Tubing for trout
by Chris Beech
Maybe I am biased, but I just love float tubing for trout in Tasmania's still waters. I cut my teeth fishing from one on Mitchelsons Dam, near Westbury, but have tubed on many still waters since. It is some what akin to fly fishing from an arm chair - a pleasant way to spend the day.
But, what is a floating tube? These one person fishing devices are known by many names - belly boats, doughnuts and float tubes. Of the many designs available today, almost all provide the angler with a quiet, comfortable way in which to chase the odd trout.
What you need
In our climate, you definitely need to start with neoprene waders. Most anglers already have these, but if you don't, and you intend to buy a float tube - start with neoprene waders! Our still waters can get pretty chilly, and an angler needs to be protected from hypothermia while float tubing. This is rarely a problem as most times, if you feel yourself getting cold, you can just get out of the water for a while. I wear thermals as well as my neoprene waders, particularly early and late in the season.
Float tubes come in many styles, but can be categorised into two fundamental designs. The original float tubes were just that - tubes, hence the nick name, doughnuts. Basically there are a round tube with a sewn in seat, with most models having a back rest and side pockets to stow your gear. These are very comfortable to fish from, but require the user to don fins, enter the tube and waddle into the water to "launch'. Once in the water, they are quite manoeuvrable but not fast. The other style which is becoming popular is the U style. This, as the name suggests, is a U shaped "tube" in which one sits and uses in the same manner as a conventional float tube. U shaped tubes are easier to launch, and easier to enter/exit from - its just a matter of sitting down and putting on your fins. They are just as manoeuvrable as conventional tubes and some would say, have a slight advantage. One item on every tube that I deem necessary is a stripping apron. This is simply a mesh screen that sits in front of you and keeps your line from drifting away or sinking around your feet. Fins provide your propulsion. There are several models available and marketed specifically as float tube fins. Divers fins that it over booted feet also work. I strongly suggest that you buy fins that float of their own accord. I have never lost a fin myself, but I can imagine how hard it would be to propel the tube with just one fin!
Personal Floatation Devices should be worn as a matter of common sense. You can use life jackets, sure, but I prefer the inflatable kind such as those from SOS penders or an inflatable jacket such as one from Sydney Seas. Even though there is a fair amount of buoyancy in a float tube, and normally a back up chamber in the back rest, it makes sense to wear a PFD.
You also need to carry a torch with you, a small amount of cord and perhaps a small anchor. The torch can be used not only for seeing at night, but to signal boaters or other anglers should you get into difficulty. It also helps to carry a keeper net ( should you want to keep your catch), and a landing net is definitely an advantage.
There is some basic safety advice that all float tubers should take into account before venturing to the water. The first is, always float tube in company. If one person gets into difficulty, the other can render assistance. Never use your tube in moving water and never use your tube in salt water. Float tubes are designed for still water use only and should be used as such. In large lakes be aware of wind direction and boat traffic. Always wear an approved PFD while tubing. Check your float tube before each outing for damage and never over inflate your float tube. Almost all tubes have an operating pressure of 1.5-2 PSI. Having said that, even in the remote chance that you puncture your tube in the middle of a lake, the air pressure is that low that you have plenty of time to get to shore. Do not spill insect repellent on your float - many repellents contain DEET which can damage your float tube and bladders. It is advisable to launch your float tube on a gently sloping bank. This means you can gently waddle or sit into your tube in comfort. It would not be a pretty sight watching a fully laden angler, complete with expensive rod, rolling down a steep bank to gain access to the water! I recommend that everyone new to float tubing go up to a small dam or lake to practice launching and using the tube before heading for more challenging waters. This gives you the advantage of getting the feel of fishing from a float tube before actually doing it.
Have you ever been fishing along a bank only to see fish rising just beyond your longest cast? Have you ever noticed fish hugging the shore line, ever watchful for a predator that will approach from land? These are just two instances where float tubers hold the advantage. In a float tube, you can quietly sit fifty or sixty feet from the shore, watching for movement in tussocks. You can also gain access to those unreachable's by simply paddling over to within casting range. But best of all, I find, is the wind lane fishing.
I like to position myself on the wind side of a wind lane, and drift down casting to any rising fish on the way. You also hold the advantage of drifting at the same rate as the fly line, which eliminates the need to mend the line. Another advantage, which I like, is that you have a clear back cast most of the time! Anyone who knows me, knows that I love fly fishing in salt water, where there are also few instances where the back cast needs to be watched. I get pretty frustrated for the first few trips of the season as I place a few flies in trees for when I run out later in the year. Always check around you periodically while tubing. Make sure that any boaters in your vicinity can see you (most tubes with back rests have a brightly coloured patch for visibility), and keep a lookout on where you are going. I once backed up into a fence, which didn't cause any damage, but scared the backing out me! And in the warmer months - keep an eye out for snakes. Sometimes the slippery little suckers take to water and all you represent to them is somewhere they can rest up from their swim! If you see a snake heading your way, just paddle away keeping your eye on it. Should the reptile keep coming, a few bashes on the water with your rod or landing net will soon see it slithering away.
Float tubing really represents a one man boat that can be used to quietly catch fish. In this sense, it is quite an affordable means of getting out onto the water. You don't need to tow anything along, and you can even back pack your float tube into remote regions, opening up even more exciting water! While these fishing accessories were designed to fly fish from, they are also ideally suited to spin fishers.
Fishing from a float tube
Fishing is done in the same manner, of course, but there needs to be a few notes on casting. You do not need to cast as far in a float tube, because you can sneak up on the fish. Casts of forty feet are about the most you really need to get into fish. You do need to keep your back cast up, particularly if you are casting heavily weighed flies. These have a tendency to touch water behind you and ruin your cast. Hooking and playing out fish is done in the same manner - but landing the fish is a little different. I got by for years by just using my hands - I would just tire the fish out, grab the leader and then the fish. But I strongly recommend the use of a landing net. Just hold your rod high and steer the fish into the net. I actually lost a few nice trout by using by hands, but haven't lost any yet (touch wood) with the landing net.When playing large fish from a tube, I believe the angler gains a little advantage. Because you are water borne, you tend to get a little movement through the water care of the spotted friend at the end. This equates to less shock being transmitted up the leader, and a greater chance of landing the fish! What ever your preference in fishing, I urge you to consider float tubing. It has opened up a whole new aspect of the sport for me, without causing a severe drain on the bank balance. We float tubers tend to travel in packs - a safety in numbers kind of thing - and are quickly becoming immune to duck calls and other forms of remarks which emanate from other boaters! The bottom line is, we just like catching fish, and doing it from a tube is fun and productive.