The float season is upon us here in Colorado and if you have never learned how to row a craft down a river it is something that will open up your angling experience. Being able to fish from a raft or drift boat allows you to cover so much more water and explore areas that might not be accessible by foot. Being able to row a boat will also get you invited on a lot more fishing trips. Why is that you ask? it is because rowing a boat is hard damn work. And doing it well takes a lot more than just pulling on the oars.
Rowing a boat for a fisherman is much different than going on a booze cruise with your buddies and letting the river do the work. You must back stroke to slow the boat down and allow the angler a chance to hit the “fishy” water. This involves a series of strokes called crab strokes. This is a great technique to learn if you plan on rowing anyone worth their salt down a trout river. This stroke allows you to keep a straight line as well as slow the boat down. I have found that just back stroking will tend to send your vessel in a zig zag motion along the bank. The crab stroke eliminates this.
A lot of first timers want to push the boat as it nears danger. Well that just makes the boat go faster and it is more difficult to control. You must always slow your craft down and navigate safely around your obstacle. Always point the bow at danger and pull away. As a rower you should always be looking down stream for any up coming danger or rapids and plan your route.
Deep strokes can get you into trouble, try to keep you oar blades just under the surface when rowing. Occasionally you will grab bottom and it can jar you out of the seat. Which, leads me to always keeping you hands on the oars. If you drop an oar while floating, the oar blade has the chance to hit bottom and send the oar anywhere. But, chances are that it will come up and hit you or someone els in the boat. A lot of boaters have had this happen and it is very very painful.
Above all practice caution when on the river. Always have enough PFD’s, Throw Bags, First Aid, Spare Oar and a Tool Kit. There are multiple outfitters offering rowing schools and if you are serious about rowing I would recommend one prior to buying a boat. This is a great way to gain confidence behind the oars and also gets you 100 river miles under your belt.