Float tubes can open a whole world to the fisherman, whether you are a flyfisher or a predator specialist. In this blog we take a look at the world of float tubing and the advantages they can bring to your fishing.
What are they?
A float tube (aka belly boat) is an inflatable fishing craft originally based on a tractor tyre inner tube. These early ‘donut’ designs have long been replaced with much better U or V shaped hulls designed to cut through the water efficiently. Float tubes typically have an integrated seat and a bar across the lap with a mesh tray designed to keep you from slipping out.
You propel yourself about the lake by using a pair of fins attached to your fishing waders. These fins are much like those used by scuba divers, although specialist types are available. The paddling motion required is very much like cycling a bike – but backwards.
Are they safe?
Float tubes in our opinion are even safer than a boat. They feature multiple inflation bladders and a thick cordura covered hull; which when taunt is very resistant to punctures. Once inside the tube it is almost impossible to flip yourself out or go into the water.
There are however a few common sense safety concerns to address:
- Ensure the tube is fully inflated and the valves securely tightened.
- Never walk to the water with the flippers on, put them on at the edge.
- Enter the water slowly backwards so you do not trip over head first.
- Choose a gently sloping bank to access the water.
- Wear an inflatable life jacket as a back up.
- Wear warm waders – e.g neoprene, or a thermal undersuit even on summer days.
- Be aware of sharp objects including your own hooks.
- Stick to stillwater – never tube in a flowing river or the sea.
Float tube techniques – the advantages they bring.
Float tubes allow complete freedom of movement, giving you a huge advantage if a boat is not available on the venue. They allow you a silent, stealthy approach – for whatever reason fish simply do not fear float tubes like they do a boat or wading angler. This allows you to get very close to them and fish shoreline shallows where bank angling would instantly spook fish. As well as conventional casting, float tubes allow you to troll your flies or lures allowing you to cover a vast area easily.
Float tubes are most popular for fly fishing for trout – a 10 foot long fly rod will help keep the line off the surface on the back cast. A floating line is the best option, a short headed 6 or 7 weight is ideal. Although for trolling with flies a full sinking line like an Airflo Di5 or Di7 will really come in handy.
Float tubes are also becoming ever more popular with the pike and predator community, for pike fly fishing or lure fishing with spinning rods. Float tubes can give you access to areas pike love that are often inaccessible from the bank – for example outside edges of weedbeds, off thick reed banks and on drop offs where treading water allows you to hover in position, and present your lures effectively.
Where can I use one?
It would be great if you could use one anywhere, but you should always check fishery rules before you launch one. Generally natural venues such as the Lochs of Scotland, Pike loughs in Ireland and the Welsh mountain lakes are places where you can freely use a tube. For stocked trout fisheries the BFTA (British Float Tube Association) has a great list of float tube venues on their website. For predator anglers wherever you can use a kayak or launch your own boat to fish it should be a safe bet.
It’s great fun!!
Above all, the main draw with a float tube is the enjoyment factor. Nothing beats being out on the lake, fishing from what is essentially a comfortable armchair but with free mobility. For those who try, there is simply no looking back. So get out there and tube!