Best Fly Fishing Rafts

by | Apr 16, 2018 | Boating, Fly Fishing |

Fly fishing rafts are the most versatile option for anglers. The drift boat is capable of running many rivers in comfort and style, but the raft is the best option for bouncing along shallow bottom rivers, squeezing through skinny channels and running big whitewater.

Why use a raft or drift boat for fly fishing?

  • The raft is also lighter and easier to tow or throw on the car than a drift boat. The best feature of a raft is being able to deflate and roll up for travel, storage and easy transportation.
  • You don’t need to sacrifice on comfort. Many frame and outfit options are available that really make the boat feel like a drift boat. You have solid floor sections for fisherman, swivel seats and lean bars.
  • The rowing position has ample space for boat bags, food storage and gear. We like a 13 footer for all round fishing purposes but bigger models are also available for expeditions. You can also keep a secondary rowing frame for expeditions that require maximum storage and room for paddlers.
  • There are several great packages and options on the market but we are particular to NRS rafts. They have great fishing options and they are comfortable and reliable. Click the header links for Specs and Pricing at the NRS website.

Fly Fishing Raft Reviews 2018

Otter 130 Fishing Boat

     nrs fly fishing raft
The Otter 130 is a 13 foot NRS raft with an NRS Fishing Frame. In our opinion, it is the best deal on the market. There are models that come close on quality and function but they are priced much higher. We have spent numerous days on one of these and it provides great comfort for fishing.

The boat is also extremely tough and it will hold strong with years of daily abuse. We suggest purchasing as a package directly from NRS because it comes with a 5 year warranty for private use and a 3 year warranty for commercial use. The warranty shows the dedication Northwest River Supply provides their customers.

The package deal comes with the raft, raft fishing frame, anchor setup, two Carlisle oars and some straps. You have to buy the anchor and rope separately but the pulley system is in place for easy operation. Overall, this is a great deal that will take down just about any river and the package, combined with an anchor, rope and fishing life jacket will have you fishing the day it arrives.

Otter 142

This is essential the same fly fishing rafts outfit as the latter with a little extra space for longer trips. It will still sneak through skinny water but the storage capacity for gear is much greater than the 130. We still prefer the 130 for most fishing but this is an excellent option, especially if you hit big rivers and do regular multiple day trips. It will still accommodate two anglers and a rower plus a dog, ice chest, gear box and more.

Tributary

The Tributary is a PVC raft fishing package with a much lower price tag. It is a great deal and will provide you with many miles of great fishing. We prefer the latter two models for the durability but this self bailer still comes with a 5 year warranty and it will be tough to tear. It will also double as a white water rafts for the more adventurous trips on your schedule. This is a 13 foot boat that comes with the same great frame, oars and accessories as the latter two options. It is one of the better fly fishing rafts on the market.
tributary nrs raft

Fly Fishing Rafts Buyers Guide

Read our articles about fly fishing rafts different features, accessories and other models that may spark your interest. We are boat fanatics and although NRS rafts are our first choice, there are a few other great companies and models to note.

Aire Rafts

– If you are looking for a drop on the inflatable fishing raft price tag without sacrificing quality, check out the Aire lineup. They are affordable, versatile and fit a variety of fishing frames.

Aire rafts set the standard for quality design and layout. They designed for fishing and whitewater and they are used by many fisherman and fishing companies.

The rafts are available through NRS and are used by Outcast and many frame manufactures as the chosen design for their products.

Aire rafts come in a number of designs, providing you with options for customization as you put together the ultimate fishing boat.

Puma Series

(Click for NRS Pricing in New Window)

aire puma nrs raft

The Puma rafts are the primary designs for fishing boats. They are designed to track a little higher but are still capable of running most whitewater.

They come in different sizes with the Puma at 11 ft. 6 in., the Super Puma at 13 ft. 1 in. and the Super Duper Puma at 14 ft.

The Super Puma is the ideal size for an all around choice but the smaller Puma is also great for waters that require a squeeze. The Super Duper is your ticket for big water expeditions.

Add an NRS fishing frame and you are in business for float fishing.

