The Float Tube
A few years back, I got my first tube. It
was a "surprise" birthday present from my
loving wife (I suspect she had a boyfriend
and wanted me out of the house or she had
gotten my signature down well enough for the
By Frank Reid
I say surprise because it truly was. I had
filled out the order form and used one of my
daughter's alphabet magnets to secure it firmly
to the fridge. This had been a standard, if
useless tactic of mine for years. A very subtle
hint on my birthday wishes. My lovely bride of
course always knew me better than that. Saw right
through this clever charade. Normally got me things
she knew I really needed and wanted. Like that
bathroom cozy set that can turn a toilette seat
cover into a bear trap.
When she trotted it out for my birthday, well
actually, she came in to the living room, dropped
the form in my lap and told me to "order the damn
thing," I boldly informed her of the extra costs
associated with a tube, i.e. breathable waders,
vest, flippers. She immediately agreed that these
items had to go with the tube. Well, not immediately.
I first explained the purpose of the different items
and she gradually built up a mental picture of her
masterful husband in waders, flippers with brand
new float tube firmly ensconced on his hips.
I did have to get the less expensive waders though.
Had to pay for that emergency room visit for her
right about then. She had this terrible episode
characterized by hysteria. Almost couldn't breath,
it hit her so hard. Kept saying something like
When the whole package arrived, I immediately took
the whole kit and kaboodle down to the lake. On the
way, I stopped off at the gas station and gave my
tube its first breath of air. Just left it in the
trunk, didn't even bother to take it out and inspect
it. Filled and off to the lake! Fish beware!
When I got to the lake, I pulled my waders out of
the back seat and quickly donned them. Put my rod
together, hooked up a crawdad fly and finally, the
last step, I put on my flippers. I then went to the
trunk and got the tube out. Well, not exactly just
then. See, I'd filled it while it sat in the trunk
of the car. It was now too large to get out of the
trunk. All's I wanted to do was a bit of fishing,
but my spatial cognitive skills had been less than
perfect. That's something else my bride always told
I found that if I deflated the float tube about 1/3
of the way down, I could get it back out of the
trunk. Didn't really have to deflate it that far,
but it took that much air out of the thing before
I figured that one of the "D" rings was caught on
the trunk spring. I could go back up the road to
the gas station and fill it back up, but it still
looked pretty full so I decided to go for it.
It was about 200 yards from the parking area to
the lake. About 150 yards across the field, I
discovered that you can walk much better if you
carry the tube over your shoulder and take off
the flippers. You can understand my need to get
at the fish had slightly clouded my judgment. No
more hanging out on shore with those other slobs,
I had a boat.
I finally got down an area that looked like a good
place to launch. I had talked to a friend with a
float tube and had heard of the problems with mud
at a launch site. Not this bubba, no sir. Found a
good rock ledge to launch from. There was a rock
in calf deep water that dropped off to about 12
feet. You couldn't see the bottom but I figured
it was the same distance swimming to the bottom
as at my high school swimming pool.
I stood on the ledge, had my tube around me, my
rods in my right hand and I launched. I needed a
bottle of champagne to drink or break on my tube.
It was a joyous feeling. Right up until I found out
what that little crotch strap is for. See, when I
stepped out off that rock, my butt hit the saddle
of the tube, the tube folded up like a chocolate
taco and I shot through the bottom, right past that
dangly little strap. Didn't even have to worry about
a life vest to slow my hi-speed passage through that
torus from hell.
Had to let go of the rods as I felt them flex in
my hand and was afraid to break them. Came up
struggling for air. Be amazed at the water temp
in Omaha, Nebraska in the third week of April. I
now know how Jesus walked on water. The water was
cold as ice and as soon as he hit it, he was on his
feet moving. Felt like I was in one of those "polar
I reached out and quickly grabbed my tube and
dragged it back with me to the rock ledge. One
of my two rods had caught on the right side handle
by the reel and I was able to quickly retrieve it.
