I have been fishing for trout and smallmouth bass in rivers for almost 30 years and for 20 of those years I never even considered owning or using a boat while river fishing. Then, once I moved to what many trout fishermen consider the Mecca of river fishing (Montana) by perspective began to change. Although I am not a fly fisherman and rather choose to fish for trout and smallmouth bass while using ultralight spin fishing gear, I often encounter fly fishermen on the water. One of the things that I quickly noticed about many fly fishermen and women is that they often utilized small personal boats while they were fishing.
At first I thought this was totally unnecessary and was just another example of fly fishermen demonstrating there portentousness, but the more I observed, the more I started to think. “Maybe these guys and gals are onto something, and why is it that one of these boats wouldn’t be helpful to me?” I observed some, thought some more, and began to do some research. You see, I enjoy fishing in rivers while wading, hiking up and/or downstream as I fish. Fishing this way is a ton or fun and very productive, but no matter what river you fish, when you fish for trout in this way you inevitably reach areas of the river that can’t be crossed or traversed, unless of course you want to do a little swimming.
The next thing I knew I was buying my first used river fishing boat. This particular personal pontoon boat served me well for a few years, before I needed to upgrade, because as I said I bought the boat used and it already had quite a few “miles” on it. Eventually the “miles” caught up to my used river fishing boat and I upgraded to a frameless pontoon boat from Sea Eagle which now serves me extremely well in all of my trout fishing endeavors.
The bottom line is that this experience has taught me that while it isn’t totally necessary, I needed a river fishing boat without ever realizing it. I learned that I could access a ton of water that I otherwise would have never been able to access. I learned that I could shoot down river and stop at all of the good looking areas, step out of my boat, and fish the area thoroughly. This has become my “go to” trout fishing system whenever the option presents itself, because as you might imagine there is a ‘rub’ to using a river fishing boat.
As I said, I prefer to fish for trout and smallmouth bass in rivers and when you use one of these boats in a river it means that your trip comes to a conclusion many miles from the place where it begins. This means that you need to be fishing with a friend who can park their car where you want to end your trip so that they can take you back to the place where the fishing trip began and you can get your vehicle. This isn’t a huge deal, but it does mean that a trout fishing boat can’t be used solo, at least when a stretch of river is going to be fished.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, you don’t need a river fishing boat, it’s just that having one has some advantages that can make your fishing experience more enjoyable and productive. I know that for me as an avid river fisherman who fishes for trout 2-5 times a week during the season, now that I know how much a boat can help, a trout fishing boat will be used anytime that I can.