Those who Row or Why do some catch more nymphing than others.

A re-post of an article I wrote a couple years ago. I lieu of the high water we are having the drift boat makes a lot more sense than wading.

Wading at 6,000 cfs becomes more difficult. Wade fishing at 10,000 cfs becomes impossible. So get a boat, borrow a boat, steal a boat or hire a guide. Or wait til the water recedes in June, or July.

But if you are stuck in the middle, make it count man. Treat your fishing partners like you would like to be treated.

Braden just wrote an article about rowing. Check it out if you want more info here.

We get a lot of questions regarding how to catch fish from a boat. Lots.

We generally give them a map, talk about where to go, how to rig your rod, the flies to use, the depths that could be employed and things along those lines.

But we rarely talk about really how to catch more fish. And how do you do that?

We do actually talk about that, but rarely does anybody show any interest in the most important aspect, facet, role that the rower, the guy in the middle can and should and has to play.

So how do you catch more fish nymphing? These techniques apply to more than nymphing though. The rower plays the key role in how the boat is doing and the use of the net. You gotta row the same speed as the water or your whole drift is moot.

This is an article I write yearly, or twice, to get the word out to those who are ignorant of the fact that the rower plays the biggest role in nymph fishing.

Those who Row or Why do some catch more nymphing than others.

  • Row the same speed as the water for nymphing success. Fish hate slipping, sliding, and dragging fly patterns subsurface. So if the boat is hauling ass downstream, or god forbid the feller is pushing down stream with the oars, I see it everyday, then the boat might as well be on a booze cruise, cause ain’t nobody catching them in that boat.
  • That means the rower has to engage those overpriced paddles into the water. Dip them into the water, pull back slwign the boat, and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  • You gotta watch the flies whether it be the bobber, or a blind dry fly and keep the boat moving at approximately the same seed as the current. You get better at it with practice. You gotta start doing it or the whole deal is moot. It think we covered that but by watching other boats out there including maybe your buddies screwing the dog, not everybody has heard it.
  • DSCF0234 copy 2

    Big Browns are caught in conjunction with good rowing practices.

    You gotta teach your friends this rowing game. It is up to you if you are the reader saying, YES SQUEEKY I KNOW THIS BUT MY BUDDIES ARE NOT TOO SMART! Take the bull by the horns and educate those friends of yours and ours!

  • If you are the reader that is saying to yourself, Rowing is easy Squeeky. “Just pull those overpriced paddles out of the water and let the river help you downstream.” You may also be the reader that does not use the net often.
  • I cannot stress enough here in this article, blog, rant, that the rower plays the most important role in drift fishing. I know the boat drifts downstream, I know that and that the smart rowers use the river to their advantage, the flow and the current. But those oars sticking out from the sides of the boat are there for a reason. To guide, to help, to allow the angler fore and aft to make the proper presentations for fish catching.
  • We at Headhunters give rowing lessons daily. You can even fish too. Hire the guide for a scant $495 and watch him or her dip the oars in the water 10 gazillion times per day. And if you want some real time on the blades, the guide will certainly help and sit in the back and gently school and educate you the new rower.  Education is the proper way to learn. Or if you want to got the cheaper route, watch some boats catching fish and watch how often the oars contact the water. Lots. Lots and lots.
  • Those who use the oars more often catch fish more often.
  • Rowing is not all that easy. It is experiential based. You have to do it to learn. The more you do it the more you learn. Yes, the better rowers have rowed more often. Funny how that works. Is it rocket science? No, not at all. But you gotta do it to learn it. You will not learn by reading this blog. While that hurts me to say I’m sobbing now it is totally true. I’m just trying to light the fire to those who have not yet realized that they are the problem. That their buddy is not all that bad an angler, that his pleading for you the rower to engage in the game is not forgotten or unheard,. I hear you my fishy friends. You the rower may be the problem. You have to participate in the sport too.
  • Drag Free Drifts Catch Fish. Honest. Trust me, I’m a fishing guide.
  • Another great way to catch more fish, to use the net more often is having and using the ability to change. Another rule that I preach often here on the Headhunters Fly Fishing Blog is the Change Clause. Change things up when your program is not working.
  • Change is the key to breaking the bad, and hopefully getting into the good. We can only control a few aspects of fly fishing. The drift is the 1st. The depth is the 2nd. The fly is the 3rd. The presentation is the 4th. Oh, that is the same as the 1st. The drift/presentaion is key to even getting the fish to approach the fly. That is about it. And, and if row boy is not doing his part…all of it goes in the shitter.
  • The bottom line is this, according to me the writer today…It really does not matter what the fly is if it is not presented properly. And presentation includes the right speed of the craft, if indeed you are boat fishing. Any fly can suck if it is not presented properly. The wrong depth for the fly. Bad. Bad presentation? Bad.
  • Change is good as I stated above and previously many times. Those who practice static fishing behaviors do not catch as many fish.
  • I know that the entire day is important and that fishing is not everything. That the day and the fellowship is important and I put all of the eggs in that basket myself, but, but, but…not everybody feels that way. Lots of fellers like to rope the trout and put up some numbers. Or at least 1 number. So to those haters that cannot use information for what it is worth. Sit on it. This is your disclaimer. It is not all about the number. I agree. But why not practice positive fishing/drifting/rowing behaviors. Execute and you shall be rewarded.

