To Drift or to Skiff? That is the Question?

January 6, 2010

drift boat, Frenzy

Fly Fishing Boats

Every year I have different lists that I create for the New Year.  I have my goals list, to do list, and my wants list.  As I compiled my wants list, something stood out more than the other; a Fly Fishing Boat.  I say fly fishing boat because i am debating between a Drift Boat and a Skiff.  Actually, I am pretty sure I have my mind made up on whether I want a Drift Boat or a Skiff.  I am heavily leaning toward a skiff.  However, I became really curious to see what other fly fisherman’s opinions would be on the matter.

To be honest, I really couldn’t speak intelligently enough about why a Skiff is better than a Drift Boat, but I have rowed and fished both boats and the skiff to me just seemed to ‘feel’ better.  And for me, fly fishing is a lot about how I feel about my gear/equipment.

A Skiff seems to sit higher in the water, go over rocks more smoothly and it seems easier to navigate.  Drift boats seem heavier and not as functional, but that could be due to the time I’ve spent rowing the Big Easy’s (fellow frenzier Dave) boat.  :)

I am particular to the Skiffs that Premier Fly Fishing kicks out.  The X-13 and X-9 are pretty dope and I know the owner of those, Royce Klingler, and that guy is all about making the boats functional for the fly fisherman.

Here is a sweet little video about the Skiff:

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12 Responses to “To Drift or to Skiff? That is the Question?”

  1. Big Hoss Says:


    do you think it matters what type of water you fish most often?


  2. mike nutto Says:

    I do think it matters what you are fishing ,if the water is only class two or three the skiff is going to be fine ,i havent rowed one so I cant exactly say ,but from the video I would say Id be real nervous and sketchy about water in a class four .If you are fishing weater where you have big waves or plan on fishing that kind of water Id go with a drift boat . they have high walls for a reason .Royce may feel different about it Im not sure ,those boats look like they handle nice and and are lighter weight then a drift boat and if i was doing alot of trout fishing in water like the video Id go with a skiff for sure .


  3. Todd Regier Says:

    I think those skiff drift boats are pretty cool! Nice low profile, for those tight spots. It all depends on the price. If their both the same price I’d go with a Clakacraft. It’s pretty hard to beat the Claka! If your doing alot of skinny water then I think the skiff would be the best option.


  4. Royce Klingler Says:

    Both boats have their place. The traditional drift boat has more rocker, the skiff has a flatter profile on the water. The skiff is more nimble and quick, it skulls better, it tracks better, it cuts through the wind better, you can fish out of it sitting down or standing , and it has a much shallower draft so you can take it into those hard to get areas without spooking fish. Comparing the two is like comparing a Suburban to a Corvette. The drift boat typically has more room so you can fit more people and gear. This could come in handy on an over night trip, or if you are hot shotting for stealhead you can put two seats in the front of a drift, not enough room to do that in the skiff. The higher sides on the drift do help some in bigger water, especially if you are hitting wave trains head on. Having said that the high sides give some people a false sense of security on the water. The skiff has a more displacement so it rides higher ,and it is quicker so you can avoid trouble easier. Take a drift boat and a skiff through a boil ,or a hydrolic as some people like to call them on the South Fork of the Snake and you’ll be surprised how much better the skiff rolls through them vs. the drift , and again that is just because of the footprint on the water. Imagine the skiff as an oversized kyack. The skiff also has an easy on and off spray skirt that attaches to the bow, and front leg locks then comes down to the oar locks and eliminates spill over in the larger wave trains. The Skiff also has more separtation between anglers 18 inches more than a 16ft drift boat. The front seat is further forward because you don’t have the wasted space of the high bow in front.

    Obviously I feel the skiff has way more benefits than the Drift. 90% of the prime trout rivers in the west are “skiffable”. The trend for veteran oarsman is to make the switch from the drift to the skiff for the reasons mentioned above. Having said that there is plenty of room on the water for both and I think you should get out and fish and enjoy the river in what ever vessel you choose!


