How To Fish Stillwaters

January 12th, 2004

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

Is Float Tubing Right For You?

By Patricia C. Pothier

Float tubers not infrequently catch large fish, often in beautiful serene surroundings. Best of all, they do it with an "affordable" boat in the form of a float tube that can be stored in the trunk of a car.

Perhaps you are a stream fisherman who is tired of scrambling over rocks like greased bowling balls to cast to waiting trout; walking miles up and down hot dusty trails to get to a decent fishing hole; battling dozens of other fly fishing men/women and boats for casting space on your favorite river; casting to avoid overhanging willows. If this is true for you, then it's time for you to consider stillwater fly fishing from a float tube.

Another way to decide if float tubing is for you is to imagine that you are actually having an experience of float tube fly fishing. For just a new moments place yourself in this scene:

Duck Lake

You are sitting comfortably on a webbed seat in your float tube on the clear waters of Duck Lake just east of Glacier National Park in Montana. There are a few threatening dark clouds to the south, but just now it is clear and sunny with just a slight breeze to riffle the water. The snow-capped glacial mountains rise majestically in the west from the valley basin. This is a scene even a picture postcard cannot capture. There is a very peaceful feeling about just being able to float on the water and move about on your own power.

Paddling backward with your fins, you are slowly backing in an easterly direction, parallel with the shore. You are following a line where the shallow water drops off steeply to the next depth of the lake. You know that this is a favored feeding place for big trout. They dart from the protection of deep water, grab food from the shallows and escape to security again with a minimum amount of energy.

You have been casting a size eight black artificial leech with your sinking line. You let your fly slide down the drop off and then retrieve it trying to imitate the undulating movement of a leech in search of its own food. No fish have been interested in your fly for the past hour and you are lulled into inattention by the warmth of the morning sun and the beauty of the setting.

Suddenly, you wake from your dream-like state to the welcome sound of your reel singing its beautiful song as a large trout leaps through the surface film some thirty feet away. You raise your rod to set the hook. Your heart pounds. A big trout has taken your fly. You wonder if you will be able to bring it in. It jumps two more times and you see its beautiful red sides. Now, the trout is tiring and you begin to cautiously reel it in. It is almost to your tube now, but as you reach for your net, the fish makes one more surge for freedom. You let it run, then slowly bring it to your net one final time. The trout's a beauty, perhaps four or five pounds. Carefully, you remove the hook from its jaw and suspend it gently in the water moving the fish forward and backward until it is ready to take off and return to the depths of Duck Lake.


This is an experience that every float tube fly fishing woman or man seeks and enjoys. This can be your experience.

Float Tubing Evolves

You might wonder who invented the first float tube and why. Nobody knows for sure, but according to fishing lore, the idea for the first float tube came from a bass fisherman in Oklahoma about forty years ago and was later perfected by fly fishing men and women in the west, particularly in Idaho (Whitlock, 1992). Perhaps the inspiration for using a float tube arose when a fisherman was frustrated at not being able to reach rising fish from the shoreline and didn't want the expense and trouble of a boat. These first tubes, referred to as belly boats, were little more than an inner tube with a canvas covering and a sling seat. Contemporary tubes are covered with heavy duty nylon or vinyl coated canvas, with back and arm rests, stripping aprons to hold retrieved fly line, O rings and velcro for attaching other pieces of gear such as nets and stringers, pockets for all kinds of gear and, of course, fly boxes. And some bright person came up with the idea of using divers swim fins for propelling the tube and to change directions, thus freeing the fly fisher to concentrate both hands on the tasks of fishing.

Some of the reasons for the interest in lake fishing are those described earlier about the advantages of lake and the disadvantages of stream fishing. An additional phenomenon that might account for the popularity of stillwater fishing from float tubes is the longevity of the vast number of people who are dedicated to the sport of fly fishing. When the spirit still want to fish, but the aging body puts limits on capacity and endurance, lake fishing becomes a reasonable and satisfying alternate. There are women and men in their 80s who are still tubing and enjoying this unique octogenarian experience. ~ PCP

Credits: Excerpt from Float Tube Magic By Patricia C. Potheir, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

Previous Lake Fishing Columns

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice