Fly Fishing 101, Part 19
Before mass television and video games invaded households,
adults and kids spent more time outdoors. We were probably
healthier as a population then. Our brains were not barraged with
infomercials, hype advertising, and instant analysis of every event.
There was real time for outdoor activities.
In summer, on almost every pond, creek and lake a kid was
floating around on an old inner tube. Floating air mattresses
provided hours of fun too. Bobbing on the water's surface in the
sun, contemplating cloud forms. Maybe finding a horse or buffalo in
those wisps drifting above us. Peering over the sides, seeing
weeds and minnows — or a real fish in the shadows.
Can you still plug into that feeling? Castwell (my husband) and
I sat in a couple of floating chairs in a neighbor's pool some years
ago. The ones with the foam arms with a place for "refreshments."
After field-testing the refreshment holders for a couple of hours, it
occurred to us the chairs might work for fly fishing. We didn't follow
it through, and instead tried to race to the end of the pool in them.
I thought ping-pong paddles would help; the idea of kicking your
feet as a means of locomotion didn't seem to work too well. As I
recall, we both ended up, up-ended. Alas, we were ahead of our
Now we both have float tubes. They're an adult excuse to turn
back the clock and just be a kid again. Of course these do work
for fishing. Anglers after all kinds of fish have adopted the float
tube idea, even bass fishermen.
Castwell would shudder at the thought of fly fishing for bass,
but he doesn't know what he has missed. My first float tube was
round; I sold it after the first use and got a "U" shaped one.
Here are some things to consider if you think tubing could be
for you. Let's face it, a tube is a lot cheaper than a boat!
If you are young and in good shape, consider a round tube. The
first ones were just an inner tube with a canvas harness stretched
over it, which gave you a place to sit. Your legs dangled through
the openings in the seat and you kicked with your feet.
A round tube is harder to move. You wear swim fins, and most
folks wear waders in their tubes. The catch is you have to move
your legs up and down, usually alternately to make the tube move.
Just like the pool chairs I mentioned, you do go backwards. The
harder you move your legs, or kick your fins, the more your legs
hit on the bottomside of a round tube. One time in my round tube
I sold it ... to a gal who is younger and in better shape. The only
problem she had was forgetting the anchor and drifting out of the
bay on a tide current.
Two other shapes are available. One is a "V" tube, shaped like
the bow of a boat. The advantage is the "V" cuts through chop,
waves and wind better. Less work.
Probably the most popular are tubes that are shaped like a "U".
It is awkward to climb into — or out of — a round tube with waders
and fins on. You just sink into the seat of the "U" or "V" boat.
Prices for float tubes (also called belly-boats) vary from $80 to
$300 and up. The difference in price has to do with things like the
fabric covering and how many pockets and compartments for stuff
the tube has. My preference is a lightweight air bladder (the tube
part) and Cordura shell. Easy to handle yet very durable.
One brand has an air-bag that inflates the tube. Electric pumps
that run off a car lighter are slow, but beat blowing one up by
mouth. A tire pump works too. A good idea is to pick up a
low-pressure tire gauge to check your tube. It doesn't take as
much air to inflate a tube as it would to inflate a car tire, but it is
very hard to judge what a couple of pounds of air feels like. The
last thing you want is to have the tube under-inflated. Especially if
you are away from shore and suddenly find yourself sinking in the
sunset. Not a pretty picture. While I'm thinking about that, do
check your state's regulations, some states require wearing
approved floation gear in float tubes.
Casting from a float tube is no more difficult than casting
standing up. A great way to practice casting from a float tube — or
canoe, kayak, or boat — is to find a nice spot to sit or kneel and
just practice casting. You don't need a longer rod in a float tube,
but it does help if you make your backcast stop high. You might
think of the backcast as an up-cast instead of a backcast.
Now, for the ultimate float tubing: there are motors. Really.
Electric motors, run off a marine battery, are available for float
tubes. A terrific advantage for older folks or folks with physical
disabilities that would prevent them from fishing. What a great
For more great ideas on float tubing, pick up a copy of Pat
Pothier's Float Tube Magic: A Fly Fishing Escape,
a Frank Amato publication.
Stop by the Chat Room and meet some
fellow anglers. It is a nice bunch of people - always willing
to help new fly fishers! Or just share your fishing adventures.
Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB
Have a question? Email me!