By Montana Grant

Posted: May 23, 2020

Rowing is an art! Drift boats and row boats require practice and skill to navigate. A great Oarsman makes rowing look easy. A novice makes it look impossible.

The best advice about rowing a drift boat came from my friend Sean Blaine. A lifetime time guide and avid fisherman. “Row away from the danger!”

Rowing on a lake is different than rowing on a river. Currents and flows change the dynamics. For most Montanans, we need to focus on rivers.

The beauty of rowing a drift boat down a river is the direction the oarsman is facing and rowing. Looking toward the direction you are drifting is huge. The experienced oarsman can read the water and see the track they need to follow.

The concept of rowing a drift boat downstream is that you need to row upstream. It is important to go slower than the speed of the river. This allows the oarsman to control the boat.

Once you are traveling at the speed of the river, or going faster than the current, control is lost. Now you end up along the shore or on a gravel bar. Add some wind, and life can get crazy in a moment.

The other reason to slow the boat down is to allow the fishermen to get natural presentations. The flies must be at the speed of the current or slower to get the fishes attention. This is one main reason why Guides can provide better fishing.

Fortunately, Drift Boats are safe. There are some quick mistakes that will sink the boat, but generally they are pretty bullet proof.

Most of the worst accidents come from overconfident and foolish experienced oarsman. Josh Stanish is the best oarsman I know. As an outfitter and guide, he is unsurpassed. On one drift through the Beartrap Canyon, he got a bit cocky and did not take the rapids seriously. His dog, anglers, and boat all went upside down. The Kitchen Sink won that day. Never take the river for granted. You will lose every time.

Go with the flow!

Montana Grant

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