Many of you know that my partner Tim Romano is a rowing fool. He has a handful of boats, from inflatables to an old wooden dory (drift boat) he is restoring. Tim has let me row his boats over the years. I’ve borrowed a number of others and I’ve had a small inflatable raft and whitewater canoe for many years now, so I feel pretty comfortable behind the oars (or with a paddle).
Now that my son is 13 years old and taking a strong interest in rowing himself, I’m vowing to make this the year when I step up in class and get a new boat. But I am still on the fence as to what type I should get. Should I get a drift boat or a raft with a frame? Your advice would be appreciated. Here’s some baseline information to help you guide me:
I live in Colorado so most of the rivers I fish locally (day trips) are fairly quick and rocky, though there are some mellow stretches that I actually prefer to fish. I am whitewater rescue certified and feel comfortable on most rivers (more accurately, I have been taught to be fearful of many situations), but I don’t really want to satisfy adrenaline cravings with this thing. I’m looking for a fishing machine which I can, for the most part, use to teach my son the ways of the rivers (yes, there is that ulterior motive of having my son on the sticks while I cast dry flies from the bow). I would also want to take my wife along and enhance our family experiences on the water.
The raft is probably the safer bet because rafts bounce off rocks better than drift boats and the learning curve factor is much kinder. But a drift boat is easier to maneuver, more responsive, and much more comfortable to fish from. And if you’re good (and smart), which I hope to be, and hope my son will be, you can row dories through most situations. This would be a no-brainer if I lived by a wide, gentle trout river. I would probably get a plastic hull on a drift boat no matter what.
I would trailer either boat, so transport isn’t a deciding factor. And the rafts and dories I am pricing out end up costing roughly the same, so that’s not a major issue either.
Simply put, do I go for the more comfortable ride, start out mellow, and build from there, knowing that there are some places this boat will never go (in which case I could probably borrow a raft)? Or do I go with the boat that is an all-around option, and sacrifice a bit on comfort and convenience?
I consider this a “10-year plan.” After that, I know what boat I want: a flats skiff that I can use somewhere warm.