  5. Dr G Says:

    My opinion is bias since I own/row a woodie and would never stray from a traditionalist look and feel. Plus if riding high and lightweight is important nothing beats a woodie. My boat only weights 375#s and rows easier than any I have ever rowed. On the down side a woodie will require more maintenance to keep it looking awesome, whereas others are easier. BUT, if it was a choice between a Hyde, Clacka or Skiff and I lived in SE ID. I personally would narrow my search down to a Low Profile Hyde or Clacka or a X-13 Skiff. The reasoning behind this is that your biggest enemy while rowing in the west is the wind. Trust me it sucks to row a high side boat down the SF or HF if the wind is pushing you around. Plus it makes getting out of the boat easier. Honestly in my opinion, there is no need for a high side boat for 99% of the rivers you are going to fish in the west. So with this in mind if you are going to get a good deal from Royce I would would go down that path…but once you own a boat say good bye to fishing and hello to rowing for everyone…If that doesn’t sound fun, than I wouldn’t waste your money in the first place. Cause I don’t know anyone besides Dave that this hasn’t happened too. Just my 2 cents



    mike nutto Reply:

    I can only say this I want Royce to come down to the Dechutes and show me how its done ! Ill ride up front cause Im the nutman !If we get through the class fours ill show you where to hook some steel ! Atleast it will be fun trying it out :)LOL


  6. Chubbs Says:

    Boys, i love the dialogue. it is really helpful to have some awesome fly fisherman weigh in on this topic. I think for most the waters i fish, a skiff would suffice.
    don’t worry Dr. G, i still love the slice of lime.


  7. Royce Klingler Says:

    Travis you need to play the game of baseball while fishing with your buddies in your boat. You probably have heard of it , but here is the way Skipp Mullen, Myself, and a few others play. Odd man out on rock paper scissors rows first, then it’s three strikes you’re out, obvioulsy meening the angler is now rowing. Here is what consists of a strike, or strikes. If you catch a fish, it is a strike, if you miss a fish it is a strike, if you miss a fish and you didn’t see it but two others did then it is two strikes, if you miss a fish and don’t call it out within 10 sec and your partners saw it, and they know you saw it, that is three strikes, if they didn’t see it and you didn’t call it then you got away with one. if you snag the bank and the rower has to row over to save your bug that is two strikes as well. ( you then have to do some soul searching to determine how valuable that bug is to you…when the fishing is good I say break the bug). If both anglers are two strikes and one gets snagged and the rower is making an attempt to get the bug and the other angler hooks up and lands a fish during this time then his slate is clean and starts with fresh strikes. I know you may put your saftey in jeopardy when allowing novice oarsman to row, but if they want to fish , they want you to catch fish and they usually row their guts out and become better oarsman by playing this game. Lots of fun lots of trash talking as well !!


    Dr G Reply:

    Good advice Royce, fly fishing, baseball, and trash talking are three of my favorite pastimes. One of these days I ‘d love to try out one of your skiffs. They sound and look sweet.


  8. Brandon Huerta Says:

    Well all I can say about this topic is I love my X-13. I am by no means a expert oars man, however I probaly spent more time rowing on the rivers of eastern Idaho this past summer than some guys that have had a boat for ten years. With that said I have rowed a few hydes and clakas and I would have been pretty bummed if I would have bought one of them and then rowed a X series skiff. I have taken my boat down the entire South fork of the Snake, the majority of the Henry’s, and the majority of the Teton, not to mention the South fork of the Boise. I will never own a boat that is not a skiff and that skiff will probaly always be a X-series. They row great and are easy to fish out of. With all this said I will have to agree with Royce that reguardless of what boat you have that is better than no boat. But if you come fishing with me you will probaly be fishing from a skiff. Tight lines boyz!!


  9. KMock Says:

    Is there an aluminum option in these for those of us
    Who operate in rock gardens ?



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