There’s little that compares to the feeling of being enveloped by nature. Sitting in the middle of a calm lake, surrounded by still water, with only your own mind and the fish below the surface to keep you company, is a magical experience that can only be achieved with the help of a watercraft. Fly fishing rafts are a great option for anglers who don’t want to invest in an expensive motorboat.
Comparison of the Best Fly Fishing Rafts
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What is a Fly Fishing Raft?
A fly fishing raft is a watercraft that is primarily used for, yes, you guessed it, fly fishing! They are widely considered to be a super versatile option for anglers as they can be used in a variety of settings.
Whether you’re in a shallow river with a rocky bottom or on a wide lake, a fly fishing raft will perform well. These rafts come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from pontoons to an inflatable tube style. They are almost always lightweight and much easier to transport than a traditional boat.
Pros and Cons of Fly Fishing Rafts
Let's take a look at a few pros and cons accompanied with fly fishing rafts.
Versatility - Compared to other watercraft choices, fly fishing rafts provide much more versatility in terms of usability. Unlike a motorboat or a larger, traditional boat, these rafts can comfortably make their way through super shallow water and narrow bodies of water.
Transportable - Because they are usually inflatable, fly fishing rafts are a great option for anglers who travel often. There’s often no need for an additional boat trailer as they can be deflated into a small size when being moved from place to place.
Affordable - If you’re not ready to take the plunge and purchase an expensive boat but still desire the experience of offshore fishing, a raft is an incredible compromise. They’re nowhere near the price point of a motorboat and still provide a great experience.
Set-up - Fly fishing rafts are not watercraft that can just be thrown in the water right away, they do take some set up before use, which may be an obnoxious quality for some anglers.
Lack of Space - Because they tend to be small and lightweight, this often results in a lack of space for your fishing gear on board. Many include rod holders and other places to store your gear, but using a raft may require you to downsize to the essentials.
What Makes a Great Fly Fishing Raft?
Now that we've identified a few pros and cons, let's see what features contribute toward a top of the line fly fishing raft. Be sure to keep these features in mind while reading through our review.
Take a close look at the materials used in your potential fly fishing raft before purchasing. Durability is an extremely important part of a great raft and this is achieved by using high-quality materials in the creation process. Inflatable rafts tend to be able to take more of a beating from rocks and other underwater structures and are often easy and simple to repair if an accident does occur.
Although there will be limited space on your fly fishing raft, there should be at least some space for storing your gear. Whether this is through cargo pockets or some other storage device, you should be able to access the necessary equipment without a ton of fuss.
Your fly fishing raft should be able to perform well in your desired fishing setting. Take into account these rafts are not perfect for some types of angling due to their size, material, and storage capabilities. The most important part of purchasing a fly fishing raft is to ensure that it will work well for your activities.
Review of the Best Fly Fishing Rafts
Scanning the wide array of fly fishing rafts online can be daunting. There are a multitude of options and each style has their own positives and negatives associated with it. To help you get started, we’ve selected our top five fly fishing rafts on the market today.
Classic Accessories Colorado Inflatable Pontoon Boat With Motor Mount
This fly fishing raft from Classic Accessories is a pontoon-style boat with a 400-pound capacity. It has a Class 1 river rating which means it’s not meant to be taken out on wild water, but it’s a great pick for your favorite lake or calm river.
High-quality materials are used throughout the construction of this watercraft. The frame features powder-coated steel tubes, while the pontoons are made with abrasion-resistant PVC bottoms and durable nylon tops. It also comes fitted with two 2-piece aluminum oars that measure seven feet in length. The oars fit comfortably in two bronze oar-locks.
The part of this pontoon that sets it apart, however, is its large amount of storage space. It includes 10 mesh pockets, 12 zippered pockets, and cup holders. In addition, there’s also a wire rack storage and battery platform if you hope to attach a trolling motor.
This Classic Accessories pontoon raft wins major points for quality, storage, and comfort. However, this choice is limited in terms of weight and versatility. Because it’s only suitable for class one, it can only be used on flat water and the steel frame adds a good bit of weight to your gear load. Each part of the raft seems to be made well with durability in mind and many customers have raved about its ability to take a bit of a beating from rocky bottoms.
Outcast Fish Cat Streamer IR Pontoon Boat
The Fish Cat Streamer from Outcast is another pontoon-style watercraft. This raft can be used in both still water and big water, and has a weight limit of 300 pounds. It’s fairly compact, measuring in at eight feet and weighing 63 pounds in total.
The boat is created using durable, quality materials that are designed to keep an angler safe and comfortable. The frame is all steel, which supports a pair of 16-inch diameter pontoons. Each features a single vinyl air chamber and a Summit 2 air valve. The pontoons are constructed using durable PVC material designed to be tough against rocks and other obstacles that could pop or damage the boat.
