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Steve Parton's

Introduction to floattubing

Nowadays there are a significant number of waters which provide equipment and tuition for the complete beginner . Thornton , the first water in the country to allow and encourage the technique being the first to actively organise for beginners . Weirwood , Ravensthorpe ,North Third near Bannockburn are all formally organised for individuals and groups and there are others plus numbers of introduction days on other waters around the country . The interested are advised to make contact with the British Float Tube Association on www.bfta.co.uk or with the Secretary Graham Ward on 01279 659914 - and all the Flyfishing Magazines routinely have up to date information .

If you are on your own and wanting to try and cannot get to an introductory session then the following pointers will prove useful .


Sourcing Equipment

Buy your gear from somebody responsible who personally float tubes regularly . There are quite a few examples of very cheap equipment on the market supplied by the very ignorant and these can be dangerous particularly if the bladder systems are fabricated from pvc - which cold cracks with age and can suddenly develop leaks .
You are as safe as possible either with a flotation system based on a butyl rubber lorry inner tube in a round tube or a reinforced double bladder system made from Grade 1 Reinforced Polyurethane in the case of a V or U hulled open ended tube .

The first item to buy is a Co2 powered buoyancy aid or lifejacket and you must get an extra cylinder and test it before you do anything else , it is well worth the tenner involved unless you value your life at less .

Dry run

Before you go to the water dry run and familiarise yourself with inflating your tube to sensible working pressure - follow the manufacturers instructions and do not over inflate - it is volume that floats you not the internal pressure - over inflation can damage either the tube or the bladders .
Then think a little about where you are going to stow your gear in the tube . Space is limited and the old Navy phrase ' Shipshape and Bristol fashion ' springs to mind to define your best approach . Small plastic flyboxes that float are essential as is somewhere really handy to locate your priest . Your scissors must be blunt nosed - guess why ! Spare valves and a puncture repair kit are necessary if you are going to use a round tube with a butyl inner tube . And a whistle tied to the tube securely is a very good idea indeed .
Check that you are happy with where you are going to sling your net and bodybag . Assign spare reels to side pockets and your rainjacket to the back stowage . Everything else should fit into your waistcoat and if you are lucky the waistcoat will be the buoyancy aid or lifejacket in any event - it saves space and is far more convenient .
Then don waders , fins and lifejacket . Check for tightness of fin straps and that the security straps are correctly adjusted . Then take the lot off and put it on again . Then let the tube down and blow it up again .
If your first serious encounter with the paraphenalia is on the waterside you will waste a couple of fishing hours getting to this stage and you might forget something critical .

The real thing

At the waterside your first job is to inflate the tube which you should have prepacked with your fishing tackle . Then set up your rods one with a floater and a team on it and the other with a sinker and a single .
And at this stage take rods , fins and tube down to the waterside where you are going to launch into the wind , aren't you ! Put the second rod in its holder on the tube .
As you will heat up as soon as you don waders you do this last just before you lock the car taking care either to zip your keys and wallet into a security pocket or sticking them into your pants pocket inside your neoprenes so they can't drop into deep water .

Launching

Now go slowly and don't rush , fins on , and then climb into the tube one foot at a time if it is a round one . Pick it up around yourself and edge slowly backwards to the water and very gingerly wade sideways off the shore feeling carefully for your footing in the bottom sludge , drop the tube so it floats and as you wade a little deeper sit down in it .
With a V hull just push it in front of you and sit down in it when knee deep .
Then pull the line tray over and clip it in place and then fin out backwards ( everything happens backwards in a tube ) very slowly off the shore checking that your fins are neither flapping loosely about your ankles nor threatening to cut off circulation in your feet . If at all uneasy go back to shore and readjust .

It will take you a couple of hours before you have the hang of finning and steering simultaneously - it just comes - and it comes a whole lot faster if you take a back mark on the bank you are leaving and keep yourself aimed at that - exactly what you have to do to row a boat in a straight line as well as finning a tube .

Starting to cast

At 25 metres offshore take the point fly off the keeper ring and drop the leader and flies on the water . Do not extend the line by pulling the rod round into a tight hoop because that is the best way known of overcompression fracturing the tip . Just pull some slack off the reel and let the drag of water on the leader pull the flyline tip through the rings . If you pull all the line off the reel at once it will get tangled all round you so don't , just repeat the pull off the reel , lengthen the cast sequence a few more times . Then start to fish .

The first day you are going to get tired .Your legs , even if you swim a great deal or scuba dive or whatever , are moving in ways previously unknown to them and muscles you never knew about before will get strained . So go very slowly and steadily and get out every couple of hours and have a rest .
You may even get cramp a little - I got cramp the first twice I went tubing but it never came back in the next 15 years .

Playing out drill

Sooner or later you will hook a fish . I suppose I should tell you to play it off the reel but I don't bother myself because on all my tubes I have fitted a very large line tray so I can easily dump retrieved line in it anyway .
Always play the fish off the reel if you are fishing from a round tube as they have limited line tray space and especially if using a sinking line which can go under the tube and tie your feet together .