D Series

The D Series is a good alternative if you are more whitewater focused and want a little bit extra stability. The rafts are designed with smaller tubes to reduce the profile but they remain adequate for big water adventures.

The D series comes in three different sizes and the boats double as solid paddle and gear boats. There is also a Double D and E Series that are better fit for gear, paddle and whitewater specific expeditions.

Selecting an Aire Raft Frame

Aire Rafts are compatible with a variety of frames and many manufactures can make customizations to ensure a great fit is achieved. As we have noted on other pages, we like Downriver Frames on the high end and typically go with NRS frames for overall value.

NRS does sell Aire Puma series rafts and you can order the setup directly from them if desired. The Super Puma Runs around $3400 and you can add the NRS 2 person frame with the additional stern angler attachment for another $1000.

After you get some oars and accessories, you are looking at roughly $5k without a trailer. The overall value is great and costs a hair less than many of the other packages available.

Conclusions

Aire Rafts are a great choice for overall value. They are a little less expensive than many other rafts out there but the quality does not suffer at all.

Like any raft, you should treat it each year and store it safely during the off season. With proper care, these things last for a long time.

Sotar Rafts

– These are popular and reliable. They fit a variety of frames and are a great option for serious anglers.

Sotar rafts are exceptional quality and used by many experienced anglers and whitewater rafters. The company does not manufacture a raft-frame package but several frame companies make them specially for the Sotar Strike.

You can also fit an NRS fishing frame on the Strike. The rafts are commonly used by experienced guides who like a light, easy tracking boat that maneuvers better than a bulky whitewater raft.

This doesn’t mean they are not whitewater worthy, just that they manuever better for fisherman with the specially designed tubes.

The Strike

The Strike is a Nimble Boat.

Sotar rafts makes several whitewater paddle boats but the strike is their bread and butter for fisherman. It has been custom designed for rowing fisherman and it may track better than any other fishing raft.

The overall profile is a little lower than most rafts and it is 13.5 feet long to provide extra space for anglers. Although it isn’t sold as a complete package, investing in this raft and adding a frame afterwords is a great plan for the experienced rower who wants an ideal setup.

Choosing a Frame

You can add an NRS frame or any number of custom frames from Recretrec, Downriver or anybody else that welds fishing frames. We really like the Downriver frames. Blackfoot River Outfitters is the pioneering force behind the raft design and they can suggest a frame for you.

Custom Street Stuff is also a great option to consider. They are located on Rock Creek in Montana and have some excellent designs. In the end, you should choose a frame that you find comfortable and can afford.

Look for frames with comfortable lean bars for anglers, solid floor options for the fishing positions and ample space for the rower and gear. Find one with dry storage if you do expeditions and adjustable options if you ever plan on paddling or using the raft as a gear boat.

Price

The Strike retails around $4000 for the raft only. Factor in a frame and trailer and you are looking at $6k-9k depending on your selections. Overall, the price is competitive with other rafts and fishing raft packages. It will probably be a grand or more than an NRS package but you do have more options for customization.

Conclusions

It is much easier to buy a raft package that is ready to roll but if you know exactly what you want in a frame, this would be a great raft to put it on.

The low profile, tracking ability and space distribution make it a great choice for fisherman and guides. It is a little easier to row and and control with precision movements.

There are other great options out there as well but this is definitely one to consider.

Star Rafts

-Star is known for having some of the most responsive boats on the market. If you want something that is nimble and fast, have a look at their options.

Star rafts are an excellent choice for fishing. They are designed to be somewhat of a compromise between a cat and common raft. They sit a little higher, with the floor off the water.

In this manner they are like a cataraft with a floor that is easy to stand on. You will not
be as vulnerable to wind as a cataraft (but will be more vulnerable than a typical raft) and you get the benefit of being somewhat enclosed in the raft.

The Star models are durable, high floating and an overall great value for anglers.

The Wonderbug

star wonderbug nrs raft

The Wonderbug is an Effective Fishing Raft.

This is the smaller, 13.5 foot model. It is a very maneuverable boat that is great for everything from skinny water to whitewater.

