Right out of the gate there is no question that a Drift Boat is more comfortable to fish out of than a raft with a fishing frame. Lets face it, a drift boat is made with fly fishermen in mind. Everything from the hard bottom, wide beam, knee braces and rod holders caters to those who fish. The only problem with a drift boat is that they are not as forgiving as a raft. Which is fine if you are constantly navigating wide slow meandering rivers like the Colorado or Big Horn. What you cannot do with a drift boat is drop it down into a canyon and row through narrow fast moving rivers, with large rock gardens and big rapids. Both watercraft are great but if I had to choose one for floating Colorado Rivers it would be a raft. Here is why…
A raft is extremely versatile and can be as intricate or simple as you want to make it. Most of the frames come apart easily allowing the boater to remove unwanted weight or switch from a fishing machine to a family fun floater. Rafts are very durable and packable. The frames come apart and the boat will roll up making it ideal for canyon floats where you have to pack in.
A lot of the rivers in Colorado are fast moving bodies of water that can have some tricky rapids and rocky shoots. A lot of these rivers also have tremendous fishing if you can get down them. The only safe way is with a raft and experienced oarsmen.
As a raft owner I have been in a lot of fishing set ups that are great and others that are not so great. My favorite is the NRS Otter with a Downriver Frame. It is a beefy setup that can get down whatever you put in front of it. In lower water it can get snagged on some shallow gravel bars but I have found that to be common in a lot of rafts. A good setup right out of the box is the Outcast Pac 1300 raft. Super lightweight and a bit narrower than the NRS, the Pac 1300 can take on skinny low water with ease. the frame comes in 3 parts and is easily removable.
However you choose to get down the river make sure you stay safe with all the PFD’s, throw bags and First Aid equipment. Float season has started here in the Mountains so get out there and enjoy all these waterways.