You will have to play the fish out more than you would with a boat because your net is smaller and so short you can't swipe at the fish with it anyway . Lead the fish head first into the net and lift up as soon as the front half is over the rim - the rest will follow ; even a very large trout isn't particularly wide .
There is one thing you must always remember to do - because in the excitement of hooking , playing , netting , walloping and bagging the fish it is so easy to forget to keep on finning very slowly upwind . If you forget you will drift just far enough forward for your leader and flies to go under you and the tube and then get stuck into your legs or the tube itself .
I have seen four tubes holed by folks trying to pull their flies free - if your flies get stuck then cut them away and deal with them next time you go ashore .

Oddly , cut away flies will catch fish . One tuber I know cut away an entire leader with the point fly stuck in his neoprenes and was startled to find that a trout had taken one of the droppers as he was paddling in less than a metre from his legs , he said that he could feel something odd happening but put it down to tiredness , of course he didn't put it back. !

Getting out

As you approach the shore your first job is to stop fishing , reel in and secure your flies , then get your second rod out of its holder so you can't run it into bankside weed and smash the tip .
Stop and stand up when you are in I metre of water , any shallower and you will need to be a contortionist to do it . Back slowly out of the water feeling for footholds - the most dangerous part of floattubing is falling over and breaking your rod getting out .
Before you lift the tube out of the water unclip your bodybag and throw it up the bank , a full bag can tear the fabric of a cheap tube .

Emergencies

If anything horrid happens remember that with a tube you usually have minutes to react to it . Panic is what kills people not untoward happenings as such . So first you inflate your lifejacket and then you blow your whistle and then you figure the easiest way of getting to shore .
It is possible to overturn a tube , we have done this deliberately in controlled conditions in a swimming baths . You either have to lift yourself up out of the tube and sit on the back of it or virtually hurl yourself sideways , it is difficult but it can be done . In an overturn you get yourself clear of the tube first and then pull the toggle on your lifejacket .

There has been one explosive decompression accident with a round tube under high pressure that resulted in a fatality . It happened some years ago in South Africa . The unfortunate fisherman had kept his tube , which had no secondary flotation backbladder , fully inflated in his garage for four years , he then proceeded to a high mountain lake some 2000 metres up in the Drakensberg and launched on a hot day without a lifejacket and wearing the bizarre paddle pusher propulsion system strapped to his shins .
The perished rubber innertube blew under the increased pressures and he got the pedal pusher system entangled trying to escape the sinking remains - without a lifejacket it dragged him down and he drowned .
This very sadly was a completely avoidable accident waiting to happen - if you follow the BFTA code you are very safe indeed .

Strategy for the tubing day

There are as many technical fishing style options open to the tube fisherman as to the boat fisherman . Anchoring , slow drifting , backfinning , dapping , deep fishing ,even a form of trolling . To fully utilise the options and make the very most of the day you have to understand and be aware of the many subtle possibilities of each style . It takes time , fishing experience and study .

The main strategic approach is identical to boatfishing , selecting a partner or a group of like minded friends , deciding where to fish , organising the mechanics of the trips , setting up the diary for the season to take in the main social fishing events , moving round water to water to learn new ways or take advantage of particular hatches , maximising the fun for the season .
Maybe the study part of it can be the most fun . I like to fish on the move , it is in my nature . So when I start fishing my line is in the water as soon as I am far enough off the bank not to cast up it . You cannot catch much with your flies out of the water .

And I like to explore and see what is happening all round the water . So I keep on moving all day long unless in a situation where I know from the way the water has fished in weeks previous that for instance there are positively no fish at all in the shallow end . But then I'll move up and down the deeps all day long .

It is often enough for my friends just to find fish but for me when I have had a couple I am perfectly satisfied and I want to be off and see what is happening elsewhere . On a 100 acre water I will inevitably have paddled all the way round it at least twice in a fishing day apart from working up and down and across the wind a time or two . And I'll have been up and down like a yo-yo and been trying different flies the while . I probably catch less fish by it than if I stayed slap on top of the feeding fish but I do the experimenting thing and long term I will end up in danger of actually finding something new out and knowing more than they do at the end of the day .

But that is me and my strategy , yours will be different but it will be greatly enhanced if you have learnt all the styles so that you can maybe go effectively after better fish or try other species than trout . Big pike from a floattube are a very serious proposition indeed .
And you can go elsewhere when you appreciate the added hazards , I like the Danish Baltic and catching Seatrout , Cod and Garfish is something new and fun for me .
One tuber I know launches off Cape Wrath on a dropping tide and fishes out to the reefs and then comes back in on the tide turn . He catches Coalfish , Pollock and even an odd Bass but I think he is pushing his luck . I shall try the Sea Lochs in the next few years for summer Mackerel , controlled fun. .

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