Floated the Arkansas with Dave Friday. Flows were around 1600…fishing was good! But this is not a fishing report…this is a gear review…a testimonial, nearly evangelical testimonial!
I started rowing a drift boat about 15 years ago. I am a better than passable oarsman and have had the good fortune of floating several of the better rivers in the west. None in my experience are as technical or demanding as the Ark! None have made me want the “bouncability” of a raft AND the tracking of a drift boat more! Until recently, floating in a raft was the best way to float the Ark. You could weave (C.F.S. dependent and being an EXPERT oarsman!) a hard sided drift boat through most sections but would have to trade safety for best fishing and much of the oarsman’s day would be spent protecting their boat and not looking for the best trout lies. Dave might be one of about a half dozen people in the world I would consider truly capable of navigating that river in a hard sided boat. Conversely, you could float a raft, poke more water, and work your tail off (let’s face it…most rafts suck…)! I’ve rowed the section we floated yesterday at several different flows but never this high. The high water made some sections easier, some harder, some no change.
It was an “on the oars” float yesterday and there is no question I would have had to pull over several times to rest had we been in a raft! (and less doubt I would have destroyed my drift boat)!
I fell in love with NRS boats last year and have recently been thinking I’d save up for the NRS Freestone drifter (14’). After yesterday, I am back to deciding on the 17’ Clearwater. The little extra sidewall made a huge difference in some of the waves and when I wasn’t quick enough through a strong “S” turn rapid. Shorter sides would certainly have brought water into the boat and possible swamped us! Mainly, the extra 3’ in length is so nice! Dave calls his boat “Texas” and for good reason. The ability to have 3 anglers, 2 coolers, and Drake (our shop dog), was positively priceless! The small advantages that the shorter boat confer are way overshadowed by the comfort and versatility (and safety), of the Clearwater! It tracks on a dime, draws what feels like less than an inch of water…slips through complicated currents, handles the biggest waves and holes…as I said at the top, if this is your season to get serious, this is your boat! In fact, this needs to be your next piece of fly fishing gear!
I talked to Dave and he agreed that if you are serious about making this step in your adventure, we will help make it a no brainer decision! Come in to the Covey, and we’ll schedule a day on the Ark! You can row any or all of the section we float in Dave’s boat (with him and/or me along) for a real world test drive!