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Fly Fishing 101, Part 19
Tube it?


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 time.

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 was enough.

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 idea.

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!

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