The water flow in Bingham is 6,000CFS and it is about to get higher. The spring melt is bound to kick in soon and when it
does the flow will approach 60,000CFS or better. We won’t be fishing for awhile. Or perhaps I should say we won’t be wading the local rivers for awhile. But before the rivers get too high and after the peak yet before wading levels we can fish the local rivers from a boat – but which boat?
That’s a question I get asked often and my standard answer is get a Jon Boat with a extension handle on the motor so you can stand while you run the river. Now you might ask – do you own one and I’d have to reply – no.
I fish the river from a canoe and most of the time I’m standing in it using a setting pole to get from one point to another. I just like canoes and like the quiet, stealthy, close to nature aspects of getting around without a motor. Poling lets me move up and downstream in my canoe with minimal effort if I read the river and its currents but the range of timely travel is limited while poling. I wouldn’t want to pole a canoe from Norridgewock to Madison (about 9-miles) for an afternoon’s fishing but a Jon boat would make that trip easy.
They are stable, roomy, have a shallow draft and – did I mention they are stable? A Jon boat with a casting platform in the front like the one pictured here is a joy to fish from and while it may pound heading into waves it isn’t often that you have white-caps on the river. Now I know some people with a 14′ modified V-hull are saying “my boat fishes just fine” and yes – I do have one of those. And they do fish fine – but they aren’t comfortable to stand in (unless they have a false bottom) and if you do stand in them – stay in the center away from the gunnels. A modified V-hull also has a deeper draft than a flat bottomed Jon boat. That’s just the way it is and it can’t be changed.
Regardless of the boat you use there are some key things to making them safe on the river. An anchor system that pulls from the center of the bow is key to safe anchoring. Organization is another. Loose gear laying around is just an invitation to trip and fall overboard. Access to life-jackets is another. Life-jackets don’t do you any good locked in the compartment under the seat. Any good boat person will tell you ropes and maintenance of those ropes is another key to safe boating. When you need a rope is no time to be untangling it.
There’s another group of people who are probably saying “well drift boats are kinda nice to fish out of” and they are right. But a drift boat is just what it says it is. Great for drifting but not so hot when you try to add power. Drift boats have too much rocker and are too beamy to make good headway under power. However, especially if I’ve talked someone else into rowing I do like fishing from a drift boat.
So I guess that cuts my choices of river craft down to a canoe or a Jon boat. And the deciding factor between them is the amount of distance I have to travel and the love I have for my, sixty year old, 20′ Old Town Guide canoe.