Fly Fishing Fair (conclave) Talk: And article

How To Run Your Boat On The White River Like A Pro

The Golden Rule was explained to me the first day I walked down the ramp of the old Rivercliff Trout Dock. “Never go between a fisherman and the bank” he said. Then added “watch your wake, don’t sink any canoes and the boat going down stream has the right of way.” That was 22 years ago.
There are other rules of the river stipulated by State & Federal law as well.

A few rules from the handbook:

Encountering Vessels With Limited Maneuverability. When operating a power-driven vessel, you must give way to:
• Any vessel not under command, such as an anchored or disabled vessel
• Any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver, such as a vessel towing another or
laying cable, or one constrained by its draft, such as a large ship in a channel
• A vessel engaged in commercial fishing
• A sailboat under sail unless it is overtaking
‘ Any vessel with no motor power such as a canoe, kayak, float tube or any other vessel.

Specifically, it is illegal to operate a vessel:
At greater than “no wake speed” within 100 feet of a designated recreation area, dock, pier, raft, float, anchored vessel, dam, intake structure, or other obstruction unless a different speed limit has been established in the area.

Generally we have two types of water on the White River. No water ( now minimum flow) and high water. Lets cover low or minimum flow water first.

The boat moving down stream has the right of way. This is how it works on every river in the world. A boat moving down stream has less control and it is much harder to stop the boat. A boat facing upstream can stop and maneuver out of the way of the boat moving downstream. As with any rules and regs there are also exceptions to the rules. On the White River the boat already in the shoal has the right of way and the boat moving down stream must stop and wait (turn around and face upstream). If there is a boat approaching from both down and upstream the boat headed upstream should wait until you have navigated the shoal.

If you encounter a boat that has a big fish on that boat is given the right of way. If the boat pulls anchor to chase a big fish and you are in his way get out of the way even if it means it interferes with your fishing or you have to pull your anchor to get out of the way ( this is called courtesy and respect). If the guide or person operating the boat ask you to go a certain direction or do something different than you think you should! do your best to help out. A guide or fisherman generally will indicate to you that he has a big fish on. On high water he will hold his net up in the air. He is claiming the right of way so give it to him or her and stay out of that boats way. Follow any instructions the boat operator may give you.
On low water boats will anchor fish. From the rule above “ Specifically, it is illegal to operate a vessel: At greater than “no wake speed” within 100 feet of a designated recreation area, dock, pier, raft, float or anchored vessel” Give those fisherman some courtesy and respect and throw no or very little wake on them.
When motoring or floating it is sometimes difficult to decide which way to go around a boat that is anchored. Generally the way the boat is anchored will let you know which way to go i.e.: the angle the boat anchors. If a boat is square with the current and dead center in the middle of the river its pretty safe to go around either the bow or the stern. If the boat is anchored a bit facing the bank go the other direction. (remember the golden rule). Sometimes a boat will anchor in such a manner that it is really hard to tell which way to go. If in doubt? ASK? Either verbally or hold out your hands and point which direction you are going to take. If it is the wrong way the boat operator will let you know. Avoid running over the anchored boats lines or fish.
Do not cast into the area others are fishing. Leave plenty of room and float well downstream before you make your next cast. It is OK to fish upstream of an anchored boat if they are fishing downstream. Conversely fishing downstream of an anchored boat fishing upstream is fine.
When around docks and boat ramps be careful of wake in both high and low water.
Boats either putting in or on the bank are susceptible to damage and to taking on water and remember that you are responsible for your wake.

Running your boat on high water:

