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Float Tubing

Blog by: David Coulson 4/14/2015

Fishing from atop the water rather than from the shore is the desire of many an angler whose cast falls just short of where the fish are rising. Then, of course, there are those situations where large sections of water are inaccessible without the aid of a watercraft.

Over the years I’ve owned a number of different fishing vessels and, at last count, I currently own six, a boat, a kayak, and four float tubes, I actually have seven if you count my joint ownership of a second kayak.  Given the majority of my “boats” are float tubes of some sort, you might think they are my favorite.  Yes and no, my first “boat” was a float tube, but it depends on the situation.  Each has its advantages and drawbacks.

As of late, most of my fishing has either been from the shore, a most pleasant way to fish on occasion due to the simplicity.  All you need is a rod, reel, line, and a handful of tackle.  Walk to the shore, make a cast, and you’re fishing.  However, except for the smallest ponds, the “I wish I could cast to that spot!” thought usually comes up.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s further out than I can cast, or inaccessible from shore, there’s invariably someplace I can’t get to when shore bound.

That’s where the float tube comes into play.  Don a pair of waders, put on a set of kick fins, and have a seat in one of these air-inflated “belly” boats and you’re good to go.  They’re relatively inexpensive as watercrafts go, generally portable, and typically legal to use on most waters, but not all, so be sure to double check before launching.

I once read an article that claimed float tubes originated with bass anglers wading shallows.  They put a seat into a truck inner tube, added a set of suspenders, and went fishing.  That way when then stepped into a hole; they were kept afloat and dry.  Somewhere along the line, folks thought to make a sleeve for the tube, add pockets for gear, and some even had an air-filled backrest that offered a degree of safety in the event the main tube got a leak. That was my first float tube, a fabric covered truck tube with a car tube in the back rest and a pair of pockets for gear. Those early donut styled tubes are mostly gone, giving way to U-shaped styled craft that are easier to get in and out of and offer far more accessories than my first unit.

While tubes are ideal for small bodies of water, I’ll occasionally opt to float tube larger reservoirs, such as Horsetooth, Boyd, or Jackson, over boating.  There are a few reasons.  First, it’s a control issue.  In a belly boat, you use your feet for propulsion, leaving your hands free to fish.  Once you get used to it, things are instinctive and you find yourself positioning for the ideal cast.  Plus, you can hold a position a lot easier without anchoring, even in light breezes, than on a boat.  Further, you can often work around brushy/heavy vegetation easier in a tube than a boat.  Finally, tubes are slow, so I find I fish much more methodically and often at a slower pace, which is ideal in early spring when the fish aren’t as active. 

If you like fishing ponds, regardless of the species, consider fishing from a tube. Just remember you’re on the water, and consequently, at higher risk of drowning, go beyond the legal requirement of carrying a life vest, and do as I do, wear one all the time you’re tubing.

First Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, 4/12/15

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Ajax5240, 4/14/2015 10:22:34 AM
To add one more point tying back to your blog a few weeks ago, having to kick yourself around is much better exercise than being on a boat. Especially at the end of the day when you realize how far from the truck you ventured.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 4/14/2015 10:26:34 AM
You got that right. Especially if the winds are up. I remember a day at Stalker where the winds were so stiff I couldn't make it back, tried till my legs yelled in pain. Blew into the opposite shore, deflated the tube enough so I could pack it in the wind to trudge back to the truck. Fine workout.
Bearcreek, 4/15/2015 2:31:36 PM
Yup. Agreed. I have a float tube with oars and in the wind, its nice to be able to row back to my truck. I was on Antero a few years ago in the middle of the lake in a float tube without oars and it took me 2 hours to get back to shore.
Lloyd Tackitt, 4/15/2015 2:44:58 PM
I'm not especially afraid of water moccasins, but I've always felt that being in a belly boat is a bit of a vulnerable position to be in if they come to investigate - and they are very curious buggers.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 4/15/2015 2:54:16 PM
Critters and tubes do make for interesting stories. I have had waterfowl "adopt" me, snakes make a path toward me, fish take up residence under me, splashed by beavers, . . . the list goes on. Still it's no worse than other water craft. Heck, I had a duck climb onto my kayak one day and stay there for over an hour while I fly fished and paddled around.
pike420, 4/15/2015 10:38:09 PM
Being in a belly boat while fly fishing for northerns is quite an experience! Seeing giant fish with mouths full of razor sharp teeth kind of worries the senses. When your fishing spring pike in the Rockies you really hope that big girl doesn't come chomping into you calf or thigh. One, it would hurt like hell and second, if there not neoprene waders you would get tons of tiny holes. Being far from shore in a situation like that could be very costly depending on water temperatures and weather conditions. Runs through my mind every time I go out but hasn't happened yet so I keep chasing those wild water wolves!!!
Dangly, 4/16/2015 8:15:08 AM
I have had my fair share of critter run-ins while tubing, but the thing that still wories me the most is when I Hook truly large channel cats in the middle of good sized lakes, that top spine can make quick work of a tube bladder.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 4/16/2015 10:17:47 AM
Never had an issue with pike damaging tubes or catfish or that matter. Although I did string a cat for dinner while in a tube. Managed to wrap the stringer around my leg and got spined. Wading wet or he'd put a hole in a pair of waders. I can see how they could easily damage a tube.
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