The raft is a unique design with the high floor and it fits a comfortable frame that is also make by Star. The downside to the boat is the overall interior space availability. It is a nice rig for single day floats with 2 people, but it is a little crowded with 3 people and
gear.

If you are doing short trips, solo trips and heading out with friends on occasion, this definitely a good choice. It would be a great fishing expedition rig for solo anglers. Put on a rowing frame with an anchor system, strap down your gear to go just about anywhere.

The SuperBug

This is the Star raft we like most. It has the high floor and all of the advantages of the latter with a little more leg room. We like it with an NRS or Downriver fishing frame.

With this boat you retain the maneuverability and comfort of the latter while carrying gear, an ice chest and the family dog.

Not a bad deal for a few hundred extra bucks. If you really push the limits of low water, the Wonderbug may be a better option but we believe the Superbug will better serve most anglers 99 percent of the time.

This model also easily converts to a paddle boat for whitewater trips.

Conclusions

Star Rafts present a unique and comfortable design for anglers. They are an excellent choice, especially for those who are comfortable rowing super responsive boats.

The only downside is going to be the wind factor as it will push the high riding rig around a little more.

Overall, these rafts are solid and they come with a very reasonable price tag. The closest alternative would be a Puma series model from Aire Rafts. Both are quality options for fly fishing.

Streamtech

The company refers to their rafts as “drift boats” because they are designed combine the advantages of fly fishing rafts and a fishing drift boat. They have great options and some of the most fishing friendly designs available.

Raft Safety

Read our safety guide to make your next outing safe and fun. Several important pieces of gear and a variety of skills will keep you comfortable and happy on the water.

Streamtech makes some of the best fly fishing raft packages around. They design their boats to function like a drift boat in terms of comfort while maintaining the benefits of an inflatable raft.

Their dry box storage options are also exceptional and serve their customers well on expeditions. They also ride nicely and are among the best tracking rafts on the market. The company has two primary designs for fishing and a few whitewater paddle boat models.

The Green Drake

the green drake raft

This is a 13 foot model that is ideal for most angling situations. The size is right for hitting just about every type of water without being too big or small. It is a self bailer and has lean bars for both anglers.

The wide bars are nice and comfortable without any protruding edges to jab your legs and catch your line. As with all of their models, the storage options are fantastic and it has a padded high back rowers seat.

It also comes with padded swivel seats for the anglers and a tube style anchor system that is easy to use. As a top of the line setup, it runs around $6500 plus shipping and any extras you decide to tack on.

The price for both models does include your oars, oarlocks, anchor system, dry boxes and all the goodies as advertised on their page. The extras include any accessories and any
extra dry box options you may want to add.

It is well worth the price for the package and it sets a high standard for other boats to compete with.

The Salmonfly

salmonfly raft

This fly fishing raft is similar to the Green Drake but it has more storage capacity and space. It adds 6 inches in length and has a little extra width. If you run multi-day trips or find yourself on larger waters most of the time, this is the ticket.

Add a large cooler and stuff the dry boxes with gear and you can still fish comfortably without tripping over your stuff. As far as the fishing and seating positions go, it is no different than the Drake but you can stock up on food and gear without cramping your anglers.

The boat is a few pennies extra at $6999 not including the shipping and any extras you may want to add.

Conclusions

Streamtech fishing rafts have some of the most comfortable fishing frames and storage options you will find. They are well planned and ideal for anglers who need a setup that can handle just about everything.

The rafts are made by Maravia and are as tough as they come. Based in Boise, you will find friendly service by a company with extensive raft and rowing knowledge.

While there are numerous raft and fishing raft package options on the market, there are few as nice as the Streamtech boats

Raft Fishing Frames

– If you want to buy the frame and raft separately, there are some great options on the market. Custom frames from a variety of companies will make your boat unique and high functional.

Rafting Tips

Use our raft tips and techniques to increase your control and fishing success from a raft. Several key strategies will help you have a safe and fun trip down the river.

Raft Trailers

-From simple flat-beds to custom trailer designs, you need a way to transport your rig. Read about some of the different options and manufacturers here.