On high water the fisherman can cover more water and get there faster. High water also makes for longer runs for the boat operator. When running up or down stream generally the way a guide sits and positions the boat will tell you which way to go around that boat. The majority of guides on the river expect other boats to go around their back. That is to say the operator will sit with his back facing the direction he wants you to go (the exception is Newlands who want you to pass on the front side). The operator will generally also position the boat at a slight angle. Use common sense and avoid passing on the side everyone is fishing on.
When a fisherman starts a drift motor upstream well ahead of the other boats doing the same drift that you want to do. It is discourteous and disrespectful to pull in behind another boat and start a drift. You are cutting in line. If there are several boat doing the same drift think of it as a conveyor belt. Place yourself at the top of the drift. If the boat downstream of you is using a drag chain give yourself extra room as that boat will be drifting slower than you if you are not using a drag chain.
When drifting the boat down stream of you has the right of way. If a fisherman in that boat hangs up on the bottom stay out of his way or go around him further down stream and continue your drift. If a boat down stream of you hooks a big fish that boat has the right of way and give it plenty of leeway. Follow any instructions that boat may give you. If you too hook into a big fish you should expect the same courtesy. Watch for hand signals or verbal instructions. If you see a drifting boat with a net in the air and it is not foggy the boat operator is claiming the right of way as he has a big fish on. Watch your wake and give right of way until you are well out of his way.
On crowded days making long runs upstream can be a challenge for new boat operators. Remember the golden rule and avoid going between the fisherman and the bank. For instance if there are two boat 25 feet apart drifting roughly in the center of the river with one fishing to your right and the other fishing to your left slow down and go right between them. You have adhered to the golden rule. Remember that most guides on the river will tell you which way to go by the way they sit and position the boat. Go around the back side of the operator. Even if there is one fisherman fishing on each side of the boat. If still unsure ask or hold both hands in the air and point.
Some pointers:
Generally>> assuming no fog > Boats moving down stream will stay more or less in the middle of the river.
Generally>> assuming no fog > Boats moving upstream will stay closer to or hug the bank. Why? Less current nearer the bank plus it gives the right of way to boats moving downstream.

With heavy fog or the conditions for seeing well ahead are limited such as rain, mist, dawn or dusk, generally boats will stay closer to the middle of the river but to the right of center sort of like on the roads we drive every day. Be aware and go slower near boat ramps or docks (think of them as on and off ramps) and be courteous. Have the person sitting in the front of the boat help you keep a look out as that person has 15 feet more visibility than you do. SLOW DOWN in HEAVY FOG. Have the others in your boat listen for motors and keep an eye out for wakes from other boats. You can tell if there is another boat motoring ahead of you by the wake that is left. It can also tell you how much further ahead of you it is or how big the boat and or motor is by the size of the wake it leaves.

This information can be helpful in planning your day.

Conventional gear guides start earlier at 7:30 AM and take lunch generally at 11:30 and stop fishing at 3:30 or 4:00.
Fly fishing guides generally start later around 8:00 AM and take lunch at noon and stop fishing around 4:00 or 4:30 PM

Hand Signals: You will sometimes see guides give each other hand signals. These can be helpful if you understand them.
Thumb up: Generally means water is coming up and is quickly followed by an indication of how many units are on corresponding with the same number of fingers.
Thumb down: The water is dropping.
Moving a hand up and down: This means are you catching fish
Hand across throat: This has two meanings. One means the water has been shut off or end the day.
Rubbing belly: This means lunch time.

There are other signals but they have more to do with nuances of movement of boats.

Every river has its own little unwritten rules developed over years and often through blood sweat and tears. On our rivers these rules are still being written because the rivers have changed. Two major changes have taken place over the past 5 years. The introduction of minimum flow and jet motors. The basic rules above still apply. But some of the rules are in flux and changing. An example would be fishing Cane Island on Minimum flow. The no wake rule is disappearing in some very shallow mossy areas. Pretty much only jet boats can fish these areas. Slowing down in these areas causes moss to be sucked up into jet engines. The only way to drift and fish these areas is to go full speed so the no wake rule does not apply. These are also areas that boats with props can’t effectively fish.
 

Below are my notes of a class I gave in October at the FFF (Conclave) Fair.  These are ongoing and developing.

FLY FISHING FAIR Class.. 9:00 AM Friday morning in The Trout Room.
Class: How to run the river like a pro.
The nuances of running the river.

The Golden Rule> Never go between a fisherman and the bank.

Rule #1 > You are responsible for your WAKE.
Rule #2 Watercraft without motors have the right of way!
Sometimes there are exceptions to rules.

First we will talk about Low water:
Then cover High water:
Then go over hand signals the guides use. These can be important.

