How my passion for Float Tubing was formed – Shetland 1996
In the dead of night on a loch in Shetland, during the “Simmer Dim” (when it doesn’t get darker than twilight) I found myself drifting towards a pod of big browns feeding close to the lee shore of a loch on the Northern Island of Unst.
I was able to manoeuvre gently in to a stable position which allowed me to cover these fish, like an SAS sniper I remained undetected. I spotted a bigger fish moving 20ft away, and this was my focus. I was prepared, a ginked Sedgehog was gently placed it in the path of the feeding fish. In the half light, I could just see the wake it created as I twitched it in the surface, enticingly and surely in view of that fish.. All of a sudden, he kicked his tail, a massive bow wave appeared behind the fly, followed by a heavy take. I was into a very big fish..
Float Tubing or Belly Boat some basics
Float tube fishing is often overlooked as a most effective and pleasurable method of catching trout. Anglers often avoid fishing from a tube for fear of it being physically demanding or even a degree dangerous. I would argue that it is safer than using a boat, less strenuous and very relaxing.
Advantages of using a float tube:
Controlling your position is easy, even in high wind conditions.
The tube is, unlike a boat, virtually noise free.
It allows you to fish usually inaccessible parts of lochs which don’t have a boat.
It is excellent for getting very close to fish, and other wildlife.
It’s perfect for holding your position and controlling your drift.
The float tube is very comfortable – like an armchair floating in the loch.
In a spiritual sense, there’s a feeling of being at one with the elements.
Safety Features of a Float Tube/ belly boat
Most float tubes have at least two floatation chambers making sinking almost impossible. Should one of the chambers gets punctured, then the rate of deflating is usually slow, giving time to recover the situation by paddling to shallow water.
Float Tubes come in three types:
- Round float tubes
- V-shaped float tubes
- U-shaped float tubes
Most appropriate clothing for Float Tubes
For comfort and safety the following should be worn:
A well maintained, low profile (not too bulky) self inflating life vest
Polaroid glasses, which both protect the eyes from glare and, worse still the danger of being hooked by a fly.
Thermal leggings and warm socks under the waders (even in the summer).
A baseball cap or something with a brim.
A high SPF sunscreen and lip balm – being so close to the water can cause reflective sunburn.
Best fly rods for using in a float tube?
I usually equip my clients with a 10ft 5 weight Orvis Helios rod with a Rio Gold WF floater on Sage Trout Reel. Its best to load the reel with plenty of Dacron backing. I should mention that being in a float tube often gets you in front of fish that bank or boat fishing would not. So get ready for a fight when you hook one of these trophy fish, you’ll need that backing! As long casting is rarely necessary, I find that this set up gives excellent presentation at short distances. It’s far better to focus on presentation than distance, as you can always position the tube close to feeding fish. I use an 15ft leader, typically 5X Fluorocarbon, degreased. Tie the cast to the braided loop with a perfection loop.
If fishing smaller flies (16’s to 20’s) it’s advisable to drop down to either 6X or 7X. Fulling Mill Masterclass Flurocarbon is my go to.
Best fly choice when fishing from a Belly Boat
I generally recommend fishing two flies as this minimises the risk of tangles, and gives a more realistic presentation. The spacing should be 4ft dropper to tail and 11ft from the dropper to the braided loop.
Choice of fly is naturally dependent on venue and conditions, but I tend to push my clients towards dry flies. CDC hoppers, daddies, sedge patterns are effective, or you can mix it up by fishing with a nymph such as Diawl Bach’s, Gold bead Hares Ears or a Pheasant Tail nymph’s on the point.
Degreasing the leader
If you are fishing dry flies, I constantly reinforce the importance of degreasing the leader, especially in calmer conditions. This prevents the cast sitting up in the surface film, and spooking the trout. If viewed from below, it looks like a hair in a glass of water. I make my own degreasant. A mix of 30% biodegradable washing up liquid, like Whole Earth in to a tub of Orvis Original Mud. This cuts through the grease easier and gets the cast sinking very quickly. When fishing two dries, it’s also important to keep applying the treatment every 5 minutes or so.
Technique when fishing from a float tube in Scottish lochs
It pays to start with short casts with this method as fish tend not to be spooked by the tube. Begin with a short 15ft cast, and follow this with casts of 20ft, 25ft and so on, fish round an imaginary clock to cover the water methodically. Wild brown trout are opportunistic, and tend to take the fly quickly if it’s presented properly in its feeding window. So with that in mind, cast, wait for a take, if nothing happens, move on.
Rainbow Trout Techniques
The method is different for rainbows, as they will sometimes cruise around the fly for some time before taking it, so leaving the dry fly in one place can be very effective. The trick is to spot the fish, then anticipate the direction and speed it is headed. Do a quick calculation in your mind, and place the fly in to the next spot you anticipate the fish will move to, without delay so that your cast settles and sinks sub surface. If you have the right fly on, this will almost guarantee a take. Another great tip is to look carefully at the surface around your static fly and watch for any changes in the movement of water pattern. I teach my clients the trick of spotting these subtle changes in surface which prepares them to react swiftly when the fish takes.
Dry Fly Fishing from the Float Tube
When fishing dries and CDC emergers, dispel water off the CDC flies with a vigorous false cast before casting back down in a new spot. I would highly recommend CDC oil on the feather. This is like Viagra, the fly will not go down easily! However, should the fly get damp, a useful accessory is an Amadou pad. This is a fungus that absorbs water and when used in conjunction with the oil, will help to keep your flies up on the top for as long as possible.
Casting a fly in a strong wind
If the wind gets fierce, i.e. the waves are starting to come over the back of your tube, you are reaching the optimum conditions for float tubing. In these conditions, put your hood up and dap the flies by holding the fly rod almost vertical and allowing two large palmered flies like an Olive Bumble and a Kate McLaren to dance on the wave. The takes can happen as close as 10ft from the tube as you silently drift down wind, a method that can produce some explosive sport.
8lb Brown trout
Last season one of my American clients, using this method, hooked a beautiful wild brown trout of 8 lb just 20ft from the tube. Having stripped off the entire fly line it ended up towing my clients around the loch for a full 10 minutes (free of charge!).
..By the way, I lost that big Shetland brown, it slipped the hook inches from the net. Never mind, from then on I was hooked on fishing from a float tube.
In summary, if you have never tried fishing from a float tube, then you don’t really know what a great experience you are missing. Get in touch with us now, we’ll help you get out there and enjoy lots of wonderful sport.