On nearly all of our fly-fishing trips, boats are an essential component. Fly fishing from a boat allows you to cover more water, act more stealth-like, and provides the guide with a crucial tool to get you into more fish—which usually means a lot more fun.
Fishing from a boat is often a team sport: guide and angler working in tandem to fish, cast to, hook, and eventually land a fish. All the parts of the whole must add up. Since many fishing trips involve sharing a boat with a friend or family member, the angler not fishing on the bow or in the front of the front is a vital participant in the boat. Being good at sharing a boat is very important.
Here are a boat-load of tips for being the best boatmate on the flats or the river.
A clean and tidy boat is a happy boat—keep your flip flops or other gear stored and away so they won’t become tangled in slack fly line. When a fish is hooked, or even before, ensure the deck of the boat is clear of anything that may tangle the fly line.
Discuss and agree on a fair way to alternate optimum fishing areas in the boat – bow and stern of a drift boat or rotating the front of the skiff on a flats boat. For example, when on a saltwater flats skiff, try 20 minutes fishing and 20 minutes not fishing or shot for shot. In a drift boat, consider rotating every hour, of half day, or whoever is fishing higher in the water column is in front and whoever is dredging could be in the back.
On a flats skiff, if it is windy, keep an eye on your partner’s feet to make sure they are not stepping on their line and offer assistance if it will not interfere with their cast. This is very important if the angler is attempting to recast to the same fish.
Get drinks out of the cooler for your partner on deck or the guide on the platform or on the oars.
Bring lens wipes and be willing to share – offer to clean your guide and your boatmate’s sunglasses.
Six eyes are better than four. If your partner or the guide do not see a fish and you do, point it out to them, but do it in a cool, calm manner and not overly excited.
A bag a beef jerky goes a long way to maintain focus and the guide and your partner will love you for it.
When saltwater flats fishing and the potential to catch a variety of species exists, have an assortment of rods rigged and ready for access. Lay them on the gunnel of the boat with the tips pointed to the stern. When a different rod is needed quickly, hand the rod to the angler, and then take the other rod from them on the opposite side of their body. It is like a golf caddy and a few seconds makes the difference between a good clean shot and a lost opportunity.
On the flats, especially when poling in search of fish, be conscience of boat noise because any type of banging noise will scare fish. Opening or closing a hatch or a cooler lid slamming, a dropped fly box on the deck, heavy footsteps, etc. can spook nearby fish.
Do your best to stay centered in the middle of the boat and always let your boat mates know if you are going to leave the boat. If someone does leave the boat, counter balance by high-siding—the side highest above the surface of the water—to keep the boat centered.
A guide’s boat is his or her office, so treat it with respect. Help the guide keep the boat clean and don’t ever put your feet up on the steering wheel or center console or adjust the navigation system.
On a windy day, assist in ensuring slack line laying on the deck is managed and ready to be cast when a fish is spotted.
If you do pull your phone out, use it to snap a picture or to possibly play some tunes; always be sure to share your pictures and that your music playlist is legit.
And, lastly, be sure to ask the guide and your angling partner if you can drink the last beer.