As for storage, this raft features two storage containers on either side which can hold a good amount of gear. It also has a trolling motor mount on the back of the watercraft if you’re hoping to add a little more power to your fishing trip.
If you’re in search of a pontoon-style fishing raft, this is another great option. It’s fairly compact which makes it easy to set up and take down and is simple to store. It is a well-made product and holds up well in the face of less-than-ideal weather and water conditions. The trolling motor mount makes it a good choice for anglers who are seeking a little more versatility as well.
Before purchasing, ensure that you are small enough to fit this boat as it does have a weight limit and doesn’t come with a huge amount of storage space, which might be a deterrent for some.
Best for the Money:
Classic Accessories Cumberland Inflatable Fishing Float Tube
Not all fly fishing rafts are large, super heavy, and cumbersome to carry around. Float tubes have become increasingly popular in the realm of fly fishing in recent years due to their portability, ease of use, and simple design. This Cumberland float tube from Classic Accessories is a great place for anglers to start.
This 300-pound limit raft is designed in a hydrodynamic hull shape that basically looks like a large U. It’s created with heavy-duty PVC material made to stand up to potential abrasions from a shallow river or lake. The angler sits upon a well-padded seat with an adjustable backrest that can sit either straight upright or in a reclined position.
In terms of storage, this float tube offers two large cargo pockets on either side. There are also two mesh pockets along with cupholders, rod holders, and some other small storage spaces. It’s also got a handy-dandy fish ruler on the front of the tube which makes for fast and easy measurement.
For anglers looking for a lightweight, ultra-portable option for a fly fishing raft, look no further. The Cumberland tube from Classic Accessories provides a great amount of storage for its size along with being made of durable, quality materials that will last for years.
Because it is a tube, there’s no way to attach a trolling motor and bringing along oars probably isn’t a great option, you’re the only power source aboard. If this would be too much of a challenge, consider a raft that has other power options available.
4. Caddis Sports Pro 2000 Float Tube
Another float tube option, the Sports Pro 2000 from Caddis, has very similar features to the Cumberland tube from Classic Accessories but is a more basic route for those who don’t need all the extra attributes. It’s another good option for those anglers looking for a more lightweight alternative to the traditional fly fishing raft.
This raft features a teardrop shape for ultimate ease in casting and great stability onboard. It’s primarily made with nylon packcloth, which is fairly durable and protective in water settings. The critical seams on the model are all double-stitched in an effort to increase the longevity of the raft.
Like other float tubes featured, this raft has several options for storage including two large cargo gear spaces on either side, rod holders, a cooler holder, and other small spaces for additional storage. While the raft only weighs 11 pounds, it can support up to 250 pounds, including human and gear.
The Pro 2000 Sports tube from Caddis is a more basic option for anglers who are looking for fewer frills in their next fly fishing raft. The main reason to recommend this tube is the ease that comes along with using it. It is super lightweight, especially considering the amount of weight it can handle, and it is an absolute breeze to set up and take down. That being said, there are other tubes on the market that are made with higher quality materials and could provide better support and comfort.
5. Intex Excursion 5
The Intex Excursion 5 is in line with more traditional fly fishing rafts. This five-person raft is an all-inflatable watercraft that features three air chambers with an additional buoyancy chamber in the front hull section. The two main sections feature quick-fill/fast-deflate Boston valves to make for easy setup and take down.
The design of the watercraft features two benches on either side as well as a middle seat for extra seating. There is an inflatable I-beam floor for comfort as well as rigidity. The boat also comes fitted with two aluminum oars and a portable air pump, so there’s no need to purchase your own. If you’re looking for a little more power than just oars, the raft also has an optional trolling motor mount which can be helpful for wide rivers and lakes.
Because it is so spacious, the raft offers plenty of storage space for fishing gear and other people.
For those anglers looking for a good amount of space on their fly fishing raft, consider the Intex Excursion 5. It’s easy to inflate, deflate, and store, which earns major points in portability and storage. Many users say that it’s pretty durable when it comes to use as well, so you shouldn’t have to worry about wear and tear.
Though it is advertised as a five-person raft, it may not be large enough to fit five adults, so consider keeping it to a smaller number if you take this out on your next fishing trip. Because it is such a large raft, it may be worth investing in a trolling motor to make the experience a little nicer.
Fly fishing is fun-fly fishing with the help of a raft is even more fun. If you’d like to take your fly fishing game to the next level, consider trying out one of the rafts on this list. As always, keep in mind your own preferences and budget before splurging on a new watercraft, but this list should give you a great start on your journey. Happy fishing!