active Member
I agree with SG, some people just won't get it. I have fished with one of my buds for several years, and I thought he had picked up the basics. After putting him behind the oars, it was the scariest 300 feet of river I had ever seen. We hit every rock, tree, and gravel bar possible. I sucked it up, and continued to row the rest of the day.
The best way to teach someone how to row is to sit behind them. From behind they can hear you better and you can point to spots by leaning forward so your pointing finger is in their perspective. Keep in mind you will not be able to do this safely if the balance of the boat thrown off.

Most peoples first mistake is trying to dip the oars too deep, then they pull like a gorilla.

Sitting behind you can coach them, "right oar, left oar, both, etc".

Point the bow at trouble, and pull back on the oars. Pushing on the oars is seldom used.

Remember one thing, a boat with no one in it will usually make it to the take-out, it's putting some one on the sticks that gets you into trouble.


Some people have it, and some don't. I attribute my "decent" skills on the oars to all the video games I played when I was in Junior High. The hand eye coordination is a factor.

Then the rest to people like Don (EastFork) while out fishing in his drift boat....tell you...the first little rapid is called Wapanita, and the next one is Boxcar, Take the sticks, I'm sitting up front.

A lake would be the first place to go, then I'd take him down an easy section of river to have him get the feel of current and how it plays into the control side etc. It looks easy, so people think it is. That is where most trouble happens I believe.



Active Member
Southern Oregon rivers (N. Umpqua, Rogue, etc.. are no place to learn.

Fred, my question is, what are you doing in a boat with a guy who can't row and has the potential to kill you? I would be so anxious that I wouldn't even be able to enjoy myself. Grab the sticks, or tell the dude go down the river by himself.
PH, you ask a good question. Reason is 99.9% of the Chetco could be run in an intertube ... but there are, like all rivers, where things 'change.' The sweepers weren't there a week'ish back.

New to me, but one look and an instant OH SHIT! "He" doesnt take instructions well ... and usually 'connects, too late to be of much good. 'Boat butt' away from 'danger?' A concept 'he' hasn't gotten through his head.:confused: PULL!! PULL!! PULL :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:..... a concept that's not in his brain set .. yet.


Well-Known Member

That being the case, don't even think about letting him on the sticks in the 0.1% or however much more is necessary to ensure everyone's safety.

Maybe he's like a mule when it comes to taking instructions? Whack him on the head with the spare oar, then say, "listen up Numbnuts!"

Stay safe.



Active Member
Remember one thing, a boat with no one in it will usually make it to the take-out, it's putting some one on the sticks that gets you into trouble.
That is a great quote!

Fred, There is a book written by Neale Streaks called something like rowing drift boats that might be a useful resource. Other than that, all of the other advice is good...start in a lake and pratice until it becomes comfortable and continue to SLOWLY keep challenging and improving his skills.

Unlike some of the rest, I believe almost anyone can row class 1 and 2 waters with some practice and coaching. The one real problem can be sweepers. As long as he is comfortable rowing away from danger, anyone should be able to grasp the skills. Now class 3 and above, the guys are spot on and only experienced rowers should attempt.

shawn k

Active Member
clackacraft has a good video that they put out about how to row a drift boat. there is also a book that amato put out about driftboat fishing.

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