LOW WATER:

The boat moving down stream has the right of way!
Unless there is already a boat in the shoal when you get there.
If there is a boat waiting to upstream it should wait on you to pass through first as the boat moving down stream has the right away.

If a boat has a big fish on that boat is given the right of way. If the boat pulls anchor to chase a big fish and you are in his way get out of the way even if it mean it interferes with your fishing or you have to pull your anchor to get out of the way. If the guide or person ask you to go a certain direction or sos something do your best to help out.
A guide will indicate to you that he has a big fish on. ON high water he will hold his net up in the air. He is claiming the right of way so give it to him or her and stay out of that boats way. Follow any instructions the boat may give you.

How to decide which way to go around an anchored boat.
No wake zone near an anchored boat.

No wake zone near a dock or public access.
Be careful throwing a wake on waders or others standing in the river.
You are responsible for your wake.

A few rules from the handbook.

Encountering Vessels With Limited Maneuverability ? When operating a power-driven vessel, you must give way to: • Any vessel not under command, such as an anchored or disabled vessel • Any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver, such as a vessel towing another or laying cable, or one constrained by its draft, such as a large ship in a channel • A vessel engaged in commercial fishing • A sailboat under sail unless it is overtaking
‘ Any vessel with no motor power such as a canoe, kayak, float tube or any other vessel.

Specifically, it is illegal to operate a vessel:
At greater than “no wake speed” within 100 feet of a designated recreation area, dock, pier, raft, float, anchored vessel, dam, intake structure, or other obstruction unless a different speed limit has been established in the area.

When fishing around or near other boats:
If a boat is anchored and fishing down stream it is OK to fish upstream of that boat but give plenty of space well down stream of that boats lines.

If a boat is anchored and fishing upstream it is OK to fish downstream of that boat but give plenty of space well upstream of that boat. Well upstream.

Around docks boats pulling in and out of docks are generally given the right of way on the White and Norfork Rivers. on both high and low water and especially on high water.

If you are bait fishing it is considered bad form to chum upstream of a boat that is not chumming.
High Water:
We will cover
-Making long runs
-Starting a drift
-Drifting and who has the right of way
-Drag Chain (on the White— no drag chains on the Norfork)
-How to determine which way to go in congested areas
-Giving signals to another boat

Generally>> assuming no fog > Boats moving down stream will stay more or less in the middle of the river.
Generally>> assuming no fog > Boats moving upstream will stay closer to or hug the bank. Why? Less current nearer the bank plus it gives the right of way to boats moving downstream.

With heavy fog or the conditions for seeing well ahead are limited such as rain, mist or dawn or dusk generally boats will stay closer to the middle of the river but to the right of center sort of like on the roads we drive every day. Be aware and go slower near boat ramps or docks (think of them as on and off ramps) and be courteous. Have the person sitting in the front of the boat help you keep a look out as that person has 15 feet more visibility than you do. SLOW DOWN in HEAVY FOG. Have the others in your boat listen for motors and keep an eye out for wakes from other boats. You can tell if there is another boat motoring ahead of you by the wake that is left. It can also tell you how much further ahead of you it is or how big the boat and or motor is by the size of the wake it leaves.

Starting a Drift:

Start your drift upstream of another boat. This is getting in line so to speak. Think of the river as a conveyer belt.

During a drift the boat down stream of you has the right of way. If you are drifting faster than he is it is up to you to give that boat space. If that boat has an angler that hangs up on the bottom give that boat the right of way.

Understand that a drag chain will slow you down. If you pull into a drift downstream of another boat it does not give you the right of way. You have cut in line. The boat above you will drift into you.

How to determine which way to go in congested areas:
The way the driver sits in the boat will generally tell you which way to go around that boat. Go to his back. Except for Newlands guides which do the exact opposite . If fisherman are fishing out of both sides of the boat follow the Golden Rule.

If you are unsure ask or hold b both hands in the air like this:
If a boat is approaching you and is going to go between you and the bank signal that boat to go the other way.

Start times of bait boats
Start times of Fly Fishing Boats.
Hand Signals:
Thumbs up
Thumbs down
Thumbs to the side
Are you catching signal
End signal
Water off signal
Hand across throat.
Lunch signal

Comments are closed.