So! I've had a lot of questions lately pertaining to the effectiveness of catching trout on a boat, verse catching trout by foot while wading in a river. Being that a lot of my business is done on my drift boat down the Upper Delaware River, it's an interesting question to dive into. Can more fish be caught fly fishing from a drift boat, or can more fish be caught while fly fishing through wading a river...??
Let us begin by discussing the plus sides to utilizing a drift boat. I belive a drift boats truest strength is simple the miles you can cover with it. Of course, it's a more relaxing style of fly fishing - one where you can sit down, drink a beer, smoke a cigar, and relax while floating through less productive water. Mileage wise in a day, you can cover anywhere from 3-4 miles, up to 10 miles if flows are high and your really pushing. Sometimes even more than that. So what strength does this have towards sheer numbers of caught trout? Your covering way more ground on a drift boat, therefor, your putting your flies in front of more faces under the surface. This is one major upside to fly fishing from a drift boat. You cover miles, you see more things, experience more water, etc..
Another plus side to fly fishing from a drift boat for trout is that you have access to areas where trout are feeding, that you can't reach by foot on larger river systems. If there's trout feeding on a deep bank on the opposite side of the river from where you standing, and you cant wade out to reach them unless you walk downstream a mile to cross and walk back up..your kind've screwed. On the Upper Delaware River, there's plenty of water thats unreachable by foot due to the river's depth and current. These places are almost impossible to fly fish without some sort of personal water craft.
Fly fishing from a drift boat has two benefits so far; distance covered and access to stretches of river you can't reach by foot such as deep, unwadable water. These two are major factors in my book, and because of my drift boat, we've been able to catch these hard to reach fish.
The other plus side to fly fishing from a drift boat that I like are the angles a fly fisher has from the bow or stern of the boat. You see, if we're approaching a pod of rising trout in deep water from an upstream angle, we now have a perfect downstream drift in which to feed these trout a well presented dry fly. This angle wouldn't be possible by wading if the water's too deep to wade. Drift boats also give you a major height advantage while casting. Lets say your nymphing the edge of a run, and your anchored down in the run's middle or opposite side. From a drift boat, you have that added height to reach your targeted area! Once again, not possible without the drift boat.
With all this said, how can it be claimed that some have more success while fly fishing by foot. Well...
I love and utilize my drift boat for all it's worth. I use it for cruising my clients down the mighty Delaware River and elsewhere, as well as for personal time on the water by myself and with friends. Even though I don't get out as much as I'd like too with it for pleasure alone. However, I've always found that I can be more effective by fly fishing from foot.
When your wading, your on a serious hunt! You can utilize every footstep to approach and work a piece of water very methodically. I've floated down great pieces of water and only pulled out a fish or two. I've worked those same pieces of water while wading, and felt like I caught almost every trout out of the run that I could. This is a HUGE bonus to being on foot. The way in which you approach a section of water is key to your fly fishing success.
Whether it's nymphing a run you like, or streamer fishing that slack bank you've been waiting for all season for the big boy! Approaching by foot, you can take your time, choose every cast wisely, and really dice a piece of water up. This isn't to say that you can't get out of your drift boat and do the same thing once you get to good water, but when your on a drift boat and have a time schedule, you can only spend so much time in one place before you know it's time to shove off and reach your pick-up. This also leads to a good point: When water is lower and clear, I don't even like to take my boat over certain sections of water because I know i'll scare fish and put them off of feeding for a while. Sometimes I'll have clients walk around and wade fish certain spots to increase our chances at successful hook-ups.
When it's said and done, you might say the positive effects of being on a boat out weigh fly fishing by foot, but do they? I don't think so! It's all about having a good time and catching trout. I love being able to stay in one spot and work it methodically just as much as I love covering water and fly fishing from my boat. If you utilize both their advantages, you'll find yourself catching more and more trout! Just understand that both have their ups and downs and that one ins't necessarily better than the other.
Like anything in life, there is a time and place for both. Enjoy your time on the water fly fishing for the most marvelous creaters that swim, wild trout.