That is my Thursday morning rant. Take it or leave it. To those who have fishing pals that cannot row, forward this blog to them. For those of you who cannot row and do not understand the whole game, watch others out there on the water and learn. To those who already believe that they are good rowers and this cannot possibly be about them, that they do not fall into this category…look hard at yourself and question yourself.

You will ultimately know what party you are in if you get an email with this article forwarded to you…then you will know.


Happy Thursday to you friendly fishing folks. We are having a ball and enjoying the green hillsides and snow in the upper hills. It is the prettiest time of year and we love May! See you soon on the oars.



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10 Comments. Leave new

  • Leonard Gross
    May 21, 2015 1:35 pm

    Superb! I am always fishing, even when rowing. I fish through whoever is throwing a fly. Setting them up for success by positioning the boat so they have the opportunity for an effective presentation. I’ve learned/refined this not only through practice but by observing the guide boats and listening to the professionals. Thanks again to you and your staff for the years of advice and information.

  • first let me respond to mr. gross. Len, how can you eat, fill your beer from your growler, stare at eagles and ospreys, snooze and still say you are ” always fishing even when rowing?” (I have the pictures.) second, in general. Following a bobber down the river or blind casting drys is not fishing. It is like me going into Joe’s circling the bar a few times hoping someone (anyone) will buy me a drink. Ocassionally, I get a free shot of old crow but if I want Patron’ I,m usually out of luck. believe me I have drunk a lot of crow. The only real fishing is headhunting. As in targeting feeding fish and casting to them. Target-cast-put them down-move on to next fish. I usually cover 20+ miles each day. push hard hunt heads get off the river by 4:30 beat the guides to the barstools. I never back row. If the chump in the front (no offense Dan Gard) can,t hit a moving target he should sit down row and let a professional demonstrate. Also, I never change flies.takes too much time. A 16 parachute adams pretty much covers all the basics. Other than that I enjoyed your article and found it very informative. please continue.

  • I feel like you must have seen me on the river yesterday, I was in the RO skiff with no idea what I was doing. My buddies and I rented a drift boat for the day to celebrate his birthday and to have a change up from the wading game. Beautiful day, lots of fun, but fishing was tough and I had a feeling it was the rower more than the bite. Any how, Thank you for the tips, I feel positive it will be less of a shit show next time.

  • Todd M Samson
    May 23, 2015 7:26 pm

    Nice rant!

  • thanks matt and todd. Hope this is all taken in good fun. no offence to Len gross. (one of the worlds best fly tiers. no shit!!!) & to mark R. who once said to me when I ask him if he was going to make it today “No problem Pam, anyone can follow a bobber down the river. But as Mark stated…somebody’s got to row!

  • Jerry Speer
    May 27, 2015 5:46 pm

    Never assume you know the other guy’s motives. For those of us who have fished the Mo for 30 years, we often forward row to get ahead of the guides who are back rowing; when we do, we then row just as you do. We often destroy what we love; 20 years ago there were 20 boats between Wolf Creek Bridge and Craig.

    • Jerry, you are correct – the Mo is a victim of it’s own success. I am encouraged that the fishery is as good as it was thirty years ago – before whirling disease. In the words of a long gone character; “we have met the enemy and he is us”‘. See you on the water.

    • Johnny Reachcast
      June 1, 2015 12:41 pm

      Not sure what you’re getting at here, Jerry. It’s rare that there’s anywhere close to 20 boats between WC and Craig this spring… Sure; the Missouri is busier than it used to be. But what river isn’t?

      It’s a plain fact that there’s a lot of folks out there that can certainly use the advice Mark gives here. Whether you’ve been fishing the Mo for 30 years or 30 minutes; you need to share and appreciate the resource. And you can either bitch about how all the people have ruined your experience OR have FUN and a good attitude; regardless of how many boats are on ‘your’ river.