Book Review  
By David Nichols - Austin, Texas - USA

Drift Boats & River Dories:
Their History, Design, Construction, and Use
by Rodger L. Fletcher (Author), Samuel F. Manning (Illustrator)
Stackpole Books; 1st edition (July 10, 2007)

Drift Boats are rather unique and unless you’re from the Northwestern United States or an avid fly fisherman the chances are fairly good that you haven’t heard of them. Well, you might have seen the ads for drift boats in the back of WoodenBoat or other boat building magazines but that’s about it.

These are boats built for a special purpose, they are designed to do one thing and do it well. So, unlike the East Coast dories that have a broader range of appeal and use, drift boats have pretty much remained in the Northwest. There are some exceptions to this because fly fisherman have imported these fine boats to rivers in other parts of the country.

I first became acquainted with drift boats in 1997 when I was asked to design a multi-chined drift boat for Larry Sunderland, the owner of The Austin Angler (The Austin Angler was a nationally known fly fishing shop in Austin, Texas) and I’ve been fond of drift boats ever since.

However, you don’t have to fly fish or be fond of drift boats to enjoy Roger Fletcher’s Drift Boats and River Dories published by Stackpole Books. In fact, I’m not sure you’d even have to be generally interested in boats to enjoy this book. That might be stretching it a bit but I really liked this book.

I think what I liked most was the way Fletcher details how the boats evolved as they moved from the McKenzie to the Rogue and other rivers in Oregon. Fletcher’s background as a historian is evident in his careful documentation as he follows the evolution of the drift boat and how the character of each river changed the boat.

But these boats didn’t evolve on their own; it was the men and sometimes women that rowed them, that thought about the way the boats interacted with the river and then changed the boats to meet the demands of the river. These are the people Fletcher introduces the reader to with a cohesive narrative, a large number of photographs, interviews and quotes. That was one of my favorite aspects of this book. I found I was as interested in the people and their lives as I was in the drift boats.

The people’s lives, the history, and the development of the drift boat is in the first part of the book and the second part of the book is the how-to-build a drift boat section. If you want to build a classic drift boat then here is where you can find that information. The offsets, the construction plans, and everything else you’ll need are all there and it’s all very clearly illustrated by Samuel Manning.

I wouldn’t choose to use those particular construction techniques but that is a personal choice and doesn’t mean the methods in the book aren’t a perfectly fine way to build a boat. After all, that’s the way the original boats were built so you couldn’t go wrong building that way.

Even if you plan to build another type of drift boat or build a drift boat from a kit there is a wealth of information in the second part of the book. The details on the rope seats are especially good.

It’s all there from the sliding rope seats to the Rapid Robert, the double enders, the classic Rogue River Dory and the rest. This book is a must have for anyone that knows drift boats or thinks they might like to learn about these fine boats.