A river has its own sense of time with its currents rolling along towards an inevitable destination. As the sun breaks over the horizon, you ease the boat from the ramp and the current takes it, turning the bow downstream. The boat rolls along past a few anglers who have waded into a pool to fish.
After a few minutes in the vessel, you are well past the point where anglers can walk into the stream. After negotiating a bend, you drift over a pool that is just full of salmon. Thanks to the boat, you can pull up to shore and anchor, and enjoy having the whole place to yourself.
A day in a driftboat is a wonderful experience, running several miles of a stream and fishing areas that most anglers can’t get to. A guided driftboat trip will set you back hundreds of dollars, but for the cost of a couple of guided trips, you can buy your own boat and take as many trips as you want on your own.
A do-it-yourself drift trip is a lot of fun!
Modern kickboats are primarily used for fishing still waters, but depending on which one you choose, many kickboats can be used to run rivers, including those with mild whitewater sections.
My friends and I have run a number of rivers with our kickboats. We have drifted Great Lakes tributaries for salmon and steelhead, we’ve run trout streams, and have made trips on smallmouth rivers as well. Here are a few of the things that we have learned along the way.
Think Safety First
Safety is the foremost consideration in a drift trip. We always travel in pairs for safety’s sake. Each angler that is along for the trip has a personal floatation device. On all of our trips no one has ever ended up in the river, but it could happen.
Anchors are a “must have” accessory. We use homemade anchors and they can be used to hold the boat in place in a pool or a riffle area. The anchors are also used to hold the boat if we stop to fish an area where we can wade. With the anchor, there is no need to worry about a boat getting loose and heading downstream.
Rope is another must have on our kickboats. I have a pontoon kickboat and have a short rope tied across the front of the two pontoons. If I spot a bunch of fish, all that I have to do is stand up. The rope will hang around my waist and keep the boat from washing downstream. This way you can get on fish quickly if you spot them as you drift along. Tie down ropes can also be used to tie the boat up to a tree if you get out to fish.
One mistake that a couple of anglers on our trips have made, and an expensive one at that, is not taking care of their rods. Many kickboats come with a rod holder, but you should always take the time to break the rod down between fishing spots. All it takes is a low branch to break off a fly rod.
Another angler had a spare rod in a case that came loose in some fast water and promptly sank and was never recovered. It was an expensive day as it was a high-end fly rod and reel.
Set A Five-Mile Limit
In setting up a kickboat drift trip, we usually try to drift about five miles of river on each trip. It is certainly possible to go farther, but a long trip will typically result in running by good spots and not having time to fish them.
A kickboat can give you access to parts of a river wading anglers cannot reach.
If you have never taken a boat through fast water, a little training is in order. Most of the rivers that we drift have some fast sections, and it takes a little skill to be able to run them. When you approach a fast section of the river, you must be able to pick out the safest lane to run the kickboat through, and spot any potential hazards, such as sunken logs or rocks, that the boat could get hung up on.
To run fast water, keep the boat pointed downstream, if there is something that you need to steer the boat around, you row it back upstream against the current and angle it away from the object. The key thing to avoid is getting swept sideways into an obstruction because that is how you can turn a kickboat over.
Using kickboats for a do-it-yourself drift trip is a lot of fun and doubles your pleasure on any stream. The little boats will put you into areas few people can get to, and they are a cheap ride to excellent fishing!
Find a great selection of Pontoons & Pontoon Accessories at Sportsman’s Guide.