Unfortunately, it was the cheap rod. The good rod
was at the bottom of this rock ledge somewhere.
This is how I learned how deep the water was.
I stripped off my boots and waders and dove in
before I realized how cold, cold could get. Water
was a bit chilly to say the least. On my fourth dive,
I found a rod and brought it to the surface. It was
a wonderful three-dollar Zebco. Went back down and
finally found my rod after about two or three more
Now I had a bit of a problem. Hypothermia was
setting in. An inability to stop shaking was
my first clue. But ever the fisherman, I thought,
"wonder what other rods are down there?" I shook
off that thought put my wading boots back on, piled
my stuff in the tube, SECURED IT WITH THE CROTCH
STRAP, and headed back up to the car. The air temp
was a brisk 40 degrees with a good wind. I did have
to stop after about ten feet and drain the water out
of the float tube cover. That area not filled with
inner tube from the deflation was now filled with
water. Added about 60 lbs to the whole package.
When I got to the car, I dumped my stuff in the
trunk but didn't have anything to dry off with.
My jeans were soaked and the only thing dry was
my sneakers that I'd left in the car.
I now knew there were three opportunities to die
on this day. I'd just lived through one, a drowning.
I was in the middle of another, hypothermia. I got
my clothes off and covered myself with a small
rucksack. I then found a rag t-shirt under the
seat that I used to check the oil. I turned the
engine on and luckily, the car hadn't had much
of a chance to cool down and the heater was soon
up to full speed.
Now, I figured there would be one other way to
die on this day, the most horrible of the three.
Not the panic of the drowning, not the slow loss
of consciousness of hypothermia, but the death
of a thousand I-told-you-so's. If the mother of
my children found out about the fact I couldn't
get more than three feet from shore without
killing myself, what chance would I ever get
to go out on a quiet morning and go fishing
by myself? She had already insisted that I
wear an international orange hat to keep me
from turning into the marine version of the
lane turtles on the interstate, on a no-wake
lake no less!
Couldn't go home. Explain my new
oily-t-shirt-and-wet-underpants outfit to the
wife. Not on your life. Couldn't go to a laundry
mat. The mid-west populace does not look kindly
on some shirtless blue character in chest waders
wandering into the laundry mat and scaring hell
out of old Aunt Sally.
But, as a fisherman, I had the answer, duct tape.
I had to get my pants and shirt dry. I duct taped
my blue jeans to the inside of the hood of my car.
This was rather fun as I was now wearing the t-shirt
as a toga wrap-around. I then duct taped my flannel
shirt to the heater underneath the passenger seat
dash. I closed the shirt up with tape so all of the
hot air would have to go through the shirt.
Hopped on the highway and took an eighty mile drive
to Lincoln and back.
Got back to the lake and in a secluded area checked
out my handy work. All, except for the seams of the
shirt collar, was dry.
I went home and strolled in, bold as brass (and
smelling of gas). My wonderful wife queried me
about my fishing. I answered quite honestly that
I'd not gotten a bite all day (except frostbite).
The poor woman will never really understand me
as a fisherman. Her next comment was "I don't know
why you just don't fish from the bank. That outfit
looks like more problems than its worth."
Ah, but I got a tube! ~ Frank Reid
Born and raised in Southern California, my mother
taught me to love fishing. I would fish from the
piers around Los Angeles as all my friends hung out
on the beach. At age 19, I joined the U.S. Air
Force to see the world and liked what I saw, so
stayed in for 23 years, finally retiring in 2000.
I've lived and fished all over the US and the globe,
from the deserts of California to the Philippines,
Germany, South Korea, England, beautiful Omaha,
Nebraska and about 1,000 other places in between.
These travels taught me to fish for whatever happens
to be in the local water. I now work in the Baltimore
area as a computer consultant trying to earn
enough to buy that next new rod or go on that next trip.
My wife is Brenda (who's quilting addiction rivals my
fly fishing/tying obsession) and we have two lovely
daughters. ~ FR
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